Monday, November 05, 2007

Why I Hate Computers: Guy Fawkes Day Edition

I finished just about everything for my presentation this evening except making final copies and tweaks for the handout. (Lest you should think making these copies at work is somehow stealing from the great Northwoods State fund, be assured that the presentation series is sponsored by my department through a special fund, so it's all good. Heck, I even had to apply to give the series!)

After office hours this afternoon, I popped one of the DVDs into the computer to check one last scene one last time. I needed to make sure the scene is indeed something I want to put on the handout, and if so, enter it into the handout. Being just a tad obsessive, I make sure to have complete notes so that I don't have to futz around with the DVD menu, but know exactly what scene cues up where. Mostly, that just means knowing which DVD and which numbered "scene" on the DVD (which, of course, has no relationship whatsoever to the play's scene divisions).

I popped one of the DVDs in. It opened up the media player I usually use, but with this tremendous lag so that the screen blipped along unevenly, the music with it, just as blippy. It wasn't pretty. But, the thing had worked here last week, and at home last night. So I tried the other DVD. Same problem. Oh, nozors, I thought, something's wrong with my computer.

I called the User Help Over Here line on campus. The UH OH line is great; they have these students who are amazingly patient to talk us through things, and can even take over our computer to make things work.

The UHOH student helper suggests that I turn off all the other programs running in the background and restart my computer, just in case the memory was too full or something. And we hang up.

Stupid me! I should KNOW to turn things off and restart, right? I mean, isn't that always what you try first?

I hit the restart button, and then put in the DVD with nothing else started, hoping for the best. And guess what? Yep, same problem. UHOH! I called, and left a message for the student, who called me back within a few minutes. He took over control of my computer, figured out what the offending program was, and uninstalled it. That should work, he assured me. I popped the DVD back in, and up came a dialog box saying that the computer doesn't know how to play DVDs.

UHOH, we said. But he said it was okay, and (again in control of the computer) told me he was going to download a codec, and that should fix it. Download we did. Fix it, it did not. So he tried another download, and that didn't work either.

Then he decided to check his computer to see if the program he'd uninstalled was something common on the system (that is, whether it was something I'd accidentally intalled, or something the UHOH folks had installed everywhere, and which therefore shouldn't be installed). Turns out, it's something the UHOH people had installed earlier in the year. Why it's suddenly trying to take over my computer, I don't know. And neither did my student helper.

But, he promised me, he'd get the guru over there to reinstall it remotely on my computer, and that would "fix everything."

I wandered off to get one of the student workers to help me look up what I needed to on the video, and then finished cutting and pasting for the handout. (12 years of college and I still get to do arts and crafts!)

By the time I got back to my desk, I'd gotten an email from the guru, saying that he'd reinstalled the program, and asking me to check the DVD thing to make sure it would work. I popped the DVD in, and nothing; it still said it didn't know how to play a DVD.

But then, in a rare moment of computer literacy, I remembered that I probably needed to restart the computer to get the new program going and such, and I did that.

And lo and behold, the same program that tried to take over (I think I'll call it "Brain") is back, and once again took over.

So now, two hours later: I have a completed handout, and a computer which has the same problem playing DVDs (with a program trying to take over), AND at least three new programs installed (the codecs, remember) which are only waiting for the ideal opportunity to BLOW THINGS UP!

You have to know, if you know computers, that they aren't going to harmlessly sit there for long. Nope, they're going to get all uppity and get in touch with some witches or something, and KABOOM! Up goes parliament, and down goes the monarch (or me, in this case).

I hate computers sometimes.


  1. Oh, me, too! I love my shiny Mac, truly, but when it doesn't work, I want to do nothing more than toss it across the room. I have absolutely no patience with technology. It's just supposed to work!

  2. PhD Me, Oooo, a new Mac!!!