Thursday, 17 November 2011

Problem in Engineering

I'm writing today's instalment of quasi-realism on my old laptop.  Blimey it's slow.

The keyboard is all bouncy.  And the screen's quite small.  And it's noisy.

Other than that, though, it's great.

The reason for this trip to my technological past?  My PC is in the shop for refurbishment, having its innards tweaked, upgraded, be-jiggered and finally put back into a funky new case, large enough to contain the enormous new graphics card that it apparently now needs.

I wanted to get my system upgraded, as I had started to get error messages - you know the sort - that helpfully informed me 10 seconds before my PC froze solid that all was not well.  Sometimes, for a nice change, I'd get the error message when I rebooted the machine, shortly after it had frozen solid, leaving me swearing at a black screen and a dead keyboard.

Gah.  Technology.

Once again, as I plod wearily through the 21st Century, I ask an uncaring universe why life is not more like Star Trek.  I was promised a glorious, robot-filled future.  Where is it?  Where's my personal replicator?  Where's my teleport system?  Where's my inter-galactic space vehicle?  Eh?

Nowhere, that's where.

In Star Trek, when something technical goes wrong, the Captain calls for an update from Engineering.  Engineering reply immediately, shouting through clouds of steam, sparks flying, people being buffeted across the room by wildly flailing cables in the background.  It's mayhem down there.

The Captain will demand to know what the problem is.  Engineering always know, or at the very least have a working theorem which turns out to be correct. The Captain will ask how long it will take to fix whatever the problem is.  Engineering always have an oddly specific estimate to give the Captain, usually a few hours.  In a crisis situation they might tell him something like "It'll take us at least seventeen and a half minutes, Sir...."

And sure enough, the problem is fixed within the timeframe, disaster is averted and they carry on about their business.

To summarise:  Problem is identified.  Solution is identified.  Solution is implemented.  Problem is resolved.  Tea and medals all round.

It's not like that in real life.

I put my PC on the counter in the computer shop, and the nice man looked at it speculatively.  It's four years old, which in computer terms makes it not quite a vintage classic, but certainly past its best.

Computer shop man:  Soooo....what do you want doing with this?

Me:  It needs a graphics upgrade, and possibly some more RAM?  I don't know, it's got really slow and laggy, and I keep getting graphics-related error messages.

CSM:  Hmm.  Let's have a look inside.

He removed the case and revealed a hellish filth-pit full of precariously-slotted-in computer parts and dust bunnies.  It was disgusting in there.

Me:  Oh no, look how dirty it is!  I'm sorry about that.

CSM:  Nah, I've seen a lot worse.  Hmm, you've got a *tech* operating system in here so if I add more *tech* it won't make much difference.  How about if I *tech* *tech* tech* and then it will do *tech* and *tech*?

Me:  Um.  Sure.  Yeah.

CSM:  And you don't need more RAM, but you DO need more power. To supply the new graphics card.  Otherwise it will *tech*, and you won't want that.

He pulled the memory card thingies out and waved them around, wafting clouds of filth and dust bunnies over both of us.

Me:  Oh.  Sure.  Yeah.  (Nodding wisely) Power.  Mhmmm.

CSM:  You've got a good size hard disk, and the current RAM will be fine.  So, just the graphics card and a new power supply?  Oh, and I'll reload the operating system to speed things up.  That'll make it *tech* and *tech*, much better.

Me: (relieved and slightly bored now)  Yes, lovely, thank you.  That'll be fine, I'm sure.

CSM:  But the new card is pretty big.  I don't know if it'll fit in this.

He indicated my computer with a dismissive finger as he said "this."

Me:  Um.  What?

He went across to the window display and pulled a huge graphics card out of the artfully arranged heap of techno-parts designed to lure passers-by into the shop.

CSM:  See this?  If I install one of these, it won't fit.

He put the posh new graphics card next to my poor old PC, and waggled it about, demonstrating how deficient my machine was in terms of space.

It doesn't have a downstairs toilet or a conservatory, his gesture seemed to say.  The bedrooms are too small.  The stairs are cramped and dingy.  And that can you bear it?

I may be reading too much into his waggling, of course.

Anyway, I agreed to have a new, larger case, and any of the old computer insides which survive the new regime will be slotted into it, along with the giant greedy graphics card, which I have no doubt will be ruling the roost, hogging the comfy chair and the remote control, demanding cups of tea and biscuits, gloating about its posh new power supply unit at the meek RAM, over in their squalid little corner.

At least there won't be any dust bunnies in there with them all.  For a while.

So.  In the meantime, I am back on my laptop.

I asked how long it would take to perform all these miracles of techno-rejuvination, and was told "Hmmm, a few days.  Probably five or six working days, as I need to test everything thoroughly." He fixed me with a basilisk stare as he said "Thoroughly."

It's not like that in Star Trek.  NOTHING gets tested.  That's why the shields fail after one shot is fired at them, every single time.

Other news:  I am pleased to report that Mr WithaY had a fab time at his bushcraft training course last week, and is sitting in his study as I type, busily writing up his homework for the next module.  He was very pleased that he passed the "make fire with your bare hands and a bunch of twigs and other materials scavenged from the soaking wet forest floor" test.  Apparently not everyone did, unfortunately.

I've been cooking new things this week, as I was getting bored with my repertoire of meals. Today I made a huge fish pie, containing salmon (which was on offer in Morrisons), smoked trout (caught by Mr WithaY and smoked by a local smokehouse) and prawns (from the freezer, can't remember where we got them from,)in a white sauce, topped with creamy mashed potato.  We're having it for supper.  Nom nom nom.

Last night I cooked a new variation on pork steaks - I cut them up and simmered them for a couple of hours in a sauce made from chopped onions, garlic, several sliced cooking apples (skin left on), vegetable stock, and white pepper.  In the last 15 minutes or so, I added a generous splosh of double cream, which worked well.  Serve with new potatoes, peas and carrots.  Delicious.

And now I'm going to go and make flapjacks.

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