Friday, August 10, 2007

Zen and the Art of Computer Maintenance

I have an uneasy relationship with computers, as friends and regular readers will know. But my latest crash has helped me to understand the beast a little better, and I can now offer a few Zen-based maintenance tips for those interested.

The fundamental mistake I've made in the past is in imagining a computer to be an inanimate object. It’s not. A computer is a godless and uneducated little twerp. It needs to be cosseted, humoured and then finally brought to enlightenment. So:

1. Never place a cup of coffee and a Danish pastry anywhere near a computer. It will become insanely jealous and immediately start to play up.

2. Never go into ‘Search’ and ask three questions in a row that a computer can’t answer. Computers like to appear intelligent and it rags them off no end if you show up the limitations of their 0/1 code system. The sound of one hand clapping is a good example. Hard enough for us humans to grasp, but damn near impossible in binary.

3. Never set a computer a long and boring task and then just wander off in search of something more distracting to look at (a snail crossing the patio, for instance). Computers become morose and recalcitrant if you don’t continually boost their self esteem. You need to stick around, saying things like "Wow! 4% downloaded already and only thirty five minutes gone! This machine is amazing!” Stuff like that. You might then be able to slip out into the kitchen just for two seconds and make yourself some Welsh Rabbit, although it's still likely that you'll find a sly and sulky note waiting for you upon your return: An error has occurred…Windows needs to close...

4. Computers appreciate a little nap in the afternoons. It recharges their batteries. Don’t make them do anything complicated between 3.15 and 4.30.

5. Computers think of themselves as being interesting - artistic even. Learn to pander to their little flounces, and be creative in your response. When your screen freezes, don’t just switch it off and reboot, because then all this BIOS stuff will come up and it’s like reading Catalan. Try pouring a teaspoonful of olive oil into the LAN socket instead, and then sticking the tip of your little finger in there and wiggling it about a bit. This will help keep your relationship with your computer fresh and exciting. I like to keep a tin of lighter fuel and a Zippo on my workdesk. It’s kind of a Hendrix thing. Makes my Toshiba feel like a Strat. I mean I might start typing with my teeth or set the keys ablaze at any moment. Just knowing that seems to keep my computer in a good state of alertness.

6. Remember that in this Zen-like journey together it’s you who must establish yourself as the Master, with your computer as pupil – not the other way around. So when you type ‘BlueBird’ into Google Image search and some big girl with no clothes on pops up, you must appear disappointed but never shocked. Don’t jerk back from the screen in alarm and start pounding at the exit keys will-nilly. Peer a little closer and say, “Well, that’s the worst likeness of Donald Campbell I ever saw. And anyway, what I was really looking for was toffees. The BlueBird brand. As established by Harry Vincent of Birmingham.1927.” Your computer will feel slightly ashamed of itself, but also impressed by your superior breadth of knowledge. It will then achieve enlightenment and go off and get you the toffees.


Mark Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Kelly said...

Started to write something witty, my Mac seemed to interpret it as a slur and removed it. They are a bit sensitive, aren't they?

Steve Augarde said...

Macs are from Islington, PCs are from Peckham.

An idea for a book there, Mark.

sky909 said...

Hi Steve
I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I absolutely love it.
I am also reading your book "The Various" and I can't put it done... The funny thing is that I am 41! Is that odd? Never mind I am having a great time with your book and can't wait to read the sequels...
So I guess that all what I wanted to say.
Thanks for your brilliant writting!

Steve Augarde said...

Hallo sky909. I've long got used to the idea of The Various and Celandine being read by adults as well as children. You'd be amazed at how many emails I get from middle aged men! I think it's rather wonderful. I'm a fan of children's books myself (no kidding?)particularly illustrated ones from the 1920s/1930/s. I always used to feel slightly self conscious browsing through these in second hand bookshops. Now I could claim a professional interest, I suppose, but no longer feel the need of an excuse.