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Technologically Challenged and Chuffed!

22 Sep , 2017  

Technologically Challenged

Ever have one of those weeks when everything with electronic, electrical, or mechanical parts would do well to grow legs and run from you? We never even lost power during Hurricane Harvey, but in the few weeks since, the DSL modem fried itself (I didn’t even look at it funny, I swear!) and my notebook PC’s hard disk drive started to sound like gerbils threw a party in it. Before I could even take an overdue backup, the gerbils began taunting me with little messages like “No boot device found, please insert one and try again.” I think they ate it.

I have a two-year warranty, so aside from the inconvenience of having no idea how long this would take to repair, no worries. Unfortunately, it’s an extended warranty through Costco, and by this time, Costco’s “Concierge Warranty and Service Center” was in the path of Hurricane Irma, and no one was answering the phones. That’s when I got the brilliant idea to replace my own hard drive, reasoning that since I work for the manufacturer and have written maintenance and service guides, it wouldn’t be hard to follow instructions and do it myself. It would certainly be faster, and we’d avoid the hassle of round-trip shipping the whole unit to a hurricane zone. Labor would be free, so it’d be a win-win all around. I called to get authorization and to throw myself on the mercy of service and support, admitting I’m one of those fools who failed to burn recovery media despite multiple reminders and opportunities to do so. They kindly shipped it to me on a USB drive key. I was set!

Folks, there’s a reason we pay professionals to do this sort of thing.

Here’s how I envisioned it going:

Download instructions – check!

Borrow husband’s magnetic Philips head screwdriver – check!

Remove sixteen gazillion screws and pop off the bottom cover – yeah, this is where it got dicey and I started to improvise with a dull butter knife and profanity.

Opening the case is not for the faint of heart. I’m happy to report I don’t need stitches. A tetanus shot might be in order (but that was true before I nicked my ring finger with the improvised “case pry tool” otherwise known as an old, rusty steak knife).  Turns out, according to my husband, I did have a proper pry tool – for a cell phone, anyway – and even tried it. It just wasn’t sharp enough to slip through the tight crevice that holds the bottom of the case to the guts of the machine. Frankly, neither was the butter knife. The rusty steak knife, on the other hand… no, do not try this at home, at least not without steel gloves, eye protection, and an up-to-date tetanus shot. Now the PC and I have matching battle scars. Our wounds are tiny but our tales are tall.

Replacing the drive, once the case was opened, was a cinch, actually. I still wasn’t sure it would boot up, but after one false start – caused by my knocking the drive cable loose while popping the case back on – it worked perfectly! I reinstalled the sixteen gazillion screws and only had four left over.

Four left over? Don’t ask. I don’t plan to re-open the case and figure out where they go. It’s fine.

Chuffed!

 chuff Look up chuff at Dictionary.com“pleased, happy,” c. 1860, British dialect, from obsolete chuff “swollen with fat” (1520s). A second British dialectal chuff has an opposite meaning, “displeased, gruff” (1832), from chuff “rude fellow,” or, as Johnson has it, “a coarse, fat-headed, blunt clown” (mid-15c.), which is of unknown origin. Related: Chuffed.

from The Online Etymology Dictionary

What a fitting little word for how I’m feeling this week! From “displeased, gruff” (and slightly grumpy, curt, lacking in patience) to “swollen with fat [I mean, puffed up with pride]” (as in, “I did it myself!”) to inordinately “pleased, happy” (“OMG, not only did it boot up, it runs fast and smooth and – BONUS POINTS! – the optical drive tray no longer pops out every time I pick up the PC!”) – definitely chuffed, in every modern and archaic sense of the word.

Need a shot of confidence? Go pick up an old PC that’s ready for the scrap heap, find the disassembly instructions for it online, grab a screwdriver, and go for it. Now put it all back together. Repeat. Bonus points if you know where all the screws go.

Want to save yourself stress and aggravation? Let a professional do the job. And pray your hard drive doesn’t turn into a gerbil orgy and fail in between two Cat 4-5 hurricanes in as many weeks.

Speaking of Bonus Points…

I am not a programmer. I have written code, mainly because I got impatient waiting for real programmers to do it. But that doesn’t count, right? Chuffed as I was, after replacing my own hard drive, I decided to tackle Python last night, around 10 PM. I got bored with step-by-step lessons at Codecademy (they’re great, but – did I mention I’m “lacking in patience”?) and downloaded Python 3.6. I decided I didn’t much like IDLE and found something called Thonny, which I used to write a program this morning around 2 AM to take orders for roses. If you’re thinking my first line of code wasn’t “Hello, world!” but rather, “Look out, world!” you’d be right. My little program is interactive! It asks for your name, shouts it back at you in all caps – telling you what a GREAT name that is, by the way – and asks you how many roses you want, what color roses you want, and then calculates costs and tax based the quantity and color ordered, plus a fixed tax rate.

Everything would be awesome if I could just figure out how to get two-digit decimal precision out of a f@#$ing float, because

“That will be $4.887499999999999289457264239899814128875732421875 for 4 red roses”

looks kind of stupid. If you laughed, I’ll bet you know Python – spoilers gratefully accepted in the comments below. If you just said, “I don’t know what any of that means,” that’s okay. I didn’t, either, at 1:40 AM. At 2 AM, I no longer cared. And yes, I’ve already tried:

from decimal import getcontext, Decimal
# Set the precision.
getcontext().prec = 2

I’ve tried cost = round(cost,2) also. No joy. I found a page-long coded method I’m not even trying, because it shouldn’t be that hard and stupid. Really, why is this, of all things, complicated?

TGIF

Fixing my own PC was definitely cause for celebration. Fortunately, we still had some champagne left over from our daughter’s wedding, so I chilled a bottle and popped the cork – served it up with a nice, homemade, chicken noodle soup. That might explain the 10 PM urge to learn Python. Now, thank goodness, it’s FRIDAY!

How was your week?

Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young at heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

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6 Responses

  1. You’re killing me over here! lol I guess I take it for granted that I can and have done both of those things for myself and for others… mainly because other people don’t know how to do it and have the same fears you initially did. At least you get it done; proud of you. 😉

    • Thank you! I realized, years ago, that opening the case is my “issue.” Once in, it’s easy. I think that on some level, I associate opening the case with risk and commitment, and when I realized this hang up might also be the thing that would’ve held me back as a surgeon (that is, once the incision’s made, you’re committed – time to focus on the real work!).

      I’ve seen it done plenty of times, and even done it myself on desktops and larger, older laptops (where removing the case was NOT the worst part of the job). I mean, it was long enough ago I worried about having to remove drive rails with a screwdriver they’re rubber bits that cling all on their own, now – so much easier). This was a newer, slimmer, tighter beast. Fortunately, I didn’t kill it.

  2. All I can say is that you’re a braver woman than I am, Holly. Glad it worked out well. You have every reason to be chuffed!

  3. Honestly, Holly, you do some of the most bizarre things. I’m in awe of your many talents and your courage. I would never tackle hardware repairs on my computers or other electronic devices. I know in my heart that once I plugged the thing back in, it would explode.

    • Knowing that there literally isn’t anything in it that CAN explode helps a lot, Patricia! (I know people who still worry that if they hit the wrong key on their PC, it’ll somehow screw up the hardware. It would take a very specific set of unlikely keystrokes to cause a serious problem. Ask anyone who’s used a PC for writing and made typos – nothing blows up. Although it might make for a fun short story if, every time one of us hit the wrong key, someone in a distant city or planet got a swift kick in the butt from an invisible foot, or something.

      My biggest fear, really, is static electricity – the fear that I will touch some sensitive component and fry it with a fingertip. I don’t have foam surfaces and anti-static mats and wrist straps. Instructions said to work on a firm surface that’s NOT over carpet, so of course I sat on the living room floor and tried not to move or generate static. I was careful – probably to the point of ridiculousness. But it paid off! I neither dropped a part nor fried a part.

      The first time I ever had to get a PC repaired, it was due to an electric surge. Not to the power going out (or even coming back on, which is when the real damage occurs after an outage), but the result of a lightning strike that sent the surge through the modem cable and fried 18 chips and a hard drive controller. I now set all my PCs to NOT come back on automatically after a power loss, and try to unplug them if I know there’s going to be a bad storm. (Last really bad lightning storm we had, I lost a DSL modem, an alarm system, a TV, and a stove. The PCs were fine.)

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