Musings about technology, and other news

Those of us who are of the technological persuasion find endless amusement provided by people who are less than gifted in the area. Things I hear regularly in my post as household IT consultant include,

“The Xbox isn’t playing Blu-Rays”, despite buying a PS3 specifically for that reason.

“How did I get my phone screen sideways?”, which I can tell you is tricky enough on Windows Mobile 6.

“Why isn’t the internet working?”, after a lengthy conversation about the issue being with the broadband company.

Though there are some regular gems, which are much funnier than the ones I actually remembered, they are not nearly as bad as some accounts from IT consultants. This is perhaps best embodied by, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”, spouted regularly by the cast of Graham Linehan’s great sitcom, the IT crowd. (Did anyone see the US pilot of the IT Crowd? Now that was woeful, and painful to watch.) Actually, the issue is summed up quite succinctly by Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the father of computing,

“On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

Proof that people have been struggling with basic ideas of computing for centuries now, and that they are nothing new. That quote is hilarious though!

A difference engine, built from Babbage's plans
A difference engine, built from Babbage’s plans

This is a staple of computer repair, and the first thing you do. Nine times out of ten, if it’s a minor issue, then simply restarting the computer can be enough. First step: switch it on and off. If that doesn’t work, switch it off for longer, and switch it back on again. I’ve seen the strangest problems just disappear after a restart, and never resurface. It’s a good starting point. Otherwise, a lot of PC repair is trial and error, with a little bit of method thrown in. Find the suspected component at fault, test it and swap it out, and if nothing improves then try and try again. The memory is definitely worth checking, as I have had corrupt RAM leading me on a merry chase around every other component in some strange scenarios.

The dreaded blue screen...
The dreaded blue screen…probably the predominant screen on Windows Millenium Edition

I remember the days of Windows ME (Millenium Edition, for those who didn’t live through the horror). I came out of using that operating system expecting things to be broken unless proven otherwise. The number of BSODs (Blue Screen of Death) we went through was insane; all for this 16/32 bit garbage hybrid. So many conflicts, and driver issues, and crashes. Everyday of using ME was a challenge, and I didn’t know any better. Back then it seemed modern and fresh, and yes it had quirks, but they just added to its character. It was a lot less stable than previous releases, and around the same time Windows 2000 was released, which was a professional release of Windows, and much more stable. It wasn’t all that far away from where XP is now. Windows XP was the best thing to happen to computers in a long time, and I used it exclusively for about 8 years, before the release of Windows 7. I skipped Vista, rather wisely in my view, as it felt like Windows ME all over again, and no-one wanted to relive that. People reminisce about Win 95, and 98, and even 2000, but you will rarely here someone wax lyrical about ME. Because it is, quite frankly, shite.

A typical day on the beaches of Banoi
A typical day on the beaches of Banoi

Onto Dead Island! I bought Dead Island for my brother at Christmas time, as I had always been curious whether it would be good after all the pre-release hype around it. It’s an open world zombie fest, set on the (fictional) island of Banoi, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Sun, sand, and survival horror. The idyllic resort has been overrun by zombies, with the remaining survivors banding together to fight off the horde. I like the sandbox nature of the game, as nearly all the zombie games I have played have been linear, and very closed in. Dead Island has plenty of claustrophobic and terrifying moments, but it also has hilarious moments of mass zombie hit and runs, and beach and poolside zombie rampages. There are plenty of side quests to keep you busy, and the main quest provides an excellent challenge, escalating in difficulty fairly quickly. The choice of weapons is ridiculous, and add to this the ability to upgrade and make new weapons makes for some great fun. Some weapons slice through everything with ease, but they often are less durable, and have more expensive repair costs. This balances out the game, and makes sure you can’t just breeze through all the enemies without breaking a sweat. Zombies die realistically too (as realistic as a fictional undead monster can anyway), losing limbs and heads to the swings of your machete, and there is a good variety of undead foes. There’s enough variety in the gameplay to keep your interest too, and the ability to play co-op on Xbox Live is a plus. What I don’t understand though, and this can be said of many games in the last few years, why, oh why, didn’t they put in a split screen co-op mode! It is an ideal game for it, and wouldn’t take much more work as the mechanic is already in place. Do they think gamers these days don’t have friends or siblings? Madness, I tell you. 3558yj

I’ve started my programming quest, with the wonderful language C#, on the recommendation of Aaron. I’m a complete newbie as far as programming is concerned, apart from reading a book on it back in the days of Lurgan College, and some basic HTML. So far I’m quite enjoying it, following a tutorial at Home & Learn which is very informative, and explains everything at a basic level which I badly needed. When you get down to it, programming makes sense. It is purely logical, and forces you to think that way, solving problems in a way the computer can understand. It’s strangely addictive when you get into it too, and you really feel like you are making something. I wish I had got started properly into it when I had more time, back in school, but I’m hoping I can do a little bit regularly and keep it up.

I also finally got round to watching the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. What a fantastic film!

2 responses to “Musings about technology, and other news”

  1. I caught the Good, the Bad and the Ugly a few weeks ago myself — one of the best movies I’ve watched in a while, three hours went in very quickly.

    I actually remember WIndows ME — not from personal experience, as I went from 98 to XP. It seems almost like the BSODs were a feature…

    Glad you’re enjoying the programmnig — C# is a fantastic, clean language. 🙂

  2. We ended up watching the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in two halves, as we started watching it late and didn’t realise quite how long it was going to be! It could easily be made into two or more films, so much happens.

    BSODs were part and parcel of Windows ME. It was a crazy time; PCs just didn’t seem to work on most attempts.

    I’m slowly getting the hang of it, but it could be quite some time at the rate I’m working.

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