Monday, February 20, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

Everything I needed to develop patience, I have learned from my computers. Ironically, computers are meant to speed up our lives, creating a sense of ease in performing some or a great number of life tasks, depending on your needs and aptitude. Contrary to this belief, my computers over time have taught me to slow down, take a breath and smell the flowers on the wallpaper.

Back in 2001, when we first arrived, we only had the option of a dial up modem connection. Not only did it take weeks to get it installed, but it then took hours to connect. It made the modem connection I had left behind in California seem like a Kentucky Derby winner.

Time after time, I would play around with some new software I had heard about and “play with it” for a while. This was the infamous line of the mother of a friend of mine that she would use each time we played cards as she picked up the exact card the rest of us were drooling over. It never came around to biting her in the butt for grabbing the card, but my butt was in a sling more times than I care to admit for living on the edge with software playfulness. It isn’t so bad when you are in a country where the majority of service technicians speak the same language you do, with or without regional differences, but in a foreign country, it is a disaster. My rationale is that I will never go zip lining or bungee jumping, so I have to live on the edge somehow. This is my how.

If you have read previous posts, you will know that the last computer technician has been here so often, he thinks we are related. I have given him so much money, he believes I am just making up for lost Christmas and birthday presents that I have missed over his last 26 years. When my problems presumably were getting worse rather than better, I had to sit him down for a heart to heart sharing the fact that he had been adopted by me, but I was returning him to the computer technician orphanage. It was a tearful, but not such a sweet sorrow good-bye.

Last Tuesday, on Valentine’s Day, I turned my computer on the way our real adopted nephew suggested. Turn off the switch on the back, leave it off for 5 seconds, turn it back on and then turn the computer on. I had been working so far, until that morning. That dreaded black screen appeared showing that Chkdsk.exe is about to start running. The screen informs me that there may have been some problems with volumes that need to be examined. Thinking like a librarian, I decode this into the following: there is a C, D, G, and M drive in this machine. Each is a terabyte in size, so I realize this may take some time and I will not be using that computer before I leave for the first day of school. I leave the computer on as the message warns against cancelling the process. 

When I came home from classes close to 5 pm, the process was still running. Apparently, the Chkdsk believed that each drive was not a volume unto itself, but that each file on each drive was a volume. It showed now checking volume 4089578 of 7906784 of Drive C.  Okay, I thought, this is going to take some time, but if I leave the computer on overnight, it will be done sooner. That was a partially correct deduction. By morning, the C drive had completed, but now it was working on Drive D. That took all of Wednesday and sometime into Thursday, before I realized it had now moved on to Drive G. I was beginning to realize that terabytes should be spelled as T-E-R-R-O-R-B-I-T-E-S. This whole process was terrifying and taking a real bite out of my productive schedule. Yet, it was draining my patience faster than a freshly plunged sink drain; I decided to let it continue to do its thing. After all, how much longer could this last?

Ron repeatedly told me how impressed he was that I have not harmed anyone yet, specifically him, but he knew that others could have been at risk also. At the end of each school day, he would ask me how many students showed up for class and how many left the classroom. He needed assurances of the head count of those coming and going. He kept suggesting I get a new computer. It was tempting, but there has been a great financial outlay in getting the new apartment furnished, I really wanted to hold off as long as possible. My limits were thus far as untested terrain as the moons of Venus. It was uncertain which was winning the battle: stubbornness or frugality. 

After all of the drives were finished being examined with more thorough tests than an astronaut has to complete, it moved on to the next phase. Checking for bad sectors and lost clusters. I was beginning to wonder if this was indeed my computer or did the computer guy mix it with some astronomer’s. Bad sectors and lost clusters? For the amount of time involved, it could have searched the heavens for lost clusters of star fragments in bad sectors of the universe. 

This was followed by a check of orphaned files. Well let me tell you that anything orphaned pulls at my heartstrings, so this was one part that I was grateful for, especially after it did indeed indentify a number of orphaned files and reunited them with their parent files. A few tears formed in my eyes. By now, we are into Saturday evening. The computer hasn’t been turned off since it was turned on Tuesday morning. The black screen is still there, but there are numbers continually moving providing some assurance that it has not frozen in time, but is plugging away. There were cross-linked files to be checked and directory errors to modify. It would make any AT&T operator proud to see the directory errors it resolved. 

What was fortunate is where the computer sits in its computer cabinet in the living room. The monitor reflects into the front windows. When it is dark out, I don’t even have to go into the living room to check on it. I can see its reflection in glass. I am still questioning whether or not I HAD to get up for the bathroom 5 times a night from Tuesday on or if it was just my subconscious mind needing to see something other than a black screen, like the sardonic Japanese calligraphy wallpaper that rotates its proclamations of “Peace”, “Joy”, “Happiness”, “Love”, and “Patience” which is what happens during normal operating procedures. It has been so long, I almost forgot was normal was.

Since Tuesday, I have been using my netbook for 99% of my work. The good news is that I can now type 150 words a minute on it with an error rate of 0.05%. The bad news is that the screen is so small; I have to do so much scrolling up and down that I am getting carpal tunnel syndrome and a callous on my touchpad finger. 

This brings me to today, Monday, February 20, 2012. After making my usual early morning trips, to witness the black screen, when I finally decided to get out of bed for the day at 6:50 am, and did my check in of the computer, the entire screen was black. This is a sign that the monitor has turned to hibernate. During the entire week of diagnostics, the monitor never shut off once. 

When I clicked the mouse button, holding my breath the entire time, a blue screen decorated with Japanese calligraphy appeared with one word “Patience”.

I may never turn it off again.

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