Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Curious Case of the Crashed Computer

The Disaster

On the afternoon of Saturday the 28th of February 2009, my laptop dropped dead. In the middle of the afternoon, the screen went blank, one of the indicator lights blinked about 5 times, then it shut down. And before you ask, yes I did have backups. Mostly.

Now this had happened before, and I had always assumed that it was because the processor had overheated from having the air flow to it blocked by the surface I had put it on (a bed). This time however there was a difference - when I put it back on, it wouldn't come on. All the indicator lights came on, but the screen didn't and it clearly wasn't booting.
I decided to leave it for a few hours and see if it would come on. Nothing doing. Concluding that the processor had gone caput a lot of thoughts started running through my mind. Can it be fixed? Would it be easier to simply buy a new one rather than messing with repairs and all the pain that could cause? How do I transfer my licenses? Could I afford a new one? Could I survive without my laptop for a time? Had I goofed in celebrating the reliability of HP’s product? Could I use my iPhone as my only (personal) computing device for an extended period? How do I go about suspending my Internet service till my laptop was fixed or replaced? Is this the end of civilisation as we know it?

The Dependency

We have reached a stage, at least I have,  where I need to have access to a computing device all the time. My laptop and my phone have become my primary means of information, communication, education and are rapidly becoming a significant part of my financial affairs. On both devices I have access to email and news. I have multiple translations of the bible and don’t carry paper to church. Using feed readers I have news updates from around the world. I receive audio and video podcasts from Joel Osteen on the PC and can transfer them to my phone. I pay several bills using Interswitch. Many of my transactions are done using my bank’s internet banking site. I NEED my laptop.

Separating Business from Pleasure

Of course, the argument arises - why not do all this at work? Well because it is "at work". Our company policy provides room for "reasonable use" of resources for personal purposes. So while it is perfectly acceptable to use the company computer to check a few news sites, see what’s on your wall on FaceBook, keep a few family photos on your PC, and so on, there should be a limit defined by good sense. However, one should not misuse and abuse the privilege. In addition, one should never be so dependent on one's employers that one cannot function without them.I’ll blog about this in detail next week. Most of the time I don’t even check my yahoo or Gmail accounts at work anymore.

I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone...

Anyhow I took in the laptop to friend at the office who is a hardware specialist for him to look at. Lots of people think IT professionals all know all there is to know about computers. However we don’t everything anymore than doctors know all there is to know about medicine (try asking a brain surgeon about geriatrics). I told my friend about the symptoms and he asked me to remove the battery, power up the laptop and see if it would boot, then and put the battery back in. Sceptically, yet hopefully, I tried it. Hurray, it worked! I had my laptop back!

This situation helped bring home to me how dependent I had become on having a laptop. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is it any different from my reluctance to take public transport when I had become so used to driving myself? Had I become less than I am because of my reliance on computing and the internet for so many things? Or am I merely waxing lyrical because I am giddy with relief?


My friend provided knowledge and experience that fixed my problem. Suppose I had taken the laptop to a repair centre for it to be fixed and they had charged me for repairs claiming something else was wrong. If I had somehow found out what the real problem was, I would have been justified in getting upset about the falsehood, but would I have been willing to pay for the valuable information that got my system working? What do you think