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Friday, Oct. 26, 2001
Tech Tips from the Outbox:
Ever have the feeling that your mouse pad has lost its’ grip? Or that your mouse is feeling exceptionally skittish today? I turned over my mouse and unscrewed the little capture ring that holds the mouse ball. Shook out a little dirt (it looked a whole lot like the potato chips which are so popular around here, only in fine dust-like form). Inspected the ball. Having generally nothing to do tossed the ball against the adjacent office wall. Played catch for an hour. Re-inserted ball and performed low level testing (twirling the mouse by the cord just above my head). Performed text level testing (placing the eraser end of a pencil into the ball hole and writing large, block letters on betting forms for this weeks NFL pool). Placed mouse pad into dishwasher with last nights ‘spaghetti surprise’ crockery and removed when finished. Resumed normal mousing operations.

Just thought that might be helpful. You know, a sort of hardware store, backroom by the woodstove sort of thing. Because you really can't get good technical advice anymore.

Here's a situation I know everyone has been in. You attempt to log on to the web or one of your applications and get an error message along the lines of "Sorry, that site cannot process your request. Please try again, or contact your server / refer to your software manual."

Yeah. The fault lies solely with me. Uh huh.

Truth be known, there's nothing at all wrong with my server / software but you'll never get Mr. Anonymous to admit that. I call him Mr. Anonymous because I have to try to put a face and a name to all these half hearted error messages I've gotten over the years. "We're sorry, that URL cannot be processed." Okay, I can deal with that. A little politeness goes a long way. "A required file, SCREWOUTFOXED.DLL is missing." Huh? How do I know that you, Mr. Anonymous, didn't steal it in the first place? Or the ever popular, "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down." Replete with red exclamation point. The whole issue of how illegalities are performed and what sort of judicial system exists inside a CPU has never been explained. I always get this mental image of rows of memory chips sitting as a jury, a bewigged hard drive as the judge. I'm thinking of lining the inside of the CPU box with walnut paneling and some sort of state seal so they'll all feel a bit more comfortable. More at home. A nice courtroom setting. A few portraits of distinguished looking white men, perhaps.

I could do it, too. That's the sort of thing that I, Outfoxed, have the technology to do.

Where the hell was I? Disenfranchised error messages, yes, okay.

Seems to me that the whole bloated industry that we call Modern Computing has gotten out of hand. I can recall the days of yore when my first brush with Ctrl/Alt/Delete came along. As usual, it was Ally who did it (given half a chance, I would sit in the dark moldering without shame unless my wife interrupted my reverie). Things used to be a lot more simple.

She went out and bought an electric word processor / typewriter. One of those units where you can enter your whole document into memory, insert paper and hit print, and away it goes. It was fascinating. Remember, these were the days when we were all just coming out of the typewriter age. Little wheeled erasers with a tiny brush built in. White-out. When the word 'Enter' was still a sign over the door at the local doughnut shop.

I took that thing into work, which was an office job, where you still actually handed a hand written missive to a secretary to type out for you (God, this is making me nostalgic). Problem being, when the secretary was PMS'ing or otherwise occupied, your hugely important document might sit for hours, days without notice. With the advent of the fax machine, the luxury of waiting for mail and other slow moving document conveyances was coming to an end. I wanted my typing done now, and without complaint!

A small crowd gathered as I hammered out a short letter. Inserted paper, hit print, sat back with folded arms. A short pause, and the machine crackled to life, keys a-flailing, automatic carraige returns, a cheery *ding* when the deed was finished. Elapsed time, 10 seconds. I took the letter out and handed it to the big boss, a man who'd never touched fingers to keyboard in all his days.

"Dang, Outfoxed! What will they think of next?"

Well, that was the question, wasn't it. At that very moment a geek out on the west coast was getting ready to turn all our lives upside down with a little thing called Windows. He probably would have been pretty receptive if I had called him up and offered to buy up a hundred shares of his $7 original stock.

Of course, I had this problem with giving away money to kids at the time. My children will testify that I still do.

But that PMS'ing secretary sure didn't last long after that.

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