Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lying Computers and the Lies You Tell Them

Earlier today, as I was helping our oldest son wrap up the final requirements for him to earn his Arrow of Light Cub Scout award, we talked about the importance of telling the truth. When you lie, I told him, you have to remember your lies, and if you forget even one of them, your whole false tale is unraveled. Better to tell the truth, I said, and never have to worry about forgetting the details.

I so wish the same thing applied to computers.

I wrote earlier this week about having to reconfigure parts of our home computer network because things had gone wrong. Part of the reconfiguration involved having to reset our router because, for some reason, the computer we had our network set up on suddenly decided our network wasn't set at all, and thus had forgotten the security encryption key to get into the router. Resetting the router put it back to its factory settings.

That solved the connection problems, but brought up other problems: We lost our connection regularly, sometimes mid-work session, meaning we had to unplug the router to reset things and to get the connection back. After three days of that nonsense -- and we knew it was on our end because we never lost our connection to the ISP, because sometimes the connection would drop on my computer and not Michelle's, and sometimes vice versa.

Then I remembered something: Sometime in the past, I'd updated the router's firmware. Perhaps the reset made that update disappear. So I updated the firmware again, and voila, the connection hasn't dropped once since. And the little indicator light on the router, which was orange from the factory, is now a nice blue-gray. Don't know what that means, but I do know I'm happier having the connection working again.

But this is what I hate about resetting, restoring, erasing, reconfiguring and doing anything else with computers: You have to remember all the lies you told it in the past to keep it working. If, in the restoration of all things, an update or something is missed, things just don't work as well as they should.

This doesn't hold true for everything, however. The annoying programs -- Spybot Search and Destroy comes to mind -- tenaciously hang onto their spots in your computers' memory without wanting to leave, while things that are essential and useful -- a constant internet connection, for one -- are the things that are affected most adversely. So I may begin keeping a log of the lies I tell my computer so, if in the future (and I should say when, not if) things go wrong, I have a trail to get things set aright again.

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