Here, in the latest in his series "10 Things to Do," Nigel St. Faversham explores the options available to those of us struggling with a slow computer. Whether due simply to a full memory, or corrupted to oblivion with countless tics and viruses from the internet, a quick run-through our Top Ten will soon restore your love affair with the laptop, or at the very least keep that stroke at bay for just a few days longer. In keeping with tradition we have listed our options in descending order, with the least effective first through to the even less effective last...
This is the most basic and commonly used coping strategy when a computer suddenly decides to take up to 3 hours carrying out the simplest of tasks. On its own it has little or no use in countering your computer's temperamental persuasions, and is best used in conjunction with one or several of the below options.
This is slightly more effective than option 10, and at least begins to portray to your computer the degree of hostility it may currently be cultivating inside your head. This tactic also hints at any potential retaliation that may occur should your system fail to start working properly imminently.
Although this option may temporarily bolster our morale in what is by now clearly becoming a long and drawn-out battle between man and micro-chip, it does in fact have little strategic use and can indeed portray us as a little strange if witnessed by any colleagues in the vicinity. If this tactic is utilised it should therefore be deployed with extreme caution.
Here we have an example of an operator falling at the first hurdle. It should be clear at this point that our computer will try anything to provoke us into a catastrophic error, and so we must be on guard against such lapses of mental strength. It goes without saying that this option can only hand victory to our plastic nemesis, who will subsequently cite over-clicking-confusion as its justification in freezing for at least a whole morning. Anyone utilising this option should immediately move on to Option 1 below.
This is an excellent tactic for several reasons. Firstly, being out of reach of your computer prohibits the pitfalls associated with Option 7 above. Secondly, leaving your workstation even for a few minutes in such circumstances has been medically proven to reduce the risk of fatal heart seizure by up to 50%. Finally, the resulting stand-off, although temporary, affords valuable time to formulate our next manoeuvre in what has become an attritional contest.
The tactic of falling asleep in your chair (whether genuinely, or faked in an attempt to coax your computer into life) is also a good choice when we reach this stage in the contest (usually the 2 hour-mark). Research has shown that in such cases a computer will mysteriously return to perfect working order just as the operator dozes off. Accordingly, this choice usually results in an end to the confrontation, although by the time the operator wakes up he/she might find themselves decorated with saliva and/or the subject of attention from any aforementioned colleagues who may be present/pointing and giggling.
Again, the operator can do much worse than employ this tactic. Anyone reaching this point can begin to feel quietly confident by now that they may indeed emerge victorious at the end of the contest. However, care should be taken not to lower our defences too much, as there is still much work and suffering to be undertaken if we are to achieve our goal. Having a "water cooler moment" has several benefits to the operator at this stage. If we can successfully portray an image of calm and composure (only to be attempted by the most experienced operator) it affords us an excellent opportunity to mingle with various coveted colleagues of the opposite sex. It is optional at this stage whether we should discuss our current difficulties with such acquaintances; if we display too much bravado or offer any hint of impending mental collapse our efforts may actually become counter-productive. If we can't successfully portray an image of calm and composure, at the very least we may be temporarily distracted from a) random mouse-clicking, b) crying, and c) any disastrous course of action as described in Options 3 and 2 below. Furthermore, if indeed no-one shows up for us to talk to, we have at least reaped the benefits offered by pacing round the room in circles as in Option 6 above.
If we find ourselves opting for this tactic at such a crucial stage, the odds are we may be heading towards an emphatic defeat. This is a pivotal point in the confrontation with our still-frozen computer, and we must summon all our mental strength and courage if we are to avoid such a humiliating defeat. A common reaction to reaching the fresh air of the external world is to question our reasons to be battling with a collection of wires in the first place, as well as, having decided not to return to the office that day after all, questioning any attractive passers-by if they would like to go for a drink. Either of these actions would prove fatal, as in each case our computer is guaranteed to miraculously un-freeze at the precise moment we decide not to return. Again, the more experienced computer operator may choose to deceive his/her computer by leaving the building in an attempt to lull their machine into a false sense of victory, only to surprisingly return moments later (sometimes through an open window). As in Option 4 above, this should only be attempted by the most experienced users, as the slightest hesitation can prove our undoing.
Obviously, if we reach this point, we have lost. This, however, is a moot point in itself. Anyone opting for this last-hurrah tactic could rightly argue that they no longer care whether their computer has won or lost, mainly owing to the fact that they may currently be roller-skating naked through the park wearing a pair of swimming goggles. The alternative choice of walking blindly in any direction until assuming a new identity is an equally effective get-out clause from the whole sorry incident but also one that should be utilised only in the case of extreme meltdown. Again, a moral victory may be claimed in such cases, as there is a high likelihood that the operator by this point will have become a born-again technophobe and therefore destined to experience the freedom secured by a future communicating via pen and paper and two baked bean cans joined together by a piece of string.
This final option is the action of the broken operator and should be utilised only in the event of a) being illiterate and therefore unable to read the above available options, and b) unable to locate a large hammer. If either or both of these happen to be the case, simply sit and wait till your computer finally does something. If and when it does, firstly pinch yourself firmly to ensure you are not dreaming having already chosen Option 5 above. If it is still doing something, either switch off immediately and go and do something else, or continue using as normal until it freezes again. If opting for the latter, see Option 10 above, or simply curl up in a ball on the floor and wail uncontrollably until someone wearing a white coat comes to take you away.
Next week: More expert advice from Nigel St. Faversham as he tackles the disturbing subject of identity fraud in "10 Things to Do if Your Hard Drive is Taken Away in a Freezer Bag and You Are Arrested For Opium Trafficking."
© Matthew Jenkins, June 2012.