NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2007
President's Corner
by Bill Moeller, President
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Remember the good old days when the only things around the house that broke were mechanical, and a good supply of chewing gum and bailing wire was all that was required to fix them?

Those days are forever gone, I’m afraid, and the repair model today seems to be the rocket scientist with super diagnostic and ego skills who is willing to dive right in and try to outsmart the programmers and others who built our R2D2’s for superior performance and maddening unreliability.

Three strikes and you’re out? I guess I’ve had it. First, in the middle of setting up an email address on my account at arkansasusa.com all of the content in all the folders on my email client, Mozilla Thunderbird, disappeared. Then, Margaret found that she couldn’t display the channel she was trying to record on our VCR so she didn’t know what she was recording. Finally, in the middle of a seven-minute dinner preparation cycle, our microwave oven popped its cork with a sound much like a power company transformer blowing on the pole outside our house.

The first of these was fairly easy to fix after figuring out what the problem was--but figuring it out was pretty much a matter of cut and try luck. For you Thunderbird users out there, beware! Under Tools>Account Settings>Local Folders there is a Browse option. Enter at your own risk! Apparently it makes a big difference where you leave the cursor when you exit this window, and where you go nosing around while you’re in there. This has to do with the “Profiles” that Thunderbird uses to manage its files, and is apparently a very sensitive area.

The second was also easy, although pure drudgery, to fix once I figured out what the problem was, but figuring it out also wasn’t easy with the blue screen of death facing me from across the room. Somehow (was it gremlins, or one of us absent mindedly fiddling with the controls while watching our favorite show?) the VCR tuner got set to “TV” instead of “CATV” two levels deep in the Menu. One corrective click of the remote, and the channel we were trying to record appeared on the screen and we were off and running. But we still haven’t caught the gremlin.

The third we solved using replacement therapy. Drawing on deeply repressed memories of similar sounds, air conditioner repairs, magnetrons, etc., we just decided that, being the third strike, this 11 year old appliance just wasn’t about to get the individual attention it might otherwise deserve. We junked it.

The point of all this? Based on this sample, two out of three of today’s failures are operating failures, or what we used to call malfunctions; only one third are good old fashioned mechanical or electrical failures—the kind we all used to know how to fix with chewing gum and bailing wire.

How do we cope with these modern problems? Among other things, we can keep our Club Newsletter handy so we can call in the heavy artillery (“consultants”) when the going gets tough. This is perhaps one of the biggest membership benefits we have.

See you at the July meeting when I hope to bring us all up to date on the latest trends in Digital Photography. Thanks, John for an excellent presentation on USB; I will try to do as well.

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