Commentary & technology 23 Sep 2010 08:19 pm

State-of-art restart

Today’s column from The Alliance Review:

Tell any supposed computer guru that your machine isn’t working and he or she will ask the same question: Did you restart?

The restart option must be page one, paragraph one, of every textbook in computer fix-it academies, just as “sit down and shut up” is the opening chapter of every teaching manual. Surprisingly, it often works. (So does “sit down and shut up,” for that matter.)

I have this theory that, like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two computers are the same. Instead, each one is a unique mixture of hardware, software and files, all sloshing around like pickles in a barrel of brine. Who knows how all those disparate pieces interact, and what weird cyber-schizophrenia can result?

The restart option is like the cleanup guys who show up the morning after a big storm to take away fallen tree limbs. We’re glad to see them, but if they’re needed every day, we might want to reexamine where we’re living and consider moving where the weather is less extreme.

Restart is that way. If I had a dollar for every time a computer tech has told me to restart, I could afford to take my wife out to dinner at one of those swank restaurants where nothing on the menu is printed in English and the entrée is a piece of meat the size of a thimble, emerging from a bed of lettuce like the goddess Venus emerges from a seashell in a Botticelli painting.

Why do we need to restart so often, and why do we accept this as a valid solution to computer problems? If the unexamined life is not worth living, as somebody famous once asserted, then we need to examine why we’ve become a society of tech heads with index fingers constantly at the ready.

Since computers have infiltrated every facet of our lives, this is a serious problem. Most new cars have computer chips somewhere in their gizzards, so will we one day reach a point where we stop every few miles to turn the ignition off and on?

“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“I’m sorry, officer, but the speedometer wasn’t working. I think I need to restart the car.”

Or how about on a transcontinental flight? “Passengers, this is your pilot. Unfortunately, we need to restart the plane, which will necessitate a landing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Flight attendants will be by shortly to show you how to restart your oxygen masks and seat belts.”

If this restart thing becomes more widespread, it could become a figure of speech for any poor performance, anywhere. Little Johnny having trouble in school? He needs a restart. Bad job review at work? Hit the button. Underperforming in bed? Restart, maybe twice.

All these actions could be accompanied by a little push on the belly button, followed by an approximation of that ominous noise computers make when they fire back up again, the one that sounds like James Earl Jones chanting “Ohm” in a Tibetan monastery. It would diffuse stress and refocus us on the task at hand.

I’m sure my wife would love if I had a real restart button, one she could press every time I put off painting the basement by using the lame excuse that the cement from the waterproofing job hasn’t “cured” yet (it’s been almost a year), or whenever she tells me something really important and I don’t listen.

Restart. Restart. Restart.

It’s something to ponder the next time your computer is frozen and the guru you depend on to help you through can offer only a shoulder shrug and a one-word, two-syllable solution that you’ve heard too many times before.

As for me, the next time I have a bad day, I’m going to poke myself in the stomach, click my heels together three times, and hope I wake up back in bed, ready to restart and make it a better one.

One Response to “State-of-art restart”

  1. on 23 Sep 2010 at 1.Ron said …

    I honestly had an auto technician once (10 years ago) tell me to unhook one of the battery cables to restart the onboard computer system to get rid of that nagging “check engine” indicator. It was the last Chevy I ever purchased. I also restarted with a new mechanic.

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