Usees Column by
When we finally got home from the monthly Rambling Writers Conference (this time in Djemaa-el-Fna), we found Fractal Manor's main hall shoulder deep in brand-new state-of-the-art totally free computer hardware and software for me to check out. Drat. I'll never get around to most of it, of course, and probably will end up dumpstering 90% or more. What I really need to properly handle all of the wonderful things companies send me absolutely free to review and enjoy with no obligation whatsoever on my part, is a trash compactor.
I thought I'd start by reconfiguring my main computer, the Hyena 986SXDXMCMXCIV. Right now the sectors on the hard disk run clockwise, but I heard a rumor that you can squeeze 0.2% more throughput by running them counterclockwise. It's worth the effort. Recommended.
I slid the shrink-wrap off version 7.126 of DiskMember Gold (I know, you thought I'd never upgrade from version 4.79, especially after all my bad-mouthing of versions 5.33 and 6.02, but what can I say? Only a Corinthian drinks kevis in a Veronese cantola.) and fired it up. No joy. I reread the documentation to no avail, then scanned the whole manual in, OCRed it, spell- checked the file and uploaded it to BIX with a question mark appended.
While I waited for a response, I tried the software out on the TriskaDeck 1313. This is the machine Bill Gibson uses when we collaborate. It loaded fine and ran fine, but it seems to have automatically moved every hard disk sector to a random location and erased all the File Allocation Tables. Luckily I had backed up the entire hard disk to a CD-ROM with the new BitByter 7000 CD-ROM Mastering Deck (only $40,000 and worth every penny. Recommended.) so in only 6 more hours I was back where I started.
While the disk was humming, I checked BIX with the Niebelungen Valkyrie we keep in a corner for when Sandy Solzhenitsyn is here writing. No answers yet.
On the chance that he might have some insight, I buzzed Bill Gates. He mumbled something about it probably being a hardware problem before excusing himself. That seemed plausible.
I called Jan Toady, president of Hyena, who indicated that a helicopter of ground-assault technical assistants was hovering near Fractal Manor 24 hours a day and that all I had to do was give the word and they'd parachute in. (Based on my own experience, I think Hyena offers the best service in the business, and not just because I mention their products every month in my column which millions of avid computer buyers read either. I bet you'd get the same service I do. Recommended.) I chuckled and said I'd try to puzzle it out a little more myself. He said okay and then talked me into accepting a free laptop with holographic display and telepathic mouse. A nice guy.
I also got Mike Spindler, Lou Gerstner and Ross Perot on a conference call, but except for a few offers on tractor trailers full of new equipment they couldn't help me.
My wife Svetlana (whose reading program can teach anyone with a $3000 computer how to read, and which is now available for PC-compatibles, Apples, Macintoshes and the Cray XMP for only $49.95 plus shipping and sales tax where applicable, have your MasterCard or VISA card ready and call 1-800-555-1212, operators standing by 24 hours a day) stuck her head in to say Hi.
That gave me the idea to try calling my sons for help. Number one son Bud is now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but when I called him he was busy in the War Room with the Secretary of Defense and some darn nerve gas missile crisis. It's always something with those civilians. Second son Robbie was in the middle of performing emergency brain surgery on the President, but promised to get back to me when he had a breather. Chip was arguing a landmark civil rights case before the Supreme Court when he answered my beeper message, but he seemed to think it was hardware. That would confirm Bill Gates's idea, if you'll recall. It could be true. On the other hand, it could be false. On the gripping hand, it could be some combination of hardware and non-hardware. A tough call, any way you looked at it.
I must have caught youngest son Ernie in an aerobics class in his college dorm room, because he seemed to be having trouble breathing when I called, and I could hear a husky female voice in the background saying, "Don't stop." He only said, "Check the plug, Dad" and hung up. His comment started me thinking.
The Hyena has this long black wire sticking out the back that terminates in a plug-like connector. The plug has two parallel flat metal prongs, and a third round prong about half an inch below the midpoint of a line segment joining the two flat metal prongs, if you follow me. A little searching behind the desk where Jack Updike likes to work when he visits revealed an outlet in the wall with a corresponding arrangement of holes. It seemed too good to be true. I tried inserting the plug in the outlet. No joy. A quick call to Steve Hawking suggested that it was a space symmetry problem, and I rotated the plug 180 degrees and tried again. It slid home perfectly.
Well, I'm about out of room here now. Next month I hope to get to this big red switch located on the side of the Hyena. Close study of the manuals suggests that it is somehow related to the functioning of the plug in the outlet. I'll have the whole story for you in the next column, along with a report on the Jet- Setting Pen-Wielders Seminar in Montevideo.
This month's favorite game is still Checkers. There is something both deceptively simple and enticingly complex about this game that I have yet to master. Highly recommended.
The book of the month is Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, on CD-ROM with clips from Hercules Meets Godzilla. It's like being there.
Continent of the month is Australia. Give it a look.