Friday, August 12, 2005

Some days, I really hate computers

I know, blasphemous, coming from a techie and all....but it's true.

Sometimes, computers can really be a detriment to productivity....and yesterday was one of those days. I spent the entire day struggling with one software package on two different operating systems, and by the end of the day, I had it working on...neither one. In the one case, it seems to be an issue with my computer, because the software works just fine on someone else's machine. But I can't figure out *why* it's not working on my machine. I tried all of the usual things: uninstalling and reinstalling the software; uninstalling and reinstalling the software that was most likely to be interfering with it; poring over the troubleshooting tips, forum postings, and FAQs on the software's web site; checking out the database of bugs and posting a bug report. At the end of the day, I was no closer than I had been at the beginning of the day. Worse, it seems like others have had the same problem I'm having with the software, and have posted bug reports and questions on the forum....and there's been no answer. None. So this means either (a) the solution is blazingly obvious and I'm clearly an idiot, or (b) there is some weird force field that only affects certain people's computers, and so there's no solution to this problem other than to give up. Ack. I'll try this all at home again today on our home computers and see how far I get, but I sort of need to get this software to work at school, and I don't hold out much hope at this point.

As a techie, it is extra-frustrating to me when computers hinder my work. After all, I'm trained in this technology, I fully understand how it works, and I'm seeped in it all day long. It's almost insulting, in a way, when the computer "misbehaves", and when my tinkering with it can't make it behave in the way I want it to. In a sense, at that point, I feel like I've failed---because after all, shouldn't I be able to fix anything computer-related? (answer: of course not, but that doesn't stop me from feeling that way)

But, as a techie, it's also extra-frustrating to me when I go to look for answers and the answers are not there. Especially when it's clear that others have had this problem. Those bugs that others have posted on this same problem were posted a year ago, and there's been absolutely no response from the development team. None. Do I think that developers have an obligation to respond to every bug report? Not necessarily---if it's really obvious that the answer lies elsewhere and is *clearly answered* elsewhere on the site, then no. But I do think that developers should at least acknowledge that there's a problem, especially if it's clearly something that more than one person is reporting and the answer is *not* obviously addressed elsewhere, and either say "hmmm, we don't know, honestly, because we can't reproduce it" or say they're not going to fix it or try to fix it or whatever. Silence is really uncool in this context. Even if, as in this case, the software is open-source.

So here's hoping that today I'll have better luck with this stuff, or be struck with some brilliant observation that will make the solution obvious. In the meantime, I'll be over here in the corner, banging my head against the wall.

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