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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

TECH TIPS
with Michael Lee Stills

Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

Computer Image

 
~October 2003~ Topics
 

Tired Dog Image Canine Computer Cruelty

My work computer is a dog. It has been all summer long. Frequent crashes, lock ups, freezes, and slooww oopperrraaatioon. Lately it has gotten worse. I called our tech person in and asked them to look at it. “Yep, your computer is a dog,” they confirmed as they left. They didn’t even leave me a cookie.

It has been techno-purgatory. Here I am, one of the more “sophisticated” computer users in my department, and I have the absolute worst computer. It belongs in a museum. Ironically, it is in a museum. I coordinate teenage volunteers for a museum of science and technology. Try impressing a bunch of teens with your “sophistication” on an old Pentium running Windows 95 that locks up during your demonstration. “Your computer’s a dog,” they howl, as they jump on their cell phones and alert the rest of their peers.

Unfortunately our funding is down, like so many other organizations. All our new computers were confiscated to produce a new high tech planetarium show. Imagine a few hundred PC’s hooked together to create a supercomputer that would render the graphics for a new digital presentation on our solar system. This “rendering process” took all summer long. The public may be impressed, but one of those computers is mine. Besides, here in Denver, “rendering process” takes on a whole new meaning when I pass the Purina Dog Chow manufacturing plant every day during my commute. Rendering indeed.

Satellite ImageLike other “sophisticated” computer users, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. Or rather, I use to. The work computer is too old to handle many of today’s new software programs. I can’t run even the basic Windows Media viewer. I am missing out on a lot of information.

I thought about working from home. You know, telecommuting. It was a very popular idea that took off with the advancement of networked computers and high speed Internet access. Then, too many bosses figured out how to skip out on work while fearing that their employees would do the same. Fortunately, we have enlightened bosses here. Unfortunately, two things thwarted my aspirations. My “sophistication” and a recent move.

My home computer’s software is not very compatible with the “Dog PC”. Try getting a document built using the bells and whistles of Word 2000 to open on Word 95. Forget it, it’s just better to start over. Although basic text converts just fine, many of the more advanced features will not work.

Still, I thought I could use my home computer as long as I had high speed Internet access. Unfortunately, I moved just 3 miles down the road into a bigger house to accommodate my live in baby sitters (better known as my parents). I moved about 1/2 mile too far. Direct Subscriber Lines or DSL work only about 3 miles from the nearest telephone central office. I am just outside the required distance to get DSL.

Between work and home, I am in Techno-purgatory.

Hope is on the horizon however. I just hope I can last that long. Horn Players Image

The techies at work say they can now start breaking off the “pods” of computers used to “render” the planetarium graphics. I can’t wait for the “pod” that has my computer to be set free. “FREE THE PODS! FREE THE PODS!"

At home, our digital cable has been “very blinky,” as my daughter says. We live in the mountains and the only way we can get TV is through digital cable. Our cable is also a dog. Our cable company says the reason for the “blinky-ness” is that they are installing fiber optic cables in our area. If all goes well, I will have high speed internet through fiber optic cables in less than a month. I am not holding my breath.

The fact that I have managed to survive the summer is because I know how to tweak, jiggle, and cajole my computer into doing things it never thought it could do. I take pride in being one of the more “sophisticated” users at work. It is not about having the best - and I really love having the best - but rather about knowing how to use the tools at hand to get the job done.

Granted, there does come a time that you need to seriously consider upgrading to a newer system.Smoke Stacks Image But, just having the best does nothing for you if you do not know how to use it.

Old dogs can learn new tricks but sometimes old "Dogs” just need to be “rendered."


Do you know of a better way? Or do you have any questions?
Drop me a note at Michael@MichaelStills.com.

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