Chris Long's Column: Of buttons and fuses...

I have this thing about fuses, if something blows a fuse I think to myself maybe it was just a tired fuse. Maybe carrying the load got too much for it and it finally gave up the ghost. So I put another one in -- just in case.

It is some sort of denial I guess: 'NO, this amplifier has NOT blown up!'. I replace the fuse and of course that blows too, and now I'm running short on fuses and then the dread thought hits me: 'what if the fault corrects itself and I've run out of fuses? What then?'

I did a similar thing with a PC in the office just the other day. Once a month or so its temperature alarm would kick off. All it needed was to be switched off and left, once powered on again it was fine for a month.

So when it did its usual song and dance we switched it off and left it. I came back to it an hour or so later and powered it on, the power light came on as did the disk access light. The machine counted to ten and then both lights went out.

I tried switching it on again -- the same thing happened. A sort of mania came over me, I thought, if I pressed the button on the front a bit quicker maybe the power supply would 'catch' and the machine would stay powered up.

I pressed the button quicker. The same thing happened, but I was sure the power lights stuck on a bit longer than the last time: maybe I was getting somewhere with this. So I did it again and yes definitely the lights were staying on longer, maybe there was some dirt in the power supply and I was flushing it out by pressing the button quicker.

By now there was a sheen of sweat growing on my forehead as each time I tried to press the button faster and faster. Then I noticed something else. I noticed a burning smell. I also noticed a cracking and spitting sound coming from the system unit. Luckily I was warmed up so I could switch the PC off almost as fast as I could switch it on.

The rest of the world slowly came into focus as I realised that I had been concentrating on pressing the power button a little more than was healthy -- also by now a small crowd had gathered. It was one of those quiet concerned crowds and I got the distinct impression that they weren't so bothered with the PC as me and my button pressing.

It was a passing episode, and after replacing the power supply, the mother board, the processor and the hard disk the PC was right as rain -- strangely, the people in the office seem a little reluctant for me to use or help them with their PCs these days.

All this came back in startling digital widescreen colour and Dolby sound as I was on the phone organising a new car. Yup the TR7 is likely to be pensioned off (as long as I can find some fool to adopt it) and I'm investigating buying a new one. On the phone to the garage I was talking to the sales person who was on a computer connecting to the Rover central server (basically if I can't get a car I'm going to get a dog). "It's just checking the system now," he said. We waited "It might take a minute or so.." he said soon after. "It says it's checking now?" he added a tad unnecessarily a minute or so later. We waited ten minutes and then he said "maybe the server is down." I stifled the urge to exclaim "you don't say!" and agreed to call later.

But after that I realised that my fuse worrying days weren't over thanks to the Internet. How many times do we wait for the 'Site found' message at the bottom of our browser to change into 'Done'? And just in case it has got a bit confused we hit 'Refresh' or double click on the link again. Then there is logging on and off again and then logging back on -- just to warm up the modem and make it connect faster.

The opportunities for short cuts are endless: clicking a bit faster on a link to speed up the connection -- clicking on the download panel to increase the download speed -- this sounds like my kind of operation.

The Internet, built by obsessives, for obsessives. Oh yes, I'm going to like this Internet thing.

If you see anything interesting or just plain silly on the Net or anywhere else forward it to Chris Long at chrisl@cix.co.uk -- he needs the laughs

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