Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How does he know that?

I was setting up a PC yesterday and it wouldn't recognise the hard disk as a master - it persisted in seeing it as a slave instead. I've set up a lot of PCs: I know this problem is fixed by changing the jumper settings, but I can never remember what they are or how you change them.

Here it is:


Do you see what I see? A LOT of little metal prongs and a tiny white plastic thing. Well, the plastic thing is the jumper, for some reason, and the prongs are, erm.. prongs, and the position of the jumper on the prongs magically determines whether the computer sees this as a master or a slave drive.

All this, after years of practice, I finally know. But I don't think I'll ever remember from one six months to the next, which position is which. There's just no way of telling, or remembering. No clues, and any one of 50 positions could be it. I even vaguely remembered thinking that you take the jumper off for a master drive and leave it on for a slave drive. Or was that the other way around?

I tried a few positions, got exasperated very quickly, admitted defeat and took it down to Tom.

"Can you make that into a master drive please?"

He never even looked away from his computer screen. Just held out his hand for the drive, did half a second's fiddling with it and handed it back to me.

He can't know that without even looking it up, or checking somewhere somehow, I was thinking as I stomped back upstairs. How can he know that? How does he remember from one time to the next?

But I installed it and it worked.

Later on I was struggling with another problem with the same computer. I'd been puzzling for about 20 minutes and was still clueless. Tom walked past on his way to the kettle, glanced at the screen and said in passing: "It needs a different removable media drive."

"A what?"

"DVD or CD drive."

"No no," I said, "I'm sure it's nothing to do with that."

But he just went and got one for me anyway. After twenty more fruitless minutes of trying other things I very irritably installed the other DVD drive and sure enough, it solved the problem.

Tom had the nerve to gloat, later. "Removable media drive?"

"Hmph. Might have been."

And he laughed.

I just thought I'd post this as a warning to anyone embarking on autonomous home ed with their children: be prepared to feel very, very stupid ;-)

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