Last week, my wife's Dell Inspiron decided to stop printing to our wireless HP all-in-one. It was apparently a problem with the spooler, whatever that is. At that point, I had two choices: leave it alone and hope for a miracle, or fix it and perform some upgrades I'd been putting off.
Let me back up and explain something. I hate working on my wife's computer. Whatever I do inevitably screws something up, it takes way longer than I would like, and well, let's just say, my wife is impatient when it comes to technology.
It's OK for a doctor or dentist to poke and prod her, but when I poke or prod her computer, she acts as if I do it for the pure sadistic enjoyment of screwing up her peaceful existence.
OK, maybe that's a bit much. To be honest, I used to act the exact same way when the IT people where I used to work upgraded my computer. What goes around comes around, right?
Anyway, the first step was giving PC-cillan the boot--since its license had expired and I wasn't 100 percent enamored with it--and installing Kaspersky Internet Security. I'd already made the switch on my Sony Vaio notebook and it seems to be performing well. Then I upgraded Windows XP to Service Pack 3 and Internet Explorer to version 7.
Lastly, I set my wife up with a Gmail account and added it to Outlook. This is something she had actually asked for. I did a little exploration into POP versus IMAP and decided the IMAP functionality was far superior, so I went with that.
While I was at it, I fixed a couple of things that had been bogging down her system.
When all that was done, the spooler problem had magically disappeared, probably from rebooting the system 16 times. I ran a few tests and everything seemed to be running fine. The service had taken the better part of a day and night, but I felt like it was time well spent.
My wife didn't exactly see it that way. When I showed her the IMAP Gmail on Outlook, she balked, saying it was too complicated. I tried to recover by showing her IE7's new tab function, but she wasn't impressed. To each her own, I thought. So I made the Gmail change and gave the computer back to her.
The following evening I was greeted with a litany of complaints from my wife: the system's slow, I can't get on my favorite Web sites, I'm getting duplicate email messages, Outlook takes forever to load, etc. She stopped short of blasting me for screwing up her computer, but I could tell she was just dying to say it. I could see it in her eyes.
So the next day I spent the morning fixing all the glitches and issues that the modifications (and my screw-ups, I admit) had left behind. I haven't heard any complaints since, but I'm still holding my breath.
As you know from a previous column, I hate being my own IT manager. Half the comments I got on that column were from the Apple faithful who insisted that, if I just made the switch to Macs, all my troubles would magically melt away. Everything just works, right?
Well, my only experience with Apple, to date, has been with an iPod Nano I received as a promotional gift a couple of years ago. It felt good to finally become a part of the 21st century and own something Apple.
The first thing I did was rip all my CDs into iTunes, which I spent countless hours doing. Over the next few months, I bought about $100 worth of songs off iTunes, as well.
But when we recently installed an MP3 audio server, I found that it would take a miracle to copy all my iTunes files onto the server. Yes, I know there are programs that do that, but the first one I tried failed and I got frustrated. In any case, the official story from the server manufacturer is that they're not supposed to support it, so they were no help. I still haven't gotten it done.
Since most of the files are from my own CDs that I paid for, and I paid a buck a song for the rest, this just seems ludicrous.
I should also add that my iPod has crashed or locked up or whatever they call it in Apple land numerous times. And I still can't figure out why, after about a year, it just decided to stop being able to play songs randomly.
In terms of the problems and headaches I've had with the iPod and iTunes, considering that they serve a single function, I'd rate them just as problematic as PCs, which serve numerous functions that are far more critical to my business and personal life.
So, excuse me if I don't just give in and make a wholesale switch to Apple.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that my experience is generic or that anyone else should feel like I do. I am aware that Apple computers are probably less complex than their Wintel counterparts for many, if not most, applications. I also think that, since Steve Jobs returned to Apple, its products are remarkably innovative.
That said, the real point of the post is this: I don't know if it's just me, but lately I've been afraid that, when I die and my life passes before my eyes, all I'll see is all the time I wasted screwing around with computers and other gadgets. And that scares me.