Making the Connection


Our internet connection has been a trifle temperamental of late. This represents an enormous problem for someone so devoted (?) to the task of regular blogging. Understand: our wireless arrangement has always needed the odd bit of focused persuasion to do its job properly, but would usually only require of a frustrated would-be internet user that they right-click on the little network icon in the bottom right, and left-click on ‘repair’. A panacea for all connectivity complaints.

Things took a turn for the worse recently, and it all started with our CD/DVD drive. One day, it decided that it would point-blank refuse to play (or indeed acknowledge) any DVD that wasn’t either Aliens or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This amusingly selective deficiency did not extend to CDs, on which it seemed to have imposed a blanket refusal policy. And so, I gathered my faculties for an expedition to PC World.

For those who have ever actually asked the immortal question ‘where in the world is PC World?’, you’d have no problem spotting the enormous, lilac aberration that represents the Corstorphine branch. It’s only once you’re inside that the real problems begin. The moment I pass through the entrance turnstile, I am confronted with the vivid reality of my technological ignorance. Most of the things in PC World I simply do not understand. This may come as a surprise to some, particularly those who thought my genius extended even unto the realm of computing. To me, a Quick-Start manual reads like quantum physics.

With an affected air of confidence, I strode (via every possible aisle) to the CD/DVD section. On witnessing the myriad choices available, I realised I would need to obtain assistance from one of the pallid youths that represent the PC World staff. This was quite difficult in itself. My first strategy was to stand still, whilst arranging my face into a suitable ‘help me’ expression. Nothing doing. Next, I decided to amble around in the general direction of the lilac-shirted, but whenever I was in speaking distance they seemed to sense that I was about to make demands of them, and would scurry away. Eventually, I homed in on a small group of employees. They duly dispersed at my approach, but I managed to isolate a slower individual from the rest of the pack, and corner them against the printer cartridges.

I escorted this chap back to the CD/DVD section, as I gave him a rundown of my problem. He agreed with my astute diagnosis (“Yep. Sounds like it’s knackered”) before directing me to the most appropriate (i.e. cheapest) replacement drive. Concerned as to how it might be made to function, I piped up with what I hoped was an endearing innocence:

‘I suppose you just plug it in and away you go?’

‘No, no’, said he. ‘This is an internal one. It goes inside the computer. Do you want one that just sits by the side?’

‘Is that better?’ I asked.

‘Not really. More expensive. But you don’t need to take your computer apart to install it, which some people prefer’. He had me pegged, obviously.

That shan’t be a problem’, I blustered. ‘I suppose it’s, um, easy enough?’

‘Yep, it’s a doddle’.

‘When you say a doddle, would I be able to do it?’ I hoped he would read between the lines.

‘It’s like this,’ he said, clearly tiring of my thinly-disguised ineptitude. ‘There’s two wires to plug in at the back. One’s small. One’s big. If you can’t tell them apart, I’d say that a broken CD/DVD drive’s the least of your worries.’

So that was it. I’d been goaded into purchasing something I wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get working. And in order to look at the instructions, I would need to break open the box and thus render the purchase irrevocable.

A note for would-be computer enthusiasts. There is almost certainly a way of opening up your computer without the aid of a screwdriver and splinters of plastic flying in all directions. I was as surprised as you to discover it after an extremely effortful half-hour. Check your manual for details.

Anyway, I got in, and yes, the two wires were in there, and yes, I could readily distinguish them. I swapped the broken drive for the new one, put everything back together, and booted up. Luckily, Windows is usually clever enough to automatically install the software (some call it a ‘driver’) needed to run whatever bit of new kit you’ve just plugged in. What’s less clever is that it seems to assume all your existing bits of kit can be elbowed out of the way to make room for the newcomer. Thus I discovered that the introduction of the new CD/DVD drive had somehow knocked our internet connection for six. Is there no end to it?

Eventually, it was all made to function again, but I had to carry the whole computer upstairs to the access point (where the internet cable comes into the house) and start from scratch with the ol’ wireless. Everything’s working much better now, though.

A more taxing problem turned out to be the issue of removing a forgetten CD from a broken CD/DVD drive, once the drive is out of your computer and sitting on your kitchen table. Try it for yourself, using only kitchen implements. Sounds easy…

Explore posts in the same categories: Computers, Goings on, Internet

4 Comments on “Making the Connection”

  1. Francis Says:

    With almost all CD drives there is a small hole in the front (designed precisely to remove CDs when you have no power). Uncoil a paperclip and shove it into the hole and out will come the CD. As easy as one, two, three although I suspect you will make a meal of it and now proceed to write a couple of pages on your blog about the procedure.

  2. Doug Says:

    Yes, I located the hole, unfurled a paperclip, and stabbed it in until I was blue in the face. No joy, sadly.

  3. Ross Says:

    Doug, the account of your experience in PC World is precisely why I love their tv commercials! They are the most creative works of fiction ever imagined and so far removed from reality it wouldn’t seem improbable to see that the staff mobilise via winged monkeys and unicorns.

    Far from being able to flawlessly recount the specifications of a particular piece of hardware or software, many PC World staff members struggle to summon the energy necessary to wipe the drool from their slackened jaws prior to grunting their ignorance as to the price of CD-Rs. Those that have mastered the power of expressive verbal communication use it to deride and belittle the customer, labouring under the misapprehension that memorising the information from the back of a box is a feat somehow comparable to splitting the atom, mapping the human genome, feeding the five thousand, and discovering penicillin ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

    This is why my computer remains proudly dysfunctional.

  4. see eye Says:

    Hi Doug.

    Excellent post. I too have decided to pollute the blogosphere by contributing my own perspective on life. To that end please can you link to my new blog:

    Feel free to read it as well.
    Cheers, keep up the good work.

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