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The DVD Drive
by Mike Jennett
2007-10-23 10:40:41
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My DVD drive is one of those do-everything-all-singing-all-dancing gizmos displaying a multitude of acronyms, all followed by pluses and minuses and R’s and W’s, which shows how many types of wonderful new technological media I can burn. If it works.

All I want to do is back up some files. OK, it’s a lot of data – about 7 gig, which is no mean size. In the old days that would take about 5,400 floppy discs and in the slightly more recent days, 11 CDs or 2 DVDs, but these days, though, according the afore-mentioned acronyms and symbols, I can use a single Dual Layer DVD. Technology – isn’t it wonderful?

I do all the normal steps – bring up Roxio, select Create a Data Disc, click and drag a large folder of pretty South African pictures to an inviting little window, then insert the charcoal-smelling, purple faced blank disc and close the drawer. The machine thinks for a while, then agrees that I have indeed given it a DL disc as opposed to any other type and that there’s plenty of space left over should I wish to copy more. But I don’t, so I click on the red disc-like icon to begin the burning process.

It tells me, after a few moments of displaying an incremental, pulsing green bar, that it’s prepared to take three hours to perform this operation. This is too long to sit around, so I take the opportunity to open a fresh bottle of cabernet as a precursor to something more interesting, like calling a girlfriend and going to the pub. Presumably, it realized that guessing, as opposed to actually checking the size of what I want to copy, would piss me off because, in the three minutes it takes me to find the corkscrew, uncork a bottle and fill a large glass, the estimate is down to thirty-nine minutes.

I can monitor it for that long, but not at my desk, so I find other things to do – basic household stuff, not messing around with the computer. They can get somewhat miffed if you try to make them do too much at the same time. Isn’t that a bit of a drawback? Like buying a 5-seater car but never taking more than one passenger in case it doesn’t go. Anyway, my relationship with this machine is fairly new and I don’t want to tax it too much until I’ve seen that it’s capable of moving large amounts of data around without throwing a fit. This is our first Dual Layer together.

According to the real life clock on the kitchen wall, thirty-nine minutes come and go, but the PC screen still threatens another twenty, part-way through which, it stops entirely. The numbers on it’s countdown clock cease decrementing, the green progress bar has frozen and an error message, preceded by a triangle-enclosed exclamation mark, says something vague and bland and meaningless, beginning with the phrase ‘An Error Has Occurred,’ with each word capitalized.

A second paragraph instructs me to remove the disc - which it now, worryingly, refers to as a CD. The drawer release button has no effect, so I go to click on the drive letter on Windows Explorer (and what a misleading title that is), but there is no drive letter. There used to be a large E next to a picture of a disc, but no longer. According to the machine, there is no such drive. ‘What me,’ it pretends, ‘Me have a DVD drive? You must be kidding’.

Rebooting might work, so I try that, but it doesn’t. Anyway, I consider having to re-boot in times of trouble quite archaic, akin to opening and closing your car door a few times to make the engine work again when it stalls. That would be the 5-seater, with two passengers. Anyway, this is serious so I reboot a second time but the drive drawer still won’t open and the Explorer still won’t admit that it has one, despite being contradicted by the Control Panel declaring that it does and that it’s working correctly.

I now have two main choices: continue in frustration, or threaten the machine with a large hammer. But if I were to do the latter and not go through with the punishment, the thing will lose all respect, so I take the third choice out of two, which always exists: go to the pub.

It takes a day of amusing work colleagues with my tale of PC-instigated DVD woe, before I try an online forum for help. After wasting an hour of my life registering a free account, losing my place and finally getting back to where Google had led me – I am directed to entirely close the machine down, not simply let it do a restart.

There should have been no difference, but of course words and phrases like ‘should’ mean nothing when the subject is Microsoft or PC’s in general, so I do what I am told. It works, which is good but, in some illogical way, irritates me.

Sitting there all perky and full of beans, the machine proclaims that, not only has it found a DVD drive, but that there’s a corrupted disc in it that it would like removed. Being a glutton for punishment – because I really do want those picture files copied - I do what it wants and try the whole operation again. Once more, the screen clock lies about the estimate for copying but, this time, it gets through the disc burning phase and goes into a Verify process. Nice – after pissing me off yesterday, it’s trying to be thorough. But not for long.

It gets to the end and reports that there's something wrong. A file is in error, it says, with as much detail as when a girlfriend accuses that you’ve misbehaved. I am invited to hit Enter for more information so I do, half expecting to be told, ‘If you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you,’ and it almost does that, by supplying no more information, but inviting me to repeat the operation. Grumbling into another glass of cabernet, I replace the disc with a third purple blank and comply. Same result.

There is no time to ponder this, as I have to go out but, several hours and several beers later, I take the supposedly corrupt disc, put it back in the drive and close the drawer. It’s readable. Folders are displayed, files open and I can see lots of pretty photos. So – what’s wrong? Is it really corrupt? Is the PC lying to me? Is this part of Bill Gates’s conspiracy?

That was Wednesday. I’ve since performed the same operation on other folders without a problem of any kind – so perhaps something really is bad in one of the files in my original folder – but what? Given that these programs are simply supposed to copy, folder by folder, file by file, byte by byte and bit by bit from one location to another, what could be so wrong as to make it stop? Why would it forget that it has a DVD drive? Why can’t the computer simply tell me which file caused it aggravation so I could delete it or fix it and not waste brain cells and so many minutes of my slowly-decreasing life, by sitting at my desk and turning to drink?

This is so common these days. We’re encouraged to trust computers and software with our very lives and think of them as our friends, but when something goes awry, we’re treated like dolts. They give either a vague hint of something out of kilter, without saying what or where, or a page of hexadecimal addresses that need a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics to interpret.

And the twenty-first century geeks wonder why old programmers extol the virtues of IBM.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-23 14:41:11
Here is a thought: since computers can beat most of us at chess most of the times, before we completely lose our confidence and self-respect, why not emphasize a bit more what can validate us a human beings and at which we are better, namely imagination and the poetic.

Sand2007-10-23 16:35:34
Whatever poetry might be able to do, it cannot copy a file. A wild imagination may convince you that the file has been copied, but only a divine intervention would make that a reality. So I guess a prayer is called for.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 11:49:53
Indeed, the computer is better than Mr. Sand, as per Mr. Sand, kind of circular but there is the simple-minded conundrum in all its enormity. We now need a computer to solve it.

Sand2007-10-24 15:34:56
I assume this is a clumsy attempt at an insult. But as with the bulk of Paparella's output it is so linguistically involute it is mere harmless noise. Nevertheless the suggestion somewhere inside all that mental clutter that a computer should be assigned to pray brings the Tibetan prayer wheel up to current technology.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 19:02:06

A link as an antidote to the aburd logic of the above comment for those readers searching for the light.

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