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Macho Computer Tools

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Tools Of The Trade

Fixing your Computers the Manly Way

By Michael Rutman, independant consultant

Using testosterone to help fix computer problems

Are Computer Users Really Geeks?

For years I've had to put up with guys and their power tools looking down on me because my equipment is delicate electronics. It's really not fair, especially since most powertools today have more computing power than my first computer. Still, they seem to feel that because their tools slice, dice, and otherwise mangle perfectly good pieces of wood, metal, etc. they are more manly than myself.

Maybe that lovely tan a CRT creates isn't as manly as the sawdust smell of a woodworker. However, there are many "manly" ways of fixing our computers that would put us right up there on the testosterone scale.

Violence is a Legitimate Tool for Fixing Faulty Computers

Many years ago Apple released the Imagewriter LQ. To this day, nobody seems to know why they released it, but they did. The LQ, that paragon of quality, had this endearing habit of having to be sent back to Apple every week or so to be fixed. Apple, of course, got right on the problem and hired a single summer intern to fix all of the LQ's in the world. Yet, for some unknown reason the problems with the LQ persisted.

A friend of mine that managed to purchase an LQ for himself, seemed to be getting a little frustrated with his LQ always being on the blink. Several "repairs" later, he decided that maybe fixing it himself would work better. Of course, if a summer intern fixing thousands of LQ's at Apple couldn't get everything to work correctly, what would make my friend think he could do any better? After a bit of time, he gave up and realized that the LQ was just not going to work.

A short time later, my friend was messing around with his .45 caliber pistol. I know what you must be thinking, "what is he doing messing around with a loaded gun?" Well, remember, we are manly men, and we do stupid things. Fortunately, when the gun went off, it only hit the LQ. It went right through the back of his lovely printer, passing through the mechanism without touching a thing, and came out the top.

Turning the printer on to check for damage, he attempted to print a page. You guessed it, everything worked great! It turned out that the back plate was rubbing agianst the mechanism, and blowing a hole in the back plate was all it needed. My friend tried to tell Apple, but apparently Apple frowns on summer interns firing guns on the Apple campus. Go figure.

Apple Recommends Violence

Speaking of Apple products that require a little violence, Apple has in the past officially recommended beating on your computers. Those of us who have been around for a while can remember the sticky Quantum hard drives of the late 80s. Quantum had a rather large batch of hard drives with lubricant that was a little too viscious, and Apple had a bunch of computers that had too little umph in their power supply. The net result: if the Macintosh was cold, the hard drive couldn't start up.

Apple's official recommendation was, "Lightly bang the side of the computer to unstick the mechanism." Personally, when I'm late on a project, "lightly" is a relative term. However, you have to admit that banging on the side of electronic equipment to get it working is a manly thing to do. It was nice to see Apple ask us to be manly with our computers.

This is not the first time that Apple recommended this kind of treatment for their computers. Those of you who go way back may remember the Apple III and Apple's recommended boot process: turn on the computer, grab the left front corner, lift about 3 inches, and drop. Repeat as necessary. Now, some people say that the Apple III had loose components and this was the easiest way to reseat them. I disagree. Apple knew that a number of computer people were being looked at like geeks, and they wanted to help us. After all, what's more manly than dropping a several thousand dollar computer in order to fix it? You could drop it, then look at the neandrethals with their power tools, guns and other manly things and say, "It just takes a certain knack."

Power Tools and the Computer

I have personally used a table saw to fix a powerbook. One of my friends managed to replace every part of his duo 230 except the back plate of the monitor. Unfortunately, he managed to break the plastic nut off the back plate and the screen would not work. Normally, I would recommend he get a new back plate, but his back plate had lots of stickers on it, and we all know how important those are.

Never one to be daunted, I realized we could fix this with a liberal application of every power tool I could get my hands on. For those of you who watch "New Yankee Workshop," you know that one should never do a job with a hand tool when 6 power tools will work. Taking the computer into the workshop, I realized that we could just glue a nut onto the computer, but that wouldn't use any power tools. So, I convinced my friend that it needed a brace to hold the nut, or the nut might slip while the glue dried.

Using my table saw, we were able to rip a small enough piece of wood to be thin enough to fit into the case. We were able to use the drill press to make a hole for the nut, but I had to use a hand saw to cut the wood brace down to size. I did get to use the miter saw to make a brace for the clamps, but my friend stopped me from sanding the brace to give it a smooth polish. Something about being on the inside where nobody was going to see it.

A ton of epoxy later, we had a chance to drink beer while waiting for the epoxy to dry. After all, when you are doing manly things with power tools, you have to do something stupid, and what's more stupid than getting drunk when the potential for more power tool use is there? Unfortunately, the glue held and the only other tool we got to use was a screwdriver.

Other Cases, Other Manliness

After a quick query for other manly fixes, I've come up with a few more stories. I don't have first hand knowledge of how true these are, but what kind of manly man would ever exagerate his manliness? So, with that in mind, I bring them for you to judge on your own.

One friend tried to slip in the time he fixed his stereo with his Ruger Mini-14 rifle. At first I was excited, especially when he told me that before shooting it, the stereo's left speaker was reduced to noisy static and the phonograph arm jammed, but after shooting it, both speakers were at the same quality and the arm swung freely. Unfortunately, after a little more proding, he admitted that the quality of sound was closer to static than music, and the arm swiging freely included swinging in rooms the phonograph was not in. So, I must say a 10 for manliness, but not a recommended procedure.

Another story I heard uses a refrigerator to fix the computer. This brave computer user has found that cooling the floppies in the refrigerator makes them easier to read. At first, I was skeptical. After all, who would have thought to try it in the first place? Then my wife reminded me that she has pulled the remote control out of the refrigerator many times after I've gone for something to drink. So, I could see someone leaving their floppies in the refrigerator when going for a cola. After that, I can see why the cold floppies always work, while the warmer ones are unreliable.

Geekhood, or Manly Men in Disguise?

So, the next time some manly man, who just happens to know how to fix every appliance in your house with chewing gum (as well as build the house for you with a nail file), disdains typing at a computer, remember, we too can be manly men. If we try very hard, I'm sure we can even hurt ourselves doing it.

We hope by this point you realize this article was presented in jest. This is, after all, the April issue (that is, April Fools Day is in April). We apologize if the article inadvertently offended you. If you are still bothered by it, drop us a note and we'll see what we can do to ensure you don't receive such articles in the future. If all else fails, take scissors to the articles you don't like and then you won't have them! ;-)


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