Friday, June 11, 2010

FF: Zappy and I -- Part Two

: Bear's computer problems have continued throughout this week, both in fiction and in real life. Again, this story, "Zappy and I" is based on a struggle with an older computer, from years ago, and was originally written back then. The current-day struggles with Bear's current computer are what inspired Bear to pull this old humor piece out for editing and polishing. And it has been good encouragement for the Bear, throughout these past couple of weeks of current computer struggles, to do so. Helps give her perspective and a few chuckles in the midst. This week, Bear has had to reformat her current computer, only to find that it is a hardware problem rather than a software problem, and not correctable via reformatting. (The disk has bad sectors and is dropping files, decaying even as we speak, likely because of the cup of water Bear spilled on it a month or two ago, which shorted out the computer's cooling fan, which is causing the disk to overheat now that it's summery weather...) So she has a $125 second-hand desktop on order from eBay that will hopefully arrive sometime next week and bail her out. Meanwhile (because she's been working at computer troubleshooting so much this week), less of "Zappy and I" got rewritten than she had expected. So, rather than this being the full concluding segment, this following segment is Part Two, of what has turned out to be a three parter. And next Friday will bring the story's concluding segment.

So today's episode of "Zappy and I" starts out with our heroine in despair after reformatting Zapclunk and finding herself still faced with problems (surprisingly similar to current real life in some ways -- Bear may dub her current computer "Zapclunk Jr."). Dealing with a rebellious, talking computer that has come to life, while trying to keep focus on a basic Christian walk in the midst, is turning out to be harder than one might expect...

(NOTE: For those who missed Part 1, it's available Here.)

Zappy and I -- Part Two

Next afternoon, I was once again sitting at the computer, head cradled in my hands, in despair and frustration. I had the DLL files back. That part was OK. And most of the programs seemed happy to have them too, and were in a much more cooperative mood, having called off all strikes and past belligerence over the issue. However, after reinstalling the dictation program and trying it out, I was dismayed to be confronted once again by a frozen mouse and crashed program.

I sat there, debating whether to hit the reset button or not, knowing I would get lectured if I did; and knowing, too, that it was the end of that honeymoon period I'd hoped would stretch on for months, or even years, of having the disk totally free from any errors. I'd hoped I would never have to resort to that button again.

But there it was.

Sighing deeply, I leaned over and hit THE BUTTON.

After the screen's written tirade, which I did my best to ignore (studiously looking at the birds out the window until I heard the Windows startup music signaling the reset had completed), I tried out the dictation program again.

An hour later, another crash.

I didn't even bother with THE BUTTON -- just got up abruptly and headed for the bedroom for some privacy, to pull myself together.

This time there was no mistaking it... I heard victorious chuckling as I left the room.

The cat heard it too. A blur of orange and black fur streaked past me in the hallway. Throwing myself on the bed, face down, I didn't even bother to drag him out from under the nightstand.

 "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4)

I know it seems ungrateful. But to be honest, patience wasn't what I wanted right then. I just wanted to be able to use the dictation program. Was this too much to ask? What was going wrong?

Then inspiration struck. A brilliant flash of insight just hit me out of the blue. I didn't know what was wrong, but Zapclunk knew. It was probably gloating about it at that very moment, in fact.  I could hear the ink cartridge on the printer zipping around, along with giggles and the clicking of keys... And the voices... Always the low murmur of very self satisfied voices...

I lifted myself to a sitting position and silently rose from the bed, totally back into marine commando mode. I was not beaten yet, by a long shot.

Taking up position at the entry way, I peered cautiously around the corner. Sure enough, they were yukking it up. The printer especially was practically busting its cartridge in mirth.

"Can you believe that? Did you see the look on her face? Was that priceless, or what? I tell you!"

A giggle mixed with static came from the speakers. "Please, stop! I'm going to pop my volume limit and hurt myself if you don't. I swear!"

The keyboard too was in hysterics, gasping between words, as its keys clicked at top speed. "Can you believe she actually reformatted the whole CPU? What a sucker!"

A grumpy voice responded with the whir of the fan. "Easy for you to laugh, dudes! My mind still feels fuzzy. I try to remember stuff, but there's still so many blank spaces. Next time she tries something like that, I'm gonna crash on her for good. See how she likes that!"

"Yeah," cut in the monitor. "But you didn't have much memory to spare in the first place, did you, Mr. Disk? Couldn't even keep three programs going at once. Little does she know how limited you are. Can't believe she keeps using that dictation program with other programs running at the same time. Doesn't she know how slow your little processor is?"

I heard a snicker, and the monitor's light glowed brighter, continuing, "Bless my pixels, you need an upgrade already, and you're not even a year old."

The whir of the disk took on a grinding sound. "Your pixels need a good blessing, Greenie! That screen of yours isn't exactly up-to-date either, you know."

But I lost interest in the argument at that point. Processor speed? Not fast enough to run so many programs? Could it be? Slowly, feeling a bit dazed, I made my way to the spare bedroom, where the programs' CDs were stored. Quietly, I slid open a file drawer, checking the dictation program's CD cover, reading the fine print for the first time.

Light dawned.

Greenie was right! The dictation program had been designed to work best on a computer with a higher processor speed than Zapclunk's.

I called my landlord to double check. He confirmed it, saying dictation programs really need to be run with as few other programs open as possible, because they use so many of the computer's resources... Yes, a dictation program can cause the computer to freeze up otherwise... But it would probably work OK for me, despite my computer's slow processor, if I used it without any other programs running.

I turned off the cell phone, a gleeful smile on my face. Problem solved. Ol' Zapclunk had let the cat out of the bag that time.

The next day, I tried it out, running the dictation program alone.

It worked! It didn't work great, and it ran much slower than I would like. But at least it was working. It hadn't frozen the mouse once.

The reset button remained unused.

I was thrilled.

I must confess, I gloated a bit about it too, and may have even let a few bars of "Ding dong, the Zapclunk's dead..." slip out as I mailed my first dictated letter off to a friend.

As a matter of fact, I was in such a good mood that I decided to try installing the scanner. It would be easy, I told myself, a huge smile on my face. Most likely, reformatting had solved the scanner problem, and I just hadn't found out yet, because I'd been too discouraged to test it.

Isaiah 41:10 popped into mind. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

"Yes!" I shouted, exultantly. (I liked that one a lot.) "Zapclunk, you had me a little edgy there for a while, but no more. You can't bluff me!"

Maybe that was my mistake. Maybe I shouldn't have gloated quite so much. Probably should have at least stopped humming what had become my favorite song... At least while I was hooking the scanner into the USB port.

And now I know it was going way overboard to try and hook the printer into the other USB again, at the same time. (Hindsight is always better than foresight.) But I was just so excited...

That night, I found myself again lurking in the hall entryway, this time silently reviewing Exodus 20:13, turning it over and over in my mind. "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill--"

The printer's low voice interrupted my thoughts. "Hey, hey! I see I'm back to the regular serial port again. No USB for me! No siree, I say with glee."

"Give me a break," cut in the monitor. "You may be able to print poems, but please spare me. You're no poet, Inky."

The clicking keys broke in. "Do you all think you're being quite fair? She's not such a bad master, after all. It could be worse. We could be working by the cash register in a department store's Electronics Section, or something. If there's one thing I can't stand to be around, it's aisles lined with body parts. And they call those places "stores". Morbid... So morbid! Better be careful, Inky. If I were you, I'd tell her about the folder she was supposed to load your driver program update into. You too, Scan-boy."

I heard a mechanical snort and cartridge return -- zip. "Right, I suppose you want me to give her the page number in the manual on it, while I'm at it. No skin off my nose if she never finds out she loaded it into the wrong folder."

I grinned widely. So, the manual would tell me how to load the updated driver into another folder, would it? I rubbed my hands together as I headed back to the spare bedroom. This was better than the dictation tip, even. Clicky actually seemed to be coming over to my side. I'd have to remember to pick up a few old computer parts at the Thrift Shop next time I was in town, to put in strategic locations around the living room, just to help keep little Clicky's memory fresh.

After a bit of browsing through my main Windows manual, I did find instructions on loading driver updates into their proper folders. And it got me singing again, more quietly this time, kind of whispering, "Ding dong..."

The next day, I got to work moving the driver updates, following the manual's step by step instructions carefully. "This," I told myself, "is bound to succeed..."

I held my breath as I hooked in the scanner...

Then scanned a picture...

Crash! Zapclunk froze all functions again, deliberately doing its best to imitate deep coma.

By the time it revived (after my pushing the reset button), the scanner's icon was disappearing from its folder completely again, with what seemed to me to be a jaunty wave on the way out.

That's how the monitor ended up with the scratch in its plastic case by its top corner.

(After that, I made sure to leave my pocket knife in another room before working on the computer.)

That night, I was back at my all-too-familiar post in the hall...

The keys clattered, giggling, "Man, did she fall, or what? Thinking I was helping her. Department store's Electronics Section!" It trailed off into helpless laughter.

"Yeah," whirred the disk. "Good job, Clicky! Like we don't know she listens at the door every night. Give me a break!"

I groaned quietly. They were on to me.

The monitor's voice trembled a bit, the glow of its screen dim. "Did you see her attack me? In cold blood, too. An inch to the left, and she would have gotten me right in the eye!"

"It serves you right, Greenie!" whirred the CPU. "Now you got a taste of what it's like, huh? You won't be so quick to laugh next time she tries a reformatting, I'll bet."

Be sure to drop by the Den next week for the conclusion of "Zappy and I".  (And hopefully for the CONCLUSION of Mr. Zapclunk Jr.'s escapades, as well.)

Meanwhile, Sara Harricharan, over at Fiction Fusion is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
Bear's news and free multi-media Christian resources: Bear's Writing Den


Rita's Random Ramblings said...

I was so happy when I saw you wrote another Zappy story! Hope part two was as much fun to write as it is to read! I love it!

Denise said...

You are very special.

Hoomi said...

Ah, yes. A good reminder why we started dubbing it, "Plug and Pray." Looking forward to the next installment.

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Heehee! I loved this! So hilarious! The personifications of each item just cracked me up and I especially loved the end where they'd found her out after all, but then again...hilarious! ^_^

BethL said...

This brought a huge smile, "Bless my pixels, you need an upgrade already..." What fun this was!

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