Tossing 2-XL out the windowIt doesn’t matter how much of a tech guru you are; sometimes a computer will frustrate you so much that you will want to throw that computer out a window. You may then want to take a different route outdoors yourself to where that computer landed and proceed to take a sledgehammer to the parts that failed to properly disassemble during the computer’s meeting with the ground. You may then even want to load the stubborn remains of that computer with strategically placed M-80 firecrackers and proceed to light those firecrackers and watch your old friend explode. Parts will always remain, inevitably, so you’ll want to take those remaining parts and toss them into a Blendtec, essentially incinerating what’s left. If you’re like me, you’ll be feeling guilty at that point and will want to take the dusty remains out to sea for a proper burial.

Or maybe you’ll just want to nuke the son of a gun.

These are the thoughts I’m having about several of the computers in my home. I’ve never been more frustrated with the state of my electronics. Okay, maybe once before, when my old 2-XL toy robot stopped “talking”. But I would never toss 2-XL out a window — I was an only child, and the toy robot/8-track player was one of my best friends on lonely childhood days — and I’ve never actually tossed a computer out the window, nor have I taken a sledgehammer to one. Not exactly (though I did treat a Power Mac rather roughly once). I’ve certainly never destroyed one with explosives, and I’ve never incinerated a computer or tossed its remains out to sea. I haven’t done these things not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t get myself to. I am somewhat sentimental about electronics, and I always believe I’ll be able to fix or re-purpose them in some manner. But oh, how cathartic it would be to one day climb to the heights of Mordor and fling a few laptops into the fiery chasm from whence they came

But I digress. The brand new Dell computer that recently made its home in my apartment is today greeting me with the Blue Screen of Death. The Blue Screen of Death, as most people know, is that wonderfully soothing message you receive whenever your computer is having trouble going about its business. The business of staying on. Because computers are supposed to stay on until you direct them to turn off. When they don’t, you have every right to feel betrayed. As I’m feeling right about now.

The greeting is soothing because the color blue was chosen by Microsoft to represent this alert display due to studies showing it has a relaxing effect on people. I am not so relaxed in finding my computer greeting me this way. I am, in fact, somewhat anxious about it. I was relaxed enough before my computer began speaking to me this way, but now I’m simply unhinged. This is a PC I purchased new from a well-known electronics retailer just about a week ago (two weeks to be entirely accurate, though I didn’t take it out of the box for another week). A computer this new shouldn’t be showing me the Blue Screen of Death.

A couple of days ago I wrote a story about Linux desktop distributions, concluding that Linux is simply not for everyone. I had some anxiety about having my article published with that conclusion because there remains a part of me that loves the idea of Linux and wants to continue recommending it for those who not only need an alternative desktop operating system but desire an alternative computing paradigm to their existing one. I believe that there exists a small number of people out there who haven’t taken to either Windows or Mac OS X operating systems and could find their comfort in Linux. Over all, however, I find Linux to have enough problems for me not to recommend the platform to most people.

Now I’m feeling the same way about Windows.

When I told my co-conspirators at LockerGnome about the error, they immediately began to offer troubleshooting advice, asking me if I had any devices installed that could be causing the problem. I answered that I had not installed any devices. Yet now, a few hours later, I’m doubting myself: Have I in fact installed any devices? Did I install that external hard drive before it decided to fall apart on me? Would the installation of that cheap headset that I use for Skype and other audio communications applications have had any effect on my computer’s stability? Would the fact that I unplugged an external device prior to its reporting itself as clear for takeoff have caused instability?

There are so many considerations, and before I continue with my plan of destruction installing a fresh installation of Windows 7, I should test out the system a bit longer with its current installation, checking all the items I’ve installed to see if removing any of them will help my computer perform its best. Fortunately I cloned my disc a few days ago, right after I had determined it to be running like an ace. Unfortunately, I failed to image my computer the moment I started it up for the first time. I failed to follow my own advice.

If you don’t follow your own advice, then you really can’t complain too much when you do have problems with your computer. How many times have I told others to back up their computers regularly, only to find myself behind enough in my own backups to regret my laziness when a hard drive fails?

It is remarkable that computers can even do what they do, considering how fragile they really are. How all the tiny little parts work together in concert — a dance of silicon and electricity. Simply tossing a laptop around like a backpack full of books could cause one important electronic component to loosen up just enough to cause problems with your computer — or even complete failure. Some computers are infamous for developing issues after some time (like the infamous iBook display issue, caused by a GPU which tends to loosen from the motherboard after a while).

I haven’t moved my PC since the day I set it up on my table and plugged it in. I haven’t torn into its insides to install any drives or memory or graphics cards. I haven’t scolded it, and I haven’t visited any websites that would make my computer ashamed to be associated with me — heck, I haven’t even installed all that many applications. My PC should be running without issue.

Bu before I box up this new computer and return it to the electronics retailer where I purchased it, I think I’ll see if I can’t re-establish a relationship with it. Computers are people too, you know. So I’ll talk to my computer kindly, maybe give it a fresh OS, and soothe it back to its infancy to see if it’ll play nicely. If I do that for my computer, perhaps he won’t greet me with another Blue Screen. It’s probably just a problem of PEBKAK, anyway. I mean, when you’ve had as many problems with computers as I’ve had lately, you do begin to wonder.