Computer says no

So I have a whole load of photos sitting in my camera that I took at a friend’s 40th birthday bash recently, and my present to her will be a photo album with said photos all stuck in it, so she can sit down with a cup of tea and see all the bits of that beautiful evening that she missed, due to starting on the Pimms at midday. As you do…

Once upon a time I’d have taken the reel of film out, sent it away in an envelope and then gone about my business until a week later another envelope would arrive, containing 27 blurred, overexposed photos, five snaps of my feet and four decent ones. But not any more.

No, these techologically advanced days I have to move all of the digital information from my camera to my computer via one of the 87 little black cables that I own – and pray that it works, otherwise I’ve had it – and then spend several days fiddling around with cropping and fading and adjusting the contrast and making some of them look all arty farty in black and white.

Then, when I’ve made the bad pictures I took look as though someone who knows how to use a camera took them, I have to move all of this new digital information onto something I can carry in my bag to the photo development shop, because for some  reason they can’t seem to do 1-hour processing if I order them online. Sigh.

So off I go to rifle through the Drawer Of Random Electrical Crap under the telly in the hope of finding a blank DVD. I find six dusty remote controls that don’t appear to control any piece of equipment we own, several feet of cable with yellow and red bits at the ends, two copies of Mozart’s Reqiem (and why not? It’s a cracker) and, oh hello, seems I own a copy of Burn After Reading after all. Excellent – so long as its title doesn’t apply to the novel I’m in the middle of writing…

Finally I find what looks to me like a box of blank DVDs, spend fifteen minutes using every sharp object I can find in my kitchen to get the sodding selophane off, open my computer’s CD drive, pop the shiny disk in, and close it.

There’s a whirring sound. This is good. Whirring means it’s registering the existence of the DVD. Soon I’ll just copy and paste and…
Hello, what’s this. I’m being asked a question: Do I want to format the disc?
I dunno. Do I? Is formatting good? Does it mean I can copy pictures onto it and go back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing?
I click yes. Formatting sounds like a good thing.
Another pop-up window informs me that the drive is in use, and that formatting will do something bad to something or other, and might cause loss of data or premature ageing or haemorrhoids. I think that’s what it said anyway.
So, I’m asked, with this potential for Bad Things in mind Do I really want to format this disc?
Well no, obviously I don’t REALLY want to format it. I REALLY want to go out for a drink with Diego Forlan and get my kids to eat broccoli. Obviously. But fine, OK, since you ask: yes, I really do want to format it. OK?
I click yes.
Another question: Am I aware that this may take ‘a long time’ and that I can’t shut my computer down or go to the toilet while it’s happening?
Yes, yes, yes I’m aware. Format this thing already, will you? 
I click yes.

More whirring. Formatting appears to be taking place. The computer was right: takes a long time. I don’t go to the toilet for five whole minutes, while a little green bar moves across the screen slower than a watched pot trying valiantly to come to the boil.

Finally I receive another message from the God of Formatting. He speaks thus:
This disc could not be formatted.

It….what? It couldn’t be formatted? But….but why not? It’s a disc, and it’s in the disc-y place, and you asked me – twice! – if I was sure I wanted to format it, and I said yes thank you I was quite sure, and now you’re telling me that it…can’t be formatted?? But, that’s your JOB! To format stuff!
It’s my job to write books and look after my kids, and make sure my husband eats fruit once in a while, and I do all that quite successfully without asking anyone if they’re SURE they want me to be doing that, and without announcing, without explanation, that I cannot.
So why can’t you do your job, mate, and format this bloody DVD so I can put my photos on it and Victoria can laugh at herself dancing naked in the chocolate fountain?? Hmmm?? (Victoria, if you prefer I can delete this one. I understand.)

Of course, what’s ACTUALLY made me cross is not that the disc can’t be formatted, because things things happen all the time with computers and there’s probably a very simple solution. No, what’s got my goat is that I don’t KNOW what the solution is, because I don’t know what the PROBLEM is, and I feel like such a powerless computer dunce. I know I have to wait here, stuck, until my Knight in Shining Computer Wizzardry comes charging home on his mountain bike and, with one click of my mouse, solves the embarrassingly obvious problem for me. And then pats me on the head.

And I also know that this stalemate with my computer puts me slap bang in the “Don’t ask me, ask your father” bracket of motherhood, where all questions about cooking or celebrity gossip are mine, and all those about computers or the Crimean War are his.

So here I sit, unable to proceed with the photos, waiting for someone to enlighten me…and for Diego to call. He must be busy washing his hair.

In the mean time I’ll keep ‘formatting’ this novel, which (touch wood) seems to be progressing nicely…No discs, no wires, no problems. Just lovely, lovely words. And yes, I’m quite sure I want to proceed.

6 thoughts on “Computer says no

  1. Freddie

    I can help with Crimean war but leave all IT problems to the much beloved. After all his job titles involves IT and training and management, so he is much better placed than I would be.
    Hope you figure out what’s gone wrong.

  2. Zeen Design (RW)

    Liz, you are HILARIOUS! You always have me laughing, but this actually had me laughing out loud, as in LOL. 🙂 I will promptly be sending it out to friends and family. Thank you!!!

  3. lizfraser Post author

    Hi Rivka. What a lovely reply – thank you! I’m really touched. If I can make people laugh out loud I’m a very happy person indeed. Basically I just write whatever I’m thinking, and hope it amuses people, or helps, or at least makes them wake up and think! Thanks for passing the blog on. That’s the way these things reach far greater audiences, and amuse/help more people. Thanks! Liz.

  4. Matt Whiting

    Liz, my IT genes are screaming at me to offer all sorts of sardonic geeky advice (“Get a Mac”, “Use a memory stick”, and of course “Don’t try putting DVDs into the CD drive in the first place”), but I’ll bite my tongue on those and offer just one tip, going straight to the source of the problem: don’t hang out with strange women who start on the Pimm’s before lunchtime. It’ll get you into trouble, trust me on this…

  5. Tim

    It’s like anal sex really. You have to be at least grateful to your computer for trying it before deciding it can’t do it.

  6. lizfraser Post author

    Matt, thanks for the excellent reply. Sardonic advice is always welcome – I deserve to taste my own medicine from time to time! As for your piece of advice, sadly I must ignore it or I would have no friends at all…
    Tim, classy as ever. Try re-booting. Usually works. (And that’s the very last I’m going to say on the matter! Cripes.)


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