Friday, April 15, 2011

Houston we have a problem . . .

I recently bought my husband his own laptop.  He uses it mainly for email and web research.  It is a fairly simple, straightforward laptop.  No bells, no whistles, pretty much what Staples had on sale.  I have several computers in my home office but they are geared toward the kind of IT work I do.  My own background is in computer science and my ‘day job’ consists of a lot of programming, systems analysis, report writing and other high-geek stuff that I won’t bore you with.  Suffice it to say that the computers that I work on are not exactly user-friendly.  In fact, I would characterize some of them as positively user-hostile.  Hence the need for a simple laptop to perform straightforward tasks.
My husband had been using an older laptop of mine whose hard drive finally went to the big component roundup in the sky.  I was lucky enough to creep in an electronic back door and salvage all of his email and document history before the thing gave up the ghost.  I set up his new laptop with all of his internet history and his entire email configuration so he did not lose anything.  Given the state of the old laptop, pulling this off was the IT equivalent of skating’s quad jump.  I was justifiably proud of myself.
So why am I telling you all this?  Simply because today, I wanted to look something up quickly so I sat down with my husband’s laptop.  SOMEHOW I pressed just the right – or wrong as it happens – combination of keys which turned the entire display upside down.  Not kidding.  I also apparently got the keypad to work upside down and backwards.  Seriously.  So there I am, sitting in a chair in the family room staring open-mouthed at something I have a.) never seen before and b.) wasn’t even aware you could do.
OK.  So question number one.  How is this ever useful?  I guess if you were weightless in space this might – and I emphasize might – come in handy.  Other than that I have no clue.  And since I have never been nor do I ever intend to work in outer space, any other use this might serve escapes me entirely.  Maybe the manufacturers included this just to prove that they could.  Again, no idea.  It’s a really nice laptop and it was very reasonably priced.  This clearly was not on my ‘must have’ feature list (is it on anyone's?) and is about as meaningful for me as those pens that can write upside down – also, by the way, designed for the apparent hoards of people reporting for work beyond the stratosphere.
So if we remove astronauts from the mix, I’m guessing the number of people salivating for this particular feature is right around, just guessing here – ZERO.  HOWEVER, and judging from the research I did on the Internet, there is a considerably larger number trying to figure out how to DISABLE it.  This I located in pretty short order.
Fixing it required logging back into the computer upside down and left to right.  Up is down, right is left: you get the picture.  Then I simply had to press three keys together and –voila – back to planet earth.
So I spent a half hour learning a valuable lesson about how to fix something that makes no sense in the first place.  Which, come to think of it, pretty neatly sums up my day job in a nutshell.

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