It's Hard Out There for a Power User

It's Hard Out There for a Power User

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The events of the last few weeks led me to develop a maxim, which I’m going to call Smith’s Law #1. Behold: Computing is more difficult than it needs to be. And frequently, we—the power users, computing experts, and other affiliated nerds—are responsible.

Sure, it’s not exactly an epiphany worthy of hosannas, but it’s true. Witness two recent incidents that helped congeal Smith’s Law #1 from the “æther.”

When I set out to install Windows Vista on my personal gaming rig one late-spring afternoon, I didn’t anticipate problems. After all, I’d already installed multiple Vista builds on that rig. Unfortunately, my rig crashed before the graphical installer loaded. After pulling every component from my system, rebooting about 400 times, flashing the BIOS, and spending hours on Google, I found that my mobo’s hard drive controller was at fault. The only “fix” is to replace my board with one that uses another drive controller.

So, I have to replace my motherboard. No big deal, right? Wrong. My rig sports the latest in water-cooling technology—normally a good thing. However, swapping out the mobo, which usually takes about 30 minutes, now requires all afternoon, not to mention buckets, clamps, and hoses. Ugh.

The second incident happened while I was writing this month’s how-to. I wanted to figure out an easy way to host large files online, using Bittorrent. After testing a ton of insanely difficult-to-configure web apps, I stumbled upon Broadcast Machine. It worked perfectly on my home web server, and I started writing.

Then I went to test the procedure on a couple of popular web hosts and found, much to my dismay, that the Bittorrent-specific parts of BM only worked on my home-based Apache server. Needless to say, it took a ton more time with Google to discover that the problem was with one Apache module, but once I figured that out, it was a simple matter of finding a host that would allow me to disable the module, and I was back in business.

The upshot is simple. If my computing expectations were lower, I wouldn’t encounter these pitfalls. But being prepared to suffer (and surmount) the occasional minor inconvenience is an integral part of the power-user experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. If I air-cooled my rig, I’d already be up and running with Vista. If I was less concerned with video quality than ease of use, I never would’ve discovered Broadcast Machine, and you’d be reading another boring YouTube how-to.

But that’s not how we roll at Maximum PC.

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