Penguin Pain . . .

I had a problem the other day.

I have a not-too-close relative whom I’ll call Slacker, since it fits much better than his real one.

Slacker likes to play a few games on his PC. Nothing wrong with that, but Slacker is a malware magnet. He runs machines into paralysis faster than any non-porn hound I’ve ever seen.

What is most enraging about Slacker is that as his machine goes downhill, he does absolutely nothing about it. Nothing. He just runs the machine until it doesn’t work anymore, then somebody else is supposed to fix it for him, free.

Take three guesses who that is.

When you tell him that he needs to take some care of his machine, his answer to you is, “I don’t know how!” He has “victim” down to a V.

Yes, he is over eighteen. No, he is not mentally challenged. No, this is not untypical behavior from him.

Well, after a number of free fixes over too short a period of time, I informed both him and his all-too-doting parents that the gravy train was over.

I didn’t hear anything for a while, then I had the following conversation with Mommy:

Mommy: Can I take the memory out of Slacker’s machine and use it elsewhere?

Ed: What’s wrong with the machine?

Mommy: Slacker says it’s broken. He says it stops and says he gets a blue screen . . . death.

Ed: That machine is almost certainly not broken in a hardware sense, he just screwed it up again.

Mommy: His computer friend said he couldn’t get it to work.

Apparently, this had been the case for several months, and Slacker’s idea of a solution was to either get a new machine from Mommy or take over his younger brother’s machine when he went away to college (little does he know his games won’t and can’t work on it :)).

I suggested Slacker ought to avail himself of the services provided by one of the computer stores, but after I got off the phone, I had second thoughts. No doubt the machine was screwed up for the usual reasons, but it was three or four years old, there could be a hardware problem, too.

On the other hand, if I looked at it, found the usual, and did a Windows reinstall and adjustments, Slacker got himself another free fix, enabling another cycle.

If I did nothing, I knew full well that Slacker would probably end up getting a new machine, and I was damned if I was going to let that happen.

Hmmmm, what can I do to establish that the machine is functional, with minimal pain to myself and minimal gain to Slacker?

Then it hit me—Ubuntu!!

If I could install Ubuntu on the machine, I could establish that the machine worked fine, while rendering it useless for his gaming. If the sucker wanted his games, he could do the Windows reinstallation himself, or pay the nice Compustore people to do it for him.

(The last statement isn’t completely true, the games Slacker likes can be run in Linux using WINE, but remember, we’re talking about somebody with less initiative than a corpse.)

I called back, and persuaded the reluctant parental authorities to go along with my plan.

I got the machine. A regular boot got me an IRQL Not Less Than Equal BSOD, no big deal. Booting from the last good configuration got me to the Windows screen, where I saw the usual this-doesn’t-work, that-doesn’t-work mess.

I restarted and went into setup to set the boot sequence to CD-ROM, found that was already the case. I put the Ubuntu CD in, rebooted, and got nothing from the CD/DVD except a brief grunt.

The drive was obviously broken. What probably happened is that the “computer friend” tried to reinstall Windows from a CD-ROM, got nowhere, and gave up.

Well, I’m made of sterner stuff than that. This is why God made spare parts. I found another drive, put it in, put Ubuntu in it, restarted, and no problem at all. Updated the files, used Firefox for a while, tried a few other programs, smooth sailing all the way.

The drive will get replaced, and Slacker will either not play games on the computer, have to figure out Windows reinstallation (and maybe buy some imaging software), or (least likely of all) have to figure out WINE.

Just to give him a little extra encouragement to learn how to reinstall Windows or at least a little about Linux, I set the username as the name his parents gave him, and the password as the name I’ve given him. 🙂

The Moral Of The Story

The point to all this is not about Windows or Linux (I actually like Ubuntu); it’s about responsibility. Computers are like puppies, yes, they’re fun, but part of the package is taking care of them, too.

While my particular situation isn’t likely to be too typical, I can easily see somebody not taking care of his or her silicon puppy, then telling Mom and Dad, “Clean up my mess, or I can’t do my homework.”

This approach lets them do their homework, and either way, they’re going to have to learn something. They’ll either have to learn Linux, or learn how to reinstall/restore their Windows setup.

Maybe they’ll like Penguinland. If Linux can fix Lazy, great! Just don’t ask me to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

OK, maybe you don’t do this to your eight-year-old, yes, this is tough(er) love, but we need a little more of that these days.


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