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AGENDA: The day the music died on my bag of wet fish.

Byline: RICHARD MCCOMB

I am thinking of setting up a new website for like-minded technophobes who have been turned into blubbing, borderline psychotics by their home computers.

The working title is my-laptop-is-as-useful-as-a-bagofwetfish.com. The only problem is that I fear I will not be able to set it up, because my laptop is as useful as a bag of wet fish.

My diddy Dell used to be great, my newest best buddy; but recently it has turned on me, mocked me, and undermined my confidence. I could cope if it just didn't do anything when I hit the start button. The diagnosis would be unambiguous: buggered. The frustration is caused by the machine's tendency to purr into life.

This is followed by the daily game of internet hide-and-seek ("Internet connection timed out," "No connection available") before I somehow stumble on to the world wide web. Once this happens, there is a fusillade of messages, saying: "This programme is not responding ..." When I attempt to delete these prompts, the whole damn thing freezes up, for ages.

I told a chum who's in the know, and he told me: "Whatever you do, don't force the computer to quit by holding down the 'On' button." Which, naturally, is what I do all the time - because if I waited to log off properly, I'd still be waiting now and would not be able to write this column.

Someone suggested I remove the battery. I did so - and considered using it as a plate warmer for dinner parties. Sadly, battery removal had no beneficial effect on the laptop.

And then I became a geek. I entered the world of "My Computer" and delved into "system tools." I learned a new skill - defragmentation, or "defragging", which sounds like a public school initiation ceremony.

Defragging is great. It can be likened to treading grapes for wine production. You mush (defrag) all the grapes (Word files and stuff) together, creating more space (memory) in the bucket. Defragging is also a concept of the Theatre of the Absurd, because it does nothing to improve the performance of my laptop, but takes a lot of time to do it.

A provisional scan showed I had 18 per cent of free space on my computer. I defragged. This took more than two hours, during which time I contemplated life, the universe, and the point of defragging. At the end of the scan, I had gained ... (wait for it) ... one per cent of space. This means I still get "This programme is not responding ..." alerts, but they appear a teenie-weenie bit quicker.

I did loads of other things - disk clean up (which is as helpful as defragging), moved my photos to a memory stick, dumped the temporary files, emptied my waste basket, and tried, unsuccessfully, to tackle the existential concept of the "system restore" function.

Collectively, this took about a week; and achieved diddly-squat.

It was time to cut to the chase: I hit the delete button, like a crazy guy. Old emails, old files and forgotten PDF documents vanished. I was going great guns until I did the single worst thing imaginable. I accidentally nuked iTunes.

It was the day the music died. I turned pale, felt sick, started to shake, rattle and roll. My eyes brimmed with tears.

Amazingly, and don't ask me how, I found a copy of my music files buried on the hard drive thingy. I reinstalled iTunes, copied the songs into my restored music library, languished in the reflected glow of my technological brilliance - and discovered hundreds of songs were missing.

My computer has taken on a mind of its own. For no logical reason, it has saved some artists, but ditched others. The pop massacre started with the As - Aaron Neville (Tell It Like It Is), Abba (Greatest Hits), Al Green.

Also axed: Bob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde - but, bizarrely, not Blood On The Tracks); Britney Spears (Toxic - come on, it's a great song); Bowie (six albums); George Michael (three albums, but not Faith); and Marvin Gaye (five albums).

Now, I can understand why my computer ditched 10cc's stalker anthem, I'm Not In Love (hallow'd tune though it is), but who in the name of the Gods of Rock would delete The Who's Who's Next?

And it gets worse. I'll say it quickly, because it hurts: my-computer-killed-off-all-of-my-Led-Zeppelin-songs. Ten albums. All gone, quicker than you can say: "Shake for me girl. I wanna be your backdoor man."

Being unable to work is one thing, but losing the Zep ... It's a stairway to hell.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 20, 2007
Words:757
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