punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

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Tech - Computer Voodoo

I think Christine's computers have evil spirits in them.

When I was a kid, I was an AV nerd, which probably surprises none of you. But, I was. The link I just gave you extols the whole sordid story of my rise and fall of being an AV Nerd.

One thing not mentioned in the story was my AP Chemistry class. My parents required me to take summer school education, but I got to choose which courses. One year, I took Chemistry during the summer because the AP Chem teacher we had the rest of the year was known to be a complete asshole. Summer courses were only held in schools that had air conditioning (back then, only a few had), and I think this year I was in Herndon High. Summer courses for AP students were pretty sparse, so the classes were small, and often a lot of one-on-one was done with the teacher you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. This year, not only did our teacher (I think his name was Dr. Kosek) have a classroom, he had two, so he set up the projector in one classroom, and had the regular classes in the other. Since summer course cover like 5 days worth of normal class time compacted into one day, it was frequent that we would spend time for lecture, do a lab, see some films, and maybe another lab. We'd cover about 2-3 chapters a day sometimes.

"Is anyone good with a projector?" he asked on the first day. Man, I never did learn to keep my hand down. Well, I was the only hand up, and I was a Godsend, because Dr. Kosek often used film time to go have a smoke. He was a pretty cool teacher, and apologized to me that most of the films he had were in pretty bad shape. The projector wasn't so hot, either. In fact, some of these films were so brittle, and so over-spliced, they jammed and snapped in the projector, and I had to fix it while the students jeered and laughed (in a good way, only in jest).

One day, we had a "very important film" to see, and it was in terrible shape. It had been spliced so many times, the first minute was missing altogether. And quickly, it did this "vertical blur" thing that some old films do. It's hard to explain, but 16mm films run on sprocket leads, and they show each frame twice, at 24 frames a second. They go shutter (advance frame), picture, shutter (no advance), picture, shutter (advance frame) and so on. Well, if the timing is off, all you get is this weird vertical blur, which affects the sound, too, and makes it sound like it's underwater. Those who grew up with these films know what I am talking about. But when it happens in mid-movie, it is a BITCH to fix. It involves opening up the projector, and with a pointy thing, moving film around. Well, I made several attempts to fix this, and finally, it was just not working. People made jokes that my voodoo wasn't working.

This classroom normally belonged to some other teacher during the normal school year, and she had some knick-knacks around. One of them was a set of overlapping bells over her door. From my studies of the occult, I knew these were Chinese Spirit Bells, often put in front of doors to keep bad spirits away, but are also handy in shops to tell you when a customer has entered or exited. I grabbed these bells off the door frame, and said I would now try to scare the evil spirits out of the projector.

I made up this wild dance, and for about 10 seconds, I shouted, rang the bells, and ran around the projector, screaming generic stuff like, "OUT, EVIL THINGS! BEGONE FOUL CRETINS OF PROJECTION BOOGERY!" Something like that. Much laughter from the students ensued. I really made a big production out of it. I then announced I would try again, fully expecting a to give concession speech that the evil spirits possessing the projector were far too strong.

I flipped the switch on, and damn if the film worked flawlessly until the end! In fact, for the rest of the year, NO FILMS gave me any trouble. Wow! Spooky.

Years later, I was working at a store that had a Merlin Phone system that constantly crashed and had to be rebooted. One day, even rebooting didn't work. While we were waiting for the AT&T guy to show up, I told the story about the spirit bells to a full timer, and he made some jokes about it. So I decided to give it a shot. We sold a handmade wooden rattle, so I shook that, making all kinds of nonsense phrases.

And the system came back up. And never crashed again. The full timer was suitably spooked.

So now, I just remembered this story, because Christine has always had problems with her computers. They just do weird stuff all the time. My computers never have half the problems hers does, and I can't quite figure it out. CR also has weird problems with his systems, but I think he downloads all this Spyware. But he also makes CD-ROM drives go bad. If he's at a computer long enough, the CD-ROM drive stops working. I have replaced 4 on his systems in his room, 1 on a system he was using at my workplace, and Christine now had to replace hers on her system. I know CR downloads Spyware, he's just one of those typical "I didn't click nothin" users we see in the IT world every day. But why CD-ROMs? I have inspected and taken apart CD-ROMs that have failed around him, and never saw anything unusual; no scratched CDs, no foreign objects, and nothing that would spell abuse. And Christine's computers have had the strangest hardware failures. Like, we swapped monitors because hers, which is 2 years newer than mine, and a better brand name (Trinitron), is failing. It only operates at maximum brightness; you literally cannot make it any darker. It also has thin lines across the screen, and when you switch video modes, it looks like it's failing, but then it comes back up like it received physical blunt trauma. The monitor also doesn't remember any of its settings when its turned off, and the settings it is saved to are weird (max contrast, 31% brightness). It works better the longer it's on, so if you turn it off, it acts really badly with the lines and the video flicker for the first hour or so after you turn it on.

It did this when I moved it to my KVM in my den. I just accepted this as normal. Then when I put one of my... "good luck charms" (actually, a goth nodder) on top of it, the lines suddenly snapped, and I mean gave an audible "puuung!" and they completely disappeared. The goth nodder doll does not have any magnets or funny stuff. Maybe it's just coincidence. The brightness is still a problem, though. Like at 0% brightness, blacks still show up as a navy blue, and if you turn the brightness up, it totally washes out.

And when my good monitor was put on her system? All the colors had a greenish hue. We fiddled with some settings, and got the colors fixed to where she liked them, but she has the exact same video card as I do.

Still... maybe if I get some firecrackers and a rattle...
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