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(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)

(From the 18th-Floor Homestead).

Authorities tell us that one of the best ways to retain a sense of control over our life is to focus our time and attention on things we can control rather than on the larger, dark forces which we cannot. Thus, as I sit here in a time of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, experiencing CQ’s typical August blast furnace temperatures, hoping it is safe for my son to return to his school in two weeks, feeling frustrated by all the things and people around me which are inexcusably slow and unreliable, watching the water levels continue to rise during CQ’s worst local flooding in decades, and, in general, feeling like a victim, I sought something which I could control: my choice of how to spend my discretionary time. Sadly, in recent weeks, that choice has led to another mountain of frustration and stress. To wit:

Regular followers of my drivel know my enthusiasm and optimism with respect to technology, especially AI, 5G, VR/AR, and others not yet even developed and benamed with memorable acronyms. Regulars also know my appreciation for today’s devices when compared with the technology available as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. Yes, we are living in a digital golden age.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

However, there are times when our modern devices fail to work properly, resulting in much wasted time, confusion and frustration, and elevated blood pressure levels. The language used on those occasions is usually associated with the sport of golf and should be reserved for a golf course.

Sometimes, I feel like all my devices are conspiring to make me crazy. However, expressing this belief makes my wife a little jealous since she thinks that making me crazy is her job. My son is also a little jealous, since making me crazy is something he excels at. But, currently, the computer reigns supreme in crazy-making.

First a little background: Almost 2 months ago I succumbed to the allure of a marketing department’s glowing promises of how their latest and greatest app would simplify my computer experience, dramatically increase my productivity, and substantially reduce the amount of hours spent staring at my computer screen. Well… as they say about the questionable claims in TV advertisements, all the facts were true.

One other issue about adding something to a computer is that, in addition to the expense, confusion, and blood pressure spikes, there is the time lost for other activities (digital and non-digital). Because, once you have begun this installation journey, you cannot turn back. If you are running a marathon and stop somewhere on the 26-mile course, you are digitally tagged as DNF (Did Not Finish), Sadly, with computer work, that is not an option. Thus, I was committed to going through the large number of steps – many of which are accompanied by layers of “Before you can do that” substeps.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

Yes, there is the “Before you can do that” factor during installations. This refers to the situation where you are working on your computer and realize that, before you can do Step A, you must first complete Step B. For example, you want to update an app on your computer. But, before you can complete the update, you must stop everything to do a Step B. (For example, verify your identity.) But, before you can do that, you must complete step C, which is to update your password with a particular site. But, before that can be done, you must update your credit card information, etc., etc., etc.. Sometimes the “Before you can do that” activities proceed through several very frustrating levels – and each step must be completed before you can do the next step. All these steps must be completed successfully before you can go back to your original activity of updating the app. After about five levels of “Before you can do that” obstacles, I am usually on the verge of a psychotic incident – and expressing myself like a professional golfer.

Thus, in this, my most recent venture into the Brave New World of DIY installations, I invested dozens of hours. This was accompanied by immeasurable wear and tear on my central nervous system and probably a significant reduction in my life expectancy. The next time I attempt a DIY computer app installation, someone please remind me to practice my golfspeak before I begin.

After days of such digital conflict and confusion, I remembered what a wise friend had advised me in a similar situation a few years ago. At that time, I was completing (online) a very complex series of forms and applications. I was spending a great deal of time on this and making very little progress because everything was new and it was not intuitive how I should proceed. Frustratingly, when I attempted to get information or assistance, the service that accompanied those online forms was at the same level of unhelpfulness.

It was at that point my friend asked me, “If you have to do something which is a one-time event and is not a skill that you will need in the future, which is better: spend 1000 hours to do it yourself…or pay 1000 dollars to have an expert do it for you, quickly and easily?” The answer – then and again in my present situation – was obvious.

Photo by StartupStockPhotos

Thus, I went to a technician who, in a couple of hours, resolved my computer problem. It wasn’t quite that simple, however.

The process of installing the new app to work properly first required a reinstallation of my computer’s operating system. And, of course, before that step could be completed, a total backup of all data to an external memory had to be completed. More hours spent, but at least we were making progress.

Finally, the installation was done and the new app is now working properly. I wonder how many hours I will have to use this wonderful new app before I recover the hours lost in this installation nightmare.

However, my woes are not over yet. As I approach the two-month point since I began this ordeal, I am still reinstalling the other apps which were deleted during the process – and each of these old apps seems to be accompanied by several “Before you can do that”. layers.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

Finally, after all the old apps are completely reinstalled and operating properly, comes the matter of struggling up the learning curve to effectively use the new app.

So, what do my digital woes have to do with the pandemic, the August heat, worries about flooding, etc.? Well at least this digital activity – frustrating and stressful as it is – takes my mind off the worldwide pandemic, economic and educational concerns, worries about my family’s safety, and other issues. They tend to fade into the background when I am struggling with my computer. And, that is the silver lining of this dark, unfriendly digital cloud: At least, this is something that I can control. Better by far than spending too much time thinking about the things I cannot control.




经常关注我的胡言乱语的人 都知道我对科技的热情和乐观 尤其是人工智能 5G VR/AR 还有其他一些还没有被开发出来的科技产品 常客们也知道我对今天的设备的欣赏,与5到10年前的技术相比。是的,我们正生活在一个数字黄金时代。



首先介绍一下背景。大约两个月前,我屈服于一个营销部门的诱惑 他们的最新和最棒的应用程序如何简化我的电脑体验, 戏剧性地提高我的生产力,并大大减少 盯着电脑屏幕的时间。好吧……就像他们说的电视广告中的可疑说法一样,所有的事实都是真的。

关于在电脑上添加东西的另一个问题是,除了费用、混乱和血压飙升之外,还有其他活动(数字和非数字)的时间损失。因为,一旦你开始了这个安装之旅,你就不能回头了。如果你在跑一场马拉松,在26英里的赛道上某个地方停下来,你就会被打上DNF(Did Not Finish)的数字标签,遗憾的是,在电脑工作的情况下,这是不可能的。因此,我致力于通过大量的步骤–其中许多步骤都伴随着层层叠叠的 “在你能做到这一点之前 “的子步骤。

是的,在安装过程中,有 “在你能做到这一点之前 “的因素。这指的是,当你在电脑上工作时,意识到在你做步骤A之前,你必须先完成步骤B。但是,在你完成更新之前,你必须停止一切工作,去做步骤B(例如,验证你的身份。)但是,在你做之前,你必须完成步骤C,即更新你与某个网站的密码。但是,在这之前,你必须更新你的信用卡信息,等等,等等。有时候,”在你能做到这一点之前 “的活动要经过几个非常令人沮丧的关卡–而且每一步都必须在你做下一步之前完成。所有这些步骤都必须成功完成,然后才能回到更新应用的原始活动。在经历了大约五关的 “在你能做到这一点之前 “的障碍后,我通常会处于精神病事件的边缘–并且像一个职业高尔夫球手一样表达自己的观点。







然而,我的苦恼还没有结束。当我接近开始这场苦难后的两个月时,我仍在重新安装在这个过程中被删除的其他应用程序–而每一个旧应用程序似乎都伴随着几个 “在你可以这样做之前”.层。



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