The thing about electric gear is that, a lot of times, it doesn’t work right. Hard drives fail, CDs get scratched, files get corrupted, Gameboy screens get cracked, whatever. Accepting these failures as inevitable, it’s the job of the troubleshooter (or “tech”) to correctly diagnose the problem and then efficiently and nondestructively resolve it. Simultaneously working as a studio tech and being poor, I’m beginning to gain some real experience in beating what usually seems like an insurmountable issue upon first inspection, regarding both the school studios and my own personal recording and computer gear.
My new-used copy of F-Zero for SNES, for example, wouldn’t start when I loaded the cartridge, no matter how much air I puffed into the contact. This isn’t an issue for me anymore, though, for any game, as I’ve discovered that a bit of isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab fixes that problem a good deal of the time (in my experience, 100 per cent of the time). I did something similar with my friend’s Double Dragon NES cart, whose contacts were actually coated on both sides with a thick layer of white paint. The paint wasn’t anywhere to be found on the body of the cartridge, which makes me think that someone deliberately painted the contacts to make it unplayable. Who would do that to Double Dragon? Rubbing alcohol got it right off, though.
Of course, this is a very basic example, but it’s indicative of my movement away from the panicked feeling of having something for which I paid a lot of money suddenly not function properly. My tendency is to go into crisis mode as soon as my computer, SNES, microphone, etc. starts not working – a strategy which typically compounds the issue rather than resolve it. As I learn more about the common fixes and methods of discovering the uncommon ones, I move away from this habit. I attempted to repair my $300 condenser microphone not long ago, and though it was panic that drove me to remove the casing, I learned from the experience.
I woke up this morning, booted my Linux partition, and found myself staring at a hung startup screen. I could feel a bit of the old panic, but I knew at least that my files were all safe on the Mac volume. The most important thing I could do at that point was carefully remember any and all changes that I’d made to the system between this boot and the last one. That, combined with a few well thought-out googlings led me to the realization that I’d inadvertently disabled the driver for my GPU, causing a hung boot every time the graphics started to load. At that point, as with most Ubuntu issues, it was just a package download of the right driver to make it all better. This was a scary experience, but I’m a better tech for it.