Magic is real. I have proof

I’ve decided magic must be real. Quite often, these days, I’ll start my computer and discover it’s changed, magically, since I shut it down. Basic stuff that worked yesterday suddenly doesn’t. Or I’ll log on to a service I need and have the same experience. Worse, nothing fixes it, and online help doesn’t correlate with the problem.

I’m not alone. How many people turned on their computer after the Microsoft April update to discover everything had magically vanished out of their ‘My Documents’ folder? I dodged that one, but only because I’d had endless blue-screen crashes on startup after the Microsoft March update. And when I finally managed to fix that, I discovered a relentless succession of problems such as Word deciding to automatically start itself.

It happens with online services, too: last year all my Kindle books vanished from their marketplaces on Amazon. No warning, and I’d not changed a single setting. Nothing. It just happened.

I’ve learned there’s no point trying to get help when these magic changes strike because there’s also a magical disconnect between available help and what is happening. When the Kindle marketplace problem occurred, for instance, Amazon sent me a step-by-step guide-for-morons about how their marketplaces work, because obviously I didn’t know and that was the cause of the problem.

My favourite writing tool. No software updates required.

Or take the magic Word auto-start issue. No setting would change it: I’d already checked the startup items list, which hadn’t changed and didn’t have Word in it. Further digging led me to a lengthy tech description of the way user accounts can get corrupted. Fixing that involves iwhwq bvigh with RegEdit and soeiurhqiwuh with a swjhw xxyjjg to asjidnai juhn, so make sure you widheitg jjxveha and kfkkeoizyyz, always noting the difference between 111011011010001111011101 and 111011011011001111011101. I was, however, pretty sure that this wasn’t the issue.

Now, here comes the next magic part. These issues that magically appear out of nowhere because, apparently, the user ‘did something’, or they’ve suddenly forgotten how to use the system they’ve been using every day for the past 10 years – well, guess what. These problems always fix themselves again, no input required. More magic! My Kindle marketplace availability, for instance – popped back after three days. All without my changing a thing or suddenly remembering how the system worked. And it had to be magic because Amazon’s staff made clear the problem was due to my ignorance of their marketplace system. Magic. See?

Of course, it could be that in this age of software-as-service, the programmers in the back office mess up one of the updates. That information doesn’t get passed to the front-office help staff or reflected in online help files because despite being ‘corporate’, these institutions have profoundly dysfunctional internal systems. But I think ‘magic’ is the better answer. After all, these giant mega-corporates can’t make mistakes, can they?

Have you had this sort of problem?

Copyright © Matthew Wright

16 thoughts on “Magic is real. I have proof

  1. Yes! Even though I have a “pure fibre” internet connection, my computer was always dropping the internet. I decided the network adapter was a dud and replaced it with a usb adapter. Things were better, but when Zoom became the way to have meetings, my wi-fi was too unstable to do that reliably. So now my laptop is connected with an ethernet cable. Then came many days when any browser I used was “Not responding.” My copy of Word was suddenly “unlicensed.” Now everything is okay, but for how long? And you’re right about Help being no help at all. Ditto the Windows diagnostics. And looking on the internet, I see my problems described by others, but the solutions, generally offered by mysterious dudes with weird names, always start with “Log on as an administrator and key in nbvqlk:xox. That should fix your problem.” Needless to say, I don’t do that. My problem with these magic spell type fixes is I have no idea how to reverse them if they don’t work as advertised. But you’re right–often the problems just go away. I guess if they persist too long, many people go out and buy new computers. Which makes those who make and sell them really happy. (Hmm, I see a conspiracy theory forming.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like the Microsoft April update symptom: what actually happened was they messed up a .dll file that controlled the settings for user accounts, meaning the system couldn’t find them (they were still there, just unlocatable). I dodged that, but had other odd things happen from the same update.


  2. It happens with Apple updates as well, Matthew. Since I updated my iPad to iOS 13 (and others thereafter) I’ve been unable to copy/ paste documents attached to emails, making it necessary to fire up my Mac to do that.
    Plus, One WP ‘enhancement update’ sometime around the beginning of 2020 means I can’t embed links in the Classic Editor, using my iPad, so have to do that using their new one, or, fire up the Mac again. Grrrrrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, all computer OS’s are the same these days in that sense: too complex for their own good in a way. I used to use Macs back in the 1990s but can’t see a difference now between those and Windows in terms of the tool-set and user experience needed so I can do what I need, aside from price. The advent of the online update has also means programmers can bend to corporate demands to release something, because it can always be fixed later. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm…are you two using Windows 10 with automatic updates? Because I’ve never had anything like that on Windows 7 with manual updates. Btw there is/was one humungous update 200+ MB that I refused to install, even though Micro$oft continues to offer it. The reason I didn’t install it was because if you read the support notes, it says the update will screw your internet connection, and ‘here’s how you fix it’. Seriously? Not sure what benefit this mammoth update was supposed to confer but my system has worked just fine without it. We really do need a better operating system. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The auto update feature in Win 10 is an absolute curse. Sure it guarantees the latest security, but otherwise – ouch. I suspect one of the problems is the system also checks which are installed as the first thing it does on boot, leading to blue-screen if the database is faulty, or if an ‘update’ is improperly written. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I get the impression it’s a corporate issue rather than systemic, and Microsoft as much admitted this when they deferred development at the end of April – looks like they are trying to fix it after two apocalyptically bad updates on the trot. But that doesn’t help users. And we’re imprisoned by whatever product the corporates produce these days, unless we’ve got time to throw away on Linux in its many flavours. But then there’s the issue of software and integrating with the ‘ecosystem’. Groan.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aaaaah. I am so sorry. I guess it’s much too late to go to manual updating. Then again, even there, how would you know which update was going to be a stinker?
        Like you, I still need Windows for my teaching and for all the 3rd party apps I run, otherwise I’d take the plunge on Linus as well. I keep hoping that the /next/ version of Windows will be a good one again. In the past, that has been the pattern with Micro$oft. Remember ME? and Vista? But we’ve now had two stinkers in a row – 8 & 10. Plus I fear that subscription is the path everyone is being funnelled towards. -sigh-

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I remember ME – was warned to avoid like the plague! I actually owned a laptop running Vista, which was pretty much the unfinished beta version of Win 7. It worked OK as long as I didn’t try to do anything much. Oddly, I used it not too long ago because Vista would still execute the 16-bit installer programme for a bit of software I had which was itself 32-bit and could therefore run OK under Win 10 once it had been unpacked – it was simple enough that all I had to do was copy the installed file across & not bother with registry entries.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I used ME for a short time before uninstalling it and going back to whatever came before. Then Win2000 came along and boy did I love that OS…-nostalgic smile- Ahem.
            Never used Vista and was a late adopter of XP.
            lol lol lol – having to go /back/ to Vista to unpack an app, even an old one, says something sad about Win10.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to avoid all such issues. So far. And furiously knocking on wood between sentences. However, your experience makes me wonder if the various systems/programs involved have grown sufficiently “complex” that no one can really predict their interactions over the long term. One also wonders if Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem has application to complex programs. One hopes a program is, after all, logical, axiomatic, and formal; whether it is consistent or complete might raise interesting arguments. Another interesting argument might be the relationship between complexity and random (unpredictable?) events. BUT…if this be magic…it must be like Chinese black magic, “the darkest kind…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the problem is exactly that systems have become too complex for their own good! I remember problems in the 1990s when – outside Apple’s tightly controlled environment – it was a lottery as to whether software would run properly. Microsoft then fixed that with the development line of Win 95, 98 etc with their very carefully defined programming parameters. Eventually XP was built into a pretty solid, bulletproof and stable system (after SP1). They took a couple of goes to get Longhorn working – Windows 6 ‘Vista’ was really the beta version, but Win 7 was excellent (and, under the hood, Windows 6.1).

      I think all of that is soluble, of course, given time and resource. Which the large corporates SHOULD be able to apply. To me the ultimate cause is a faulty business model: the ‘software as service’ concept in which they’re constantly changing – well, everything. The word we use in NZ is ‘tutu’, which is Te Reo Maori for messing with something, implicitly mischievously. I can see the sense of stopping malware and exploits – a constant arms race; but the business model includes feature amendment and, I think, change for change’s sake. Such as, for instance, UI alterations because, you know, a focus group met for six weeks to ponder the problem.

      Ultimately I think the reason the model was imposed is because it was a profit-generator; it’s an explicit anti-piracy tactic. Instead of selling software, companies in effect rent their products to users via online authentication every startup, and enforce that by changing the product to the point where older software won’t work (Adobe are dynamite at this trick). As a result the dice get re-rolled, often, relative to system stability, particularly because so much third-party software now hooks itself deeply into the OS.

      Over the top of that is the 1920s-era vehicle industry idea of a ‘new model every year’, which was implemented after the novelty/uptake era was over and, again, devised as a means of improving profit. The technology was changing, but it didn’t change that fast.

      The upshot when it comes to modern computers, to me, is not entirely unlike chaos, in the mathematical sense of course.


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