Tinkering is the most perfect invention of the human experience and in my mind it satisfies two opposing drives: [potentially] being productive and lacking purpose or plan. We should give credit and thanks to Mr. Tinker, who ever that Anglo-Latin fellow was:

verb [ intrans. ] attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect : he spent hours tinkering with the car. • [ trans. ] archaic attempt to mend (something) in such a way.

ORIGIN Middle English (first recorded in Anglo-Latin as a surname): of unknown origin. [Oxford American Dictionary]

I have found many occasions to tinker. The waterfall in my backyard pond offered many hours of pleasure. Repositioning the rocks until the perfect sound was emitted.

Yesterday, another opportunity arose that carried into today. My wife asked me to “defrag” her hard drive as the performance of her machine was degraded. A simple request that should be resolved in a matter of minutes. I turned on her machine and went through the following sequence:

  1. I found that there remained only 760 mb of disk space on her 80 gb drive. Knowing that going above 80% capacity on a disk drive often impacted performance, I decided I would run a program that looked for disk-saving opportunities. This program did offer several suggestions and by following them I reduced the consumption considerably.
  2. I then ran the “defrag” program. It successfully analyzed the disk and reported what was an “all-red” status bar. I interpreted this to mean that the disk was 100% fragmented. This is bad. I ran the defrag program and while it improved the situation, there remained considerable fragmentation after the first pass. Multiple passes seemed not to improve the situation. I’ll have to follow up on this (yes, another tinkering opportunity; what could be better)
  3. During this effort, I noticed that the internal (CPU) temperature was going above threshold. I opened the casing on the machine and realize it needed to be cleaned of an accumulation of dust. The heat sink on the CPU was clogged with the fluffy white stuff.
  1. Finding a pipe cleaner I removed the dust accumulation on each blade. I then vacuumed out the case and reassembled it.
  2. I pondered the role of the pipe cleaner for a while. One sees very few pipes these days, or at least hardly enough to support a pipe-cleaner industry, yet they continue to be marketed. Wikipedia made a similar observation [ref]
  3. Realizing that other machines may have come to the same dusty fate, I prepared to inspect them.
  4. But while I was waiting for my daughter’s machine to power down, I checked my wife’s to confirm she had all the latest updates. I downloaded the updates and installed them, which required me to reboot the machine.
  5. While waiting for the download/install/reboot sequence, I disassembled by daughter’s former machine (she recently purchased a notebook), and undertook the same procedure of cleaning the CPU heat sink and fan.
  6. Meanwhile, back at my wife’s machine, one of the updates was a new virus checker, offered by our internet service provider. As it was a new installation, I had to activate it. This involved answering a series of questions and then wading through another series of downloads. One of those required a reboot. Hovering in the background was my wife, and while she didn’t say anything, I’m sure she was wondering what I was doing.
  7. After the second download sequence had completed, the newly installed and fully current virus checker started doing its job. It did this by initiating a scan. It reported that it had completed a check of the areas mostly likely to be infected and had found nothing. However, there was a little warning icon on the screen, which indicated that there was one item needing my attention.
  8. The item needing my attention was that I needed to do a full scan, which I did. When I told my wife (as she hovered by) that the newly installed virus protection software was doing a full system scan in order to check for evil viruses, I could sense in her the increased comfort that that knowledge brought to her worried mind.
  9. While the scan was underway, I realised the rain was coming down pretty hard. I took a look at the weather report: scattered showers. My afternoon golf game is in jeopardy.
  10. I started the third defrag cycle. Although not yet complete it seems to be greatly improving the situation.

While the tinkering continues along other paths, I shall leave this entry for now.


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