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Now browsing: Hometown News > Computer/Technology > Sean McCarthy

Give your computer time to think
Rating: 1.86 / 5 (7 votes)  
Posted: 2014 Jan 31 - 08:53

Are you giving your computer enough time to think?

It's a legitimate question; do you allow your computer time to fulfill your requests or do you become impatient and overwhelm it with duplicate requests by clicking again and again when the computer doesn't give you an answer fast enough? Be honest.

The problem is common (even with today's breed of super-fast computers); not giving the machine enough time to complete one task before clicking something else and asking it to start another. It's easy to become impatient with your machine especially when you become used to it responding near instantly to most clicks. But a problem arises when you "click" and tell the computer to do something that needs some time to complete (like some internet links or rebooting) and before it has completed the task that you asked it to do, you click again (and again and again and again) Sometimes the computer can get so overwhelmed with requests that it just locks up and sits there.

So, what do you do? Well, the answer is easy in theory but often hard to implement in reality; you have to be patient and keep in mind what you clicked last - don't get distracted and forget what you're waiting for. Wait and pay attention to the clues that your machine is thinking. Consider the lesson of the toaster. When you make toast in the morning you take a slice of bread and put it in the toaster and "click" the handle down and the process begins. How long does it take a toaster to cook? Three minutes maybe? I don't know exactly, I haven't timed it, but three minutes sounds about right. What you wouldn't do is pull up a chair and stare at the toaster waiting for it to pop. Three minutes is an eternity to sit and wait for something to happen. No, when you use a toaster you start it and then go on to make coffee or something else and have faith that it will finish on its own. I've used this analogy over the years when dealing with older machines that would often take a couple minutes to boot up. Thirty seconds after rebooting it I almost always hear the owner say "It never takes this long! Why is it taking so long!?" The lesson of the toaster helps me explain that since we are naturally sitting in front of the screen staring at it, we are a "captive to the toaster" forced to stare at it waiting for it to "pop." If we are doing something that I know is going to take a couple minutes (like rebooting an older machine) I'll suggest that we walk away, get a cup of coffee and come back to it in a few minutes to see if it's done. Most of the time this helps to fill the gap and help resist the temptation to do something that might slow things down even more.

How can you tell when the system is still working on your last click or if it's crashed? I guess the most obvious clue would be the hour glass. When you click an icon and the pointer turns into an hour glass (or changes in some way), this is just one clue that your computer is trying to do whatever it is that you just asked it to do when you clicked. Another clue would be the presence of a progress bar of some sort. Unfortunately, the hour glass isn't always present to tell you the machine is thinking and some progress bars can be hard to spot. Sometimes you have to look for more subtle clues like the hard drive activity light on the front of the computer or (if you know what to look for) launch taskmgr.exe and check the status there.

It's important to understand that not everything that we ask our computers to do will happen instantly. Every day I see people click an icon and then almost instantly I hear "Nothing's happening!" I wait and sure enough a few seconds later I hear "Oh! There it goes!" Different programs have different requirements that can cause some programs to launch faster than others. Sometimes things happening in the background can cause a program that opened up instantly yesterday to take 20 or 30 seconds to launch today and since you're forced to stare at it waiting (like the toaster) that wait time seems much longer than it really is.

Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).

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