Troubleshooting America

by Ran Prieur

September 17, 2004

Creative Commons License
[December 6, 2012: For reasons I've covered in annotations of other essays, my 2004 view of "civilization" does not hold up as serious analysis, but here I think it still works as comedy. And my view of American collapse is much too extreme, but here I think it still works as science fiction. This remains a personal favorite.]

posted 1492. I've got a really good system -- as far as I know it's never crashed. But recently I was accessed by a new server on the east port. I uploaded some freeware to ensure a good connection, but it didn't work. It's degraded my port and looks like it might invade my system. What can I do?

Nothing, I'm afraid. You've got the Civilization virus. At this time there is no known fix: no immunization, no firewall, no repair. Prepare yourself for a total crash. It's going to take down your operating system, corrupt your drives, erase your memory, and pollute your motherboard.

Oh shit! Is there any hope of recovery?

The easiest thing to do is throw the whole thing in the trash and start over. But if you're really attached to your hardware, you might be able to save it. First, back up your BIOS and put it somewhere safe. Then wait for the virus to run its course -- it won't take long, maybe 500 years. When the system's totally dead, do a reformat and a clean install. The problem is, most of your components will be toast, and you'll have to replace them with something different. But if you've got the BIOS, you should be able to make an operating system to work with whatever you've got. Good luck!

posted 1776. My system has spectacular resources and potential, but it's barely creeping along. I think my network administrator is using my system to do his work, and he's prohibited use of my westward expansion ports. I want to disconnect from the network, but I'm totally dependent on it -- I'm using his operating system and his hardware to access the outside.

It will take some work, but you can do it. The first thing you've got to do is give notice and disconnnect. If your administrator's an asshole -- and they usually are -- he'll send some malware to try to force you to reconnect. But if your cleanup tools are the most updated versions, you'll be fine.

The next problem is, you'll have to run on your boot disk for a while until you can develop your own operating system. And you also need to build a new network hub. But those are good things to do per se. Too many people just hold onto the old framework and keep patching it up as it gets more and more clunky.

posted 1789. Me again! I'm developing the new OS and I need some help.

First off, it's always good to look at the original BIOS that came with the motherboard. In your case that would be the Iroquois version. I know it won't do a lot of stuff that you want it to do, but it's stable. The more you can incorporate from that, the better. Next, make sure you do a clean install every now and then -- otherwise your system gets cluttered up with old files and gets more and more buggy until it crashes. Put a reminder somewhere, something like, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Yes, I'll do it. Thanks!

posted 1860. I'm a network administrator and a big part of my network is threatening to break off. The problem is, they're using a different master-slave protocol for the IDE bus, and it's incompatible with my operating system. But my business was just about to take off before this happened -- I really need to preserve the network!

I'm assuming you don't want to abandon the master-slave configuration in general, just hold onto your clients and get them to adopt your system. You're in luck! The protocol they're using, Chattel, is obsolete. As operant density increases, they'll have to switch to the Wage protocol, and then they'll be compatible again, and you can probably get them back.

A more risky option, which I don't recommend, is to force compliance, cripple their system so badly that they'll let you go in and reconfigure it immediately. The nice thing is, this will optimize your whole network for strong central management. But it's going to cause resentments that give you no end of trouble.

posted 1946. What are the pros and cons of the new sub-U.R.B. configuration?

The idea behind the sub-URB is that if all the components are modularized and standardized, with uniform connections to the CPU, the CPU can effectively manage a much larger system. The drawback is, components are no longer able to share utilities, share memory, or interface directly with each other -- everything has to go through the CPU. This makes the whole system rigid and inefficient.

The sub-URB architecture permits an enormous number of expansion slots, but they tend to fill up with redundant and unnecessary peripherals. It consumes massive amounts of power and will sooner or later burn out your power supply. Also, the best components tend to be incompatible with the sub-URB interface. If you try to force them in, they'll either undermine your system or burn out.

posted 1967. My kids think they know everything about computers. They say my system's full of bugs, that it doesn't work any more, and they want to reformat the hard drive and do a clean install of an open-source operating system. The thought of a clean install terrifies me! Won't I lose everything? I think my system just needs a few patches.

I always recommend doing a clean install with every new generation, but almost nobody does it, and their systems still keep creaking along. If you do it now you can at least back up most of your data first. If you wait too long, you will lose everything.

posted 1980. My system just doesn't have any punch any more. I've got a lot of peripherals and high-demand processes and I don't have enough power or CPU time. What can I do?

You have two options. I recommend you optimize your system, scale it back, use energy-saving technologies, accept that it's not going to give you everything all the time. Your other option, which I don't recommend, is to get a bigger power supply and overclock your CPU. That will give you some flashy performance in the short term, but it tends to burn out your CPU, and eventually you're still going to hit a wall.

posted 2004. Help me! Everything's going wrong at once. My power supply is failing, my components are disconnecting for no reason, my operating system doesn't recognize anything, my anti-virus software is consuming massive resources and doing nothing, and everyone on my network hates me. I think I've traced the problem to the resident bus. How do I replace it?

The resident bus doesn't like to be removed! You can try to uninstall it from your control panel, and if that doesn't work you can go into the system properties and try to disable the driver. But probably the only way is to open the case and pull it out physically.

I can't do that! I'm afraid I'll break something!

I'm sorry, but your system is already broken. Looking at your history, it's a miracle that it's running at all. You wouldn't have this problem with the resident bus if you weren't overclocking, overconsuming power, overloaded with peripherals, using unstable BIOS and a top-heavy operating system, fixing everything with patches, and forcing your components into an inflexible and wasteful configuration. Honestly, even if you remove the resident bus, that's only a shallow fix. You need to redesign your whole system from the bottom up.

I need my system the way it is. Sounds to me like you just hate computers!

posted 2020. I found an old system in the trash. It's mostly burned out but it has a classic motherboard. I was able to switch out the dead stuff and optimize the hardware for efficiency and stability, but I can't find a compatible BIOS.

I think I have what you're looking for. Someone uploaded it a long time ago. Actually, not that long.