Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Doing stuff

I often share things about my personal life on this blog that are important, and plenty that aren’t important at all. Goes with the territory for a personal blog. But even something unimportant can sometimes end up being more important than it might look. This weekend, I had one of those times.

Last week, I published "An ordinary day with ordinary things”, which was pretty much as the title described it. I said in that post, “sometimes it’s important to celebrate the ordinary things in ordinary days,” and I really do think that. This post was going to be another example of that, but once the project I was going to talk about was done, it ended up raising the significance, if not the importanc, of that project.

First, the project: I had to fix a problem with the box that connects the TV to the antenna and to the Internet. The TV itself isn’t a “smart TV” (I talked about that TV a couple weeks ago), but the box performs that role. Nigel researched (and tried) several different solutions (as he always did), before settling on one running Android that his research told him was the best there was (as it always did). It worked well for a couple years, with some occasional tweaking and updating from Nigel.

And therein lay the problem: I recently noticed that the “Android box”, as I call it, was no longer connecting to the Internet through the ethernet network connection I had installed precisely for that (a wired connection is usually better/faster for streaming video like Netflix, though I don’t have that right now). This may have been going on for awhile and I simply didn’t realise the extent of the problem because I’ve almost always used the TV just for watching free-to-air TV (Freeview).

I began to try to troubleshoot the problem, with no success. I considered bring in the network guy who set up my home network and servers for me, but I—somewhat stubbornly, probably—was sure I could solve it. And, I did.

It turned out to be some incorrect settings, something I worked out by slow and methodical checking until I found the problem. I changed the settings and everything worked fine. Not for the first time, I fixed this is exactly as Nigel would have—research, and trial and error until succeeding (have I mentioned this wasn’t the first time? It was more like the third major attempt).

That was going to be the point of the story: I fixed something doing what Nigel taught me by example, though he never specifically taught me to how to do that thing. I was proud of myself for fixing it, sure, but I also saw it as a kind of inspirational sort of thing thing: Overcoming, in this case, technological obstacles with methodical determination until I succeeded. I think it’s good to be reminded that sometimes slow and steady really does win the race.

But things changed once I was done fixing the problem, precisely because I fixed the problem.

One of the first things I looked at over the restored Internet connection were some of the latest videos of a young German guy, Marius Hornberger, whose videos on various woodworking projects Nigel and I both enjoyed watching. We were both interested in having a home workshop, which we intended to set up eventually. There are a lot of YouTube Channels on the subject, but what set Marius apart for us was that he was endearing in his dry-humoured nerdiness. Yesterday evening I watched a video of his about a project he was working on that required him to 3D print some parts, and another that he used his CNC router on. Nigel had both of those, of course, but he never lived to see any videos in which Marius used either. Nigel would’ve liked those videos in particular, and he’d probably have liked Marius just a bit more for having and using a 3D printer and a CNC router. It made me sad that Nigel never saw those.

Before watching those videos, I found an app that streams LGBT+ programming for free, and I knew that Nigel would have liked it. I watched a documentary on it, one that Nigel would’ve liked, too.

But I also found an app for a site that streams old movies for free, and that reminded me of how much my life has changed: Nigel hated old movies, especially B&W ones, but even ones in colour. So, I never thought of watching old movies, let alone finding an app to watch them. Besides, maintaining that “Android box” was Nigel’s thing. Until it wasn’t.

And that’s the thing about all this: I fixed yet another technological problem, and that made me both happy and proud of myself, but doing so reminded me of how everything changed when Nigel died. That’s happened in the past, too, but then it was more about how I had to learn how to fix technology, and why, while this time I was also aware of how much my own life has changed over the past year, too. It won’t be the last time any of those things are on my mind.

So, I fixed a technological problem: Yay for me. That enabled me to find new stuff to use that technology for, and it reminded me of how much has changed over the past year. Yay for me? We’ll see.


Roger Owen Green said...

I'm so technologically impaired that I'm shocked when I get it right. Did I ever mention that as a kid, I took the lock off our front door? Never did get that back together. we had to buy a new one.

Arthur Schenck said...

While as a kid I used to be afraid to take things apart, I did it if they were mine. Then it was all fair game. I used to "invent" stuff all the time, too—which really meant I just figured out ways to do things.