Sunday, 2 February 2014

My Kindles: A Pictorial History

Roll on Helen's 5th Kindle. Replaced free of charge by the lovely Amazon and their helpful, if somewhat humourless, customer service people.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Morning moan

May the little baby Jesus and all his chums forgive me for what I'm about to say.

I find my children (16-year-old  boy/girl twins)  really annoying in the morning.

For example, today

7:14 deep comfy sleep in which I am dreaming of achieving a 300% speed boost on a vintage Pentium computer
7:15 sleep shattered by a town-crier standing outside my bedroom and delivering a double whammy of the style so beloved of this family. In this case, 1. time to get up mum 2. oh hey my phone is still not working.

I throw a dressing gown on and stumble downstairs to face the challenge of a new day.

Specific challenges this morning include:

  • staring at John's phone and wildly promising to remove rain from the inside so that it will work
  • removing entitled texting girl from my special chair in the kitchen
  • filling in a long explanatory note in the one-inch square area provided in a Highdown planner
  • listening to a complicated description of the struggles to find a suitable venue for the Highdown prom
  • receiving a briefing on the ways in which I have recently failed in my parental duties
  • getting the milk out the fridge and finding that it now contains 0.5ml of milk
  • listening to explanation of why milk carton is to all intents and purposes empty. Explanation delivered with the skill of a professional lawyer and I am somehow forced to admit guilt.
  • Answering enquiries as to the location of various items, although I don't even know what some of these things are.
This section of the morning ends with a double hellish crash of the front door. But I still have the dog-staring to get through. This is when the dogs stand stock still and fix me with deep tragic unblinking stares. Ted the collie has always done this, it's a collie thing. Remarkably he has taught Pablo, the terrier-style thing, to do it too. In the end I break down weeping and give them some food. 

8:30. Downstairs for another's days computer fixing.

This moan goes out to all the parents and dog-owners who are attempting to perform some kind of job or life independent of their hangers-on.

One day, we'll get our revenge.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Customer of the month: Morningwood Ltd.

We fix the computers
That carry the emails
That organise the cranes
That lift huge lumps of concrete into the sky
And carefully lower them into position in Cranford House School's new Sports Hall.

I love going out on site for Morningwood Ltd. They are always building something amazing. A bunch of nice guys who wear luminous jackets, make diabolical coffee and throw a wobbler when their email goes down.

Thanks Dan, Adam, Mark and all the team!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Red wine, computers and accidents

Pre-Festive Greetings from the itsgonefunny team!

Today I will be lecturing on the evils of drink. Specifically we will be looking at the equation:

lovely drinkies + computer = trouble

Now then, I know there is nothing sweeter than to curl up with a laptop, a glass of something nice balanced on the arm of your chair and do a little bit of shopping. 

Everything is super till the dog jumps up and the contents of your glass go over the keyboard.

I expect you will do as you please, but when it all goes wrong, please observe the following drill:

  • shutdown - turn the darn thing off and remove the charger. Your laptop may assist you in this by turning itself off
  • battery - remove it. If you don't know how, wake up the 3-year old to  show you. I know this seems cruel but this is an emergency
  • flip - open up the laptop as far as it will go and put it somewhere safe upside-down. Kind of like a tent shape
  • wait - be patient. We're talking 2 whole days. Take this opportunity to rediscover more antique occupations. Knitting, stamp collecting, watching TV - all fine
  • itsgonefunny - when you turn it on, everything will seem great except your keyboard won't work. Bring it down, we'll replace it. We may shake our heads at you and look slightly patronising, but don't be fooled - we've all done it.
DO NOT, DO NOT, I say again, DO NOT turn on the laptop and carry on surfing immediately after the spillage. The chances are, till your beverage dries out and the sugar becomes toffee, the laptop will work. Later on it will become a doorstop.

As the weather gets colder and Christmas mania kicks in, we see more and more of these sozzled laptops. The vast majority of these accidents seem to involve red wine, though recently I had one that had been fed Calvados. Why red wine though? Possible research direction there.

A keyboard replacement costs from £40 here, though some laptop keyboards are more expensive. We recently worked on a laptop whose keyboard cost £60. (And we charge £20 on top for fitting). Investigation showed that the reason was because it was a special spill-resistant keyboard. Many ironic eyebrows were raised that day, I can tell you.

I have only scraped the surface of the dangers of drinking and surfing, but that's enough nagging for one post. Meanwhile - if you have any stories to tell on the topic, send them to me at and I will publish them, anonymously or attributed, according to your desire.

Happy November!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Halloween Tale

In the gathering dusk on All Hallows Eve, the itsgonefunny phone rang, making me flinch in a startled manner. Since it has been ringing almost continually for the last three months, my startled flinch is beginning to look like a nervous tic.

But I need not have flinched.. it was P....r R-W, a man so charming that he can ask you to please bring his computer round at 8pm on a Friday evening after a horrendously busy day and you will do it happily, considering it a bit of a treat.

Concern clouded my lovely/characterful (delete as applicable) face as I listened to his story.

"Helen, I'm terribly sorry to be such a nuisance, but my computer seems to have somehow contracted a terrible virus. Not only has my mouse frozen, but there is a picture of a witch on my screen, with a thing that look like you're supposed to click it".

I explained that long experience had taught us that the only way to be sure of removing a virus was to do our lengthy checkup/cleanup routine on a computer. Remarkably this takes us about 24 hours, involving a complete hardware checkup, a multitude of scans, a screen clean for the laptops, a dust for the desktops, pruning of those items that we consider dodgy or superfluous, and a through clean of all the routine garbage that silts up in Windows. All that for £60! We love the checkup/cleanup because computers you were about to throw away in annoyance become young and perky again. Actually you all ought to book in your computers for an annual checkup/cleanup, virus or no virus.

But I digress into a soft sell.

24 hours is a long time for me to be hanging around a customer's house, so it works much better if we can get the computer into the workshop. Mr R-W agreed to bring it down and he soon arrived with his top-of-the-range Dell desktop.

Intrigued by the unusual nature of his virus, I invited him to wait while we fired up his computer and looked at it together.

The mouse thing was soon explained. At home he was using an uber-fancy Microsoft mouse that had downloaded new software and was asking him to accept the 1078 page license agreement. Unfortunately. the software had disabled his mouse and he was unable to click the Accept button. What fun! We negotiated through that poser and then I idly opened Internet Explorer. I nodded with satisfaction on seeing that the home page was set to Google. I glanced smilingly at P and was surprised to note that he had gone white and was raising a shaking finger towards the screen.

"There's the witch! Look how evil she looks!"

I looked back at the screen. There was my customer's virus. It was the amusing animation Google had put on their home page to bring some  timely fun to their users.

I looked back at P R-W. And then I regret to say, I laughed at my respected and valuable customer. Loudly.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

August Skiving Announced

Long term fans of will remember that we normally completely disappear in the continental fashion during August. Hopefully, you, esteemed customers, will be quite chuffed  by this news.

Newcomers will be less thrilled and may be tempted to bandy about terms like unprofessional, slackers and who do they think they are? Rest assured that we are only doing this so that we can rest our brains and return even smarter, sharper and sweeter in September.

Have a great Summer!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

July: Here come the workies!

Our official Health & Safety Poster
In Reading, July is work experience season. Fresh-faced Year Tenners leave the ivory towers of Highdown, John Madejski Academy, Little Heath etc to bless the businesses of Reading with their expertise and attitude problems.

As a small computer repair firm, is the destination of choice for a certain type of geeky boy. (Where ARE the geeky girls? Are there seriously still none?). Every year, I say I am only taking one this year. Every year, the nice people from the placement organisation phone me to beg a place for just one more. They are cunning and astute enough to use flattery and pleasantness so I generally cave in. As a result, we've had more than a few workies here.

Each worky gets 5 days, 10-4. We have five short days to turn them from schoolboys to men. Sounds like an impossible remit, but we've been surprisingly successful. We like to think.

Induction takes place at 10am Monday morning and goes like this.

"I'm Helen I'll be your Mum. That's Andy he'll be your Big Brother. That's Dan, he'll be your other Big Brother. There is a toilet and stuff upstairs. Are you OK with dogs? Oh well, tough. We are having trouble remembering your name so will call you Caspar. Fire extinguisher over there somewhere. Don't attempt any soldering. That there is the workbench, take the worst chair and go and put a new DVD drive in that laptop."

The Workies vary of course, they are after all just tiny human beings. But I've noticed a few trends over the years.

The first is that most of them know more about fixing computers than I do. Astonishing since I was configuring VPNs since before they were born.

The second is that most fail to ID me as a boss. Just because I appear to be insane and scatty they reckon they can give me lip. Consider the photo above. The Worky wrote Darth Vader in indelible ink in the section marked "Other Health and Safety Contacts" on the Health and Safety Poster. We spent ages making like Poirot trying to figure out who would do such a terrible thing, scarcely able to believe it could be our littlest soldier. But he fessed up with an insouciant chuckle. By this time, I'd blamed my new boyfriend Martin, who was adamant he was insufficiently witty.  It's probably illegal to name this little s*d, but oi! you know who you are!

The third thing is that they reckon it's OK to get their DSes out at any given moment. Er... no it isn't little dudes.

Despite this insurrection, (a direct result of insufficient thrashings in the modern school system) we have had fun with our Workies. One of my favourites was a chap from Hugh Faringdon who started off sullen, resentful and full of sighs. By Friday, he was keen, hard-working and dying to build his own computer.

An honourable mention should also go to the proto-genius who made this sculpture from hard-disk packaging a couple of years ago. As fresh today as it was then.

And Caspar - the most recent Worky - you were great. Team-player, respectful, laughed at my jokes, knew about computers and did what he was told. You are welcome here any time.

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