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.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ground-breaking video from the household

Here's a link to a video made by my daughter. Prodigious film-making talent for one so young.

Dan King - we salute you!

I had a Flipcam and I dropped it in a carpark. It stopped being a Flipcam right then. Had it been a laptop I'd have sorted it. But I'm ashamed to say I couldn't even get the cover off. It lay on my desk for months taunting me for my clumsiness. I was trying to get it together to throw it away.

Dan, our youngest computer fixer, picked it up today and said "How about a hard reset?". I laughed scornfully while he removed the cover, removed the battery and held down the power button. I'd only just stopped laughing scornfully by the time he'd reassembled it and  turned it on.

It works. It only works.

Dan King, 17, Employee of the Week!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Online Dating Goes Underground

Well I'd love to update you on my progress and believe me it's all kicking off!

But this story doesn't seem to be about technology any more. It seems to be more about human frailty and actual feelings and so on.

Also I unwisely told a few of the people involved where to find the blog.

If you want the real low-down then you could friend me on Facebook.

Some proper technology coming later today!

Cheers xx

Monday, 3 June 2013

Online dating: I'm not desperate or anything...

Who will love this woman?
I am so besotted with my loyal readership that I have decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and research the murky world of online dating.

To make this seem like a scientific rather than a desperate act, here's the plan.

I persuade 10 men to go on a date with me. This is an audition date and should not include sauciness or indeed drunkeness.

My friend Mary suggests I should get them all to make a meal for me. I am so tempted by this, but generally the state of my kitchen is a deal-breaker, at least at the pre-captivation stage.

Anyway - maybe I should get them to complete some mild challenge. Sing something perhaps? Any ideas?

Then when I've done all 10, I'll pick the best one, get married and go and live in a beach house with my kids and his kids and Ted the dog. Definitely want a vegetable patch, apart from that the garden layout is flexible. Assuming all the 10 men fancy me of course. Hey - look at that picture! They're bound to.

After a weekend where I completely lost touch with housework, doing the garden or feeding the kids, because I was messaging ever more inappropriate men, I realised that 10 was actually quite a lot.

I've currently got 4 prospects at best. One of these almost climaxed in an actual date. Unfortunately, it never actually reached fruition after he texted me at 3am to tell me I was awesome and then completely disappeared.

So if any men reading this fancy a punt, send me a message and I promise promise not to publicly ridicule you in the blog.

I've learned one amazing thing about online dating.

The site constantly urges you to get in touch with men you like the look of, but THIS DOES NOT WORK.

It is a rule that if a woman sends a man a message then he will not message you back. He would sooner die.

What is that about?

It's like a ball in a Jane Austen novel. Women have to sit on the sidelines, fluttering their fans, and casting their fine eyes about and surreptitiously revealing a well-turned ankle every now and then. They absolutely must not run up to Lord Wossername of Wherever and yell "Hey Big Boy, how about it"

Roll on the 19th century say I.

I'll keep you posted on any other findings. Just doing my job...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Dealing with old CRT monitors

I often get asked what is the best thing to do with old computer monitors. I always reply: make them into a wall of flowerpots.

Warning: video contains mild peril.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Virus Lockdown! (A Short Disaster Movie)


Enter HELEN carrying a vintage eMachines desktop.

HELEN: Bless it! It's never had a Windows update since it was born in 2004. It can't go on the wireless because it's never heard of wireless!

[ANDY, DAVE and DAN laugh indulgently]

HELEN: Let's update it at once, with our locally stored updates which we keep on our local network attached storage..



DAN: This sweet old thing won't update! It's doing my head in!
HELEN: Try harder! Try more extreme updating things!
DAN: And it's so slow! And mad!
HELEN: Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions!


ANDY: This freshly reinstalled computer has somehow become infected by a really horrid virus
ALL: What?
ANDY: Ditto this freshly reinstalled computer. And this one!
HELEN: What did you plug into them? Because all our memory sticks are (as you know)  scanned every night to prevent exactly this kind of thing.
ANDY: I didn't plug nothing in.
ANDY: I think the virus may have gone airborne.
DAVE: Airborne? Is that possible?
HELEN: I've never heard of it but.....



HELEN: But how? But why? But when? 


ANDY: The locally stored updates stored on our local network storage have become infected by that innocent looking eMachines jalopy!
HELEN: (whispering) I think.. you might be right. 


VOICEOVER: We learned a hard lesson that day. It doesn't matter how sweet and old a computer looks, if you attach it to a network without checking it is virus-free you are asking for trouble. Trouble that ate up 3 days while we deleted, cleaned and checked up every computer device that had been through our workshop doors. Trouble that taught us that nobody is immune. Not even us.

CREDITS: Thank you to all our customers that have had to wait longer than usual while we make sure that we have eradicated every trace of our virus infection.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Tech tips: Removing someone from your smartphone

In the immortal words of someone or other on a single I had in the 80s: if you live you're going to feel the pain.

For example: maybe you drove 41 miles in the small hours, just to give someone a nice surprise. And then when you got there you found they were sleeping with someone else. Then, obviously, you drove 41 miles back home.

There are almost as many ways of causing pain as there are people. However, coping mechanisms are more limited.

When it comes to coping, my personal favourite is the "Bridget Jones" technique. Down a bottle of wine or two and sing motivational songs written by P!nk.

But watch out! There is a danger lurking! After a few swigs you may be unable to resist trying to communicate with your object of contempt.

In the old days, removing that temptation was easy. You just scribbled out their number really hard in your address book. Today, the age of the smartphone, it is more complicated. If you have known them a while they will be all over your phone like a virus.

Cleansing is possible though if you memorise the following routine: texts - logs - voicemail - contact. I recommend performing this routine before even unscrewing the first bottle.

Texts: on modern phones text messages are conveniently arranged into conversations. Find your ex-friend's conversation, click on the dustbin, tick the top box which selects all the messages and voila! Weeks of lies and evasion gone in the blink of an eye.

Logs: logs are sneakier, They are a record, with phone numbers, of everything that's happened on your phone. If you don't know how to get to your log, then don't worry, you're safe. If you do, view the log and press the thing that makes a menu come up. It will have an option to Delete. This will delete every event of course, not just your deluded interactions with the person in question. Take this opportunity to make a fresh start.

Voicemails: This takes a bit more nerve. Play back your messages and as soon as you hear their whingy voice fire up, press 3 to delete.

Contact: This is more pleasing. Find them in your address book and delete them, perhaps uttering the words "Goodbye, you worthless waste of space"

Stay vigilant during the binge. Fresh texts may arrive. You need to make it an automatic reaction. Delete-the-text-delete-the-log. Ideally you shouldn't even read it, but hey! you're only human.

(With grateful thanks to my supportive 15 year old daughter who stayed in to watch a quite boring film with me, and cheered me up so much that I didn't even drink much anyway)

Friday, 29 March 2013

Whitewater Nursery: Fun amongst the greenery.

In the event that you fancy some hog roast and seeing some startlingly beautiful plants and people in an exquisite location , get yourself down to the grand opening of Whitewater Nursery this Bank Holiday weekend.

You can find them here. Really, go and see.

So what has top flight garden design got to do with me, the urban computer lady whose own garden looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland?

The truth is, I was lucky enough to land a gig as the computer support person for Hortus Loci when they started a year or two ago. I love going there. The energy and buzz there sometimes makes me have to dance in the office.

Now they have revamped the retail plant centre that was on their site when they moved in: the aforementioned Whitewater Nursery.

A few weeks ago, Mark called me over and asked me to build a brand new computer to power the retail centre. The spec was make it good and get it going before Good Friday. "No problem" I drawled with a lazy confidence, "That's ages"

I brought the spec home to Caversham and the guys set about designing and building a bespoke computer. It looked good on paper. The thing is, you don't know till you've got the bits all over the workbench that the power supply won't reach the motherboard. The front USBs won't fit in anywhere. The fancy case has a dicky on button. Etc.

Time was marching on, and we entered a frenzied phase of ordering different bits . We are now knee-deep in high-quality components that won't talk to each other.

Finally, at 2:30pm, on the day before Good Friday, I drove down to Hound Green with a set of cardboard boxes that housed the finest computer in the world. "Right up against the deadline there Helen" Mark remarked, perhaps a little more strained than usual. "It'll be fine" I trilled, bricking it.

With only 3 hours to go, Caroline (from Whitewater) and I decided now might be a good time to completely redesign the layout of the retail centre office.

The main challenge was turning the desk as per this diagram. Simple, right? Look again. Impossible, right?

How did they get it in there in the first place? Witchcraft?

Caroline and I succeeded in flipping the desk onto its back, legs in the air and then we were stumped.

One of the benefits of working there, is you just call and a hench young man turns up to help. In this case,  the game Toby, with his set of allen keys.

We took the top off the desk and now we had a bare set of legs, almost the same size as the desk itself. Same problem. I sunk into despair, but no such loser-ish behaviour from T and C who somehow did it. They had to knock a few chunks out the wall, granted.

Yes! Legs in position, all we now had to do was reattach the top. We all three lay on the floor under the desk and offered up our screws. The next ten minutes became increasingly hilarious.
"I can't find the hole!"
"It's not going in!"
"Oh yes it is! Yes it is!"
"Have you got yours in?"

We were finally floored into helpless laughter by Toby's remark that he thought he was finally managing to get it up.

Good times. I was then left to actually set up the computer. But the gods of servers, software and printer drivers were for once smiling on me and the computer was good to go by 5:30pm. "Tis done" I intoned. Finally we could all admit that we had indeed been bricking it.

Good luck with the relaunch guys. The place looks fab and hey! the sun is shining.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

ADHD and Running a Business

Astoundingly, just after my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed as having ADHD. I aced those tests.I romped home. You get the picture.  I nailed it.

Anyone who does not suffer with ADHD may have sufficient focus to read the description of this charming and annoying condition here. Everyone else can skip it and skim this list which shows some of the ways it has affected me during my chaotic half a century.

  • I have spent a total of 7 years looking for my keys
  • I can't listen all the way to the end of a description of how to get the post office yet can spend 10 hours straight writing a computer program that seems to transcend my actual ability
  • I never leave anywhere once, having to return once for my glasses, once for the keys and once for the glasses having put them down while finding the keys
  • I sit for hours worrying about the next thing, but never getting on with the next thing
  • I have lost thousands of pounds by the simple act of never writing the invoice 
  • I can reduce any premises to the level of a bomb-site within minutes, even though I try really hard not to do this
  • I have lots of brilliant ideas, half of them started and 0.0005% of them completed
I could go on and on, but what's this? I lose focus.

In the post-diagnosis euphoria, I attempted to forgive myself for my lifetime of rubbishness. I then went on to experimentally congratulate myself for running a business for 6 years in spite of having many unbusinesslike traits.

I wondered if I was the only business owner ever to have suffered from ADHD. I suspected I was but I Googled it and found an extraordinary fact. Ready? If you have ADHD you are 300 times more likely to start your own business than someone who hasn't.

That statistic comes from Fortune magazine. Once I became less startled by it, I saw why it was true. 

Firstly, people like me can't work for anyone else. In my case, throughout which includes over 30 jobs, I tend to start brilliantly. Fast forward 6 months and I am either staring out the window slack-jawed with boredom or rocking in the corner stressed out at not having completed a thousand important tasks.

Secondly, starting a business is much easier for someone with ADHD. They skip all the traditional nonsense (eg making a business plan, doing market research, thinking about it) and instead go straight to the nub of the matter. They write "It's Gone Funny - friendly computer support!" in felt tip on a large piece of paper and sellotape it to the wall of their house.

One thing the Fortune research doesn't explain is how many  of these nutters are successful in creating a viable business. 

Armed with my new knowledge I went back to Google to find out how to increase my chances of doing that. One thing shone through in the body of work on this topic. I'd better find someone sensible and organised to work with.

Truth to tell, as the popularity of It's Gone Funny increases year on year, the danger of me going to pieces and  throwing in the towel becomes ever larger.

For this reason, I'm going to find not one, but two sensible and organised people to work with.

One will be my PA. Watch this blog for details of the job advert if you fancy a go at the almost impossible task of removing the chaos from my life.

The other will be my business partner. Watch out, my sensible, organised and fierce friends. You know who you are and I'm coming to get you.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Case of the Puzzling Case

 We build bespoke computers here.Usually we carefully choose and assemble high-quality components to create an exquisite dream computer especially for you, esteemed customer. Incidentally, we usually go on to transfer all your stuff from the previous computer, and then you would get a visit from the quirky Helen herself to make it work with your printers and internet. During this visit I will check your face is wreathed in smiles,which so far, it always has been.

Heavens above, I seem to be doing a sales pitch! Whatever next? I'll be turning a profit!

Anyway one dark day in Winter, I was looking to buy some new cases for some builds we had coming up. I was intrigued by the existence of cases that cost £11. Suddenly overcome by stinginess/thriftiness I bought one to see what it was like.

This picture shows what it was like, but you can't see just how thin it was. Think 2 layers of Bacofoil. It would be ideal in a house where nobody ever touched anything.

Of course I wouldn't insult any of our patrons with a case of that sort so I left it in it's box for ages. The box had massive letters saying Concept of Life! on it, a phrase so buoyant and positive that I have started saying it during periods of joy.

One other dark day in Winter I had an idea. I would rip out the insides from an old but really quite good Windows XP machine, currently housed in what I call a "beige boy". I would then transplant the innards into Concept of Life!

Why? For fun.
No why really? For FUN

So that's how I created the world's least saleable item: an old but good computer dressed up in a modern but rubbish case. It works though, it works really well. You can have it for say £50, which includes the jolly cardboard box.

There was just one more treat in store. While admiring my bizarre hybrid, I read what it said on the front. Beady eyed people might be able to see in the photo but if you're not so great at seeing (like me) I transcribe it here.

Original from technology and faith for fashion

I spent ages trying to make that mean something. All night it went through my head like a mantra. It seemed to mean something and yet that meaning eluded me.

So I thought I would throw it open to my readers. Anyone getting anything?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Kitchen Puter

I'll tell you what's wrong with the world today, shall I? We expect too much. Just one partner is supposed to be able to do everything: DIY and emotional support. Cooking and scaring off burglars.

Just one friend to go out clubbing with till 3am and then help you organise your stamp collection.

Just one of your children to win the 100 metres race and get an A* in Physics A level.

Just one of your employees to do the filing accurately and solder a DC jack into place without hurting themselves..

Bring back that out-moded concept: HORSES FOR COURSES

Not surprisingly, I have a computer angle on this wise insight. And it is this. If you have lots of different things to do on a computer then have lots of different computers.

With that in mind, I want to show you my kitchen puter. It is different to how your kitchen puter would be, because your kitchen life is different to mine. 

As a working single parent I spend a lot of time on my own in the kitchen trying to get on top of the washing-up mountain and cook things that include at least one of the basic food groups. Meanwhile, the twin teenagers lord it up in the other room, spending time with the telly puter (of which more later). And yes! I know! They should be tackling the washing-up mountain! Well sometimes I get them to do it, but it's hard without an on-site lawyer, a degree in Logic and the energy to press the point for 3 hours.

So what I need is a computer that will assuage my resentment and boredom at the drudgery of being a reasonable mother. It needs to entertain me and tell me how to cook things.

One of my more delightful computer discoveries can be seen in the picture. If you plug some crummy old speakers into the green hole in the side of your laptop, suddenly it can be heard above the thrum of the tumble dryer. And the sound is really good.

Assuming you can connect the thing to the internet, housework suddenly becomes fun. Potential fun activities include:

  • Doing embarrassing dancing to Radio 1's Dance Anthems. 
  • Sobbing into the suds listening to radio dramas that you missed because you were downstairs trying to earn a crust. 
  • Listening to just whatever music you fancy by signing up to Spotify. 
  • Catching up with Coronation Street. You might think this would be difficult while drudging because of the need to look. But I've found that long-term fans can follow it perfectly well by just listening. Interestingly, you don't even notice you're not seeing the pictures. The only time you need to look at the screen is to catch the aghast expression that invariably precedes the closing titles.
And - at the same time - you can have the recipe for toad-in-the-hole up in another window. So you can flip to it when you need to. 

I love my Kitchen Puter which is still soldiering on after 6 years of the hardest imaginable life. It is a red Samsung R60 that was bought impulsively from Tesco for £500, in an attempt to demonstrate to my then new boyfriend that I was both rich and crazy.

It has undergone many career changes and has run Vista, Ubuntu, Vista, Ubuntu, Windows 7 and now, in it's glorious dotage, Windows 8.

It has survived being bathed in olive oil, during an ambitious pork belly adventure. I fell over the power cable once and whiplashed it onto the floor and it just carried on, minus a large chunk of it's back plastic.

It lives on demonstrating the central philosophy of

It is not about looks and its not about the gigahertz and the megabytes. It is about what your computer can do for you. 

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