You know what's really frustrating? When you feel peckish around mid-morning on a Saturday and you walk carefully into the kitchen, avoiding Friday night flotsam, hoping to find some cold pizza from the night before, and you find only the icky vegetarian one that no one really wanted anyway. At the time it seemed a good idea, since none of the other food on offer had anything resembling nutritional content and vegetables are, after all, vegetables. But the little green wibbly things nobody could figure out last night are even stranger in the light of day and with a night of wilting and browning behind them.
This is exactly the feeling I've had recently, trying to obtain an extra internal hard drive for my whizz-bang new computer. Stay with me here, I'm pretty sure this will make sense by the time I'm finished.
When I was shopping for a computer, I went to a number of different resellers, and told them over and over again what I wanted my new computer to do for me. A number of options were tossed at me and rejected, but the one I settled on had the distinct advantage of being easily upgradeable and expandable. I'm the sort of person who likes to buy RAM and install it myself - it makes me feel like I'm knowledgeable about technical things. It also impresses people no end when you tell them you daisychained the audio from your CD-ROM through the video card to the motherboard and blah blah and so on. You and I know it's flap A into slot B, but most folks think you're experimenting in the black arts.
Where was I? Oh yes, the hard drive. The machine I bought came with a 4GB IDE drive in it. Since one of the purposes for which I bought the machine was video editing, I knew this would not be fast enough for any high-quality work I wanted to do. It was, however, adequate for fiddling about until I could afford a nice speedy SCSI drive.
And this is where my story gets confusing. The resellers I have contacted all want to sell me a SCSI controller as well as the drive. I already had a SCSI controller lying around the house unused (doesn't everybody?), and I've installed it myself (I say this to impress anyone who doesn't know how easy it is). I don't need an extra one. That would be silly. But when I tell people what type of controller I have, they shake their heads and say I need this or that different one, while cash registers ring in their eyes. In one case, the alternative controller was virtually identical to the one I have installed, but one model down in the product line.
The confusion is not helped when they try to explain the need for a different controller by blinding me with fast, wide, narrow, ultra SCSI, II, III, IV and multitudinous pointless sequels. Sorry, I was thinking about Friday the 13th for a moment there. What is the point of attempting to teach every customer that comes along what SCSI II is? Find out what they want to do, and if they need it, sell it to them. If they don't need it, they don't need to know what it is.
Even if they do need it, they don't necessarily want to be bored stiff by the tech specs just so they can use the thing. I don't fully understand the principles of planetary motion, but the Earth hasn't left me behind yet.
I try to explain to these resellers that I actually do already understand the technology and what I'd like is a Fast Wide SCSI drive without the nonsense. But it's like a reflex action - confuse me until I buy the device they want me to buy regardless of my actual needs.
I should point out for those who read this column regularly that the reseller who sold me the machine in the first place doesn't sell internal hard drives or I would definitely have gone back to him.
So here I am, I've played around, I've had my fun. Now I want to get into the business for which I purchased the machine. It should be possible for me to head out and find exactly what I want in an afternoon's shopping. But I can't, and not for any good reason. All I run across are green wibbly bits I didn't like last time I went shopping.
Ok, so maybe the analogy with cold pizza wasn't particularly accurate, but what can I say? It's lunchtime, I'm hungry, and there's no way I'm going back to the fridge.