Thursday, July 27, 2006
The Sound of Silence
But there is a lot to be said for human reliance on the internet in this modern age (and the prize for "Understatement of the Day" goes to...). But seriously. I turned my PC on last night, all ready to install the multitude of virus protection software and file backup thingies, and I couldn't get started. I needed to be connected to the internet to complete all the registration processes, and I couldn't work out how to do that. We have WiFi in our apartment, so I knew that the internal wireless card in my PC would work. But I didn't know which of the four wireless connections detected by my computer was the right one to use. And in any case, each connection was protected by an encryption password. Clearly I needed McGyver or Indiana Jones. Or perhaps just Lexie.
So I did what anyone in my position would have done. I ordered takeout and watched TV, waiting for Lexie to come home. When she did, it only took 3 nanoseconds to hook me up to the net, and I was (in the words of Taco Bell), "good to go".
Feeling pretty cocky by this point, I thought I'd download "Skype", knowing that my family and friends use it back home. For those not acquainted with Skype, it's basically online software that allows you to make cheap voice-to-voice calls online (to land phones or cell phones). Very cool.
On the face of it, the download and installation was a piece of cake. But then it came time to configure my Skype account. A pleasant South African-sounding woman's voice gave me step-by-step instructions about how to read a sentence outloud so that Skype could assess my microphone preferences and hook me up. So I obediently began shouting at the keyboard, to absolutely no avail. Again I tried, this time shouting the first half of the sentence at the left hand side of the laptop, and the second half of the sentence at the other side. Still nothing. Then it dawned on me that I had no idea where my computer's microphone is, or whether I have one at all. Turns out I don't have one. More shouting ensued, this time not at all related to Skype. I doubt Skype's voice-recognition library would be expansive enough to identify some of the words I shouted. I was hot, bothered, and not being heard.
So while the South African Skype lady didn't hear my cries, my neighbours certainly did. Sadly they could do little for me, except to shout back. Sigh.