Saturday, February 18, 2006

A tragic case of technoamnesia

Oooh, I got a new toy: a computer-based PVR. The original idea was that I would get this software called Beyond TV, but the TV tuner board they recommend comes with its own more rudimentary PVR software, so I'm going to take that around the block first, then try the trial of the more TiVo-like Beyond TV, then if I love it, get that (do I need the more sophisticated version? No, but then I didn't need digital cable with Eastern time zone feeds either, and now you'll have to rip that from my cold, dead hands).

I'm sure I'll write about the PVR itself more in a couple of months or so, when I can make some judgement on it besides how much fun/trouble it was to set up, and make a comparison between the two. Right now, it's just reminded me of this weird glitch my brain seems to suffer from. I'll call it technoamnesia.

At my various workplaces, I've always had the reputation for being very technosavvy, which makes my technosavvy friends laugh themselves silly. The thing is, I'm good at using computers. At my current job, people in my department will often come to me before calling our computer helpdesk, because they know that a) I won't put them on hold for half an hour, then tell them that they have been assigned a priority 3 and someone will call them back before the next ice age; and b) most of their questions result from not knowing how to do something, not from a technical problem, and the evil helpdesk people will snicker at them behind their backs whereas I'll do it to their faces in the nicest possible way.

But I know nothing about the inner workings of computers. It's not simply ignorance; I've been taught all this stuff. It's just that when you start talking RAM and ROM and MHz and GHz, nothing will stick to my teflon brain.

When I bought a new computer last January, I did a ton of research and asked my geeky friends and brother for advice. My brother kindly refrained from snickering at me ... much ... when I tried to talk about memory in terms of GHz. But I learned what was what, and ordered the right specs for what I wanted. About 2 seconds after I placed the order, I couldn't have told you what I got.

The PVR box says it requires 733 MHz or faster. I wasn't sure if that was a high number or a low number. In case I had to return it, I checked my computer out before opening the box and discovered it has a GHz number. At least I knew that was faster, not slower.

I was confident I had lots of hard disk space, but the box says a one hour TV show will use 2 GB. But I only have 512 MB of RAM! (And no, I didn't remember that, I had to look it up.) Oh. You mean that's OK?

I had to install the TV tuner board thingie in my computer, and the instructions say to put it into a PCI slot. I've never heard of a PCI slot, so I had to check my computer manual to make sure I have one, and if so, what the heck it is. Of course when I say "I've never heard of a PCI slot," you can bet that means I've heard it mentioned a few dozen times and have forgotten each and every time.

My brother is one of the best technoexplainers I know, and I have some pedantic friends, so I've listened to a million explanations about all this stuff and I never remember. I know it's because I simply don't care, but there are a million other tidbits of information floating around in my cluttered brain I don't care about either. Do I need to remember all of Cary Grant's ex-wives names? Or who Grant Goodeve is? (I can't remember why, but he came up at Christmas – I think he might have been mentioned in the Team America or Family Guy movie – and my brother thought I was a freak for knowing that he was on Eight is Enough.)

I suppose I could have had one of my technofriends come over and install the damn thing, but this is fun for me. Not fun enough that I'll remember anything by tomorrow, though.

[Edit: Geeky brother told me about a free program called GB-PVR that seems to have similar functions as BeyondTV, so I'll probably try all three out and compare before committing to any extra bucks. He added: "it's not open source, though," as if I would be heartbroken at that fact.]

(Reworked a bit and cross posted to Blogcritics)