On the technical side 12-20-2011
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NKC Systems Inc.

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On the technical side 12-20-2011

“It’s supposed to do that…”

 

If you are like me, it might take you months before you discover all the new features in your new computer. I’m still discovering things about a laptop that I purchased last summer.

 

One thing that was particularly troublesome was the DVD drive. Sometimes, it was missing from “My Computer”. Other times it was there and functioned perfectly. Troubleshooting intermittent problems are always the most difficult to resolve.  It was a new computer and the DVD worked in the past. I assumed that one of the many programs that I tested must have misconfigured the computer to not “see” the DVD drive. Removing all test programs didn’t fix the problem.

 

 

The Microsoft Fix it Solutions Center,  support.microsoft.com/fixit/, offers diagnosis and repair functionality for Windows computers with software problems. It was worth a try. What would the Microsoft “Oracle” tell me about the DVD drive? The Solutions Center delivered a program that appeared to resolve the problem. The DVD worked for a day or two but then it would disappear again. Running the program again would resolve the missing DVD problem but I shouldn’t have to conjure any magical spells every time that I wanted to use the DVD drive.

 

It was time to roll up my sleeves and dig into the problem. When the DVD drive didn’t appear in “My Computer”, checking the “Device Manager” in the “Control Panel” verified that the DVD was recognized by the computer but it was disabled. Re-enabling the DVD drive fixed the problem but it added a few steps to use the DVD drive. The DVD would disappear in a few days and I would have to re-enable it again.

 

Why would the DVD become disabled? Laptops always have additional programs to “improve” performance. There was a power management program on the computer that seemed to be disabling hardware to conserve power. It was the culprit working behind the scenes disabling the DVD drive. It’s a great idea but there should have been some type of notice that the power management would act in this manner.

 

There is an ageless joke in the engineering community, “Is it a bug or is it a feature?”. The engineer who designed the power management program thought that disabling the DVD was a good idea but I thought it was a bug. Perhaps a better approach would have been a pop up status window that clearly indicated that the DVD was disabled for power conservation. It would have saved me a lot of debug time.

 

It always helps to read the documentation but good documentation is rarely in the box with a new computer. Sometimes it seems that program developers expect us to be born with advanced computer skills.

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