My blog silence has many parents. There’s the book. And we did take a week off, off to the north coast of California, off the grid, off by ourselves. But there is also — signal the “Taps” bugle — the death of hardware.
Upon our return from Sea Ranch, I was catching up on my RSS feeds, wandering the Web aimlessly, and listening to some music. My gaze landed somehow on an URL I’d filed away to check out — the music of Mountain Goats producer John Vanderslice. And I found this page describing the amusing hoax he perpetrated in 1999, pretending that the minions of Microsoft had come after him for penning a song titled “Bill Gates Must Die.” (No, it’s not the rant of a crazed Linux hacker, or a cry from Gary Kildall beyond the grave — it’s sung from the perspective of a paranoid Net porn addict who blames the wizard of Redmond for his fallen state.)
Anyway, I fired up Vanderslice’s “Bill Gates Must Die” MP3 and started enjoying the fine distorted crunch of the guitar, when, with a sickening, decaying “whirr” of fans cycling down, my box died. Not the Blue Screen of Death, indicating massive software failure, but the Black Screen of Death — instantaneous cessation of all output, followed by permanent inability to reboot. Did my venerable Athlon XP chip, having served faithfully these three-plus years, simply fry a stray register? Did my North Bridge go south, or South Bridge go north? Did my system hit Mean Time Before Failure before its time? Or did the indomitable spirit of Bill himself reach a dark hand into my system’s innards and, seeking revenge on my choice of musical diversion, short out a random slot on my motherboard? I will never know.
I have learned a handful of lessons in 30 years of tinkering with computers; all my data (including every last bit of book work) is safe. But I’ve had to reconstruct a makeshift working system on an old box, swapping out hard drives and PCI cards in the dust of aged system cases, while waiting for a new system to arrive. Radio Userland, being a client-side tool, got swept up in the vortex of this system failure. If you’re reading this now, it means I’ve sufficiently recovered my system configuration to reestablish this small link with my former life, and you, dear reader. A resumption of normal life waits on the UPS person.