FIRE IN THE ENGINE ROOM

 When IT Goes AWOL.

Choice can easily result in paralysis.  Then again, paralysis can be good.

My nine-year old laptop was slowing down to snail’s pace.  I had done lavish research before I bought it and it was, at the time, a good one.  Intel i5, 500gb of hard drive and so on.  I felt I was going to have to buy a new one but every time I went anywhere near a shop the choice seemed overwhelming.  And it is a curious thing that whenever you replace a piece of kit these days – white goods, electronics, transport, whatever – what you get is never quite as good as what you had. 

Anyway, I ruled out anything from Apple and any of the comparable Microsoft machines on the grounds of cost and overengineering.  They seemed to be way more than I needed.  A modern equivalent of what I have got seemed to come in at £600+.  Still a lot of money – and particularly so since the hard drive capacity on these newer machines is often miniscule: presumably you are meant to use the cloud for storage these days.  I was paralysed into indecision.

Perhaps to create the impression in my own head that I was doing something I decided to get the current one serviced.  The guy I use for this suggested that I think about a solid state hard drive.  I thought these were external when used as upgrades but apparently not, so I decided to go for that option.  In the end I got an SSD, a service and my old hard drive back for external use all for £63!  Not bad at all and a good example of positive procrastination. As a result the laptop is a lot quicker and cooler to run and is probably now better than new.  

Disaster struck all the same and my misdemeanours came back to haunt me because my chosen photo software – Lightroom – stopped working.  I knew why.  It was a copy I had had installed when I was doing a photography course and was not strictly speaking legit. after the end of the studies.  Installing the new hard drive had disabled it and I didn’t have the code to reboot it.

Not only that.  Last year, Adobe decided to discontinue one-off open-ended licenses.  Now you have to subscribe for £10 a month - and for way more functionality than certainly I need.  They are trying to get you hooked, of course.  But I only ever do very basic processing of my photos.  (It’s meant to be photography and not digital image-making, after all.)  This was bad news.   The last copies of Lightroom 6 (the final one-off version) on the market seemed to have been hoovered up.  Undeterred, I set up an ebay alert and sat back.

It’s fashionable to diss Ebay but I find it amazing: an eternal circuit of goods and money in pursuit of one another. It’s a kind of perpetual motion. Surely someone will one day produce some sort of exhibition or photobook of ebay product photographs? It’s like the world atomised.

Anyway, back at the plot, I missed two chances of Lightroom 6 because they were snapped up within an hour or two of appearing on the site (An hour or two!  For obsolescent software!)  But finally I got one.  Even as I write, I am waiting for the DVD to slide through the letterbox.

I was well chuffed.  The episode, I mused, seemed to offer two lessons.  Firstly, it’s always worth exploring options before buying a replacement: even in the dark undergrowth of digital technology there may be a cheaper way lurking in the brushwood.  And secondly the corporate titans may not have got it entirely sewn up: you just need to look around a bit.  It’s always good to beat the system.  If the DVD solution hadn’t worked I was willing to go for a smaller, less mainstream product.  They wouldn’t get me!

I put these subversive thoughts to a group of photofriends recently.  I saw myself, red flag aloft, on the revolutionary train to an open source future (something like Tom Courtenay as Strelnikov in Doctor Zhivago). Anarchic slogans raced through my mind.

BENEATH THE PAVING STONES – THE BEACH! STICK IT TO THE MAN!  BETTER TO DIE STANDING THAN LIVE ON YOUR KNEES!  HAVE FEWER CHILDREN, BREED MORE PIGS! (Honestly. It’s a Chinese one.)

My friends weren’t convinced.  Peter, they said, Peter. Calm down. It’s only a tenner a month.  Just pay up and stop obsessing, eh?

Oh, well.  Fewer slogans, more colour - maybe that’s what we need. The guys below might agree.

Qingdao, China 2014 © PMB

Qingdao, China 2014 © PMB