Termination: Singing the Clean Install Blues

Singing the Clean Install Blues.


26 November 2014

Text:/ Graeme Hague

It’s that time of year again where my sleepy little town hosts an annual blues festival and thousands of grey-haired, pony-tailed blokes wearing waistcoats and bandoliers of harmonicas choke the streets, gathering in smelly clusters on the corners and endlessly playing Roadhouse Blues and Bad To The Bone in each other’s faces like some strange mating ritual. There are buskers too, of course, littering the footpaths and playing guitars that haven’t had the strings changed since Kennedy was shot – John, not Bob – and the locals either embrace the brief rush of tourism and charge an extra five bucks for a takeaway coffee or hunker down in their houses as if a horde of Hun invaders was intent on rape and pillage.

I get to run a PA system in one of the outside venues – something I do rarely these days. It’ll be interesting to see what I can blow up this year. Two years ago we had a torrential downpour one day – no problem. However, the next day in bright sunshine no one noticed the enormous balloon of water lurking in the tarpaulin roof, which finally cascaded onto the amp racks. Bugger. Last year my drum fill cabinet burst into flames – no mean feat. Admittedly, I was over-driving it, but in my defence I’m usually very careful with my levels and when the drummer kept asking for more and more volume, I assumed I’d been seriously over-cautious in my setup and things were too quiet to begin with. After we extinguished the smoke, the drummer removed the aural equivalent of a double mattress from each ear and proclaimed he’d never seen anything like it. We seriously considered setting fire to him.


The point I’m getting to (yes, I know – eventually) is that over three days, for the first day I’m doing little more than trying to remember how to operate the console. By Day 3, I’m still really only scratching the surface of what the digital desk can do, but since we’re never dealing with anything more than an E Minor triad over the entire festival, I’m fudging a decent mix.

Which brings me to my Windows computer. This PC was psychic and knew how to bust a virtual fuse whenever I really, really needed it to work smoothly. In particular, BSODs (Blue Screens of Death to those smug Mac owners reading this) and cryptic crash dump messages were regular events, when the pressure was on.

So last week I took a deep breath, bought a carton of calming beer, stacked up on fast food, transferred the computer to the lounge where I could watch the telly, and went for a full re-install of Win 7 (my software and archived files) onto a new system hard drive. As many of you will relate this is no trivial exercise. You can spend whole days feeding DVDs and CDs into the monster, trying to decipher your scribbled authorisation keys, fingers crossed your favourite programs will re-activate, stressing over whether you backed everything up properly… For folks like me with a PC absolutely chockers with high-end applications garnered over a few years of reviewing software for illustrious tomes like this one, it can be a seemingly endless task.


It can also be an opportunity to do something about your software addiction. Mine was bad. I had so many plug-ins, utilities and tools guaranteed to make everything I do easier, quicker and better, but I didn’t properly know how any one piece of software worked. Faced with too much choice, I was scratching the virtual surface when it came to what all these supposedly awesome applications could actually do. My PC spring clean was a chance to cut right back and focus on learning my core software thoroughly.

It’s all a bit odd. I can see my desktop background, because it isn’t totally obscured by a zillion quick-start icons. I no longer have to kill time, putting the kettle on, while my PC laboriously boots up. All those scary percentage figures about CPU load, RAM usage and free HD are in the low teens again. The future is looking bright instead of BSOD-blue. When it comes to software it’s amazing how many GUIs and menus I’m finding hidden away; how many tricks my oft-used applications are capable of performing and I never really knew it.

Like an annoying, reformed smoker extolling the virtue of clean lungs, I can highly recommend it. Really, how well do you really know that expensive software or hardware you use on a daily basis? The next time you’re having a quiet day in the workshop, maybe it’s a good idea to set up your AV gear and start rummaging around in those menus and functions you never use. Check out the PC GUI or the remote app without the pressure of a show to perform. Figure out how the stuff you’ve already got works, before worrying about installing another magic bullet plug-in.

You might even, heaven forbid, read the igital console’s PDF instruction manual you’re using next week at a blues festival as a kind of refresher course.

Now now, let’s not get too silly. It’s not like I’m going to blow anything up – again.


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