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Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue

I recently wrote about the oh-so-practical rule about installing new hardware or software, which can be boiled down to a simple aphorism: Don't install anything on a Sunday or after 6 p.m. during the week. Why? If anything goes wrong, you have no tech support to help you through your crisis. And then there you are, frustrated and sad that you can't play with your brand-new toy.

But what if you couldn't resist? You tempted fate and installed your thrilling new purchase only to find that, indeed, something wasn't working right. No need to shake your fist at the cruel tech gods; you may have the very answer you seek at your fingertips, with a little assistance from the Internet: Google your problem. Chances are, someone else has faced the same issue and already posted a solution.

-- I do this all the time for hardware and software, and it's remarkably effective. When I recently bought a new printer-scanner-copier, the software disk wouldn't install. Before I pulled out all my hair, I Googled the name of the printer, along with a string of words I hoped might lead me to my answer: problem, install, won't load, Macintosh, glitch. You need to enter only keywords that address your problem, not proper sentences.

On my first try I found a forum where others wrote about experiencing the same problem. I learned the manufacturer's printer software was defective, and then I was led to a link to download the proper drivers. Although it was a Sunday, I had my answer in less than two minutes. You'll often have to play with your word strings to get the results you seek, but eventually you'll hit it, unless you're the first person out of millions to encounter a particular problem. Odds are you won't be.

-- The other day I opened up HandBrake -- the free software that neatly converts DVDs to formats good for uploading to the Internet or for playing on portable media players -- and found it suddenly wasn't working. How could this be? I'd used it only days earlier, and it was fine. First I went to HandBrake's website and downloaded the free software again. It still wouldn't work; it seemed to open and then quit each time. There I was, late at night, baffled, annoyed, and with no one to call. So I Googled, variously, HandBrake, quits, confused. It took a few different sets of words until I found the right posting, in which someone else said he experienced the same problem and also offered a solution. The answer was in my preferences settings.

-- I guess I need to amend my "don't install after 6" rule: Go ahead, install that shiny new toy; throw caution to the wind. Just make sure you have Internet access.

Paul Haber can be reached at

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