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Hands on, brain off;Opinion

I RECKONED I had developed ICT cool. I refused to show excitement at the latest piece of computing gadgetry. I expressed reservations about the quality of information on the Internet, seeing it as being like a library where, among all the quality literature, creeps, bigots, charlatans and egomaniacs have been allowed to place their vanity-published works.

Having had experience of chaps who joked in numbers at university ("of course, a 360 is no more than an old 475 with 002 terminal control processor up front, waugh, waugh, waugh!"), I tried to avoid talking in numbers. Blake's 7, the lamented seventies science fiction serial, got it right when they had a computer called Slave.

Merely to carry on like this would have been to behave like a Luddite. Instead I genned up on the use of computers, to the point where I became a PC or Mac faith healer. A cross between Tommy the Pinball Wizard and the Horse Whisperer, I could stand like a statue, become part of the machine, exert gentle pressure on a few acupuncture keys and bring order to chaos.

With my snappy catchphrase of "Let me through, I'm a smart-ass", I really thought I had the correct ICT attitude well sussed.

That was before my printer started leaving white bands. This only happened when I printed in black. Colour was fine. I bought a new black cartridge and fitted it. The white bands were still there.

I cleaned the nozzles, first by running the nozzle-cleaning printer program, then by wiping them with a damp cloth. If anything, the problem got worse. Next, I wiped the electrical contacts. No, it wasn't that either.

The next step was the customer helpline. A helpful chap talked me through a sequence of tests. Cartridges were wiped again, diagnostic routines run and the mono and colour cartridges were temporarily swapped around. Results were confusing.

Salvaging a bit of ICT cool, I managed to persuade the printer to output black text using the colour cartridge. Knowing that this murky brown print was costing three times as much as crisp, black text, I was far from cheered by the discovery that it took three times as long to complete an A4 page.

In the end, I solved my problem. Not by reinstalling printer drivers. Not by tinkering with settings in control panel files. Instead, I bought another new cartridge.

The Pinball Horse Whisperer had thrown the wrong one away first time round.

Gregor Steele is about to get his own e-mail address - baldseventies

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