He Knows… But He’s Got Problems

DiVinci-esque savants aside, humans tend not to be great at the total of all tasks. Which makes being good or bad at something a poor indicator of whether a person is competent as a whole.

For the last few weeks my computer has been freezing while watching videos or broadcasting podcasts. Which could be many things, and is too broad for a helpful internet search.

And, it didn’t do it at the start or even same point in each video or broadcast. So, symptoms as displayed were watching a video full-screen was more likely to cause a freeze, having several pages with a video element open was more likely to cause a freeze, and Google Hangouts was likely to cause a freeze once during a 45-minute broadcast. Which, again, is not vastly helpful for forming a useful internet search.

Fortunately, I’m familiar enough with Windows 7 to know that there is a log of problems and how to find it. Unfortunately – while that told me exactly what Windows thought had happened – the answer that a specific module had failed wasn’t an event I’d encountered before.

And an internet search for it produced thousands of results stretching back for years, and offering a vast breadth of successful solutions; solutions other people indicated hadn’t worked for them; and most of which didn’t apply directly to my system.

So, I started with the ones that did, and discovered a way to keep my system from freezing; but at the cost of a noticeable reduction in image quality.

Which left me with the suggestions that didn’t directly match or assumed knowledge.

For example, the issue I had can be caused by overheating, which can be identified by installing a monitoring program that can flag changes in hardware temperature. However, many computer parts get hotter when in use without it being significant, so searching for evidence of overheating requires knowing how the temperature graph should change (peak, trough, amplitude, frequency, correlation to certain other things). The issue can also be caused by overheating in more than one place, so it requires a complex product of several temperature graphs to work out how likely it is to be that.

With repeated internet searches, clean installs of various things, and setting tweaks I narrowed the cause down to probably being connected to my video card driver. A supposition that was confirmed yesterday when someone posted in a forum that the latest driver doesn’t suffer from this problem.

And now I knew to look for it, I found posts in various places that complained about this issue with the previous driver. Posts that hadn’t come up in my internet searches when seeking a solution.

I don’t know where I sit on the scale of investigators, but my postgraduate degree in law and subsequent practise included finding relevant cases and statutes in the hundreds of years of English and Welsh law; so, I’m confident enough that I’m not terrible at searching.

Thus, the issue (both with finding possible answers and with applying them) must lie in the language: what is relevant, and how might people who know what the problem is express it?

Which brings me to my general point: being capable of doing something is different from knowing how to do it competently without delays; which is worth bearing in mind when judging whether someone is less than you based on how they do something that you find easy.

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