Tag Archives: helping out

How I helped the office chef

If you know me personally (why would you be reading this otherwise ?), it’s quite possible that you are thinking about some smart-ass remark to make in the comments after reading the title …or maybe you are just plain shocked. Well, relax, you may breathe normally now. I did not help the chef with his work. I helped him with the only thing that I am good at …well, at least kinda good at — tech stuff.

The chef at our office is a charming Pakistani chap who likes speaking in Hindi whenever he sees me (inspite of the quality of hindi he hears me speak !). So, we tend to indulge in small talk as he serves me my lunch.

Sometime last week, he asks me whether I can help him with a computer problem (don’t they all at some point šŸ™‚ !?!), and nice fella that I am, I say yes. He goes back into his kitchen (or whatever that large room that is, which is always kept closed; away from the view of the good people eating their lunches) and brings back a fairly old Compaq laptop.

Says, it doesn’t work (hmm, nice problem description). I power it up and don’t even have to ask him to elaborate. I hear the all too familiar, click-tik-tik-tik-click-tik… of the Hard disk.

So, i tell him — Aapki disk mar gayee.

Fortunately, he actually knows what I am talking about (so, he doesn’t have to suffer more tech talk in hindi). He says, he showed it to some other techies in the office and all of them said, there is nothing that can be done except for buying a new harddisk. (most of these other techies are windoze people). He was hoping I could do some magic …all he wants is to access the net, play movies and songs. He has a desktop at home, so any other job (like his son’s school work) can be done on that.

That’s when i realize (or perhaps remember ?), it is so ridiculous that an broken hard disk equates an unusable system — if you live in a proprietary software world, that is.

I tell him, I can certainly help him, if he has a USB stick and is ready to learn something new. He was all for it ! (another observation — most non-tech people don’t know nor do they care what an OS is, it is all the same to them — until of course they actually see something different, like a system boot up from a USB stick, without a hard disk attached).

So, he gives me his 4GB USB stick and offers the laptop too. I say, I don’t need it. He gives me a confused look, but I can see, he is really hoping for magic.

I won’t get into the details (since, it isn’t deep magic really, in fact people like Luke an Kushal have made it downright boring), I’ll just list the steps:

  • get the latest and greatest Fedora release (Fedora 10, right now)
  • get the liveusb-creator
  • run liveusb-creator
  • press two buttons, i’m ain’t telling you which, if you have to ask
  • boot system with new live USB install
  • configure the system for net access
  • add the repos rpmfusion-free, rpmfusion-nonfree, adobe (for flash plugin) and freshrpms (for libdvdcss)
  • install mplayer, libdvdcss, ffmpeg, vlc, audacious, gecko-mediaplayer, flash-plugin
  • (note: my aim was to give the chef a usable system)

Well, all that done, I gave the USB stick to the chef and asked him to boot his laptop using it. I could see, he was still trying to understand what was happening, especially since i was idly fiddling with the br0ke Hard Disk in my hand.

The look on his face, when he saw a login screen is indescribable ! I showed him the way around the GNOME UI. Got him connected to the wireless, got him playing movies, songs and saving files off the net. He then tells me why he has that ear to ear grin.

Apparently, the hard disk had been misbehaving for quite sometime. Random hangs followed by multiple tries to get the system booting, followed by the eventual clicking sounds. It finally stopped working about 3 months ago. He took it first to the laptop vendor, where he found out that getting a new hard disk was kinda expensive. Since his computing needs were limited, he didn’t think it wise to buy a disk here. He had planned to buy the disk the next time he visited Pakistan (since computer spares are supposed to be cheaper there) and had resigned to the fact that the laptop was dead.

However, out of sheer coincidence (I assume, it was more like running out of topics for small talk), he asked me to help since I was a techie …and I say, I can …and I do …and all in a matter of a few hours !! He just couldn’t get over the fact.

Now, he is telling everyone he is chatty with (and that’s a *lot* of people, including especially, the ‘other’ techies who had a go at the laptop) about this guy who made his laptop run without a hard disk.

Well, what can I say !?

Thanks Luke, Kushal and all the guys working on Fedora …and thanks to FOSS developers all over the world ! …it’s because of you guys, at least one guy thinks I am some sort of a magician.