Some of the articles use a boxing metaphor. When I was a tech at a radio-tv shop, my boss was an ex boxer. He once told me that most of the guys he fought were his friends. In the ring it was his job to beat the other guy into submission. Nothing personal, it was just his job. Sounds a lot like an Attitude-enabled Troubleshooter battling a problem, doesn't it?
So kick back, relax, and read this issue. And remember, if you're a Troubleshooter, this is your magazine. Enjoy!.
Of course, I had been practicing The Attitude since 1979. It's just that I hadn't discovered it yet. It's precisely this paradox that makes teaching Troubleshooters such a challenge.
When George Bush was inaugurated, I believed Troubleshooting to be comprised of two Troubleshooting Tools: Mental Model and Divide and Conquer. Divide and Conquer is simply the act of repeatedly ruling out sections of the system under consideration until the root cause is discovered. The Mental Model is a map of the system in the mind of the Troubleshooter, usually implemented as a block diagram. I believed these two tools were the sum and total of my Troubleshooting expertise. Until a student came to me with a Lotus 123 macro problem she couldn't solve.
She was the smartest in her class. Her classmates came to her for advice. I agreed to help her. Using her knowledge of Lotus 123 (Mental Model), I slowly walked her though the Divide and Conquer process.
But it was tough. She was upset. At every step, she worried that "it can't be that", or she tried to figure all the possibilities instead of just running the test, or she insisted on trying for the immediate fix. Even after I explained Divide and Conquer, and she understood what we were doing, she still resisted. Almost in spite of her, we continued narrowing it down until we found the root cause.
I was, puzzled. She was the top student in her class, she knew Lotus 123 like the back of her hand, but she couldn't troubleshoot it. Why not? What was different about her than me? She had the Mental Model. And thanks to me, she knew Divide and Conquer. But it didn't help. What was missing? Was it a difference in attitude? YES! She was operating in panic mode, while I hunted that problem like a cold, deadly predator. The difference was astonishing.
A few days later, as Communism crumbled throughout Europe, The Attitude became the third Troubleshooting Tool.
The Attitude is a tough teach precisely because it's a catch 22. "How can I succeed in Troubleshooting if I have no confidence, and how can I have confidence if I have little Troubleshooting success?" Positive Mental Attitude? Saying it don't make it so. Or does it? More on that later...
Meanwhile, it's a mathmatically supportable FACT that EVERY reproducible problem is soluble! (See my Troubleshooters.Com article, Why reproducibles can always be solved). Since anyone with average intelligence and a tenth grade education can understand everything in the Universal Troubleshooting Process, they'll understand exactly why they can solve any reproducible problem (assuming they use Universal Troubleshooting Process). This is a mighty powerful reason to adopt The Attitude. But it isn't enough.
Intellectual acceptance isn't enough. We need emotional acceptance. Our logical mind accepts that we can solve any reproducible problem, but there's a little voice that says "but that won't really work for me". We know the machine, we know the Troubleshooting Process, but negative mental attitude can stop us in our tracks. If, and only if, negative mental attitude is the root cause, the solution is to replace the negative mental attitude with Positive Mental Attitude. Let me repeat that:
become a great Troubleshooter
|Mr. Ellis recommends we always recognise that every change we make in our life is a choice.||Mr. Ellis recommends we maximize the power of every affirmation by injecting positive emotion, such as the adverb "joyfully".||This is the actual goal of the affirmation.|
Once the student learns the Universal Troubleshooting Process, and logically accepts that he can use the Universal Troubleshooting Process to solve any reproducible problem, and that it also helps solve intermittents, he can recognize that the root cause of the catch 22 is his resistance to emotional acceptance of The Attitude. At that point, daily use of affirmations such as recommended by Keith Ellis will gain emotional acceptance, and break the catch 22. I recommend a thorough reading of Mr. Ellis' article, whose URL is listed at the bottom of this newsletter.
Three hours into the Troubleshoot it changed from a techical fight to a brawl. Windows 95's installation CD errored out. I spent the next 8 hours, using the same Windows installation CD, other computers and other disks, proving the problem was the Motherboard itself, and went to get a replacement. The vendor replaced it, and even installed Win95 on a disk hooked to the new motherboard. Round 2 began with the champ (me) badly shaken.
The challenger took a beating as Win95 installed cleanly. It looked like a victory for the champ. Then the challenger threw a surprise left -- file corruption when compressing the hard disk. The brawl continued, round after round, installation after installation, BIOS setting after BIOS setting, Win95 option after Win95 option. The challenger bobbed and weaved -- sometimes it looked like compression almost worked, sometimes it crashed miserably. I was exhausted and dropped my guard. The challenger hit me over and over with intermittent disk problems. Finally I hit the challenger with my best right -- I got a full refund on the motherboard, cpu, and memory and bought a SuperMicro motherboard with an Intel Pentium 150 and 32 meg from another vendor.
Having industry standard components was like fighting in a smaller ring -- the challenger couldn't run away. It looked like the champ would prevail. Installation and compression went smooth first-time. The challenger was dizzily swinging in the air. Then one of those wild shots hit. The printer didn't work!
I went to pieces. Frustrated tears filled my eyes as I threw things around the room. Other problems have beaten me, but nothing could prepare me for this kind of brutality. Like Muhammad Ali in his 1974 fight with George Foreman, the aging master went back to his one remaining asset -- experience. Putting the project aside, I forced myself to re-adopt The Attitude. I then discovered my printer port wouldn't work if configured as ECP. Switching it to an EPP cured the problem -- the champ wins the round!
Next the motherboard hit me with inability to assign and keep a drive letter for the Zip drive. Dead on my feet, I managed to hang on to the last thread of The Attitude, and finally cured the problem with a Lastdrive= config.sys command, and properly pushing in the Zip Drive's cable. Exhaustion made what should have been a 10 minute General Maintenance fix into a day-long affair. The slugfest trudged on.
Microsoft Backup smacked me with inability to restore original file dates. A drawn-out restore from floppy fixed that. Then the challenger mounted a brutal attack with a vanishing CD drive letter. The champ countered with a BIOS config change of the CD between drivetype 3 and auto. Then swapping the IDE cables. Then switching between master, slave and neither on the CD drive. Then all combinations. Nothing helped. Exhausted, I thought of giving up. The champ was down and the ref was counting. On the count of 9 I somehow got up and continued troubleshooting. Repeatedly, I chanted my Attitude mantra, "just narrow it down one more time".
The fight continued. The bios setup contained an option called "failsafe settings". I enabled that option and rebooted. It was a weak jab at best, but it hit the exhausted challenger squarely on the jaw, and he went down. Sprawled unconsious on the canvas, the challenger was counted out. The computer worked perfectly. The computer has worked perfectly ever since. The champ retained his title.
Perhaps the most valuable learning experience was seeing how the other half live. Those poor souls who try to troubleshoot without The Attitude. It's awful! And I learned The Attitude must be kept no matter what the challenge. Bosses can threaten termination, customers can threaten to take their business elsewhere, dead processes can shut down the business, but The Attitude must be retained. Because without The Attitude, all is lost.
Also, Troubleshooting Professional Magazine is not nearly as well visited as Troubleshooters.Com's Windows 95 pages, automotive page, or Universal Troubleshooting Process page.
So here's the question. Do you find Troubleshooting Professional Magazine valuable on an ongoing basis, or would you be satisfied with my keeping the issues already made on the site, but making no further issues. Please email me at Steve Litt's email address to vote. Thanks.
All submissions become the property of the publisher (Steve Litt), unless other arrangements are previously made in writing. We do not currently pay for articles. Troubleshooters.Com reserves the right to edit any submission for clarity or brevity. Any published article will include a two sentence description of the author, a hypertext link to his or her email, and a phone number if desired. Upon request, we will include a hypertext link, at the end of the magazine issue, to the author's website, providing that website meets the Troubleshooters.Com criteria for links and that the author's website first links to Troubleshooters.Com.
Submissions should be emailed to Steve Litt's email address, with subject line Article Submission. The first paragraph of your message should read as follows (unless other arrangements are previously made in writing):
www.troubleshooters.com/tinterm.htm#Why_reproducibles: Why reproducibles can always be solved. An article by Steve Litt showing the mathmatical proof that all reproducible problems are soluble.
www.troubleshooters.com/ustep1.htm: A (too) brief description of The Attitude, as Step 1 of the Troubleshooting Process.
www.troubleshooters.com/tfresh95/: Building a Fresh New Win95 Machine. Details the complete process for building a Windows 95 machine from scratch.