The Google Dance

Whack-A-Mole and computer crashes

Lately, Microsoft Word has been crashing a lot on my Windows XP machine. It always happens because of the same combination of stresses — if I try to save a file using “Ctrl-S” and then, a split-second later, try to close the document using “Ctrl-W”, the program crashes. The document sits there, uncertainly, not closing, not doing anything, and then about five seconds later, I get the crash dialog box popping up asking me if I’d like to “report this error automatically to Microsoft.” I always click “no.”

But since it’s been happening so frequently, I’ve begun to try and anticipate the precise location of the pop-up box — so I can click on “no” the instant it comes up. I’ve been doing that, too, with other repetitive dialog boxes that crop up, such as little annoying ones asking “are you sure?” on certain web sites. I’m so intimately familiar with most applications that I can usually position the pointer precisely in the center of where the pop-up box will emerge, nailing it a nanosecond after it crops up.

And it occurred to me that I’ve invented a game. It’s like Whack-A-Mole — trying to speed up annoyingly slow computer-processes by predicting where to click!

<kidding>All I need now is a name for it, and I can file a patent and then charge everyone 10 bucks whenever they do it.</kidding>

It also occurred to me that I should get a life.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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