Gill Smith
Gill Smith - Comedy Writer & Performer

Gill's Journal, Issue

Quarterly magazine of The ARM Club the Leading Independant
RISC OS Computer User Club.
Dear Aunty Gill,

My boss is evil and cruel. You see, he insists I use a Windows PC at work, and even spends company money on PCs on a regular basis. What can I do?


Gill Smith reveals her abilities as a knowledgable and caring Agony Aunt and deals with some of the questions outside the range of our Technical Help Team

Dear Depressed,

There are several options available to you. Of course, the first is to give up your job and sit at home, playing on your RISC machine, and rehearsing your evil laugh. I'm not sure why the laugh is necessary, but it'll probably add to the fun. There is one small drawback to this option, and that's the lack of a regular salary, so I don't recommend this option if you like, say, eating. Of course, if instead of Dominos doing so, your mother provides your food, then this could still be your best course of action.

Another drawback to this is that it limits your social contact. Let me explain that complex idea. It means meeting and chatting to people. No, not online. In person. Speaking aloud. Of course, you may consider that quite an asset.

A second possible option is to change what's inside your box at work to a RISC PC, given that your boss is highly unlikely to notice. So long as you have a big grey box on or under your desk, no one's going to pay very close attention to its internal mechanisms. Unless, that is, someone else tries using it while you're away, when it then might end up enlightening the technical support people at your company. Of course, they might just hit it with a hammer, completely destroying it. This option does have its difficulties, as they might not like you sneaking out with a computer every night to protect your OS.

Of course there is a very simple alternative. Just shut up and put up with it. Everyone else has to, and they don't even get to know, as a smug secret, that computers that do exactly as you ask them even exist. The rest of the world's poor fools think that making up what someone once thought you might like to consider doing, based on some tick-box you left on because you've never found it, is actually acceptable and normal.

You could even laugh (that well-rehearsed evil laugh) out loud whenever your machine crashes, ignores your instructions, or simply takes forever to do a trivial operation. OK, so your colleagues may be led to think that you're mad as a hatter, but you can enjoy your knowledge that you definitely made the right decision on buying your efficient home machine. And of course, laughter leads to fewer wrinkles than frowning. So your new motto could be this: "for the sake of your skin, when it crashes, grin."

I hope that helps you, Depressed. You see, there are so many alternatives available to you. Just like on a menu, only without the one you wanted greyed out because you haven't remembered to do something complex before even looking at the menu.

Aunty Gill

Dear Aunty Gill,

I simply don't know what to do. All my friends keep e-mailing me word docs, and although my superior RISC machine can of course open them, I really feel that these poor souls should learn the error of their ways. How can I get my friends to understand that there is another way? How can I enlighten them, so that they turn from the path Microsoft, towards the light that is RISC OS?

Odd One Out

Dear O3,

You're quite right to show such deep concern for your friends, and their affliction. And, may I add, well done on having friends in the plural. Are you sure you're not related to any of the people you're talking about?

Anyway, concerning your valiant attempts to open their eyes. Of course, you must keep trying to explain the way forward to them, as this simple enlightenment could improve their lives beyond their wildest dreams... unless they have very wild dreams, like that one about... mmmm. Oh! What was I saying? Oh yes. Do continue to explain gently to your friends the delights of RISC OS. Be careful not to try too hard though, or you may (just maybe) come across as a little dull, only focused on this one topic, and by doing so, you then will quickly solve the problem of your friends sending you word files, as they'll quickly stop sending you anything, other than restraining orders.

Of course, it can be difficult to maintain your commitment to RISC OS, when all your friends and family simply don't understand it. This is why it's important to also have some friends - and for a nice change, these can either be online, or ones you've physically meet - who do share your superior knowledge. It's good to have people around sometimes who understand just how difficult it can be to keep a straight face when yet another friend tells a tale of their PC crashing yet again, while yours hasn't been turned off since you last took it apart to upgrade the memory. Instead of laughing, take encouragement from these shared stories of windows-based problems. They can work wonders for restoring your joy at just how well your own machine works.

You may have to accept that some of your friends will never, ever see the light. All you can do is be strong, O3. You know that you are using the right machine. Remind yourself that you save hours that others waste rebooting and cursing at problems. Those extra hours might even be enough to allow you to have a life beyond computers, but let's just start with small steps. For now, you have enough of a challenge in perfecting keeping a completely straight, sympathetic face, when you hear of a virus that does untold damage to the hard drive, all from a macro within a word-processing program. Now come on, that's not nice. Stop grinning. Well, OK, you can get away with it for now, so long as no one can see you. But I think you'd better keep practising.

Aunty Gill

Dear Aunty Gill,

I've been finding myself thinking about PCs more and more - and the thing is, they aren't RISC PCs. I hate myself for these thoughts, but in my darker moments, I've even been considering buying one. What can I do?


Dear Crazy,

Of course, I can understand why this is worrying you so much, but you must calm down. Don't let it take over your life. Many people have at times thoughts of PCs, or consider giving in and buying one. Peer pressure in this area can be huge, as well as your own natural curiosity. So stop berating yourself for having these thoughts. They don't make you a bad person. The trick, of course, is to know that such an idea is entirely foolish, and not to follow through and act on it. I'm sure that when you're in your right mind, you wouldn't even consider it.

You probably have these thoughts more when you're feeling tired, or ill, or stressed. Do remember that windows will only add to your stress-levels, and leave you feeling yet worse, and needing another try. A quick go on Office can sometimes feel like a quick-fix, but in the long run, you do yourself much more harm than good.

Don't even be tempted to dabble - you should avoid such dens of iniquity as internet cafés and if necessary even friends' houses, when they invite you to just give it a try. One thing can, sadly, so easily lead to another. Don't become another victim. You might think you can control it at first. You'll say that you aren't addicted. But sooner or later you'll find yourself crying over a crashed PC that you've sneaked into the house. You'll wake in the early hours after nightmares about all your work being lost, and the mother-board frying itself. It's really not a pleasant scenario.

If you've already been dabbling, you'll be pleased to know that it isn't too late to save you. There are several solutions, and you may find you try several before you really can quit. Naturally just cutting out all contact with these machines is the best way, if you can do it. But I do understand that that isn't easy. You'll find that you'll get urges to create a quick word document, and you'll crave an excel formula. Resistance is the only option here, but it isn't an easy one. If you plan to try this, get friends and family to surround you with RISC machines, and whenever you crave a fix, ask their help to distract you. To make it easier on yourself, keep away from the places where you'd normally boot-up, and the people you'd open windows with. You wont be able to give up while you're still hanging around powerpoint or outlook.

Of course, there are substitutes. If you don't think you can go cold keyboard, ask your technician to prescribe you a course of Apple Mac work. It gives a somewhat similar effect to windows, without all the trauma, and can wean you very gently back to your RISC. It's a sort of a middle step. Naturally, this is only available once you've taken the first step, and admitted your problem to a trained professional. If you can convince them of your commitment to quit, and that this is a method that will suit you, then they will offer support throughout the program.

Otherwise, I suggest you join a quitting support group - such as The ARM Club. This, as I'm sure you know, stands for Always Risc Machines. Group therapy can be a very good way of moving on from this dangerous addiction. It may even be worth going to regular meetings even if you're claiming you've only ‘tried' it a few times. It's amazing how one ‘try' can lead to another, and cravings for yet another. Act before you find yourself addicted.

Best of luck, Crazy.

Aunty Gill

Dear Aunty Gill,

I've trained myself to eat tomatoes, I regularly go outside in natural light, to avoid an unhealthy glow, and have such a single phone / PDA, to avoid carrying too much technology on my belt. Yet I still can't seem to get a girl. What can I do?


Dear Lonely,

I'm glad to see you're trying, and you are certainly moving in the right direction. However, I suspect you haven't taken all my advice, offered in these columns in the past. Perhaps you've missed a suggestion or two, that might really help. You know, Aunty Gill has made sure you can always go back over my past articles on the web, any time you need them.

OK, so for starters, have you ever tried conversation with a girl? Not online. In person. No? Let's get right back to even more basics. Do you actually know any girls? First you will need to meet one, and you'll need to do so without any faffing.

Now, I accept that this can be a tricky challenge, but I do have some tips that might help. One is that you'll need to get yourself to a place where girls hang out. That makes it much easier to find them, and especially to get talking to them. Let's start with where they're not. Real, interesting girls (as opposed to posters from FHM) are not currently in your bedroom, nor are they sitting near your computer, or alongside your widescreen TV. So you will have to go to other places. In fact, available, interesting girls probably aren't even in your house at all, unless you happen to share the place with one, in which case, stop writing to me, and get practised chatting to her. Even if she's not available, girls often have friends. You'll need to prove you can manage conversation first, as girls do like their friends, and wont introduce you if you can't at least smile in the right direction.

To find one elsewhere, I suggest you start by leaving the house. And that's not just for the journey to work. You need to go to a social place, where many people gather. Pubs, clubs, restaurants, the supermarket, even the local library. You'll find that there are women there.

Now, conversation is definitely trickier, but like a wise man once said, the code of a thousand OSs started with a single line. Your chat with the young lady that you happen to have found starts with a single word. Try ‘Hello' or for variety ‘hi.' Then smile. If you greet the woman you've just discovered with a cheery phrase, but a facial expression that makes you look like a stalker, she will think you are some kind of stalker. Which is, of course, another option for getting to know a woman, but perhaps not the most highly recommended, as it can lead to such drawbacks as losing your job (unless she works with you, as you wont be able to be there as well as following her) and eventually, to your very own restraining order.

Now, after your initial greeting, and assuming she responds, the next bit of the conversation is harder. Unless she asks a question, in which case, some sort of answer is then appropriate. If the question is "do I know you from somewhere?" the answer is not to ask what her online nickname is. If it's "what the **** do you ****ing think you're doing, you ****ing freak?" then you've probably followed her into Tescos' tampax section, or perhaps the ladies toilets. This is not so much a question, as a bit of a hint to leave her alone. Right now.

However, elsewhere, the response is unlikely to be quite this extreme. Assuming a simple greeting back from her, you can take one of several options. But please, do think carefully about the venue you've met her in. For example "Would you like a drink?" can be really good in a bar or pub. However if this attempt at a conversation is going on in the Sainsbury's cleaning aisle, and you're currently waving a bottle of extra strong bleach at her, she may feel that your intentions aren't friendly.

Remember also to temper your volume of speech, based on where you are at the time. At the library, shouting "do you come here often?" will quickly ensure that you don't. However if she's currently browsing through a Val McDermid, whispering "So you like Crime then?" is acceptable there. If she's downing a vodka and Red Bull in the bar, it may sound to her like an offer to take her joyriding. She may look deeply shocked, and run away from you. Or if she's the sort to say yes to this tempting offer, while I'm sure you could hotwire an IBM, she may prefer the letters BMW.

Well, Lonely, I'll leave you to practise the conversation bit. Don't forget that when you do so, you shouldn't be wearing the geek uniform of a Sci-Fi T-shirt. You will also be forgiven for temporarily removing your ARM Club pin badge for the occasion. Do not start trying to impress with your dancing, unless you have attended enough classes, run by professionals, to at least have found out what the beat, and the rhythm actually are. Ideally, you should also be able to find them. Even then, please don't wave your arms around too much - a mid-air collision might damage your typing fingers.

So, you've found a girl, and had a conversation. Slowly, after lots of talking to her, she becomes a friend. Now, I hate to break it to you, but just because she's a girl who is also a friend, this does not make her a girlfriend. But perhaps that extra leap into a relationship is a bit much all at once. Don't rush things - and hopefully she'll think you're a gentleman, rather than just clueless.

Good luck!

Aunty Gill

Written by Gill Smith, © Published Autumn 2003 Reproduced with permission.