Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Perfect Crime

The "perfect crime" is a staple of detective fiction and police procedural novels. Every writer dreams of devising a crime so clever and well-plotted that the criminal escapes scot-free while the forces of law and order scratch their heads and bump into each other in a futile attempt to close the case.

There probably aren't any "perfect crimes," though. DNA analysis, computer forensics, telephone wiretaps, good police work, and all the neat stuff you see on TV shows like NCIS, Bones, and CSI make getting away with a crime pretty much a thing of the past. Unless, of course, you succeed in looting an entire economy, in which case you're pretty much guaranteed to escape meaningful punishment.

But wait - there is a perfect crime in the making, and I'm sharing the story with you so that when I'm gone, the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

I refer to the sinister plot hatched by an unnamed software company to drive me to suicide by trying to use their product.

We have something like 758,000 VHS tapes stacked on shelves here at home, most of them dance videos Agnes bought over a 20+ year career teaching ballroom dance. As you know, VHS tapes take up quite a bit of space compared to DVDs or CDs, and so in an attempt to recover some of our limited shelf space, Agnes decided it would be a good project to transfer all those VHS tapes to DVDs.

Well, yes, it's a good idea...but like so many good ideas, it ain't quite as easy as hooking the VHS player to a DVD recorder and lettin' 'er rip. You need to insert chapter breaks and menus to allow you to search the DVD. And there's the rub...

Some years ago, I spent the GNP of an average African country to buy a spiffy software program that would let me make and edit movies. That software proved to be so complicated to use that my head started to smoke, and so it sat unused for a long time...until yesterday.

We were able to copy the VHS tape to the computer's hard drive with no problem. Inserting the chapter markers was a little bit of a problem. Figuring out how to insert a top-level menu was a fairly big problem. Figuring out how to edit the menus was an insurmountable problem.

After two telephone conversations with tech support people in Ouagadougou whose English was barely up to the task (and who referred me to each other to solve the problem), I ended up conducting two lengthy online chats with two more tech support people who finally ended up deciding that my expensive program would not allow us to do that which we expected it to do, and we would have to upgrade to the newer (and more expensive version) of the software. Of course, in true modern software fashion, the program comes in three versions: "basic," "ultimate," and "ultimate collection," the price of each escalates astronomically. And, naturally, the ability to insert multiple menus (which we need to do to make the DVDs useful), is only available in the "ultimate" and "ultimate collection" versions of the software.


So I bit the bullet and ordered the "ultimate" version of the program. I downloaded the installation file, saved it to the computer, then double-clicked to install it ... only to get a message telling me that it was "not a valid Win32 application."


Another online chat with yet another drone, who tells me that the file must have been corrupted during the download, and I should download it again. I do this. The file downloads correctly. I double-click to install it.


About an hour and a half later, after endless extractions of compressed files, two system reboots, acceptance of huge legalistic User Agreements written in Old Church Slavonic, and the sacrifice of two chickens and a small goat, the installation is complete.

Does it work? I don't know. It took so long to troubleshoot the original program, get straight answers from tech support, download the installation files, and install them, that we ran out of time to see if it all works.

I'm going back to work today. Agnes will get to try out the program on her own. She will no doubt call me to ask how it works...

And I'll shoot myself.

The perfect crime.

She'll probably split the insurance money with those guys in Ouagadougou.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow...if I haven't done myself in.



Amanda said...

LOL! I'm sorry....I'm not laughing at you but this was a really funny post :)

We've been doing a lot of tidying up in this house too and I'm trying to see how I want to 'preserve' all the cassette tapes we have. I think the easiest and most hassle free way is to make sure that we have a tape player that works...and a backup to that.

Phfrankie Bondo said...

...too phfunny, sir!....

Mike said...

SInce you seem to have this mostly figured out, I've got some tapes you can convert for me. They'll be in the mail tomorrow.

Leslie David said...

Fortunately I don't have many VCR tapes--what I have are 300 vinyl albums plus I don't know how many cassette tapes that I'd like to transfer to CDs and ultimately digitize to an iPod or MP3 player. I think it's less expensive and difficult than what you had to do.