Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why Roy’s Rule — Turn it off and then back on again — so often works

with 2 comments

In the (wonderful) series The IT Crowd (which you can watch on Netflix), the senior IT guy Roy Trenneman (played by Chris O’Dowd) responds to any problem, “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?”

Yesterday I was downloading some new books from Standard Ebooks onto my Kindle, and when I looked at the “Downloaded” list there were two titles greyed out — not the books I had just downloaded, but two from some time ago. I did a search and found the actual downloads on the device. I could open those files and all was well, but the two ghost files remained as an irritant: I could not open them, I could not select them, and I could not delete them.

I was set to go through the minor ordeal of contacting Amazon support and working through the problem with them, when I remembered Roy. So I turned the Kindle off — really off, holding down the off switch until I got an option to Restart the device. I selected that, and the Kindle totally rebooted, and when it was done the ghost files were gone.

Why does this work so often?

A computer program — whether an app or the OS itself — has an orderly shutdown procedure for when you exit the app. However, such an orderly exit may not have occurred. There may have been a power failure or a system crash or a bug in the program that caused it to crash or some other program running through memory overwriting things and causing an abrupt system crash — a variety of things might have disrupted an orderly shutdown. Therefore software programs on start-up cannot assume that everything is in perfect order and (assuming they are have been well designed, written, and tested) will go through a housekeeping routine on startup to make sure everything is in order and to clean up anything that is not.

By turning the device off and then back on again, your force the activation of that initial housekeeping, which restores everything to what it should be (as best the software can). Thus when my Kindle was restarted, the housekeeping on startup found extraneous ghost files and removed them.

It’s a great series, BTW, and well worth watching: four seasons of six episodes each.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2021 at 10:06 am

2 Responses

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  1. Turning off and on again, rebooting or updating software also works for humans


    12 March 2021 at 12:57 am

  2. I’m unsure of the analogues you have in mind. I do you mean sleeping/waking for turning off/on? (That does indeed seem to allow some degree of reboot — sleeping knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care, for example — does even have somewhat of an updating function when the unconscious slogs away at a problem as one sleeps, with the answer in the morning appearing as inspiration. And updating might be similar to learning, including learning about oneself through therapy or reading. Is that what you had in mind?


    12 March 2021 at 1:28 am

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