When in Doubt, Nuke it from Orbit

I’ve spent over a week trying to make my word processor behave. It started with a weird tic: When I inserted a paragraph it would change the style of the previous paragraph to something else. I didn’t notice it at first, as the styles looked similar.

Then other weird things started happening. The drop caps vanished, and even though I put them back they wouldn’t stay. Finally it became unable to create pages with no headers for the beginning of a chapter. Further, when I changed the first page of a chapter to the proper page style, the rest of the manuscript changed too. Nothing I tried would make it behave.

The problems were so weird and hard to describe (Googling “my page styles won’t stay where I put them” wasn’t useful) that it took a while to figure it out. It seems that, sometimes, some of the information in the user profile can become corrupted. Maybe it’s cosmic rays, or a power spike while it’s trying to save a file. Maybe it’s just 2016 being annoying again.

The things that really bothered me was that these were bugs that couldn’t possibly exist. Nobody in anything like their right mind would send a broken product like this out into the world, especially as it hadn’t been broken before. Had an update done Something Bad? Unlikely.

I thought of nuking the user profile, but that only solved one problem (the mutating paragrphs one). Then I decided that if nuking a few files was good, nuking the whole thing was better. At this point I was a week into having day-long headaches. Bear in mind that, at this point, the old program was completely useless and I need to get this manuscript out the door in the next few days. It was like being diagnosed with a terminal illness just before your vacation.

I deleted everything associated with the word processor and reinstalled. That was totally cool except for the minor detail that it couldn’t find the main program. Anywhere. Neither could I. Damned if I know why.

This was getting irritating. I went to the web site and downloaded the program from there, then installed it. I tried it and the paragraphs worked. So did the drop caps. And after a few changes to the manuscript, all the pages were in their right places.

It was like getting a call from the lab just before you cancel that vacation and being told that the test results you got before were wrong and you aren’t going to die after all. I’m not exaggerating. I kept expecting something to go wrong, but everything is working as flawlessly as usual.

The moral of the story is that sometimes, when you don’t have the time to fool around with trying this and that, you just have to dust off and nuke it from orbit. I’m just glad I don’t use a proprietary program that would have forced me to wade through technical support and then waited while they shipped me another copy of the software.

Updated: 2016-11-25 — 22:09

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