Friday, April 20, 2007

How to solve virtually any technical problem

People ask me technical questions all the time. I have no idea why, I don't know any more than anyone, perhaps the fact I can find the answer to these problems leads people to think I actually know the answer. So I'm going to present to you the two steps to find the solution to almost any technical problem.

Google for it - The internet holds the answer to pretty much any question you can ask. The key to finding the answer is to know how to search. This is pretty much trial and error, if one search doesn't bring up the answer, try another phrase until you get something that looks related. If you're getting a specific error message, search for that.

Another point to make here is that if you can't find what you're looking for, consider whether what you're trying to do is a good thing to be doing. I remember trying to find information about hosting .NET WinForms controls in Internet Explorer and not having much luck at all. This was a big red warning light to me that perhaps even attempting to do this kind of work was a bad idea since it would appear very few other people were doing it.

Infinite monkeys - You know the saying, given an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and infinite time, one of them will produce the works of Shakespeare. So it is with fixing technical problems. Try enough things and one of them will be the right answer. The key to this technique is only to make one change at once, otherwise one of your changes may fix the problem and your other change might break it again. Or you forget one of the changes you made and don't set it back to what it was before and you're in an even worse position.

So now I've given you the tools, you don't need to bother me anymore, OK? 

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