Geek Feng Shui begins at home. It's an art. Unlike the regular kind, it's even a science.

To the untrained observer, it may look like you're simply taping an electrical cable to the back of one specific table leg, but we all know there's more to it than that.

We defend it by claiming that we're simply helping the contacts to rub together, or twisting a wire round to help the flow of electrons, neutrons and mysterons find their way home, but really, it's magic.

Look in your heart – you know it to be true. Every time your headphones crackle and you realise that turning the jack precisely 90 degrees to the right forces the sound to go crystal clear, you have Geek Feng Shui in your soul.

If it was common sense, you'd replace it on the grounds that it's a) obviously broken and b) almost certainly cheap. But what if you're uninitiated into this great, mystical, nonsensical world of home-fixes and desperate patch-jobs? Have no fear, it's easy to learn!

First, the basics. As you already know, all electronic devices are built around a careful balance of four core alchemical components: hate, hope, elves and the magic blue smoke that makes all technology work. There are also some wires, capacitors and other stuff like that, but they're not really important.

All that matters is that the four elements are in harmony. Too much hate, for instance, and the elves turn on their user, throwing up a blue screen of death as soon as they hear the magic words "I really should save that now."

At the same time, too much hope and not enough magic blue smoke that makes all technology work, and you get Windows Vista.

Know your limits

How can we use this confirmed science fact to our benefit? First, it's important to recognise the limits.

Geek Feng Shui states that, once implanted, any attempt to manipulate the magic blue smoke that makes all technology work will result in disaster. Once released, it can never be put back, and even the most advanced practitioner will typically give up in favour of a pilgrimage back to the shop instead of dabbling in elf necromancy.

Likewise, hate serves little purpose other than making you feel better, and should therefore be saved until you really, really need it. When you realise you have another seven hours on a plane without functioning headphones, that is an appropriate time.

In all other situations, your primary methods revolve around the components of hope and elves. Hope is what keeps you rebooting your PC when a program won't work, convinced that maybe, just maybe, it will work this time.

This is the only time in the Geek Feng Shui guru's existence when it is permissible to consult outside assistance to help fix a broken PC – not because you are in any way a drooling incompetent, but because you know that almost any technology will magically regenerate itself in the presence of an engineer and the words "I've tried everything."

Short of complete failure however, your best route to success remains with the elves. Computer elves are friendly creatures, but fragile. A gust of wind. A loose connection. A single bad sector on a hard drive. All of these can send the friendly elves running for safety. Your task is to force them back to work without killing them. Hitting the table. Jamming in the plug. Even swearing loudly has been known to work.

Dunking the device in the bathtub, setting it on fire or launching the stupid broken waste of space into the next county with a home-built trebuchet have never proven effective, but feel free to try, especially if you can keep a straight face when handing over the warranty card afterwards.

Preserving the balance

With the four cardinal elements now in unison, all that remains is the true art of Geek Feng Shui – preserving the balance. As all practitioners know, balance is a simple, transient thing, and easily lost. A gust of wind. An inappropriately tied cable. A door, no longer angled to bounce invisible Wi-Fi goodness to your computer, but to spread it out, probably.

This is why so many computer desks look, to the uninitiated, like a mess. They don't realise the piles of textbooks aren't merely there for reference, but to channel their words into their owner's mind, often without ever being opened, such is the power of their thickness and impenetrable looking covers.

The little toys strewn across the PC case are not souvenirs of games played and anime watched (with subtitles, of course), but little offerings to the tech gods, for peace, prosperity, and timely automated updates.

Everything has its place, and a reason to be. Only in understanding this can we truly understand technology, and ourselves. You could also read manuals, of course. But that's crazy talk.

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First published in PC Plus Issue 303

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