Occam’s razor is a theory that states that, where two possible explanations or solutions exist, the simplest one is preferable.
There are various variations of how the theory is stated, and even an alternate spelling of Ockham.
It’s actually very helpful when trying to understand and solve issues that might arise with your computer or the systems you use.
One simple example occurs when you can’t login to your email or some other website. It could be possible that the site is being affected by sun spots or hacked by malicious intruders as part of a plot to bring down civilization. But it’s more likely that you have incorrectly entered your password.
Always check the simple stuff first: Is your caps lock on? Were you just typing too fast? Did you recently change your password but entered the old one?
Then there are the bigger picture solutions that are even more fundamental: Can you connect to and login to other sites? If not, maybe your Wi-Fi is out and your computer isn’t connecting to the internet at all.
Usually, Occam’s razor is applied to the explanation — the why. But sometimes the why just isn’t that important. It’s really just about the solution — getting the thing working, right?
It always sounds too simple and even frustrating, but it really is true that rebooting (restarting) your computer will fix about 80 percent of issues.
And if your issue is internet related, restarting your internet modem and your wireless router (if you use one) will solve about 80 percent of those issues.
In fact, if you end up calling tech support at Spectrum or AT&T, you will likely get a recorded message asking you to restart your equipment before you can talk to a real person. In short, if a restart fixes your problem, why worry about what was wrong?
This week, I was helping a new student access her course materials online from her Mac laptop. She was using Safari as her web browser and getting an error related to cookies. She had followed the prompts on the screen, but the same error kept occurring.
Rather than insisting on figuring out the cookies issue, we downloaded the Chrome browser and used that. Poof! Success.
It’s always very helpful to have multiple browsers to try, because some systems just play better with one browser than another.
Macs will always come with Safari, and Windows computers will always come with Edge (previously Internet Explorer.)
But for some sites, Chrome is optimal, and for others, Firefox works best.
You can certainly try troubleshooting, and a good strategy is also to see if your favorite browser needs an upgrade. But in the end, if one browser works and another doesn’t, use the one that works.
Next time you’re faced with a technology problem, think about Occam’s razor. Look for the simple explanation. If your sound isn’t working for Netflix, check it in YouTube. If it isn’t working anywhere, see if your mute button is pressed or your speakers turned off or even unplugged.
Some issues have complex causes, but look for the simple ones first.
Carol Sabbar is the director of computer services at Carthage College. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.