Time to trade up?

I was just getting over a cough that had persisted for more than a month when a virus hit ─ our PC. It took over a week, all of Andrew’s non-working hours, input from our network of connections on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, and consultation with an uber-geek before the virus was banished. (Excuse me for a moment while I throw salt over my shoulder, knock wood and spit three times; I’m leaving nothing to chance.)

The virus hijacked our search returns and redirected them to ad sites. This made searching a royal pain, but it didn’t shut us down. The applications we use daily, like Word and Outlook, soldiered on, seemingly unaffected. Seemingly, for there was no way to know what we didn’t know about what else the virus might be doing. Fortunately, we have several computers, so I switched to the Mac while the infected PC was quarantined and coaxed back to health.

In our household we have over fifty years of combined high tech employment experience. Many of our friends work in high tech, and a number of relatives. If there’s a problem we can’t solve, we can reach out for help. What do other people do? Home computers are ubiquitous, but that does not mean that every home has someone who knows what a dll is, or what the registry is for. How do families without built-in IT departments (technically-savvy computer-literate spouses) handle these situations?

Getting rid of the search hijack virus wasn’t easy. We (by which I mean Andrew) installed and ran multiple anti-virus programs, including some that specialized in rootkits, those hidden problems that even anti-virus software can’t find. Some scans took minutes, some hours, some had to run overnight. The temptation to reformat the hard drive got stronger with each one. Every scan report beckons you down a different rat hole, unearths things that might be harmful, but they can’t be sure, brings you closer to the edge of despair. Finally, you hit the right combination of software, run in the right order, and magically, the problem goes away.

If you did not spend most of your career in high tech, and you know you don’t know what to do, you might purchase high end software to remedy the problem. Or, you might sign up for a maintenance contract with a company that provides IT services for home computers. Or you might decide that the iPhone does all you need after all and simply walk away.

But could you walk away? What about the things stored on your hard drive; photos, taxes, your unfinished novel? Are those things backed up? What? You don’t know how to do that? My friend, you need to get your priorities in order. If your partner can’t maintain your computer, it’s time to get a new one; partner or computer, you decide.

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8 responses to “Time to trade up?

  1. I have a recurring dream in which my computer boots up into some bizarre garish kiddie video game, and the only way to get rid of it is to boot off a floppy, replace autoexec.bat (remember that file?), boot again into XyWrite III+ (remember THAT?) and open and close various binary files, which, you might recall, causes them to be truncated and rendered useless. The trick is, I never know which binary files I need to destroy in this way. It is a nerve-wracking dream.

    Does your daughter use the PC? I swear those teenage-oriented sites are the death of PCs.

    • She used to use the family PC, but now she has her own. If she runs into trouble Andrew will help her. At least until she’s 21.

      • I’m relieved to read that I’ve once again postponed the inevitable — being replaced by Andrew 2.0. Just don’t give me away on Freecycle when the time comes, OK?

  2. HI!
    I’@ GL#$ YOUR CO%^&* IS BETT()_ .!!! +++++{}{P{}{?><M

  3. I’m sorry about the illness and the virus.

    I’ve never had a computer virus, but my harddrive crashed once. The IT guy at my school retrieved my data and installed a new one for me. It was scary. My husband and I now make a point to back up on an extrnal hardrive periodically. And I e-mail drafts of my work to myself each time I write. Yes, I’m that paranoid.

  4. Unfortunately I am our household IT department… I hope my husband doesn’t trade me in. We back up regularly, use anti virus, and cross our fingers (and toes) that we don’t get a virus. When all else fails I bring the computer to Computer Cafe for CPR. When I did get my last desk top, I had them put the old desktop’s hard drive in an external drive so I kept my files… But I will never switch to a Mac based product. I have used both and there is less flexibility with Mac products than Windows based.

    In the meantime, if you want some extra disks for backup I can give you a pile of 3.5″ disks.

  5. The little hairs on the back of my neck are standing at attention as I calculate the date of my last backup. Three external drives, two desk tops (one with dual operating systems) and a laptop (now where did I put that?) and I’ve lost track of my backups.

    Does it matter? I make a feeble attempt to comfort myself. Nothing except the photos really matter and the irreplaceable ones of the babies are safe on Gold Kodak CDs. None of you are old enough to remember when we believed that Kodak Gold would last forever. And for all I know, they will. I haven’t tried to read them for many years.

    Here’s the gotcha. The digital images made by one of the world’s first digital cameras are in a proprietary format, and I’ve lost track of the software that transforms them to plain old jpegs. The newest marvelous camera produces wonderful raw files, CR2, and no one in his right mind is going to spend the time to edit those either.

    So I guess the answer to “does it matter” is probably not. Ephemera is still ephemera. If “the god in the machine,” the new version unknown to the ancient Greeks who coined the phrase and designed the job, is listening, I’m just kidding. Please don’t waste any lightening bolts. I’m really just whistling in the dark.

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