Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Joys of Modern Cyber Life

First, some background:

Last summer, I got a feeling the DVD/CD drive in my desktop computer wasn't exactly working right. First it wouldn't play some CDs. Then it refused to burn some tracks I needed to practice for our big Welsh choir concert that was coming up Labor Day weekend.

But . . . that drive was put in only last February. It couldn't be broken already! Maybe the problem was with the CDs. Or with the burning software. Or whatever. Besides, did I have time to spend four-plus hours on the phone with HP working out the problem? No, I did not. And what if they charged me the $99 for out-of-warranty phone tech support even before I could find out if the new drive itself was still in warranty? I had too much to do. I'd deal with it later.

Then this past Christmas, my friend Ruth* sent me a CD version of the Gutenberg Bible on PDF. And I couldn't open it. And it crept upon me that if the "new" drive was still covered by a warranty, it certainly would expire by early February.

Gotta do something. Yes. Then I found out I could do Live Chat on the HP site for free. And yes, it did take several hours. Twice. But regardless of everything the techs and I tried, we came to the fatal conclusion that that optical drive was fried. And guess what-- the warranty only lasted for 112 days (weird, huh?). Meaning it expired just before the time the trouble began. The HP rep offered to direct me immediately to their sales department for a replacement, but I wanted to shop around.

So I did. And found out that had the model I needed for about half the price. I emailed a friend who does business servicing computers, and he offered to put my new drive in for free. So I ordered it.

Whereupon, the TigerDirect website transferred me to a catalog page. On it was an ad for an IBM ThinkPad laptop computer.

No, I wasn't immediately in the market for a new laptop. But I currently had no laptop that really worked. I mean, how much can you do with a machine that only runs Windows 3.11? And this was a ThinkPad. With a TrackPoint mouse. Which I had to have on my next laptop, since I hate mice. And the price was really, really, good-- well under $300. Yeah, it was factory reconditioned, but my first laptop was a refurbished model, and it still works, after its fashion.

I consulted my computer geek friend again. And ordered it.

And it's a jolly good thing I did. Because the new optical drive arrived, I took it and my desktop processor over to my friend's, and a couple days later he calls and says, "I"ve got good news and bad news. Good news is, I've got the new drive installed and it's working. But your computer's working reeealllly sloooow. I tried installing some new CD burning software on it and after two hours it timed out and wouldn't finish!"

He thought maybe it was because I had certain programs running in the background and suggested I take them off. Like my Carbonite backup service. Fat chance of that. Carbonite pulled my chestnuts out of the fire last April when I got that trojan horse, and no way I'm going back to external hard drives.

He did what he could, but when I got my machine back it was basically unusable. Don't know what happened or when, but something had messed things up prodigiously. I mean, taking a half hour just to boot up? And I could not get on line. At all.

I've spent the past few days trying just about everything to get my system straightened out. A thorough anti-virus scan (which took nearly three days last weekend) flushed out a trojan horse (Timeo Danaos et ferentes donas), which I disposed of. It improved performance . . . for about ten minutes. Then it was back to cyber molasses.

Meanwhile, I've got the new laptop, and thank God for that. But I couldn't get online from it, either!!

Grrrrrrrrr!!!!! I swear, sometimes I'd like to yank all this computer junk out and just hurl it out my third floor study window!! And forswear the whole IT life entirely!

Except if I did that, I couldn't post on my blog or Facebook about how frustrated I am about it all.

So that meant more tech support, this time on the phone with my Internet service provider. Twice. First guy thought maybe the service was down, even it they had no indication of that on their end. Working with the second guy, a few days later, I found out that the problem on the laptop had to do with a password problem and was purely coincidental. And he got me set up with my home wireless network-- up to then, I had a connection only by the kindness of my neighbors who let me piggyback on theirs.

But the desktop computer is still a big glowing doorstop. I've spent the past few days slowly, painfully, getting files that Carbonite couldn't back up (due to no Internet connection) onto a flash drive and, temporarily, onto the laptop. Tried everything I could to avoid doing a system recovery, but it was inevitable.

As I write, I'm waiting for the Standard Recovery to finish working. That's the kind that's supposed to preserve your data, though not programs you've installed yourself. Technically, it should be done by now. But it seems to be stuck on the Windows welcome screen with a big hourglass and a line saying "Please wait...." Bluddy ick!! I've been waiting at least the past twenty minutes!

Can't be helped . . . Gotta try a hard reboot.

Booting up. Back to the Please Wait window . . .

Nothing's happening . . .

Oh, look, screen's gone black . . .
No, wait . . . Computer setup window. Joy. More to do and it's 2:30 AM already.

Fear not, I won't subject you to the process. Not what I call entertainment for the blog-reading public. I'll get back with you when my computer's working properly again.

Or not.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Technology -- it's a love/hate relationship!