Saturday, August 17, 2013

Getting On with It, or, I Postpone Setting Up My New Computer

Consider as made the usual apology for not posting for a long while.  I am not living in my car or under a bridge--yet-- but in my house at home.  As the Beatles sang a few (!) years ago, "I get by with a little help from my friends."  And my family.  And a little freelancing here and there.  And with the help of a part time job working at what I discreetly call The Big Blue Box Store, so as not to violate any company policies should I ever want to do a gripe-and-moan about my experiences there.  Started as a seasonal employee late last March, but was promoted to permanent part time a couple weeks ago.  No raise in pay, but if I take advantage of the medical benefits it offers, it should keep me clear of any awkwardness when the Obamacare ax falls in October.

And as of the 27th of this month, all this might be augmented by the pay I'd get teaching a couple sections of English at our county community college.  My friend Frieda* tipped me off they were hiring adjunct professors, I went on the website and applied, and the head of the Liberal Arts department liked what he saw.  English Literature, and Writing, it would be, and since due to the same Obamacare the college took forever determining their hiring needs, I'll have less than a week to check out the curriculum and draw up lesson plans and evaluation procedures.

Scary.

But the really scary thing was the behavior of my computer, the very one I'm composing this post on, the HP Pavilion Slimline s7600y I purchased in January 2007.  As a teacher on the college level (my past integration into Oxford ways makes me very reluctant to call myself a "professor" of any kind), I'll have to have a computer that works.  There will be student work to pull up, grades to be submitted, emails to be answered and written, and, heaven help us, possible instances of plagiarism to investigate.  I can't be spending a literal hour and a half doing fifteen minutes worth of work, because the stupid system is taking so jolly long to load.

And that's what it was doing every lousy day, up to two weeks ago.  I've gone to sleep on the floor of my study wrapped up in an old blanket with the dog more than once, waiting for a download to complete. Frustrating isn't half the word for it.  And with everything I have to complete and do, especially with the public schools restarting in a week or so and substitute teacher calls resuming soon thereafter, I don't have time for the nonsense.

So two weeks ago I went online to see if HP or any other brand had any slimline towers I could afford.  (Call me a stick-in-the-mud for going for a PC again.  I have my reasons, which I won't detail here.  And it has to be a slimline, for space reasons.)  And lo!  Best Buy had one, an HP 400 Slimline, very highly rated, on sale for $369.99.  Excellent price, especially as Amazon.com was offering the same machine for $599.99.

Now, I have no money.  Everybody knows that.  But as I said before, as a community college teacher I can't be limping along with a computer I constantly have to hard-reboot to make it function.  So after church two Sundays ago I travelled over to the nearest Best Buy that had the HP 400 in stock and bought the silly thing.

Of course, it wasn't a matter of plunking down the $369.99-plus-tax and walking out with it.  Oh, no.  This puppy runs Windows 8, and as the song says, "Suddenly, nothing, nothing, nothing is the same."  Windows 8 doesn't play nice with older software.  Me, I have a lot of what I believe are called "legacy" programs running on my current machine's XP-Pro operating system. Like, um, WordPerfect 6.1, which I like just fine.  And Quicken 2009.  And Lotus Organizer 5.0.  I have no desire to upgrade or change to different software, and even if I did, I don't have the hundreds of dollars that would run me.  This being the case, I had to throw down another goodish chunk of change for the "Win Pro Pack 8" that's supposed to let me run my old software on Windows 8, once I create a virtual partition for them.  And in the wisdom of the geniuses in Redmond, Washington, Win8 won't run any Windows Office versions before Office 2013.  Thanks, guys.  So there's another charge for the "Home and Student 2013" version of that, because, WordPerfect lover that I am, most church secretaries prefer to converse in Word.  Throw in a 32GB flashdrive to create the operating system backup, and we're talking a real investment.

But as I said, the way the old s7600y was dragging along, it was necessary.

So why am I still working on the old computer?

Well, part of it is the fact that I wanted/needed to clear the decks before I set up the new computer.  I literally had not entered anything into my financial software since before tax time last April, and my study was awash in receipts, statements, file folders, and other accounting flotsam and jetsam.  There was no room to put the new system together.

And what if I can't get the virtual partition to work?  I wanted to get my Quicken accounts all entered and balanced before I cut myself off myself off from the use of the software, because it's mentally wearing to not really know where I am financially.  Now, I know good and well I'll still have the use of the old computer, once I get a second monitor.  It's not like it's totally given up the ghost.  Really, what I wanted to do was to clear out my mind as I cleared the paperwork out of my study.  I didn't feel I could enjoy the new computer until I had.

I haven't had many hours in the day to spare for this task these past two weeks.  Bt at last it's done, everything is balanced (well, mostly everything), and as of two nights ago the paperwork is filed and put away.  And as of this afternoon, I've finished entering my checking account transactions into my physical checkbook register, which I hadn't done since last February, for goodness sakes.

So why does the new machine still sit unopened in its box over here on the floor?  Why haven't I run to break it open and explore its wonders?

Maybe because I know it's going to take hours and hours to set up, and I don't feel like investing that right now.

Maybe because I'm afraid, as I said above, that I won't be able to get the virtual partition to work.  Or that if I can, it's going to take forever and I'll be cut off from virtual civilization (i.e., the software programs I depend on) until I can get it all to behave.

It's not that I'm afraid of Windows 8, not in itself, apart from what it'll mean for my accustomed programs. Clerk at the Best Buy let me fool with it a little, and I'm sure I can deal with it, even though it seems a little silly.  I mean, don't we all have enough problems with "Ooooo, shiny!" tendencies these days without graphic tiles sitting on our desktops tempting us to open Facebook and Hulu and Netflix when we should be working?

Maybe I'm so addicted to having a computer (that is, the Internet) running that I don't want to shut the old one down long enough to set the new one up.  (When I was doing up the s7600y I had a laptop open next to it.)

Which leads me to maybe the biggest reason I haven't set the 400 up yet.  Because, gosh darn it, for the last week or more my old PC has gone back to functioning.  It has hardly frozen up at all.  No problem opening anything.  Videos and audio files have been playing just fine.  You'd think it'd gotten wind I was planning on replacing it and wanted me to change my mind.  Maybe it will keep it up.  So why should I stop using it?

Besides, I got a call the other day from the Liberal Arts department secretary at the community college and she said that due to low pre-enrollment, there's a good chance the classes I was supposed to teach will be cancelled or rolled into the schedules of full-time faculty.  They won't know for sure until final enrollment the end of this coming week.  So maybe the need that job posed will disappear.

Maybe.

And maybe this old machine will go contrary on me again.  And maybe I'd like to use the drafting software I downloaded awhile back, that I can never seem to get open, let alone draw with.  Maybe there will be enough students for those English sections, and I'll be stuck after the 27th with an old computer that won't work and a new one sitting in the box with no time to install it.

So I guess I'd better woman up and at least begin.  Besides, I'll be moving the old one down to the dining room.  It'll still be there when I need it, I just won't be asking it to do quite so much.

And maybe with a newer, faster computer, I might post here more often.

Or maybe not.

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