Saturday, March 23, 2013

Surviving Without a Computer

Guest Writer Moira Allen
I often wonder how we managed, back in the dark ages... You know, those ages when one's household was "dark" because it wasn't perpetually lit by the glow of one or more computer screens.  Well, last week I got a chance to recall those ancient days.  It was rather like being a guest on "Pioneer House" or "Victorian Manor," only without the interesting clothes and weird foods!
It began when my antivirus program -- a well-known, trusted program -- informed me that a "new version" was ready to install and would I be so kind as to download it now before it shut off my computer and life-support and did it without me?  I complied, downloaded the new version, declined to shut down my computer right that very moment, and went on my way.  The next morning... wonder of wonders, "The Beast" (which is my pet name for the computer) would not reboot. 

Fortunately I was able to reboot in "last known good configuration" and all went well. A week passed, and then, lo and behold, an announcement came from my antivirus software, with yet ANOTHER "new version" -- which suggested to me that they'd figured out there were bugs with the previous version.  Joyfully, I installed that.

The next morning... well, what a surprise, "The Beast" would not boot.  Only, this time, not only would it not reboot, a red-flagged warning appeared upon my screen declaring that I needed to reset my parameters in the BIOS as it could not boot from the current set-up. 
Now, to me, "BIOS" is something I put at the end of my articles, NOT something I muck about with on my computer -- which was now doing a marvelous imitation of a very large paperweight.  Time to call in an expert.  The expert poked, prodded, grunted, and made noises about "maybe it's time you upgraded to Windows 7" -- but reluctantly acceded to my request to put everything back just the way it was.  And, miraculously (he honestly wasn't sure it would happen), he did so.  But... it took almost a week.
A week without my key programs.  A week in which I couldn't update web pages, or load them online even if I could.  A week in which my scanners sat idle.  A week in which I kept wondering, "How on EARTH did we cope?"
Granted, I had a lap-top, which enabled me to check e-mail and do basic writing tasks, but most of my programs and hardware weren't loaded. In addition, many of the programs I use are downloads, so I couldn't even install them from a disk.  And granted, I did have all my files, but I balked at trying to load them all onto the laptop and then have to remember which ones I needed to copy back onto the computer when (and if) it came home again.  On the bright side, at least I had no trouble downloading my favorite games!!

Thankfully, "The Beast" is back home safe and sound, and I'm back in action.  But the experience was a reminder that all of us who depend upon computers for our livelihood -- and especially those of us who keep our life's work stored on those computers -- are just one bad software download away from catastrophe.  So let me take this opportunity to leave you with my regular reminder and warning:


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