Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Technology Goes Bad

I was going to write about my building excitement for the royal wedding, but will save that for next week. Today, instead, I write about the horrors of technology and wonder how you, Stiletto faithful, deal with dead laptops, frozen flash drives, and assorted other problems that befall the innocent in this technology-enabled world.

It all started last week when my trusty PC, the one that I've been working on for over six years, turned itself off and wouldn't turn back on.  It was as if it was saying "go on without me; I'm just so very tired," while I was screaming, "Don't you die on me, PC!"  (Did I mention that I don't back up my documents as a general rule?)  I walked past it several times during the day, disconsolately pushing the "on" button to see if it would come back, even just for one day so I could gather some of the work I had been doing.  No chance.

I did what anyone would do and called my friend, Susan, the baker, to lament my problem.

"No problem!" she said cheerfully.  "My cousin is a tech wizard!"

And indeed he was.  I brought him the laptop, he recovered everything and also installed all sorts of new bells and whistles so that the thing runs like a top.  And there was joy across the land.

While I was waiting for the PC to return, I decided to buy a Mac, having had my fill of computer-killing viruses.  I had heard wonderful things about Macs and decided that the time was nigh. I bought a fun, little 13" laptop (the 17" was $600 more and I didn't want to spend the extra money).  While I was waiting for the new modem so that I could install the wireless internet capabilities on the Mac, I used the kids' computer, otherwise known as "Old Faithful."  Old Faithful has served us well, now being into its second decade.  Sure, it's slow, but it's dependable.  I'm working on a new book and made some headway, not having the distraction of the internet to help me veer off course.  I had made great headway, and had twenty pages written...some of them even good.  Today, after catching up on work, I plugged in the flash drive, the new book being the only thing that I had backed up, hoping to write another five or so pages.

The flash drive was dead.  It won't load, it won't open, and none of the documents seem to be on there anymore.

I went through several stages of grief, but thankfully, never broke down as completely as I wanted to.  It's just twenty pages, right?  They might not be any good, yes?  It may be the writing gods' way of telling me to start again.

I'm not buying any of it.  The flash drive is now in the capable hands of Susan the baker's cousin who hopefully, will work his magic.

In the meantime, if you hear the rantings of a mad woman in your neck of the woods, it is just I wondering why we need all of this stuff in the first place when paper and pen served us just fine for centuries.

Horror stories, please.  They will make me feel better.  And the ones with happy endings will really make my day.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. This is more coincidental anecdote than it is an answer to your request, but . . . I have for the last dozen or so years periodically replaced my work laptop (which usually also doubles as our "house" laptop). I always had PCs and liked that fine. Both Mark and I are conversant enough in tech that we could de-bug ourselves on small problems.

    Last year we both got iPhones. I like my iPhone. Mark's iPhone was issued to him at his office, and in me buying one I got a single device for both my smart phone and my iPod music/podcasts. Plus, with both of us having iPhones we can share all the little power cords, etc.

    OK, so comes time to replace my PC and I say "why not try a Mac--everyone swears by them". So, I get one, the 13in aluminum model of MacBook Pro. That was in September of 2010 and I told Mark that I was doing this with the clear agreement that if after a year of use I don't like it, I go back to a PC.

    It's been seven months and even after five months I knew--I hate it.

    Seriously, I am not enjoying this Mac. The front edge of the aluminum shell is too sharp and cuts into my wrists and the heal of my hand even after a minute of contact. It is a bit buggy and I have no way to fix it myself. I don't like the size. I don't like the overall responsiveness and function mapping of the key-board and mouse pad. Oh, and while my screenwriting software works fine on it, the MS Office for Mac I bought does NOT (my paranoids side says this is intentional as the two giants battle it out through the consumer). The software is a real problem for me since I use it for work and home every day. About all I can say for it is it's light to carry and it does boot up fast.

    So, I'm still trying to work out using the Mac, but I announced to Mark that we will very likely be giving it to a relative or charity or maybe just keeping it as a true "house" machine so Mark will keep his man-paws off my work machine. (He's cut back on that some since getting his iPhone to play with, though.) And, at that point, I will go order me a nice, new Dell and rejoice again.

    One last thing. I've never been one of those people who had many virus problems on my PC and I think it's in great part due to this: I don't willy-nilly click on every link presented me and, worse, hand out my email/IP address info to every site I visit just to get a free recipe/knit pattern/photo of a cute puppy, etc. I always hear the biggest virus woes, even if you have as we all tend to something like McAfee or Norton, coming from people who either blithely sign up for and interact with every stupid site and link that comes at them or have KIDS who do. You have to advocate for yourself and avoid the traps, plain and simple.

    I seriously have almost never had a virus issue on a PC over the past dozen years, and the few times I've had a mild one, my anti-virus software handled it just fine.

    Oh, and I did become very obsessive about the backups. For the Mac, I got a very groovy Iomega drive and I use the very nice "Time Machine" for backups on the Mac. Mags, if you stick with the Mac, you should get this. It'll run about an extra $100, but you will regularly and/or at will back up everything on that Mac and the software basically keeps each backup version for at minimum a year and if it has to over-write a backup on the Iomega drive due to space being used up it erases the oldest copy first. Wonderful and gives great peace of mind about never loosing work, prized photos, etc. The Time Machine is super easy to navigate.

    So, I've never really lost anything due to a tech glitch, and I've never really been without because I've always replaced equipment when the old stuff was starting to flake out (that seems to mean a five-six year life-span of a PC--pitiful and expensive, I know).

    But, I hate the Mac and backups are your best friend. That's the upshot.

  2. I know, I'm going on too much, but one other wonderful feature on Macs that I'm not sure PCs have yet: the power cord attaches to the laptop magnetically, which is terrific when someone's feet get caught up in the power cord and yank it out of the machine. The magnetic one just sort of pops off, rather than yanks out, etc. LOVE THAT AND THINK IT'S PRACTICAL MAGIC!!!

  3. Timing is everything and this week, Monday specifically, was my meltdown because of a computer. I feel your pain. Actually I should say it was due to the "help" of my husband, who attempted to merge 2 email addresses. Low and behold the 2nd email address decided to randomly categorize in incoming emails, some of them into the spam folder and other into the trash (which I didn't discover until Monday night). It was like forced Spring cleaning and of course I had no control over it what-so- ever. After several hours of tears, screaming at the computer and somewhere around 1000 "I'm sorry's" from my husband later, the emails stopped importing and then came the task of finding them. As of today I'm still working on the clean up but I realized some of the purging was neccessary and my husband decided he's not touching my computer. Oh, I did get a nice breakfast in bed out it! ; )

  4. I've done pretty well with my desktops. Never had a full size lap top, but do have an Acer I take on trips.

    I use an offsite back-up and it's great. Comes in and back-ups at odd times.

    When I get a new computer I have to hire someone to make the switch for me and something it's really hard to find stuff.


  5. Maggie,
    I have lost many things to miserable unsympathetic computers over the years. But I have blocked it all out. I can tell you this, on occasion I will accidentally kick the mega outlet on the wall under this desk. Of course, it results in lights out for the computer. And it always happens right after I've come up with that one great sentence that will be lost when i turn it back on!!
    I feel your pain.


  6. Maggie, oh, girl, I've been there! And it's not any fun at all. I have not been able to avoid breakdown-worthy glitches, even married to a software engineer (who built my current computer, aka, my "left brain" as my "right brain" is a Dell that doesn't go online, on which I write all my books). Sometimes I feel like technology's a curse. Then I remind myself what it was like writing manuscripts on a typewriter, and I bite my lip. I hope Susan's tech wiz cousin recovers your new 20 pages! Crossing fingers and toes here in St. Louis!


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