Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Computer Failure

My computer quit last weekend. It warned me first, thank God. "Failure to initialize - shut down all programs immediately - exiting". Geesh, I quickly got out of the document I was working on and bailed, right before the computer went into a coma.
I called Mike Swango, my own personal computer guru, and left a message on his voice mail - along with a warning. "There's a 353 page manuscript on this computer that exists no where else. If you can't get it back for me, I'll most likely commit suicide."
I've known Mike since the very day he was born but still, I'm not sure how much he'd have been affected by my threat, however I figured, if nothing else, he'd do it for his Mom's sake. We've been best friends since we were juniors in high school. As soon as he got my message, he came over. He was able resuscitate my computer and recapture my documents, which he also transferred to my laptop so they'd exist two places. Gently, he suggested that I might want to back them up or put them on a thumb drive or something instead of living so dangerously. The next time I might not be so lucky.
The problem with the restoration of my computer was that it restored itself to a year ago so that all the programs I'd downloaded or upgraded since were gone and all the things I'd deleted were back. For instance, my year-ago version of Norton Anti-virus was now expired. When I went to Symantech's website to try to discover how to reinstall the yearly renewal I'd bought in October, I was informed, somewhat coldly, I thought, that unless I could produce the product key number they'd issued me with my purchase, I could forget it.
I have a file near my desk but it isn't very organized. I often throw paperwork in it helter-skelter, not paying much attention to whether the document matches very well with the folder heading. The Norton product key could easily have been in the "Computer Information" folder or the "House and Cars" folder (which contains lots of things that are only marginally related to house or cars but after all, the computer is IN the house) or the "Paid Receipts" folder or even in "Miscellaneous Stuff". Or it could have been nowhere at all because I'm capable of just throwing it away on the grounds that what were the odds I'd ever need it again?
As it turned out, the receipt was in "Computer Information" which was the last folder I looked in. Of course, I wasn't disgusted by this because I knew that it wouldn't have mattered. If I'd looked in "House and Cars" last instead of "Computer Information", then that's the folder it would have been in. These things are predestined.
Nothing was simple about bringing my computer programs back to life. I would sometimes get clear to the end of an install, only to be told that it couldn't be done because this upgrade required the upgrade of another program be done first. So, I'd have to exit that site and go to another one and start all over again, working my way through the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo of computer authoritarianism. Not much different than working with a government agency, which I well know, seeing as how I am one, or part of one.
At the last, when everything else was working, my e-mail program wouldn't send my e-mail. It would receive but it wouldn't send. I tried everything, working for hours, torn between cursing and crying in frustration. I could have called technical support but that would have been admitting defeat. It wasn't even the same e-mail program because my old e-mail was so ancient (being at least a few years old), it was obsolete and Microsoft didn't even recognize it any more, which meant that all my contact addresses had disappeared into the ozone layer.
I felt a surge of pure triumph when eventually, my e-mail program admitted that I'd outwitted it and it gave up and sent my messages.
By Monday morning, everything was back to normal with my computer except that it had disappeared 24 hours of my life.