Friday, April 20, 2007

Computer Conundrum

It is 3:55am. After three hours of sleep, I am up again. My eyes popped open at 3:20am, after a few hours of jaw clenching, fitful sleep. I tried to shake off the bizarre dream I had been wrestling with for what seemed the entire REM phase preceding my premature waking, swigged a mouthful of water from my water bottle, and lay back down, hoping to return to a semblance of slumber.

But no. My brain was fully awake. I had two choices; I could fight it and lay there growing increasingly angry, tossing and turning, which would eventually wake Tom up, or I could just accept that I would have no more sleep this night and get up and do something productive.

The cause of this night's insomnia: The office computer crash for which I have not yet been able to conjure a solution.

When thinking about whether to get up or not, I considered working on my blog. I planned an entry about spring, complete with photos of the blossoms and flowers in our yard. And then I remembered that this was impossible, because my computer is ill. Hence, I am composing this particular post from the kitchen computer, which (cross my fingers and knock on wood) is still running smoothly. Alas, I have no pictures stored on this computer, and so my blossoms will have to wait for their 15 minutes of fame.

Being the senior domestic engineer of the Nelson family, one of my many hats is that of de facto computer system administrator. It is a crimson hat with a peaked top and wide brim, which is fitting, considering the witchy mood that usually overcomes me while wearing it. I must remember to cut some slits in the top, to vent the steam the inevitably builds up inside, thus ruining my wash and wear hairdo. I am considering adding a skull and crossbones with a black sharpie... but I digress.

Unfortunately for our limited LAN of four aging computers, I am not a completely competent SysOp. I have no formal training; everything I know I have learned by trial and error in the ongoing process of trying to keep the @$#*&! machines running smoothly.

Our five computers have names from Disney's Hercules. The two oldest desktops, which reside in the basement office, are dubbed Pain and Panic, Hades' demon sidekicks. Hercules is Tom's 2005 Dell laptop, for which I thankfully am not responsible, and Hades is the kitchen desktop. Acquired in 2001, Panic has been the "main" computer for six years, and has performed the vast majority of "productive" computer functions carried out by the family CFO, historian, clerk, tutor, and PR specialist (me, me me, me and me). All photos, music, documents, and financial records reside on Panic. If there is a computer that I could call "mine", this is it. And, of course, this is the computer that suffered an apparent aneurysm Thursday afternoon.

I like alliteration. Can you tell?

While I am an admittedly amateur admin, I have been around the block a few times. If you are unfortunate enough to own or use a PC, you are probably aware that Microsoft Corp. was inspired by Satan and is run by his mortal minions, who periodically turn out sadly substandard software which dominates the PC market. Windows tends to bog down over time and needs periodic maintenance to run at peak efficiency. I hold a particular loathing toward sluggish computers. I am impatient by nature, and I detest waiting unnecessarily for applications to open/function/run/crash or otherwise waste my time. Hades, Panic, and Hercules run WindowsXP Pro, which is much more robust than the earlier iterations of Windows, and need cleaning up every 18 to 24 months, depending on how many games are installed. Pain runs Windows98, which seems to need a complete restoring about every six months or so.

Approximately two months ago, I undertook the major task of killing and then resurrecting Panic and Hades, which involves backing up all important data, wiping the hard drive to remove any lingering viruses or other baddies, and then doing a complete reinstall of the operating system and all applications. It takes about 5 hours to do each computer. When finished, I thought I was set. All three of the computers under my dominion were newly refreshed; I lovingly placed my red hat in its box on an upper closet shelf, waved goodbye, and closed the door.

But it was not to be. Panic began having problems within a month of the reinstallation. A few weeks ago, it began to reboot without warning. Panicked, I backed up the few new documents and photos and Quicken files, in preparation for a crash. But the problem was mysteriously solved. I suspect it had something to do with Windows automatic updates... but rather than dig for the solution, I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly forgot about it. Until yesterday, when applications ceased to run. Every program that I opened had a fatal error and needed to close and did I want to report the problem to Microsoft? Um no, thank you, I clicked.

I restarted the computer and logged in. It promptly rebooted. This repeated three times. At this point I resisted uttering the choice words that came to mind and took a time out, during which I cleaned the kitchen, fed people, cleaned the kitchen again, talked with a friend, blogged, and finally went to bed. Just before retiring, I made a few more half-hearted attempts to discover the solution to my computer's illness at midnight, but gave up due to frustration and fatigue. And this is why I am up at 5:30 am after laboring over this entry for over 1 1/2 hours. Wish me luck -- I am about to re-engage the enemy.


  1. I thought this was hilarious. Sorry to be so entertained by your misfortune. I have a friend who is convinced all IBMs are evil and she loves her MAC. She says that people never have any such problems with a MAC. So maybe you should consider this when looking for a new computer. After all you will soon have more disposable income right? Anyway best of luck. Have you considered having Tom give it a blessing? Just kidding.

  2. A blessing is on the list after I have exhausted all other possibilities. :)

    I'm glad you enjoyed it, Pat. I enjoyed writing it. I'm not nearly so frustrated now as I was when I sat down to type. Funny how that works? :)

  3. You are a woman of many talents and I had no idea that computer genious was one of them! Good luck with the computer. I am done having unsuspecting friends and family work on mine and am limping it along until we can get another. I am sick of the process and wish my whole life wasn't tied up in something that I not only have no control over but can also not repair myself. It makes me crazy! :)

  4. It's ALIVE!!!!

    I was able to use system restore to get it back up again. Thankfully. Something very strange and sinister is going on, and it seems to be related to Windows Auto updates and my internet filter (Cybersitter).

    Jen, I could help you format and reinstall yours if you want. It's a bit of a pain, but once it's done it's like having a new computer again. Let me know.