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Beware the Ides of October?

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October featured a series of less fortunate events... and then the computer crashed

September was a difficult month, the ninth in a row of what’s been a difficult year. "October," I said, "is going to be so much easier." Several major projects had come to completion and I was looking forward to a little bit of extra time and, by the way, my birthday.

Then October arrived; Dustin hurt his shoulder, Misty hurt her neck and I won’t tell you what I did to my leg because then I’d have to tell you how—suffice it to say that Gerald Ford would play me in the movie. The lives of several people I care deeply about began to implode and one of them lost his life many, many years sooner than should happen.

And then the computer crashed. On deadline.

It all started when I got mad at my Internet service provider (Wild Blue) who told me I’d used way too much service and was going to lose some of my connection speed until I could get my profligate Internet usage under control.

They were wrong—my usage was no more nor less than usual. But they insisted their records were correct. After a while, I began to regret being angry at them (I’ve got that Irish temper, but it burns itself out much too quickly) so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. And I asked some questions.

It seemed the only way we could both be correct about my computer’s connection to the Internet was if my computer had a virus. I doubted this was the case—I have good anti-virus software and have never had a problem—but like I said, I was giving them the benefit of the doubt. So I began visiting anti-virus websites that offer scans of your computer.

Eventually, I found a company that located something on my hard drive. I don’t remember what it was—viruses, trojans, spyware, pop-ups—some of that annoying stuff, anyway. Of course, I had to purchase their software to clean the mess up off my system. I did so.

That’s when the computer began to crash.

In the time since, I’ve learned much that would be worthwhile to share.

Too many different types of anti-virus software on your computer can crash your system, as the programs interfere with each other. Let your favorite computer technician advise you on what to use, and then don’t put anything else on your system. Think of it like vitamins—too much of a good thing is called an overdose. Don’t have a favorite computer technician? Mine advised me to use the free anti-virus software available from Grisoft (www.grisoft.com) called AVG and it’s always worked wonderfully. I should have left it alone.

Nasty people who want to wreck your computer will stop at nothing to do so—including creating a virus that they sell as anti-virus software. Again, do not install anything on your computer unless it’s from a trusted source. If you’re not sure, ask that favorite computer technician about it.

Dust is really not good for your computer and should periodically be removed from its innards. Don’t open up your computer and blow—you will regret it. Buy some of that canned air and use it. You might want to schedule this as a semi-annual event; plan for it when you check the batteries in your smoke detector.

No matter how annoying your cats are as they investigate what you’re doing with your head inside a computer, it is not a good idea to squirt them with the canned air. It’s not actually air, you know. It’s chemicals. So ignore the temptation.

Invest in a good external hard drive. I paid less than $100 for one to store all my digital photos, which were using up all the room on my hard drive. That turned out to be a lifesaver when the computer began to crash as I was able to frantically begin dumping data files onto it. It looks like I saved most of what I would want. If that hard drive is plugged into your computer, it won’t save you from a power surge (get a good quality surge protector) but it does give you an option that might be beneficial at some point.

Remember that paper and pen make a good backup. Although it’s convenient to let the computer remember for you, I keep a small notebook with all my usernames and passwords for the thousands of things I now need a username and password for. Thankfully, that means I won’t have to re-register, or call support, in order to log in to all my favorite sites—like those where I pay my bills. I wish I had done the same with all my email addresses. It would have been fairly simple to, once a year, say, print off an address book with all that information. That’s some of the data I’ve now lost.

Make sure you have all your program disks. Most new computers these days come bundled with software and don’t include the actual disk in case you ever have to re-install it—and that includes your operating system. If you buy a computer without disks, ask how you’ll be able to reinstall programs if there’s a problem.

You’re reading this issue of the magazine because I have an extra computer already loaded with my main software—so I was able to get up and running, somewhat, fairly quickly. The next time you buy a new computer, you might want to think about keeping your old one around—especially if your computer is more of a necessity than a luxury. This issue is eight pages shorter than usual, by the way, because I did lose some data, and because some writers were not able to make deadline this month. I am not the only one who’s had a difficult October.

If the worst does happen, try not to panic too badly. A good computer technician can actually recover much of what you might fear is lost on your computer.

Thankfully, as I write this, there are only seven days left to go in October. The end is almost in sight. And I still have a usable computer, so eventually I’ll be able to go online and learn why, when I opened the dishwasher yesterday, it was still full of water. If I find a site that wants me to download some diagnostic software, however, I think I will politely decline.

November web update- the computer is still crashed. I have limited computer access... which is why the website is so late getting updated. Am hoping to be functioning again next week.


-Trish Gannon

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Landon Otis

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technology, computers, anti-virus

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