Monday, March 4, 2013


I had what I called a computer scare this past week.  It shouldn't have been a scare but it was and I wonder if I have become complacent or if my interests have changed.  There is some background  that I need to explore

Let's take a walk down memory lane shall we.

I've been a computer nerd from way back.  Way way back.  Heck I even have a slide rule.

We purchased our first computer for the kids for Christmas (yeah right).  We got it on lay-a-way for $650.00 from a place called Mostly Closeouts in the early 80's.  It was an Apple Clone (remember those?) from Franklin Computers.  It had an Open F key where Apple once had the Open Apple key and ran on something called F dos.  Back then computers didn't come with hard drives, just a floppy drive and if you were lucky two floppy drives.  If you wanted to run a program, you had to insert a 5 1/2 inch disk and turn on the computer.  Some programs required swapping out multiple floppies.  Such fun.  But we didn't know that at the time.  We didn't know anything.  We took it into the back room, closed the door so the kids couldn't see, and turned it on.  It Beeped!!  Scared the heck out of us!  We turned it off.  The kids later told us that they heard the beep and knew they were getting a computer for Christmas.

I got good at trouble shooting that Franklin.  We had purchased Word Perfect and had a heck of a time introducing the computer to the printer.  I was on first name basis with the Word Perfect help desk.  Support was free then and local.  No calls to India needed. After a lot playing with the switches on the back of the machine, we just got used to printing pages that had a solitary K in the upper right hand corner.  This was easily fixed with White Out.  We weren't that picky.

A couple years later we came into what seemed like a wind fall and bought an honest to goodness Windows PC.  It cost over 1700 dollars and had to be taken up to the check out counter on a four wheeled dolly.  We needed help getting it into the car.  OK maybe it wasn't that big but it seemed like it.  It ran Windows 3.0.  Still support was free and local as I found out when all of a sudden my Games window disappeared .  It turns out you weren't supposed to just turn it off by flipping the power switch, like we did with the Franklin.  You were actually supposed to shut it down through the file menu.  Why the heck didn't anyone tell us that?

We kept this computer for a while.  In the meantime (around the mid to late 1990's) one of the kids built a computer for school and the other got a laptop with Windows 95.  Once again, I was lost.  Where the heck was my Program Manager and all the programs and I have to turn it off by using the start button?  I didn't bother worrying about it because the company I worked for was still using dos.  Windows would have to wait.

Eventually I got introduced to Windows 95 and 98.  We had discovered Dell and could avoid the trip to the checkout with the dolly by ordering our computer on line.  I was home with my third child at the time, having resigned from the company that was STILL using dos based programs.  I was having fun. Win 98 was pretty stable and you could spend hours personalizing the thing with themes and screen savers.  I remember downloading loads and loads of free games and screen savers at my son's college because they had a fast (for the times) connection.  I had a bag full of 3 1/4 inch (not very floppy) floppies and they had loads of fun things to do on them. Viruses were not a problem and lots of geeks made lots of programs and gave everything away for free.  It was great

Still Windows wasn't perfect and I became pretty good at fixing  problems.  My little boy even had fun but sometimes he'd get into a friend's computer and change the colors around.  I remember being called by someone who was in a panic because her menu bar was blank!  She couldn't do anything because File, Edit, View etc. were gone.  I felt like a miracle worker because I knew how to access all of it by key stroke alone, and could get into control panel and change the text color back to normal.  I also learned how to fix things by simply searching the internet for fixes.  As the school computers got older, they needed more and more fixing.  Windows was prone to problems and if I wasn't fixing my own computers I was cleaning, maintaining and fixing more and more of my friends and their friends computers.

Then we got a great deal on a computer from my husband's job.  They would even give us a coupon for a free upgrade to the newest operating system- Windows ME.  Unfortunately we never had to use the coupon because it came with ME already loaded.  What a nightmare that was.  There were days when it would take 20 restarts to get the thing to work.  Thank the maker for Windows XP.

But my computer woes weren't over.  Of course by now support was no longer free nor local.  Dell, once known for excellent customer service, now became pretty crappy.  There were times when I knew more than the "expert" on the other end of the line and the world.  I swear, they must have been reading from cue cards.  Chat support was better but not great.  I got really good at reinstalling Windows.  I had one computer that had the mother board replaced four times before they gave up and replaced the whole machine.  That happened twice all within the three year warranty period.  When the third replacement machine came with Vista installed, I gave it to my kid and gave up on windows altogether.

During this time while I was getting really good at Windows troubleshooting and sometimes making money at it,  my son in law's family (from California) were singing the praises of Apple.  So what the heck, I went on Ebay and bought an Apple Power PC iBook running OSX Tiger.  It was pretty reasonable because Apple was moving to intel based machines and was soon to be releasing the Leopard OS.  I just wanted to learn a new platform.

Wow was I impressed.  I was used to setting aside a huge chunk of time setting up a new machine on our home network even as familiar with Windows as I was.  The setup of this little machine was so easy.  Open box, plug it in, turn it on.  It found my network in seconds even before I went looking for it.  It was so cool,  except.........   It never broke down.  I was used to going to my favorite download site, Major geeks, to download all the necessary freeware programs with each new Windows computer.  Disk cleaners, Unzipper programs, Spyware scanners, Registry Cleaners, Malware removal tools, Uninstallers, Virus scanners, DeFraggers, etc.  Plus the requisite helper programs:  Font managers, PDF creators,  backup programs and drivers for microphones, web cams, printers etc.  But I didn't need any of these.  I did install a virus scanner  and mac Janitor , but the thing came with a web cam and microphone and research on the web told me I didn't need to do all the maintenance I was used to.  It felt weird.  I wasn't naive enough to think Apple was immune to viruses, but the majority of the malware out there was aimed at the ubiquitous PC world so all I could do was install a virus checker and let it do it's job.

So I  waited for a problem so I could learn how to fix it........  It never came.  The only problem happened because I thought I should be doing something.  I don't know how I did it but somehow,  I managed to duplicate my entire system and started getting "startup disk full" errors.  I took it to the Apple store and even though I didn't buy it there or get an extended warranty, the guy there only took a few minutes to figure it out.  He put a bunch of stuff in the trash and told me to empty the trash when I got home because it would take awhile.  That machine is still operating well and being used by my husband.

So fast forward to this week.  I have a 2007 iMac desktop and a 2009 mac Book pro and very little knowledge of how to fix either.  They work well even if they sometimes feel a little slow when I am using Safari to wander around the internet.  Then Friday while I was working on a web site on my 2007 iMac, I decided to reboot it because since I leave it on all the time, it was getting a little slow.  It wouldn't reboot. no matter how many times I tried.

A search brought me to MacRumors and a whole page of things to try.  When none of them worked, I tried the last thing on the list,  Restore from Time machine backup.  Less than two hours later, I was back in business.  I sent my computer nerd son an email telling him to kiss his time capsule. (I had turned him into a mac convert a couple years ago).  I still don't know a whole lot about fixing a Mac.  Maybe, I'll try to learn.  But for now I am happy.  Once again, my computer just works even if I don't know just how it does.

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