Baf! Krak! Pow!

Baf! Krak! Pow! April 4, 2014

With repeated hammer blows, Reality has smacked Chez Shea in the teeth.

Baf!: Got up this morning to a dead laptop. Wouldn’t boot. Took it to Office Despot. Removed the hard drive and checked on another computer to see if any of the data was salvageable. The drive did not exist according to the other computer. Mistah Computer, he daid. Here is a dramatic re-enactment of this morning’s events:

Krak: Need computer super fast. So bit the bullet and got one. Window 8.1. New improved baffling operating system. Slowly figuring out the completely counter-intuitive and confusing arrangement of information. Resent being forced to sign up with Microsoft to make stuff work. I’m a simple man with simple needs. Give me Google, not Bing.

Pow! Just as I start downloading from the Carbonite cloud all my precious information, I get slammed with a virus. Not a computer virus, a people virus. Jan and I were going to go hear Bruce Cockburn tonight with tickets she gave me for Christmas. She even made clam chowder. Currently shivering and feeling crappy with my lappy. Urging her to take one of the boys. Don’t mind me. I’ll just lay here and die.

Wham! Was gonna go see mom tomorrow, but now would be guilty of attempted homicide if I did.

So: fun weekend ahead rebuilding my life both physically and virtually.

Oh, and the “H” key is spotty. So is the spacebar. Still, I prefer tis to the irosima Martyrs fate. Life is good, tanks be to God.

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  • Procopius

    I replaced Windows 8.1 with Linux Mint 16. Never looked back.

    • Here’s another vote for Mint 16. I set up a dual boot with Windows 7 but hardly every find myself using it going back to the dark side.

      Hope you are feeling better soon.

      • Linebyline

        I’m thinking of taking the plunge sometime in the near future. Was looking at Lubuntu. I remember hearing good things about Mint, but that was a long time ago and I don’t remember exactly what it was. What’s the draw for Mint over other Ubuntu derivatives?

        Fortunately, there’s always VirtualBox or Live USB to try stuff out. (Or Live CD, if you’re really, really patient.)

  • B.E. Ward

    Maybe it’s the same norovirus that’s been raging. It swept through our family with a fury not seen since it appeared on a cafeteria gravy ladle on a Carnival cruise ship.

  • knittypig

    So sorry for all your troubles Mark. It’s a good sign, though, that you still have a sense of humor. You always inspire me. We’re praying for a quick recovery for you in ALL areas. Blessed Lent to everyone at Chez Shea.

  • Loretta

    Spend the extra $10 to get yourself another flash drive. Back up your files. Programs come and go, but your data go on forever. Don’t trust to the cloud.

    • Actually, the cloud is quite reliable. So long as you don’t care about the government (and whoever runs your Cloud) looking at all your data…

      • Linebyline

        You need both. Local backup is for convenience, because waiting for all your stuff to download is a pain. Off-site backup is for safety, because the fire, flood, burglar, or friendly police officer that gets the computer will probably get the backup too.

        If you’re worried about snoops, just encrypt your files before you upload them. look into encfs. I think you can get it running on Windows, probably using Cygwin. Or if you want to make the jump to Linux, as many folks in this thread have suggested, you can just get it from your package manager. (Or just go with TrueCrypt if you don’t mind putting everything into one giant blob
        of apparently-random data that you have to push through your Internet connection every time you backup.)

        There’s always the possibility that the cloud provider won’t be there tomorrow, but you should usually get enough advance notice that you can start switching providers before your backup goes bye-bye.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Sometimes God, the universe, and your own body are just all telling you to stop. Hope you can find the space to do so. God bless you.

  • Barbara

    Is Bruce Cockburn still touring? I last saw him in Montreal a decade ago. Unfortunately it was the same day I had a gun pulled on me in a gas station robbery and had my nerves too strained to care about whatever it was he was singing about… war or nature or something.

    • chezami

      Yep. And the happy news is that he is playing tomorrow. Not tonight. Yay!

      • Barbara

        Great. Have a good time. It’s been ages since I’ve gone to a good show. Bruce Cockburn is good live, so is Tom Jackson if you ever get to hear him.

        • chezami

          I have an acquaintance (Sam Phillips) who opened for him years ago. Had a chance to go backstage and say hello to her. Almost said hello to him but he was surrounded by fans and looked… overwhelmed. I didn’t have the heart to be the umpteenth person squawking “I love your work!” Still, fun!

  • Anonymous

    Mark, get an external hard drive, heck, get and use two of them so you can really back up your stuff…I’m looking at one now since my ‘puter is getting a lot older and I have a lot of things I don’t want to lose.

  • Coombes Larry

    Last year I had to buy a new netbook. I had limited money (Like in Indonesia now where wages are less than the old country) and a Windows OS doubled the cost of a low end PC.

    So I went Linux. I was worried. My last trial of Linux in the UK was a disaster. But when I installed Mint 14 KDE edition… Wow!

    Seriously the EASIEST OS I have ever encountered and I have used everything under the sun. Remember GEOS or CP/M or VMS?

    OS – Free
    Archiving tools that will compress/uncompress *anything* – free
    Office suite(s) – which are Microsoft compatible- free
    More graphics apps than I can count – free
    Project management (I don;t need it, I just downloaded because I could) – free
    Video players – free
    Video editing – Free!

    In KDE, not only do I get a dead easy to use GUI but I can assign programs to keyboard shortcuts. ‘Windows’ button plus ‘W’ starts my word processor. I am starting to get lost having to find apps via start buttons or tiles now.

    Oh, Linux virus resistant too. With KDE, though, you should turn off the graphical effects but that’s easily done.

    And I have been able to even play my old directx games under Wine in Linux! Benchmarks (and my experience) show a 75% speed increase over a Windows equivalent. So i save money and time.

    I am far more productive than my Windows compatriots because I have everything I need to hand. I can read/write anything, compose anything, control anything due to to the equivalent of $2000 of Windows software for nothing. The thing is, though, nobody changes even when I prove to them Linux will do all their work faster, without viruses and with greater ease of use. People continue to use slow, virus ridden, constantly crashing PC’s just because “it’s Windows.”

    Sigh.

    A little showing off but I did this in Linux. No expense paid! Take it as a demo.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ9ibMTNX-Q

    And you cease to find Microsoft’s empire and their funding of gay rights.
    Think about it.

    And yeah, buy an USB hard disk but make sure it s shock resistant. I speak as one who lost everything when external HD fell off the desk.

  • said she

    Ite ad Desktop!
    I, too, am slowly trying to figure out Win8.1. The best thing I’ve learned so far: click the wrench icon (lower right corner) and choose Show On Desktop. That puts you in Windows 7 mode (or what I call “how Windows is supposed to be”, because it has looked like that since 1995). The new UI is designed for tablets and iPhone users, not actual people doing actual work on actual computers. Go to the Desktop, and ferget those silly tiles.

    • Benjamin2.0

      The new UI is designed for tablets and eye-phone users, not actual people
      Hear, hear!

      • Linebyline

        Believe it or not, there are Win8 Modern UI productivity apps. There’s even a source code editor that has some pretty good reviews. And for that matter, actual people do actual work on iPads. Plenty of text editors and other productivity apps there.

        For my part, though, I strongly prefer desktop mode. Ever since the update that broke the Bing Weather app, I haven’t used those silly tiles (except for the Start Screen itself, which I like).

        • sez

          You just proved the point: they had to come up with productivity add-ons to make the new UI useful.

          • Linebyline

            That’s how computers work. You put software on them that makes them do the things you want them to do.

            Most computers (be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones) come with 2 kinds of software: Bare-bones utilities (like MS paint, Wordpad, and maybe Contacts and Calendar apps) that provide a bare minimum of functionality, and bloatware that very few people actually want (Samsung phones are notorious for this these days, but PCs haven’t entirely gotten over it either even though the days of AOL free trials are behind us). If you want something that’s not on your computer, you go get it. That’s how it works.

            Complaining that the operating system doesn’t let you be productive unless you get productivity software for it is like complaining that there’s nothing to watch on your DVD player unless you put a DVD in it.

            • sez

              Ever since Windows 95, we had a UI that we became used to. With Win8, they’ve defaulted to a very different one. In order to make it – the UI – useful, there are add-ons. THAT is the complaint. The UI.

              A better analogy might be a DVD player with only 2 buttons: on/off and play/pause – no remote – and both buttons are on the underside, clearly marked in Braille.

              • Linebyline

                If you don’t like the UI, you’ll get no complaint from me. I happen to like the new Start Screen, but there’s nothing else in Metro (sorry, “Modern UI”) that’s really excited me.

                Your analogy is definitely better if that’s your issue. My point was just that computers in general can’t be counted on to be useful until you load them up with the software you need–it’s nothing specific to a particular OS or GUI.

                (Incidentally, that’s not too far off from how most DVD players actually are, except that the “no remote” part doesn’t happen until you lose it in the couch. I guess the idea that people might want the controls on the player itself to be useful didn’t occur to anyone.)

  • Dave G.

    My computer died in November. Hard Drive. Owned it barely a year. Just a faulty hard drive for no particular reason apart from good craftsmanship. This is my boys’ computer. I was so upset, then I remembered Pope Francis. Don’t cry over spilt champagne. A third of the world would love to be upset about losing a computer. So enjoy today while it’s today. Go to the concert. See your Mom. A week from now it won’t seem so bad.

    • sez

      Yes, for most people. But this is Mark’s livelihood we’re talking about.

      • Dave G.

        Don’t sell short the fact that many people today rely on their computers for a living. Hardly a unique thing in this, the 21st century. And in any event, something much of the world could handle worrying about. Oh, and that includes the desperately unemployed using them to find employment. Though I did miss that the virus was quite a human one rather than a computer one. So perhaps not going to the concert after all. That will teach me to read things before the sleep is out of my eyes.

  • ThePol

    Four years ago I moved from Windows to Linux and haven’t looked back.

    Another option would be to try a Chromebook. Just bought one for my wife for $199.

  • Linebyline

    Microsoft made a number of baffling UI decisions in Windows 8 and 8.1, but all things considered it’s not as bad as people like to say it is. You just need to invest a little time in the setup, and get used to the idea that you don’t actually have to use Metro apps (which tend to be, you know, not good). Look into a program called Classic Shell and you’ll get back any earlier version of the Start Menu going back to Windows 98.

    As for the keyboard, it should be under warranty if it’s new. If it didn’t come with a warranty, you can probably get a replacement keyboard rather cheaply from the eBays, and while I’ve never replaced one myself, my understanding is that it’s normally not very difficult.

    Don’t know what to do about the virus. I have had decent luck with Malwarebytes, but I don’t think that will work in this situation…

  • If nobody else has suggested it, try downloading Classic Shell from Sourceforge.net — it’s certain to be malware free that way. And it will add a layer that lets you use a your choice of Win7 or XP UI.

    • Linebyline

      I don’t use it myself but my cousin used it when he was trying out Windows 8 and he liked it. I’ve heard it recommended other places as well. It’s nice for those who miss the simplicity of the Windows 98 Start Menu (which I always preferred in XP). Or the XP version or the Vista/7 version. Plus, it puts the shutdown/hibernate/etc. functions someplace a bit more easily accessible than the Settings charm. (Seriously, Microsoft, since when is “turn off the computer” a setting?)

      Of course even when you’re downloading it from a trusted source it pays to be cautious. Make sure you’re running a virus program (like Win8’s Windows Defender) that does on-access scanning, or else scan the file manually. It can also help to get a hash of the downloaded file and make sure it matches the hash on Sourceforge, but then again if someone hacks Sourceforge, they can just as easily put the hash of their infected version on the site. If you really want to be paranoid, get a copy of the source code and compile it yourself. Of course that’s a lot of work for most people, and even that doesn’t help much if you don’t read and understand the code yourself. *sigh* Security is hard. 🙁

      But yeah, going with Sourceforge and not whatever BestFreeDownloadSite garbage you find in the top search results for the program (or even download.com, which has installers infected with “legitimate” adware/spyware) is definitely a good idea.

  • MarylandBill

    Mark,
    Just curious, how old was your laptop? It sounds to me like all it had was a bad hard drive, and a new hard drive is a bit cheaper than a new laptop. Also, I wouldn’t completely give up on the old disk just yet. The techs in stores are not necessarily the best around.

    I certainly won’t argue against the suggestions about exploring alternatives to windows. I have a partition on one of our family computers running windows, mainly because some ISPs still expect it when they are installing new internet service; the rest of the time we are running ubuntu (on my wife’s computer) or whatever distro I am experimenting with at the moment on the other.

    Actually, the dead laptop (if it was just a hard drive) can be a good opportunity to try it out. Get a new hard drive for $50, put it in there, and install linux via a usb stick.