Saturday, September 18, 2010

Technology Panic Attack

As much as I think that I’ve kept my computer use and online life in perspective, I am still amazed at how helpless I feel when, for whatever reasons, the technology doesn’t work.

Case in point. My two-year-old laptop started acting flakey during the middle of the summer. Quite frequently, the operating system wouldn’t boot up, which required my forcefully shutting the computer down by pressing the power button. Sometimes I needed to apply pressure with my index finger for a few seconds. I always managed to get it working again, usually by starting it up in ‘safe mode’ and then restoring the system to an earlier point in time. One day a few weeks ago, I discovered that this roundabout approach didn’t work for me anymore. Every option I tried led me to a same result, a cycling through the same series of three troubleshooting screens. With three other computers in the house – a desktop, JoAnna’s laptop, and a netbook – I decided I could hold off on taking it into Madison Computer Works, a business that I’ve visited more than I would have cared to during the past few years.

Fortunately, I always make a point to back up my files. In fact, I keep most of them in three locations: laptop, desktop, and flash drive. A lot of my letters and journals are stored on multiple flash drives.

While printing a copy of last week’s letter earlier today, I experienced a paper jam, one that I had to fix by removing a panel at the back of the computer. It’s an awkward procedure due to the congested area when the printer sits. I must have done something to make it unhappy as it refused to accept, or even acknowledge, any printing jobs that I subsequently sent its way.

I felt a bubble of panic and fear form in my chest.

This can’t be happening, I said to myself, as I imagined the various ways this malfunction was going to impact my life.

But it was happening. When I clicked on the “Devices and Printers” button, I discovered that the both the ‘PAUL-PC’ and ‘HP Photosmart C4380 series” icons (shown below) sported a warning sign – literally.

The computer froze during the troubleshooting process, and the only way I could shut it down was to unplug the power cord. Then, to my horror, the desktop started to act in the same manner as my laptop did during its final death scene.

This program can not fix the problem, a message on the screen taunted.

Not. Happy. At. All.

In desperation, I turned off the power strip for a few seconds. When I attempted to boot up the computer again, my online life magically returned to normal. The little yellow triangles had disappeared, and the printer now works just fine.

Brought back from the brink.

Actually, it got worse before it got better. I attempted to set up JoAnna’s laptop to the printer and started to go down the same path as I did with my laptop and the desktop. I was ready to be committed….or take up residence in one of the Middleton Public Library’s study room. (I think the problem with JoAnna’s laptop had everything to do with her battery being 1% charged. Even with the power cord plugged in, it wouldn’t respond.

Even though everything is back to normal, I still feel some tightness in my chest. But a bike ride will take care of that.

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