Friday, February 18, 2005

Chip Off the Old Block

Few things are more pathetic than the sight of my dad trying to operate a computer. This is a man who has difficulty using the TV remote, so putting him in front of a PC is like handing over a bulldozer to a caveman who is still struggling with the concept of stone chisels. At the keyboard he's all thumbs, hesitant to the point of paranoia. He seems to think that the slightest wrong move will result in meltdown. As for the internet, forget about it. Dad's not interested. That's why I can write this stuff about him - he's never going to see it. (But if he somehow does, love ya, Dad!)

Still, I must admit that my own computer literacy is something of a sham. I can point and click at Windows icons. I can browse the web with ease. I can fiddle around with my mp3 player software. So long as everything runs smoothly, I am lord of all I survey, a fully paid-up member of the tech generation, as comfortable with my computer as I am with my lady - if not more so, since the computer can be shut down at will. (How many of my nearest and dearest can I offend in one post? Let's see, shall we...)

But computers are complex machines, and as is the way with complex machines, it is more or less inevitable that things will go wrong. For example, as I type, an insidious virus is busy burrowing into the soft underbelly of my computer, breeding adware and data miners and taking control of my web browser. For all I know, it could be installing software that will enable evil types to access my bank account, with which they will be extremely disappointed. My very identity could be under threat. Yes, it is time to panic.

Or, rather, yesterday was time to panic. Alerts appeared on the screen, little boxes with red writing warning me of the presence of malware. "What's malware?" I asked the computer, then received my answer when about fifteen pop-up ads for pornography and online casinos appeared in quick succession. Internet Explorer had been hijacked, its home page unchangeably set to some crappy search engine called about:blank, its pretty face disfigured by an unremovable links bar. Elsewhere, strange things were going on - programs failed to open, or shut down as soon as I tried to use them. It was all a bit scary.

I've had this problem before, and found it reasonably easy to get rid of. Just run a few cleaning programs, and everything goes back to normal. Not this time, though. This time the virus has mutated or something, and is proving to be resistant to all non-violent means of eradication. It probably has a name, but I'm calling it the Hydra Virus, because decapitation only makes it angrier, without even reducing its number of heads.

This assault has left me feeling violated, frustrated, and not a little confused. I find myself flinging dad-like invective at the computer screen. I want to gouge out its innards and throw them out the window. I want to find the little fuckers who set the virus loose and inject them with ebola and see how their operating system likes it. In short, I have become a raving lunatic.

The only option is to have the computer seen to by a professional. By "professional" I mean somebody who will charge me anywhere between fifty and one hundred dollars to repair a problem that I could fix myself if I could be bothered learning a little about how computers work. But that's both time-consuming and dull, so I will have to pay. Meanwhile, I'm starting to come around to my dad's point of view. These computers really are bloody useless.

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