Sep 05 2011

When good technology goes bad

iphone_3g_angry

If it is electronic, has to be charged and/or plugged in, provides me with contact with the outside world and cost me a paycheck or several, it turned its back on me this week.  To make matters worse, it all seemed to happen at one time.

Sometimes we have issues with our devices, and I totally expect it.  I’ve prepared myself for it by learning about them and what to do when things go wrong.  This week, they tested me.  I still don’t know if I failed or not because I don’t think the test is over yet.

Let’s start with, my laptop.  As you have probably figured out, this is a device that at some point I’m going to have to have removed surgically.  I blog, Facebook, Tweet, email, shop, research and may even breathe through this thing.  It is old and has plenty of “character”.  It has moved with me 4 times and traveled the better part of the East Coast, from North Carolina to Michigan to Vermont and back again.  The battery quit working I don’t even know how long ago and it has to be plugged in to even turn on.  If you breath on the power cord wrong, it will unplug and instantly shut off.

With all that, it has served me well.  I’ll give Dell some props for durability because after what I’ve put it through, it shouldn’t so much as balance a checkbook at this point.  It started to show signs of rebelling against me last weekend when at one point I got the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).  Sometimes it happens depending on what you’re doing so I let it go at first, restarted and went back about my business.  It lasted about a day before it did it again, only this time it was sitting there doing nothing.

It was apparently time for me to move my precious recent documents to the external hard drive and do a full “fresh from the box” factory restore.  It is a process that usually takes . . . until the next time I do a restore because I never get everything back exactly where I had it.  I spend at least a day making sure I move everything I want to keep to the external.  Pics, documents, password logs, email account files and programs.

I know I’m going to miss something, I always do.

Convinced I have everything I need, I hit the super-secret-magic-handshake key sequence and my laptop begins to erase itself.  Fast forward to several hours later, my laptop is back to “like new” condition with nothing on it.  By the time I’ve got everything on my laptop that I really want on it, it’s pretty much full, but here are my basics so I can function, or at least, write this blog:

  • Avast antivirus (LOVE it!  Been using it for 7 years without a single issue and it’s FREE!)
  • Firefox (Because Internet Explorer gives me Incredible Hulk rage)
  • Thunderbird (All my Gmail in one place)
  • Photoshop (Because I would never Photoshop a picture of my dad for a blog post.  *ahem*)
  • iTunes (Because my iPhone said so)

In the process of trying to get my needs placed back on the laptop, I was having issues getting my email settings back into Thunderbird and couldn’t get any of my accounts to work.  Some of which may have had to do with issues of the internet cutting in and out at the time (it was like it KNEW).

It was at this time that I, in my infinite wisdom, had also discovered an app that I just couldn’t live without for my iPhone, which is jailbroken.  For those of you that have an iPhone or are thinking about getting one and jailbreaking it, make a note to yourselves:  Do not download an app while you are having internet issues because it really pisses off your phone.

The phone got stuck in what I came to learn was a “boot loop”.  In my own technical term, I called it the “Perma-Apple”.  I had the Apple icon on the screen and it stayed there.  Always.  Unfortunately, when it is in this state, the phone or any peripherals (like plugging it into my computer which doesn’t have iTunes on it yet, nor can I because internet is out) doesn’t recognize it as turned “on”, therefore you can’t reboot it and it will not charge.  This means that “Perma-Apple” is now sucking the life out of the battery at an alarming rate and there is not one damn thing I can do about it.

Thinking I was still ok, I turned to my external hard drive to gather the necessary files I needed to get it working again, where I quickly figured out which programs I had missed when backing up my laptop.  I had NONE of them.

All of my lines-of-communication broken, I panicked.

Panic = I stole Tiger’s phone.  Agreeable son that he is, he willingly let me have it since he was playing on the Xbox and wasn’t using it, AND he was getting ready to go to bed soon for school where he wouldn’t need it anyway.  This was good.

Having been calmed back into a semi-reasonable state, I went to work to try to get everything back together.  The next 16 hours went something like this:

  • iPhone down and out until I can download the programs I need onto the computer
  • internet comes back, iPhone programs downloaded
  • iPhone programs don’t work, Windows needs more updates
  • Windows updates, iPhone programs still don’t work
  • Finds new iPhone programs, they don’t work either
  • Finally finds a way to restore iPhone to out of the box condition
  • All phone contacts lost
  • Never got email program to work right, all email addresses lost and 6 years worth of emails.

Eventually, I got everything working again, but I had pretty much started over from scratch.  I posted messages on Facebook asking my friends and family to text me or message me so I could try to rebuild all my contacts again.  Little by little, I’m getting my phone numbers and emails addresses put back together and everything seems to be working again with the exception of Photoshop which seems to be having “days”.  One day it works fine and the next it just shuts down the instant you click on anything.  I’m working on that bug, unsuccessfully.

With only that one issue, I felt like everything was coming back into order again.  Then Tiger happened.

“Dad, my computer keeps freezing and it’s driving me crazy.”

He wasn’t kidding.  It would freeze completely within moments of loading up to the desktop.  Getting into recovery or restore mode was impossible.  I tried, repeatedly, because as you know, if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, eventually you’ll get different results.  I was right.

It got worse.

In his defense, he doesn’t put anything crazy on his computer.  He doesn’t download a lot of junk and really, he only uses it for Facebook and to look up stuff to play Xbox games, so he doesn’t go anywhere risky on it.  Finally it would freeze just booting up, and I ended up having to catch that “Hit ‘esc’ to enter boot menu” on the splash screen at the very beginning to get anywhere and the only usable option I had was yet another, complete “out of the box” restore.  Another day killed rescuing technology and yet another family member starting from scratch and I’m tired of looking at the stuff to be quite honest.  I’m just really glad to be able to be back in touch with all my readers and Facebookers and Tweeters and everyone and I’ll chalk it off to just a bad technology week.

More importantly, I’ll keep in mind that my crappy week is miniscule compared to how it was for millions of other people this week and let you know I haven’t forgotten those people.  People have lost their homes and livelihoods to hurricanes and floods all along the East coast, and some, even their lives.  As I write this, people are losing the same things to ravaging fires down in Texas.  I know people affected by all of it.  Friends and family, people I have met personally and people I have grown to love and respect because of the connections I have made here on the internet, through my well worn, but trusty Dell.

I’d wipe out everything and start from scratch every day if I could help just one of you get back something irreplaceable that you’ve lost.

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Facebook post of the day (and LOOK, Photoshop is working today!):

Permanent link to this article: https://www.opticynicism.com/2011/09/when-good-technology-goes-bad/

13 comments

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  1. Oh CRAP, that sucks! It’s good to see you back, and I’m sorry that you had such a sh*t week. 🙁 Glad you had the usage of Tiger’s phone to see you through.

    (and lmao at the Facebook thing)

    1. It’s good to be back, although I wasn’t really gone all that long. Just been a hair-pulling adventure trying to get everything back where it was. I mean, if I had hair.

    • Joe on September 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, that is a bad techno week….. almost like your provider uploaded something directly to all computers/phones connected…. nah, that’s too much conspiracy for anyone…..at least you had Kitten to help you through it all.

    1. It’s like anything else, there are several conspiracy theories. If you ask my dad, it was Obama’s fault.

    • Meg on September 5, 2011 at 9:27 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, that is a pretty crap week. I *hate* technology, but we love it too.. I would have gone batshit crazier without it alot of days when I was home full time. Of course, becoming addicted to a video game, and staying awake 2-3 days straight to play it, wasn’t crazy at all… anyways, I think most people now are so used to having this technology do so much for them, we really are LOST without it. Case in point.. I had no way of finding my cousins, aunts & uncles when my mom passed away, until I went to facebook. We had switched cell providers and lost all our contacts, and a new house phone within the past year, and lost that directory.. and just didn’t have a list written down anywhere. Who writes stuff down now, when you can type it up and save it in a document, or put it right in your phone on the go? Yea, lose your technology.. you really can lose alot. Glad you were able to get ahold of someone to help, and that you got things back up and running.

    1. I have these old things I probably need to look into. One of them is a whole bunch of blank white paper held together with this spring looking thing and the other is like a stick and when you scratch it on the paper, it makes lines and stuff. I bet I could carve my contacts into those things. Like cavemen did on the walls.

  2. Suckage! I can (slightly) feel your pain, with my router committing suicide every few minutes. GAH.

    1. I had one that started doing that a couple years ago. Eventually it seems like they just give up on you and the only solution that worked was getting a new one.

  3. Yeah, my husband tells me I spend too much time on the computer then the next thing you know he asks me something like, oh, do we have to let the school district know that we are homeschooling again this year? How the hell am I supposed to know if I don’t get on the computer and ask their website? Am I supposed to keep all this crap in my head? I think not.

    PS it is not 3:27am Pacific Time and i’m still up and on the computer. Your logs lie.

    1. My logs said 6:28 am . . . and they have been recently reprimanded for their misbehavior, so they haven’t started lying to me already. 😉

  4. Just reading this freaks me out a little. I need to find some good online back up and get an external drive soon. Glad to hear you’ve got some stuff back in line. When my last Dell died (it was almost 5 yrs old, I had duct taped the power cord in. 🙂

  5. When this Dell finally does die, I’m going all Apple. I’ve had about enough of Windows.

    1. I said the same thing until I got my new Dell with Windows 7. Over 18 months of no crashes… at all. Plus the battery life on this monster can get me through 2 days of flying and random usage during a 6 day vacay! oh… and it’s so pretty. It makes me cry a little sometimes. LOL

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