Showing posts with label computer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computer. Show all posts

Friday, February 28, 2020

How I lived through a computer nightmare

chmusings: my computer
I remember when computers were billed as time savers, a way to create a paperless office, and basically the end all, be all for everyone. What a con!

We all fell for it though as we embraced technology for all it was worth. That was a long time ago. There are now generations of dependent computer users, many of whom cannot even imagine being without one, whether they are in the form of a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. The internet is as vital to daily life as the electric grid. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for example, are the next best thing to chatting with neighbors over a fence or sipping tea on the front porch.

But when it doesn’t work, it can invoke panic and pain as surely as a bad case of the flu. When the computer is down and we lose data, it can have the same effect as a house fire where we lose all our possessions. We rely so much on our computers for business and personal use that we may not even realize how much of our lives revolve around it.

I’ve experienced such a loss, but I was really lucky. 

It occurred following a Windows 10 update, a fate for which I have been victimized before. On the morning after, I turned on my computer as I always do. I got my morning coffee, came back and found what is commonly known as the blue screen of death.

The screen said I could restart or click on ‘advanced,’ with the former highlighted. Neither the keyboard nor mouse worked, so I was stuck. Prior versions of Windows had ways of solving this problem, but I knew of no way to resolve this. As instructed, I hit enter. I got a new screen that said Windows would perform a diagnostic process. It told me the process failed, citing, “critical process died.” It said it would restart my computer. I held my breath, almost sure this was just a glitch and I would see my familiar photo on the lock screen as Windows loaded and all was well. But that didn’t happen. I saw only the same blue screen that told me to restart or go to the advanced setting, which I could not. I turned it off, unplugged the system, hoping that would do the trick. It did not.

I got my laptop and searched google for “critical process died.” Ouch! Most of the entries told me to try the advanced settings, WHICH I COULD NOT DO BECAUSE I HAD NO MOUSE OR KEYBOARD. I tried all kinds of things, but nothing worked. I tore the house apart looking for a thumb drive that had a Windows 10 recovery on it. Finally, I found it. I inserted it—still nothing.

My laptop had a few programs on it, but nothing like what I feared I had lost. I started to think about all that I had done on my computer when the panic set in. I called Microsoft. After waiting a prolonged period of time, I was told that someone would call me “in two days.” I felt completely helpless. Thank goodness I still had my laptop, a tablet, and phone. I was not off the internet grid.

I pay bills online and take care of all the family finances and manage health information. I’ve taken pictures, including those precious family photos, as well as those of my beloved cats who are no longer living. I had quilt patterns and favorite quotes, recipes, and so much more I would really miss having access to, not to mention the computer games I play to keep me sane. There was just so much. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what was gone.

But I am fortunate. I have friends who are young, smart and well-versed computer gurus who offered to help. They were able to restore my operating system and even back up my data. I have no idea what they did, but I am so grateful. They saved me from having to buy a new computer. They brought mine back to life, as if it is a new computer. 

The bottom line is, and we have all heard it before, backup, backup, backup. I try to practice what I preach. In fact, just after I paid the bills this month, I backed up my data. I don’t always do that, but I did this time. I will now make it a habit every month.

I had also backed up my documents and pictures on a thumb drive, though not for the past two years. I figured I lost everything that I had done since then. I was resigned that this stuff was just lost. But I learned that when my friends were able to retrieve the current data as well. Basically, that means I have lost nothing. It is all there.

I had been through this computer nightmare before. The reason I backed up my information two years ago, was because that was the last time a Microsoft update killed my computer, a new one I had just purchased.

At that time, I called Microsoft. Over several different sessions, various technicians walked me through restoration, I remember sometimes, late into the night. I talked to several people at that time, some who knew more than others. Though they all tried to be helpful, some of the information they provided contradicted what others had said. The result was that my system ran, but was never really flawless, as expected. The ultimate answer once things were working was to simply start another user account and copy files from one account to another. We did this several times. It wasn’t a perfect solution because it didn’t fix the problem. It only masked it. As a result, I often times, looked for a file, knowing its location only to find a blank folder. It took a while for me to figure out that if I went to the previous user account, and looked in the same folder, I could find what I was looking for. It was rather nightmarish trying to find things. This problem also gave me multiple copies of picture files which I have been trying to delete, rename, and organize.

So now, my computer is really like a brand new system. It is actually running better now than it was before the crash, either crash.

Even with everything working, things are not quite what they were, so I’ve spent days at the keyboard trying to retrieve organization out of chaos. I have the data, but not the programs to access it. So, the first thing I did was to re-install programs I find necessary—programs that handle finances, word processing, email, picture management, and virus protection, etc. The more I put back into my system, the more I realized the obscure programs I have come to rely upon, that no longer existed. Reinstalling downloaded programs is difficult without serial numbers, keys, or registration numbers. Those should definitely be backed up along with the downloaded programs and internet locations.

It has taken me hours and days, but I have been able to restore all of the necessary programs I use regularly. My files are all in one user account. There are no longer redundancies. In many cases, I’ve been able to restore databases that go back to where I left off. I am even back to having all my photos in a jumbled mess, just like before. I thought I had lost all the work I put into them the last couple years, as I’d begun to organize them. I now have those files so I can continue trying to tame my thousands of photos.

The bottom line is that my next purchase will be an external hard drive. And, I like the idea of also backing up files onto a cloud. Not only is my computer restored, but my computer life is restored as well.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My computer saga continues

My love/hate relationship, with Microsoft, at least the latest version of it, has continued for more than a month. I last wrote about this in a post dated January 26, entitled, I hate Windows 10. It is now March 3. That is far too long to fret over some silly machine that has always been billed as helpful.

My message today is two-fold. First, it isn't just Windows 10 that I hate, it is Microsoft in general. More about that later...

But the good news is, I have solved my problems, at least for the meantime.

I purchased a refurbished computer that already had Windows 10 installed. I was a little leery when I realized it was an older system that had also been upgraded.

I proceeded ever so cautiously, as I attempted to transform this little black box into the familiar tool I had known and loved before it was upgraded from Window 7 to Windows 10.

Love the photo--the new computer is on the right side of my desk. The old one is on the left. I'm not sure how much longer I can live with this! My initial goal was to downsize from that giant desk. Now I'm grateful that I have it so it can accommodate two computers, two monitors, two keyboards, and two , not to mention my phone, lamp and some other necessities. 

I've spent the last week with this virgin computer, bulking up the system to meet and exceed the old one. Windows 10 is working well. I am pleased.

The first program I installed was my beloved Crossy Road game, the one I wrote about previously that simply would not work on my old system with Windows 10. The saving grace was the fact that the new system ran Windows 10 Professional edition, rather than the home edition Microsoft offered in their free upgrade.

I was thrilled that Crossy Road works again. Once again I can get my chickens and other favorite characters across the busy highway of life.

Another problem the old system had was the inability to run Google Earth. Runs like a champ now.

Quicken was also a problem. The sound files didn't work. After using this program for years, I was rather used to hearing that little cha-ching sound when I hit the enter key. I spent a few days trying to figure out the problem, but never did. I suspect it is a Quicken problem however; not a Microsoft one. Google is home to lots of Quicken sound complaints. I'm just one of many.

I had a sound problem in, Pretty Good Mahjongg, another one of my favorite games. It just wasn't fun to play my favorite free cell game without the sounds I was used to. However, once installed in the new system, it works just like it is supposed to--like it used to.

That brings me to why I am so angry at Microsoft.

I bought an upgrade of my aging software, MS Office 2007. I upgraded to MS Office 2010 not too long ago. I bought it online, so of course I don't have a disk. I did save the email however, that contains the Product key. My computer life is fairly well organized, so I could lay my hands on it almost immediately. I installed the software and noticed that Outlook, the integrated email program wasn't there. Outlook simply wasn't there.

As I lay in bed last night, I formulated a plan. I would uninstall MS Office 2010, reinstall 2003 and then upgrade it with 2010. Hah, everything went according to plan until I learned that Outlook installed alright, but as a trial version.  I did a little Google sleuthing to find out that I purchased the Home and School edition. When it installed over a previous edition, it installed as a trial edition. Never mind the fact that the program is old; Microsoft still wants me to buy the thing as a stand alone program. It is only good for 2 months. At that time, I could either buy Outlook or I could upgrade to Microsoft's latest version of MS Office 365, which is basically a monthly rental. Forget that!

I looked all over the internet for a solution to this problem. It isn't that I like Outlook; I don't. But, I read something somewhere that made me think tweaking the settings in Outlook would allow all the affiliated Office programs, Word, Excel, etc. to have more options than the blue, black, and silver settings the program offers.

It was not to be. Everything I've read indicated that there is no work around to the 2-month limit on Outlook.

The color issue has me driven. I was really curious because when I looked at my old program, there was a green tint in the application. It wasn't present in the new install. I couldn't remember what I did to get that pretty green color. Finally, it dawned on me. The setting I used wasn't in Outlook at all; it was in the Windows desktop personalization. I clicked a few buttons, and got my green color. As my photo illustrates, my computer has a sunflower theme. Yellow doesn't work very well, but a green tint at the top of the application window is just great. It is all matchy-matchy with my sunflowers, just the way I like it.

I'm over the fact that I got screwed by Microsoft again, but the joke is on them because I don't like their old Outlook program anyway.

So, the only casualty in my computer life is the loss of my old best friend, Lotus Organizer, a program I've had for 30 years or more. It still worked in my old system, but because I no longer have the installation disk and subsequent setup program, I can no longer put it into the new computer. I scoured my old computer in search of the initial setup email, but I just couldn't find it. I went back to the online store where I initially bought the upgrade, around 2003, but alas, it is no longer active. Amazon was even selling the program at one time, but they are out of stock and will no be able to get more. I would gladly pay the 14 bucks for it. It held all my phone numbers, email addresses, Christmas Card list, birthdays, and so much more. So sad!

Lotus Organizer was an old IBM program from back in the day when Lotus Office Suite contained several programs. Remember Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Pro. That really does go way back--perhaps to the 80's. Organizer was a nifty little program, unlike any I have seen since that simulated a day planner complete with animated page turning. I have no idea why someone hasn't developed one similar to it in all these years. I've tried them all, however. There are none like it.

My initial program was installed with seven 3.5" floppy disks. I'm not even sure we have an old computer around any more that has a 3.5" drive in it. The last time I installed the program, many years ago, it still worked. That was nearly as many computers ago as it was years.

So, all in all, I'd say my computer life is back on track. It will be nice to be rid of a second system on my desk. I plan to reset and repair Windows 10. It will be good as new. It is nice to have all my photos, music, and documents that go way back to my professional life. The new computer is now lean and mean too. Without all the junk, it is much speedier. No regrets. Microsoft tried, but I win!

Monday, January 18, 2016

A day in my life with cats

Kasey at the computer
One of my cats, Kasey, shown left, is sitting atop my computer tower, next to a model of a 747.

I've had that little airplane for years. I was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport when the first 747 landed there in the 1970's. It was a such sight to behold as that humongous plane inched its way toward the glass of the terminal building. I remember thinking the plane was going to come right through that huge window, but it stopped just short.

This little trinket commemorates that event for me, one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. 

Though in the picture, it looks like this plane is taking off, but I'm here to tell you, my little jet is about to crash. 

That is always what happens when little Kasey is around, whether it be near magazines on the coffee table, books on top of a book shelf, or the dining room table piled high with the morning mail. Eventually, it all ends up on the floor. She is like a two-year old that drives their Mother crazy by continually throwing things off their high chair. Here, every surface in our house is Kasey's high chair.

I'm not sure why she has taken to sitting on top of my computer. It must be warm there. Cats love anything that is warm. The other day she was dozing and very ungracefully, fell off. She managed to catch a front claw on the way down, in one of the holes of the cooling vents on the side of the case. As I was trying to free her, I managed to get the computer onto its side with one hand while holding her paw with the other. All the while she let me know she wasn't happy with me, even though I was trying to help her.

I got her to the proper angle to work her claw free. When I did, she ran away with no apology for all the hissing and no appreciable gratitude.

In the meantime, she knocked down everything that was on my desk. The worst part was a basket that contained a year's worth of stuff. There were bills to pay and items to be filed, income tax receipts, and general paperwork that needed attention, as well as some that had already been dealt with but had no place to go as of yet. On the way down the basket took out a CD holder, so about a couple dozen CDs added to the mess.

As I was picking it all up from the floor, I knew I had a pretty hefty task ahead of me. Being the problem solver that I am, I wondered if there was something I could do to prevent this from happening again. The simple solution was to keep my desk clean. Anyone who knows me though, knows that I am organized only in my head. It does not spill onto my desk or other surroundings, try as I might. I am creative; can't do everything. 

I reasoned that it might be a good idea to keep my computer tower on its side. Not only could Kasey not fall off, perhaps she wouldn't even be interested. If I was careful to not cover the vents, perhaps I could put my flat screen monitor on top of it. It isn't very heavy.

I spent the day on my project, making new file folders, putting things in 'their place.' I cleaned and organized my desk, put all my CD's back where they belonged. The floor was now empty. The desk was now clean.

I liked how the computer was now a much smaller footprint on my desk, which left room for all the other stuff I have on it, including four paper weights, a jar of ink for my favorite fountain pen, scratch pads for taking notes, the telephone, a desk lamp, stapler, tape holder, and a jar filled with pens. It really looked nice. 

It didn't take very long though before I realized I had to nix the idea of putting the monitor on top of the computer. The screen was much too high; my neck had to be in an awkward position to see. So, I put the monitor back where it was with the computer to the left of it. I cleaned the screen, polished the PC and scrubbed the keyboard with baby wipes and a tiny brush. It was sparkling clean and cat hair free. Alas, even the keys still worked. 

This morning I realized my computer was running slower than normal. And, the hard drive kept starting and stopping, starting and stopping. I looked up online "can I lay a vertical tower on its side?" The reaction was mixed. I already knew the answer. So, I ended up putting the computer back to where it had been before.

I was a little disappointed that this great fix didn't work. So I took out my frustration by emptying three of the drawers on the left side of my desk. It has seven altogether; three on each side and one in the middle. Each one is jammed full. There weren't enough hours in the day to clean out all the drawers, but I got a really good start. Sadly, I didn't find anything worth noting. Mostly I tossed a bunch of things that related to my former job. I no longer needed business cards of people I'd never call again, so lots of those got tossed. I found a nickle and six pennies. I did find some old pictures and old greeting cards. Mostly all I was hanging onto is now trash.

Kasey hasn't been back since all this began. Although my initial problem of her sitting on top of my computer wasn't solved, since I haven't seen her all day, perhaps getting her claw stuck in a hole taught her a lesson. Or perhaps she just had something else mischievous to do that I haven't yet discovered. At any rate, I had a nice, pleasant afternoon of cleaning. And now, I can even open the drawers without any trouble. 

The bottom line is, I'm sure glad I have cats to help encourage me to clean my work space.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Computer woes solved!

I cannot begin to total all the hours I have spent trying to get my ancient computer to operate efficiently, or at some times, even at all. My husband and I, each have at least 20 years experience with computers. We devoted countless hours and all we have learned over the past 20 years to try to solve my problems. It still wasn't enough. Last Saturday, thanks to an offer at Staples that we just couldn't refuse, we broke down and bought a new computer.

That was a week ago. I am now happy to say that I've finished downloading, transferring, and even tweaking some of my favorite old programs. I am writing this blog post on my new computer (and old software). I'm getting to know and understand Windows 7. I'm sure that in time, I will be as thrilled with it as I have all the previous versions I've used (all of them). 

It is pure joy to be able to turn the computer in the morning and watch it start, as it was intended. My old computer refused to do that. It would restart itself, intermittently, sometimes six or seven times, before it finally loaded my desktop.

This new computer, by Hewlett-Packard, has much more memory on board too, so I can listen to music, play a game, and download incoming mail, all at the same time.

I've decided that one of my favorite things is tweaking software. I might even be addicted to it, if that is possible. While function of a program is of course the most important, to me, that is followed only by how it displays. With a tendency toward art, color is very important to me. The right color can change my mood; brighten my day. It can also have the opposite effect, if it just isn't right. 

I tweaked my new Windows 7 to use a desktop theme based on my favorite photo--a sunflower that I shot myself and that I happen to love. Other colors are set to a pale lime green with partial transparency. Nice!

When I started my Microsoft Office 2003 software, I opened MS Word. The program displayed a hideous bright blue color that was painful to look at. It was oblivious to the pretty theme I had just created. I'm a writer. Trying to write when the ugly color on the screen stabs the eyes is not a good thing. When I ran this program on my old Windows XP-loaded computer, I was able to tweak all the colors of the various components. But, with Windows 7, the theme default colors don't translate into Office programs.

So, to have that bright blue from MS Office in the way; well, that would never do. I finally found a tweak online that I tried and it worked. It involved changing the setting for default colors in the Office 2003 settings back to a more pleasing gray that blends nicely with my other theme colors. 

By the way, I've tried to retrace my steps so I could give a shout out and hearty thank you to the brilliant person that revealed this illusive tip, but I can't find it again. 

If that person ever sees this post, my heartfelt thanks. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Good to be a computer geek

I have come to the realization that I simply love my computer. I don't know if I would or could be a writer without it. It has allowing me to make a living over the last 20 years. I cannot imagine trying to hand-write a story or type one on a typewriter. I think 'cut, copy, and paste' has revolutionized writing. The ability to move thoughts from paragraph to paragraph makes writing so easy, allowing for concentration on the story instead of writing mechanics. Of course typing is a must, but I learned that years ago.

I love the social networking sites. It has been fun to meet up again with old friends on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Just this week, I re-connected with an old friend I hadn't seen in years. We live miles apart now, both having moved away from the old neighborhood where we used to talk on the sidewalk, literally for hours. Our young children played together. Now, we are grandparents. And we can share pictures. That is one of the best parts about today's technology. I wouldn't think of going anywhere without my camera. My job as a reporter got me into the habit of carrying a camera, and I continue the practice even when not covering a story. Recording moments in time is now second nature, evidenced by the thousands of images that clog my hard drive.

Yesterday, I watched a movie on Who would have ever thought you could use this little box on the desk for such activities? I admit to having wasted hours and hours on computer games. I was addicted to Mahjongg for a time. It was the ultimate self-competition until my daughter got involved. With her youthful agility, she beat my score by fractions of seconds. And her winning record will just have to stand. Now I love word games. I don't know that it has helped my vocabulary at all, but it does offer great competition. I love Upwards, and Scrabble too. One of my favorite games is Mind Your Marbles, but that is strictly for relaxation purposes.

I wouldn't be without technology, even though it certainly can be infuriating sometimes. Over the years, I cannot imagine all the hours I've spent trying to solve computer problems, although that was the best way to learn. Trying to solve a computer problem can be annoying, frustrating, aggravating, and time-consuming, but never futile. There is no better feeling than conquering the little box that thinks it knows everything. It is easier to solve problems these days, since typing in the problem into Google will usually yield thousands of people with the same problem. And they tell how they solved it. Thank goodness for a world full of computer pioneers, always anxious to help.

But the best part about today's technology is the ability to communicate. It is fast, easy, and satisfying to connect with others, to share information, and to inspire learning. And then there is blogging ...