by Sheila Connolly
A couple of weeks ago I was ready to throw my laptop at a wall. It was doing everything v..e..r..y.....s..l..o..w..l..y, from booting up to shutting down, and everything in between. Okay, it's three years old--not exactly new, but not ancient either. Having overloaded computers in the past with non-essential programs, I've been careful in choosing what to download to this one, so there was plenty of disk space available. I had even added RAM, a year or so after I bought it. So why was it dragging its figurative heels?
I did everything a semi-intelligent computer owner should. I defragged. I ran Check Disk. I dumped my recycle bin and cleared my temporary files. I ran scans up one side and down the other, for all those evil invaders that might have crept in from cyberspace. Didn't make a bit of difference.
I was getting desperate. I mean, I couldn't even log on to Facebook for more than a few minutes. It was freezing when I wanted to add more than a few friends. Who was this piece of machinery to dictate who my friends should be?
So finally, at the end of my patience, I contacted the Geek Squad. No, this is not a paid endorsement. But I've used them before, for a variety of computer problems, including the total meltdown of my daughter's hard drive. They have always been up front about what they can and cannot do, and they deliver on their promises. So what the heck? I needed help.
There's a physical Geek Squad near here, but being lazy/thrifty/impatient, I logged onto their website and contacted a real live person. At least I think he was live, but who can tell these days? He said his name was Jason. Sure. But I'll call you anything you want, as long as you can speed up my computer. Please.
I gave him (gulp) permission to peer into the inner working of the laptop, remotely. Good thing I hid that international money-laundering scheme on a different computer. Oops, never mind. He poked and prodded, and came back with this evaluation: there's nothing actually wrong with the computer, but apparently my assorted virus protections (all recommended by various knowledgeable people, including a U.S. government IT employee) were warring with each other, making it increasingly difficult for anything to open, much less operate. The cure? Let the Geek Squad run their basic clean-up program. Could it make anything worse? I pulled out my credit card and said "go."
And then came the fascinating part. Someone, somewhere took over control of my computer. I know, we've all seen this in numerous movies and television shows. But I'd never seen it on my computer. The cursor darted; windows opened and shut. Decisions were made. Software was removed and installed. All this happened very fast--faster than any human could work? Was Jason human? Heck, for all I know he was working on four different computers at once. Or eating lunch at the same time.
The whole process still took three hours, even with Jason performing at warp speed. I could do nothing but sit and marvel. In the end the machine was purged and polished--and it works a whole lot better now.
But as I watched this happen, I had to remember that I grew up in a pre-computer world. When I was in high school, we took a field trip to Bell Labs in New Jersey, where we were awed by their cutting-edge technology. I took the first "computer science" class my high school offeredBand there wasn't even a computer at the school, so we had to travel to a nearby college to spend a couple of hours a week, mostly waiting for our turn to use the keypunch machine, and if we were lucky, to get one run of our program. The "textbook" was a mimographed copy, unbound (and I still have it, an antique now).
And here I was whining that my home computer is a little sluggish accessing a few million people and websites. What a world we live in!