Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rudely interrupted


I'm on something of an enforced vacation these days. Current work at the property (fooling around with the boat, removing old seats and carpets to make way for new) is of the type that doesn't require two. Steve says when I'm along on a job like that all I do is "hover," and it's true. There's nothing worse than somebody standing around just watching, hoping to be useful. So this week my mornings are at home. Yesterday I intended to use the down time to play around in the blogosphere. I got waylaid.

When I booted up my computer yesterday morning my McAfee security app notified me that my subscription, which had been free to me as a Comcast customer, had expired. Since the Comcast freebie was a vestige of Arlington and the relationship no longer exists, that meant the time had come to take advantage of another free McAfee promotion, this time through my bank. It was a simple enough operation on the face of it: uninstall the old Comcast McAfee so that a new download wouldn't recognize a twinned image of itself and abort, go to the McAfee site and establish a new account via my bank, and then download and install the new virus protection. Even at my middling wireless speeds the operation would take an hour at most.

Wrong.

The McAfee installation refused to finish. It would go through every slow-as-molasses step, checking my computer for old versions and viruses, downloading the six components of the "security suite," and then trying to install them. Always, at the very end of the process, the word "failed" would appear.

I made my first call to McAfee tech support at around 10 am. I would make 5 more such calls over the course of the day. Until 6 pm I was mostly sitting in front of this screen, either explaining my situation to unfailingly courteous Indian citizens whose accents ranged from Simpsons Apu-esque, fun and totally understandable, to the utterly incomprehensible, or watching the slo-mo progress of another ultimately failed installation. At the end of the most frustrating phone session--the one with the diligent and hardworking man 95% of whose words escaped me--I thanked him for his hard work, congratulated him on his knowledge and his seriousness, and urged him to get training in American English if he intended to stay with McAfee so that all that knowledge could be put to its intended use.

In the end it turned out that somehow my computer had become infected with Trojan horses, applications that appeared normal to a virus scanner but were really spyware, and that my Windows security settings were wrong. These discoveries were made when I turned over control of my computer to the technician on the phone with me in India. I watched as the cursor drilled into the nether regions of this piece of machinery I so take for granted and discovered rafts of stuff that shouldn't have been there. It was an eye-opener to learn that even though I may be conscientious about scheduling regular virus scans and emptying temporary files, the control a lay user really has is limited. I always wondered why so many temp files remained after I "emptied" the folder. Still don't know why, but the removal yesterday of all of them doesn't seem to have hurt my computer.

It was on one of the earlier phone calls that I had the fear of God struck into me about using Firefox. The fact that I was trying to download through Firefox was the first theory about why installation was failing. McAfee, I was told in no uncertain terms, does not like Firefox. I dutifully uninstalled Firefox and worked all day only through Internet Explorer, which only added to the fun--IE is exponentially slower on this computer than Firefox. It was a relief to put Explorer back to bed and welcome Firefox back as my default browser.

How's that for a boring day? Geeze, we can blog about anything, can't we? For relief I put up a picture I took a couple of months ago of the beautiful Perquimans (rhymes with "persimmon") River, one of the great, completely unheard-of streams that water this part of the country. It's brackish, doesn't taste salty but has enough salt to support a very healthy population of fish and blue crabs. The picture looks south, towards the river's mouth (not visible) at the Albemarle Sound. We make this crossing every day on our way to the property.

Steve just called to tell me the electricians are back, putting in light fixtures and switches. One more step. Electricity to the house can't be too far behind....

21 comments:

Peewit said...

I've just updated my anti-virus too. I use Norton (I know it's power hungry but I got it free initially when I got this computer and I have been advised by someone who knows it is the devil's own job to completely remove Norton and put something else on) anywho back to the point of this comment. For a few months recently I had been without Youtube because of a conflict with the AV software which took an age of surfing to find the complete answer. I had just fixed that and then my subscription expired so I updated to a newer product as it was the same price as the routine upgrade. Now I can't see any of my MP3 players when I plug them in. It seems to be blocking the USB port and I can't work out how to unblock it. You can't live without AV software but it don't half make a nuisance of itself!

Ralph said...

Geez and I thought I had problems, Peewit. What's a computer these days without AV? And I agree about Norton being a space hog. McAfee is bad enough. Good luck on finding a fix.

Zoey and Me said...

YAY electrician! My techy installed StopZilla and Ad-ware and between the two I am able to detect a virus and block it immediately although the down side is it will not allow you back to the page you were on. If it blocks a virus you lose the research end of it and this can be frustrating but not as frustrating as spending the day on the phone with Mumbai personnel. I could take only an hour of that and then hang up. You getting close to a move in date?

Ralph said...

The trials of yesterday are already so far in teh past I can laugh at them now, Z&M. But it was no fun while it lasted.

We're still thinking a move-in sometime in February. We're hoping to get the builder's final numbers and schedule soon.

Peggy said...

Gorgeous picture! Sorry to hear about the computer troubles. You would think that something that has been around now for so long would be easy to work out. It is never the case. Just ask Mark! He's the one who always spends time on the phone.


Glad to hear you are now getting electricity!!

Kemp said...

I always read your posts from my MacBook. Remind me again what the issue is.....

Ravel said...

Splendid pic!
Love the house (even without electricity!).
I use Avast (free) and it has been useful a couple of times. And no troubles to update it.

Ralph said...

Peggy, you'd think, wouldn't you? It's like what I used to say about the DC Metro: when it works, as it usually does, it's great and you take it for granted. When it breaks down, all hell breaks loose.

Ralph said...

Kemp, just shut up.

Ralph said...

Ravel, I'll probably be looking for free anti-virus software after this free offer from the bank expires next year (unless they extend it). I'll be asking you to remind me...

Ralph said...

Ravel, I'll probably be looking for free anti-virus software after this free offer from the bank expires next year (unless they extend it). I'll be asking you to remind me...

Ravel said...

As you posted your answer twice, does it mean that you already asked me to remind you?
Remember Avast. :-)-

Cuidado said...

I think we've all been on that telephone trip to india trying to deal with anti-virus software. It could and should be made to be more user friendly.

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

We don´t have the computor support outside Sweden yet. It seemes swedish is to hard to learn :-) :-) But that doesn´t help much to be honest. Like last week when I couldn´t get out on the internet. I called the net help and a young man answered with a boring sound in his voice. I told him the problem and he answered, do You have another computor? No I don´t I answered.
Ooooh, to baad. It can be the modem that has broken down he said and then You must try that on another computor. Do you have a laptop?
Nope!
Ooooh to baad. It would have helped if You had because then You could have taken it to someone that has a good internet connection.
And so it went on and on and on!!! Not much help to be honest :-) :-) It turned out I just had to restart both my computor and the modem. That I just tried myself!
Have a great day now!
Christer.

Ralph said...

Christer, that experience with "helping" is worse than anything I've ever heard about over here. That was pathetic! I'm afraid I'd have been throwing the phone at the wall after such a conversation...glad you were able to figure it out for yourself!

Anonymous said...

Where have you been, Ralph?
Missing you!
Hugs, Rita

Ralph said...

Hi, Rita! I've missed you, too. I'm just posting a lot less these days since we moved and life changed drastically. We should be in the new house by early March and things may normalize...(but there will still be tones of things to do!)

Try subscribing or "following" to catch whatever I do write...

Mim said...

Ralph,
Did you bypass Christmas celebrating this year and work on your house/moving tasks,etc?
hope you are staying on top of all the things you are doing to get into the house in March.
Now that will be cause for a celebration won't it?
Happy New Year

Ralph said...

Hello, Mim! Actually, we had the kind of Christmas we like: quiet.
The weekend before the actual day, I was caught up short when I realized if we were still in Arlingtton I'd be having our big Christmas dinner with friends, which was our favorite part of the holiday. Next year.... but no, this year we once again didn't bother with decorations for this rental place--the stuff is all packed away somewhere, anyway. Didn't even have a tree.

Things are moving along--looks like a transition to the new place end Feb-early March. Much going on inside but it isn't very photogenic!

Happy New Year if I don't hear from you again before...

Beth Niquette said...

So, with all this extra time on your hands, why don't you write a book?

You have a gift with words. I LOVE reading your blog.

Ralph said...

Nan, given your background (I checked your profile and look forward to digging into your stuff) I am extremely flattered. As it happens, the extra time is long gone now--we're back to clearing brush from the waterfront. I used to write something every day, before we made the "transition" referred to in the title of the blog. I was a 9-5 bachelor for several years with wonderful empty morning hours to play with my words and music. In June we started this new North Carolina adventure and life hasn't been the same since. I hope once we move into our new house in a month or so things may eventually normalize and I can get back ti my writing routine.

As a matter of fact, I did write a series of reminiscences, a sort of memoir, about my life in the 60s and I maneuvered around being gay, afraid of the draft, and getting into the Peace Corps. People have told me they like it. If you're interested I'd be happy to point you to them.

Thanks again for stopping by!