Thursday, December 2, 2010

Technology Rocks – As Long As It Works

By Kathie Felix

I’m typing this blog entry on what has become my primary computer – a laptop that I originally bought as a backup system. Recent events have made it clear to me, however, that the day is near that this computer will be getting a backup laptop of its own. (In fact, I probably should have already made the purchase, but I’m holding off until after the holidays when I expect technology prices to drop even lower than the current recession-affected pricing.)

Like most people – except my brother, the computer programmer – I need a good reason to buy a new computer. I love the latest technology and what it can do – and have spent more than 12 years writing about technology for schools and libraries – but I hate to toss aside an electronic device that still has some reasonable use left in it.

Here’s the story:

One day, my laptop suddenly lost the ability to open an email account that contained the incoming news stream for a project at a critical publishing deadline (these things never seem to happen on a leisurely day, do they?).

Like any resourceful writer desperate to make a deadline, I found a way around the problem. I logged on with another screen name on the same service, opened the webmail version of the email service and logged on there with the user name that wasn’t able to access its own email directly. I was psyched when my improvised system worked and I could access the needed email – even though it was a clunky, time-consuming sort of fix.

Once the deadline was met, I sought a real solution from my internet service provider. After receiving the help (a lengthy series of instructions of which buttons to push, apparently read to me from a manual of some kind), I was once again able to directly access the incoming email. Sadly, however, my computer has been on shaky ground ever since that little customer service assist.

These days, the computer’s cursor is a randomly-moving entity that bounces around like the lights on the test my eye doc uses to examine the extent of my peripheral vision. It’s kind of amazing to watch as the cursor types in a straightforward manner, then jumps back several spaces, then jumps up the page, then down the page. It’s also beyond frustrating to endure.

I did some research and the only fix I could find was a recommendation to plug in a mouse – which seems like a touch of overkill on a laptop, as well as a real mobility-limiting move.

One computer expert I know was very matter-of-fact in her assessment of the situation: “It’s broken. You need a new one.”

That sounded ridiculous to me.

So, for the time being, I’m working around the problem – by turning off the touchpad while I type. And, every now and then, I wonder why no one suggested this – simply pushing that little button at the top of the touchpad until the image of the computer next to it turns red (as in “off”).

Whether a writer or a reader, nearly all of us are in a daily partnership with a computer. How’s your relationship with your computer going? Got any tips to share?


E. B. Davis said...

I have a similar issue with my email account and have resorted to accessing it through hotmail. But hotmail is not as user friendly as my regular account. Why should I have to do that when I'm paying for the usage and storage of my normal email account?

Like you, I've been given lengthy instructions on how to "fix" the problem. Of course, the first blame from my service went to my Internet security software, which had nothing to do with the problem, nor my router.

Admittedly, my laptop is four years old, which now is considered ancient in the world of electronics. But how many people can afford $1000 device every three years, except those who can write them off as an expense?

Yet another compelling reason to write and get published!

Pauline Alldred said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Kathie. I just turned off the touch pad. Never thought of that but then I just don't see my laptop as a total entity--more as a series of incomprehensible instructions I need to follow.

My daughter bought me a passport back up because I ignored all warning signs and just kept on making documents until my hard drive died and took my documents with it.

ColleenFL said...

My laptop's hard drive suddenly quit working last month. That was no fun. I had a couple days without a computer while waiting for a new hard drive to be delivered. I now backup my files more often.

Kathie Felix said...

Glad to help, Pauline. (And glad to know that you've got a backup system.)

E.B., I'd try your email provider's "help" desk one more time, in the afternoon on a weekday. Although I'd be tempted, I wouldn't say much -- if anything -- about the previous attempts at a fix. I'd just provide info on the version of Windows (or whatever) you're running and ask them to get you back online. (I'll admit that some in my family call me an eternal optimist.)

Sandra Parshall said...

I bought a laptop a few months ago, and I still haven't learned all I need to know about using it. I bought a mini-mouse for it because I couldn't stand using the touchpad.

I'm holding onto my 32 bit desktop because my favorite word processor, Lotus Word Pro, won't even install on a 64 bit machine (I discovered that when I bought the laptop). Someday I'll have to give up LWP, but I'll do it only when forced. I've upgraded most of the hardware in the desktop except the processor. Did the upgrades myself. I cloned my hard disc onto a portable disc, put a new 1 trigabyte disc in the desktop, and copied everything from the portable onto the new disc. Very easy, and nothing had to be reinstalled.

I love Windows 7, btw. Vista was driving me crazy, and I was deliriously happy to get rid of it.

Rebecka Vigus said...

I hate typing along only to discover that my laptop's curser has jumped and everything I just typed is out of sequence and in the middle of something unrelated. I wish there was some way to prevent this. It is always a pain to figure out what I need to cut and paste to make it right.

Msmstry said...

Oh, folks. Here's my standard answer to all your problems: Get a Mac! I've been using them more than 25 years (I've lost count of how many I've owned and/or used at work) and I've NEVER had all those problems you cited.

I did buy a wireless mouse for my hardcore laptop work, but I don't use it unless I'm at a desk somewhere. I also bought a wireless keyboard for my iPad because I'm too old to retrain myself to typing on keyboards whose letters don't move.

Happy holidays all!

Diane Vallere said...

This week I experienced my first "broken flashdrive". I am not allowing myself to fully realize what might have been lost, but rather chant to myself, "if I wrote it once, I can write it again." (at least the second time it won't be a first draft, right?)

I also have a partially functioning PC that I can't bring myself to replace. It does *some* stuff. But still...the technos in my life are quick to point out the shortcomings that existed BEFORE a virus knocked out it's capability to get an internet connection! I'll wait with you for the post-holiday specials.

Great post!

G.M. Malliet said...

I battled with antiquated equipment for years - insufficient memory, a printer that took 20 years to print out 20 pages, etc. I wonder why it took me so long to realize that the splurge, high-end buy is not self-indulgent or wasteful - it's completely necessary if you think of yourself as a writer, whether published or unpublished.

I think many men instinctively realize this; women struggle with the idea that they're *entitled* to have the best equipment they can possibly afford.

If you can prove beyond question that you're out there trying to get published, you can deduct the expense.