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2005-05-03 Laptop ended my dot com dummy days

A few years ago I couldn't differentiate between floppy and hard. Then, one Christmas, my generous manager presented me with a laptop: my computer-illiteracy was on show for all to see. I was officially digitally-challenged: a Dot-com-Dummy!

 

I regretted not having taken computer studies at school, but with help from my more computer-literate friends, and a little `trial and error', it wasn't long before I was logging on, scrolling, burning, cutting and pasting like the rest of them. I was aware of the enormous and often irreperable damage caused by viruses, and diligently ran my anti-virus once a week.

 

This January I purchased a top-of-the-range Dell 4700, fitted with the latest anti- virus material, and Firewall to safeguard from attack while surfing the net. Five weeks after installation, my computer crashed. What kind of sick individual gets up in the morning to create a computer virus? Some viruses are minor, and may only result in, for example, the reappearance of an email.

 

Others can necessitate the reinstallation of your system. Viruses are created by people who deliberately set out to do damage, spreading their infections as far as possible - a `virtual terrorist'. Sometimes these people are attempting to make a political point, but often it is simply a power-trip in order to bring down the computer giants, like a morally-reversed David and Goliath.

 

Nasty infections can lurk in virtual shadows for a long time without being activated, spreading to other files, or to contacts in your address book, often running without your knowledge. The International Network (Internet) allows billions of computers around the world to be inter-linked, and so, infections must be taken seriously.

 

Not long after I had acquired my first computer, messages would pop up on the screen, saying such things as "Are you sure you want to permanently delete everything from your computer at this time?". "Do you wish to abort or continue? Selecting `Continue' may result in the loss of any unsaved or saved data, and the termination of your virtual street-cred. Selecting `Abort' will mean having to reinstall your computer from scratch, this time with a blindfold, and no safety net." When licensing agreements appeared, I learned to immediately click the "I agree" tab, rather than be faced with "Are you certain you want to end the User License agreement between `you', hereafter known as a single weak entity, and the invincible Microsoft Corporation, herafter known as `Compu-God'?"

 

As I was on hold to Dell for 41 minutes, I recalled being told about the lady who had phoned to tell them her `pop-out coffee-cup tray was broken', and she `needed a new one', and so, I knew there were even less `aware' callers than me. I had managed to successfully back-up all my files (with help from a friend), and was thus prepared when the helpful man from Dell held me by my virtual hand as I reinstalled my entire system down a phoneline. "Would you like me to boot up?", I asked, trying to impress with my computer-lingo. "Yes, switch on the computer," he replied - unimpressed - "as the screen comes on, repeatedly press `F11' twice a second, hold down `Control', recite 10 `Our Fathers', cross your virtual fingers and hope for the best." When he told me to `delete cookies', I knew it wasn't just a diet tip. When he asked me to empty my recycle bin, I didn't initiate a discussion on the bin-charges. And when he spoke of my `Mouse Trouble- shooter', I knew he wasn't referring to a rodent assassin.

 

When at last I was told I had successfully reinstalled my entire system, I expected at the very least to have won `a virtual holiday for two in cyber-space'. No such luck: just my lovely Dell PC once again infection-free, with hardware and software second to none. I was wisely advised to download every possible anti-virus programme on offer from microsoft.com and download.com, and am now protected by Norton, `Spyware Doctor', `ad-aware', and others. I now know there are eight bits in a byte, and 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte. I have less FAQs about USBs, MP3s and jpegs. Anyway, sure if I'm stuck, I can have a word in the virtual ear of my Interactive Troubleshooter Wizard.