Thursday, 17 January 2008

Just another day in paradise

There are many people on this planet with a lot more to complain about than I have, but a typical day here lately has not exactly been what I would call productive. There's the "Christmas was basically a write-off" situation on top of this - that I hardly even want to think about, let alone describe - but since various nice people have emailed, asking where I am, here's a comprehensive reply for them and anyone else who may have silently wondered ...

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:

After a screaming cat gets me up, usually between 8:00 and 8:30, I fire up the computer on my way through the office on the way to the bathroom. By the time I have attended to my ablutions, cleaned up the "ablutions" left by the furry tribe overnight, fed the cats their breakfast, done other necessary chores, put the coffee machine on, taken the dog up the hill for her ablutions ...

(Lately, I've had scary chest pains and additional health issues to deal with. This is quite apart from the fact that for more than I decade, I've woken up daily, in pain and feeling like I haven't slept. By the time I've carried out those few essential chores, I'm knackered. But that's a whole other story.)

... the computer might have successfully finished booting. Don't hold your breath over it though. Anyway, after one or two tries, if the computer does agree to arrancar (get its arse into gear), one can almost guarantee that it will connect to the internet, but a perfectly ordinary web page page might take over 600 seconds to load. This is a real example from today and this is DSL.

Often, the slowness of the connection is because it's been "taken over" by some update, but I thought the whole idea of broadband was so you could squeeze more than one task down the wires at a time.

Obviously, that's too much to ask. I can't really complain about the speed (sarcasm): after all the technicians did warn me that I'd only get about half of the usual 1GB speed since it has to come "up hill." (OK, a long way from the exchange, but that's how they said it!) In addition to that, virtually daily, a perfectly normal software program - that I've been using for years and that has worked perfectly - will suddenly be "Not responding". Then the computer will slow down to slower than molasses in January, in an Ice Age. The "offending program" will then crash, losing whatever it was that I was working on. I then close down and re-boot the computer (while I take the dog up the road for another walk to avoid the interminable wait.)

Even so, this previously perfectly good software will still refuse to load at all, even when I find some "back door" to delete the allegedly corrupt file it was last working on and, even after updating the software to the latest version.

So, I completely remove the program. Download a clean version. Reinstall it, only to find that the very feature that I have been using the program for, for years, is "no longer supported" in the new version. Either I have to find a new program, or I have to fiddle and poke to use what's left of it in a semi-manual fashion. And, because every time I install a completely new program, the entire computer slows down even more (if you can imagine it going any 'effin slower) or crashes to the "blue screen of death", you can bet yer life that manual fiddling is the only viable option (or throwing the whole thing from a great height.)

Every time these strange events happen, just to be on the safe side, I run registry and crap cleaning tools, as well as defrag and various diagnostics to attempt to eek a little speed and reliability out of the machine. You never know if a gremlin has crept in, so I run adware, spyware and virus checks. The virus check alone takes 3 hours, but because the computer is running so slow and labored, it isn't possible to do anything else on it while those checks are running.

Doing all that, of course, means that I lose cookies and logins, etc., that I then have to have sent to me or look up. These, I am now collecting in an exercise book (ya know, one of those funny old things made of paper chopped down trees), 'coz I can't access the "convenient" digital records on the computer.

By the end of the given day - and the above example really happened yesterday - I fall into bed, realizing that I haven't been out, except for the dog's ablutions, haven't cooked anything, haven't washed dishes - or even myself - again (it's seldom possible to get hot water in this "uninhabitable" house in winter: another saga to tell) and, even though I might have spent a good amount of time working on a design, a project, a blog post, an email or whatever it got lost.

Hey, I might "get lucky" and get one or two things done before crashing.

This is really worse than doing nothing, because it gives the impression that I am around. Anyone seeing some change / post / whatever might then wonder why I haven't also answered their email. Actually, I might have tried. My response might be in a pile of corrupted electrons here someplace.

It all depends if I bother to start the computer at all, because there have been many days recently that I simply haven't wanted to face the stress of it all!

The computer situation has been getting steadily worse since one day last summer, when a Microsoft automatic update corrupted the whole caboodle (not an unusual event, I understand). Though I made it sorta work, there's a lot of stuff I simply can't access: I've searched everywhere, but the data from Outlook Express (yeah, I know, but some of it dates back to pre-history) just isn't in any of the places where it should be. And, I haven't been able to open Thunderbird at all yet, where I had, fortunately, imported a lot of that data, before the crash ...

Apart from the obvious frustrations here, is it necessary for me to underline that without a computer I have virtually no income (beyond a £250 "pension")? The last time I was "let go" from a job, because I'm clearly not fit enough to work, was 11 years ago. So, while none of this is a new problem, there have been various new complications added lately and, it's no longer possible or desirable to keep this as secret as I had done before (for numerous reasons.)

And obviously, I can't work or live like this for much longer, but due to these circumstances and my health, even fixing the computer problem is way beyond my mental capacities and, getting help is certainly beyond my budget.

In addition, I've given up smoking: my favorite vice.

This should be good news, but has actually increased the health challenges I've had to deal with. And I've also been attempting to simplify and rationalize; deep-sixing a few blogs and sites and, refocusing others, but it's proving impossible to actually finish this process too. And solving the entire bag of problems will almost certainly mean moving (that is, if a miracle occurs, otherwise, I could become a "bag lady"), so meanwhile I'm also in the process of dealing with that and tossing most of my material possessions in the process. The latter doesn't bother me. Having to leave my dog and at least some of my cats does though.

Actually, the situation is a lot more serious and difficult than I'm prepared to paint it as - you have to have some amusement reading this blog - so other suggestions welcome (in the comments). Donations even more so! :-)

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