Wednesday, May 09, 2007

If It's Not One Thing...

It will be another. I made great progress in implementing my intention to switch my attention from chasing malware moles to getting my files ready to back up so my husband can do a hard drive reformat. I couldn't work on the laptop last night as it was busy with scans and updates. So I focused on getting my AOL email on the PC transferred to text documents via copy/paste. This is the only way I can think of to save the contents of the AOL email so I can access them without the AOL softeware. My husband wants to remove all the AOL software off both computers and the only thing holding him up was knowing I wanted to rescue my email first.

This was a task I had procrastinated on for months because I knew it was going to be emotionally grueling. The email on the PC covers the 21 months between my Dad's colin cancer diagnosis and the morning I left Phoenix on the bus to see him for the last time. It also contains some of the email exchanges between me and my husband while I was out of town for those six or seven weeks I spent with my family from three days before Dad passed on September 24 until just before Thanksgiving.

It was as emotionaly grueling as I expected. I had completed the project of retrieving all of the exchanges between myself and my siblings over the last week. Last night it was those between myself and my parents that I set myself to do. It took me over four hours. But that was partly because I had to take a break every thirty minutes or so. Especially if I paused to read more that a few lines

But I was able to congratulate myself for completing that tough project before my session on the PC had to close so my husband could have his morning coffee over his email and games. My laptop was still busy and I knew it would continue to be until at least ten because the daily AVG scans and updates are scheduled between six and eight. Which is one way to encourage me to shut the lid instead of continuing to work for several more hours.

So that is what I did. I shut the lid and I settled down to prepare to sleep. I read the last few pages of book eight of A Series of Unfortunant Events, The Hostile Hospital, and the started book nine, The Carnivorous Carnival. Probably the longest stretch of uninterupted page turning since the Malware Wars began on April 28.

I went to sleep with great expectations, eager to get to work on the same AOL email retrieval project on the laptop as soon as I woke up. But it was not to be.

When I woke up just before three, the computer was in the middle of a restart, which I learned later had been because Windows Automatic updates had installed some new updates. It didn't say which ones then. But no sooner did the laptop return to the desktop the gold shield symbol appeared in the task bar tray again, announcing that updates were being downloaded. This continued running in the background along with AVG resident shield and kept the laptop too busy to do anything else. Especially anything with as big a RAM footprint as AOL browser software.

I waited patiently though because I still had hopes that the Windows updates will eventually dowload the fix for the problem we've been having. I suppose that is a touch of magical thinking. I don't know. But a couple of hours later--just before I was called to dinner--the laptop initiated another restart without warning. And this time got stuck at the point where only the desktop background picture is still showing. I pressed the power button and still brought up the option to log off, standby, hibernate, shut down or restart. A symbol on the shut down option showed that there were updates ready to install. So I selected that just I headed to dinner.

When my husband got back to the computer after dinner the intallation was still ongoing. This was between twenty and thirty minutes later. It showed it was still installing 1 of 5. It was still installing when I got done with the dishes. It must have taken at least an hour.

And as soon as I got back on the desktop there was the update icon in the task tray again. This time, when it announced the update was ready to install, I clicked on the icon so I could initiate the installation and follow its progress. I was a tad bit disgusted when I discovered that it was only updates for Office 2003 and Outlook which I can't even use because I used up the 90 day trial period with them the first three months I owned the laptop and there is no way in any forseeable near future I can expect to have the spare several hundred dollars with which to purchase that package. I had been threatening to uninstall them for months. After what happened next, I am going to do that before the next reboot. Because the end result of the installation was failure on all five counts. And then it still insisted on a restart! And after the restart the update icon returned.

The only thing I could think to do was turn off the WIFI.

About that time, my mother-in-law headed to bed so I headed out to the living room with my laptop and book bag, containing objects related to the projects on my mind. I go to the PC to log off the family desktop so I can log onto my own only to find the PC too is insisting on installing downloads. After checking to see what they were and discovering that it was purporting to be Malicious Software Removale software, I eagerly told it to continue. There was the evidence to support my hope that Windows updates were going to add something that could solve our dilemma without resort to a hard drive wipe.

A few minutes later, I glance up from the laptop to the PC screen to see the black screen with the C prompt. Then the screen fills with white text. I managed to see something about an inability to restart properly and a list of possible cause with another list of possible options, one of which was highlighted--restart normal. That screen stayed there only about thirty seconds before it automatically attempted to reboot again. I had to let it recycle through that three or four times before I managed to read the entire screen. Then I was faced with the delimna that the mouse didn't work in C prompt mode and the PC keyboard has several keys that are inopperative, two of which are the left and the up arrows. Very inconvient at normal times. I let the system recycle through the normal reboot attempt a couple more times before I thought to try the down arrow just to see what would happen. Thankfully it took me to the top of the list so I could work my way down to the choice to reboot with the last know settings that worked.

I can't begin to describe the panic I was in. My husband was asleep. I had initiated what amounted to a system maintainance task on the PC. Something that I had never done before because it is not my computer. My husband with his tech knowledge has his mother's confidence and has full administrative responsibility. I had always left these tasks to him. It was my usual practice to let him know the next morning when the computer had asked to perform one of those type tasks or issued a warning. But because I have been initiating so many similar tasks on the laptop several times per day over the last twelve days, I had not even hesitated to click on OK for that install. And now the PC seemed to be choking on it.

Thankfully it rebooted safely in the mode I chose. But one of the first warnings it gave after the desktop was back was that the anti-malware program that my husband had instlled on the PC a couple weeks ago had not initialized and it suggested reinstalling it. So now I am worried that the PC is unprotected. And I should probably either turn it off or turn off the WIFI box. But I'm pretty sure the PC was and is still well protected without that particular trial version of a program.

Well then. I'm off to try to get my Thursday Thurteen posted before my husband gets up. I had hoped to come up with something with absolutely nothing to do with the topic of malware or computer coniptions. I've got nothing... yet. Wish me luck.

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