Friday, 22 September 2017

Information technology breakdown

Apologies for not posting for a few days, but I had a major IT disaster from which I'm still recovering, and one that shows how increasingly dependent we all are on tech.

For the past three weeks or so, I've been getting a countdown to the day that the licence on my ESET Nod anti-virus software expires on my six year-old Samsung laptop. I put it off and put it off, a week to go, five days to go, two days to go... On Sunday morning I had the time to finally get round to it, on the last day before expiry.

I downloaded the software. It duly installed itself, so I thought a thorough scan of the hard disk would be in order. I set it running, and could see that this process would take a long time, so I went shopping, leaving it with the instruction that after the scan, the computer should do a restart. Two hours later, the scan had finished (zero viruses found), but the computer had not shut itself down. It then refused to do so, or to sleep - the only way to shut it down was to press and hold down the on/off button. Never a good idea, but it was all that I could do.

On restarting it, I found that neither my Chrome nor Internet Explorer browsers worked. Up popped alerts from Samsung and Adobe that their software was broken. Not being able to go online to search for a solution, I gave up. The next day I went to work and asked our admin manager Kuba what was up. Turns out I had downloaded the home version of ESET Nod, while the right version (and paid for by the company) was the corporate version. The two obviously didn't get on well together.

To remove the anti-virus software required the de-installation and then re-installation of Windows 7 Home Edition. Not an easy nor quick process. For this the laptop had to go away to our outsourced IT service company. First though, the IT guy there tried to do what he can remotely, via a piece of software called TeamViewer. He removed a lot of gunge from out of my laptop, including a particularly pernicious piece of software from, which slows things down. This process didn't work, so my laptop was taken away on Monday afternoon. It should have taken two days, but I was out of town on Wednesday (in Opole on a factory visit), so it was finally delivered back to me yesterday.

The computer runs much faster now - BUT - I have lost all of my bookmarks and links (including the one to my time-management software) and the clean re-install of my email program, Mozilla Thunderbird, removed my address book. This took the best part of yesterday and much of today, and still I'm finding things that aren't working as they should. Next week I'm out of the office all week (Łódź-Gdańsk-London-Sopot), so it may well be that stuff I don't currently know isn't working is indeed not working and no one can help.

Coming back to a laptop with things all different is like the feeling you get coming out of a dentist after having dental work done - your tongue runs over unfamiliar textures. It's all cleaner, healthier, but feels strange. I'm having to reset things all over again, router code, new passwords, rebuilding desktop folders and shortcuts. A huge chore, holding me back from doing more productive tasks. Essential work nevertheless.

At times like this, I realise that the technology that started coming into my working life in the late 1980s (word processor) and into my personal life in the early 1990s (first Mac laptop), has now become something I'm dependent on. It's not the FOMO thing ('fear of missing out') - I could keep up with my social media using my smartphone - it's more the extent to which my work in communicating with people across Poland and the UK is now totally electronic. I found myself using the phone more; although my smartphone gives me access to much of what's on the laptop, it's no substitute. A decent, full-size keyboard on which I can touch-type with all my fingers, with widely spaced keys, is a must.

This time last year:
Konin - town of aluminium, electricity and coal

This time four years ago:
Car-free day falls on a Sunday

This time five years ago:
Vistula at record low level

This time eight years ago:
Car-free day? Warsaw's roads busier than ever

This time nine years ago:
The shape of equinox

This time ten years ago:
Potato harvest time in Jeziorki

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