Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Need a New Computer and Other Tales of Woe

I need a new computer.

The idea terrifies me. I realize that technology is logical and orderly, I just can’t seem to figure out how it all works. I write down and memorize the steps to accomplish what I need to. And then they change them and I am at a total loss. Again.

My worst computer experience was when someone convinced me (I’m pretty gullible) that I needed Skype. For the longest time, the computer would randomly start making Martian-landing-craft-invasion noises, which could only be silenced by unplugging the speakers or turning off the computer. A friend fixed that somehow, and I like my uninterrupted sleep. I have absolutely no desire to experiment further with Skype or anything like it.

It’s not just computers. I have a clock/radio that baffles me. Most of the time it sits there, blinking “12:00” like a nervous owl. I finally got the time set (although I won’t dare try to change it from daylight savings time)
but I can’t get the alarm to work. I use it for the radio—it will play for a while and turn itself off, which is a handy trait since I often wander off and leave it on. In addition to the times I want to listen to it, every afternoon it turns itself on and plays for an hour. I assume that has something to do with the alarm, but since I can’t figure out how to set it, I could be wrong. I’m waiting for the electric power to go out, as it will surely do during one of these thunderstorms, at which point it undoubtedly will revert to the nervous owl state. When I saw a retro alarm clock with an analog dial and a simple “Set alarm” switch, I bought it. It even has a backup battery for when the power does go out.

I find car alarms truly alarming. My “new” car has a battery operated opener. Hit the wrong button at your peril! The lights start flashing and the horn starts honking and the doors lock. The only thing I know to do is to open the door with the key and start the engine—that seems to quiet the ruckus. In the meantime, though, every dog within earshot is barking and the neighbor’s donkey is braying. Usually at 5:30 AM when I’m
leaving for work. I can only see one door on the car that has a lock that will take the key—I’m waiting for that lock to malfunction and leave me with a honking, flashing monstrosity. I’m sure AAA will have a two hour wait for assistance at that point.

My old truck sometimes goes into some type of security mode, when the steering wheel won’t turn, but I can wrestle with it and the ignition and sooner or later it releases. And it doesn’t make noise or flash its lights. Its main problem is a “lock doors” button on the armrest of the doors, and it’s all too easy to knock that getting in or out of the cab. After one time when I had to climb into a load of mulch in the bed and squeeze my arm through the back window, which was fortunately not latched—the rest of me wasn’t about to squeeze through—and hit the “unlock door” button with a long stick, I try to always put the window down if I’m getting out of the cab when the engine is running.

At one point, with another car, I got out of work at 2 AM into a heavy snowstorm. I turned on the car to warm it up and carefully hit the “unlock” button, then climbed out to scrape the windows. Unfortunately, the lock mechanism was frozen, and it let me get in, but now the car was locked, the engine was running and the gas tank almost empty. I stood blinking at the car in the snow-filled lot when one of my coworkers on this very temporary factory job took pity on me. He opened the trunk of his car to reveal an entire set of burglary tools, took out a huge ring of car keys and had the door open in no time. “Don’t tell nobody, okay?” he said. I figured I owed it to him to keep my mouth shut. But I never told him where I lived.

Cell phones are another problem area. I don’t get a reliable cell phone signal where I live, or at work for that matter, and my land line doesn’t have long distance service, so it gets a bit tricky. Sometimes I can get a signal up in one of the bedrooms, but it usually only lasts long enough to hear someone say “Hello?” before it cuts off. I can hike or drive up the road—at the top of the hill I can usually get service. Most of the time I leave it turned off. Right now I have 132 messages on it. I’m not entirely sure how to access them, and whenever I manage to get one, it’s some kind of an ad and costs me a minute of my cell phone time. Once I forgot to turn the phone off and the battery got low. We spent most of the evening trying to track down the “deedle-lee-dee.” It was intermittent, and when we got close to it, it would very uncooperatively quiet itself. The noise didn’t sound like a smoke alarm. It didn’t seem to be coming from the carbon monoxide alarm. The sump pump looked fine. We gave up using a water softener years ago. As far as we knew, the electric system didn’t have any alarms, and the well pump was fairly new. It seemed to be coming from—the kitchen table? Finally I was able to sneak up on it when it sounded. The phone in my bag, hung on the back of a chair. I dread the idea that at some point I may have to join the 21st century and get something besides a basic phone for emergencies.

As far as I can see, the TV remote controls are totally beyond me. I deal with that one by never watching TV. At all. So I don't have a problem with that.

Now I’m dealing with medical technology. It seems unfair that, when I’m not feeling well anyhow, they should spring this one on me. I have to wear a heart monitor. It's attached to me with three itchy little gel-covered pads. I have a sensor, which hangs around my neck and is attached to the little pads by wires that alternate between getting tangled up in my bra and threatening to strangle me. And the blasted thing beeps unexpectedly. So does the monitor. The monitor has to spend most of its time in a charger, since it never seems to get fully charged no matter how long it’s been in the charger, and I know from sorry experience that it won’t last a full night before it goes into frantic beeping mode. I finally realized one of its major worries was that the sensor and I would get too far away from the monitor—the sensor worries about that too, but it beeps discreetly—and would quiet as I approached it. Now I just have to worry about getting sticky little pads stuck to things other than me, which drives the monitor crazy, managing to unplug the wires and keeping an eye on whether the sensor needs a new battery or the monitor needs to be charged. I did suggest to the doctor that if I were strangled by the wires (I may use that in a story sometime) this entire venture would be in vain. She told me that wasn’t true, she’d still have her data. Thank goodness this is a time-limited thing.

And I still need a new computer. I’m dreading the whole thing.

How do you deal with technology? Or does it come easy to you?


Jim Jackson said...

Technology usually makes sense to me or I can figure it out. I don’t worry about switching between the TV and DVD player because I don’t watch movies much and if I do, Jan is going to be watching as well, so I’ve “gifted” all responsibility for those remotes to her.

When all else fails find a 10-year old. They either know it or are fearless in figuring it out.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

No, KM, technology doesn't really come easy to me. I deal with it but not like a duck to water. This month, I'm dealing with Verizon/Verizonwireless. Seems like I'm paying for duplicative services. I'm transferring my conventional phone service to Vonage, which runs phones off my Verizon Internet Fios line, which I only use except for Internet and Fax--a waste, but our other line had our personal and business lines on it. The business line mostly got telemarketers.

I also changed my plan with Verizonwireless so that we will be able to get Smart phones for the old price of dumb phones, which can't be bought anymore--at least there are few choices of them anymore. They are trying to get everyone to have a Smart phone--I think so we all can be tracked and controlled or arrested more easily. I know they are convenient but I like being off the grid and move without their being able to track me.

Nope, KM--you aren't alone.

Gloria Alden said...

No, KM, technology does not come easy to me. I'm quite proud of myself for how far I've come since I went online with my computer, but there are so many things I'm still unsure of how to do. Those things like Scarlet, I tend to put off for another day. As for a cell phone, only at my kids insistence did I settle for a simple little Tracphone which I'm to carry on my walks in the woods. My daughter programmed the people I might call into the phone for me. As for my TV, I don't have cable because I watch very little. It's an older model with a little box on top to get the latest whatever that the newer TV's already have. I use an antenna that's 25 years old and still works. Now the clock radio is something I understand and set it for the time I want to get up so I'm not totally without tech skills.

carla said...

I believe technology will be a fitting antagonist in an upcoming KM novel!

E. B. Davis said...

You're right, Carla. He's been in prison since he was sixteen. I'm sure he'll be overwhelmed!

Warren Bull said...

I wrote a blog about how my servers changed names and lost all the groups I had listed in my mailbox. The email is still slower than molasses in January. My laptop can get message but not open attachments. My desktop can open attachments but it is incredibly slow to get to my email. And some genius decided the background should be light blue and the words should be one shade darker blue.

KM Rockwood said...

Actually, Carla, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that most of the models I have used for the Jesse character have far more sophisticated cell phones than I do. (Except, of course, for the ones who are presently incarcerated. If they have cell phones, I don't want to know about it.)

E.B, one of my "buddies," who was locked up at 17 and spent the next thirty years in prison, just told me he had used a 3-D printer to create a scale model of a piece of machinery he's working on. He has a job with in a machine shop.

But since Jesse is a good hunk me, too, he may very well share my inability to master electronics.

Jim, you've helped me with Goodreads--but I have to admit that while I followed your instructions step by step and managed to accomplish the task, I doubt I could duplicate it. The problem with 10 year old is that they are so contemptuous. I have to really, really need to be able to do something before I ask them for help.

Gloria, I now have a trac phone, too. I don't get cell phone service at home, so I don't see much point in having a more sophisticated one. Of course I need to keep the landline, too, unfortunately.

Warren, it sounds like you're at about the same place as I am. We used to have a server that took so long to open anything that it timed out and shut off before we got the email. That was useless, so we canceled the service and went without for a few years.

Kara Cerise said...

KM, technology is not my friend either. I’m finally (I hope) able to access Yahoo Groups. After being hacked in January and a fake Facebook account created in my name targeting teenage girls (horrible), I deleted my Yahoo email and accidentally locked myself out of Groups. It was a multi-step process to install something called a Wizard before I could access my Groups again. I had to click links and sometimes Yahoo sent a password to my cell phone that I had to enter into the computer before I could continue.

Sometimes, I'm happy when there is a power outage and I get a forced break from technology and its problems.

Shari Randall said...

I'm with Kara - sometimes it's so pleasant to be without technology - I keep wondering what on earth we did before computers and cell phones. I think the answer is, everything we wanted to do!

KM Rockwood said...

It's a credit to your perseverance, Kara, that you did manage to get back on Groups. I have a feeling if it were me, I'd still be locked out. Unless I found that proverbial 10 year old.

I agree, Shari. I do love some things--email so I can be in touch with people fairly quickly, and Mapquest, since I often have no idea where I'm going. But most of the time, I find it frustrating. However, I don't think we're going back on the trend, so we may as well make peace with it.

Kaye George said...

Oh, KM, I can identify with a lot of your experiences! I AM a technical person--used to make a living as a computer programmer. But I do dread having to get a smarty-pants phone someday. I love my flip phone.

A prominent local person who has had some legal troubles has said he will always use a flip phone. A smart phone enables people to track you with the GPS, which this person doesn't want. You know, I don't think I want that either--unless I'm lost somewhere!

Unknown said...

292Dealing with new technology can really be complicated sometimes. But once you get the hang of it, the experience will be more fun than stressful. And I hope you find it that way now. And by the way, have you bought a new computer already?

Cordia Remsen @ RB's computer services