Going Viral

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm

{Photograph depicts my grandmother’s typewriter, now stationed in my brother’s apartment, Washington, D.C.}

Somehow, I caught a virus. Well, my computer caught a virus. But the difference isn’t that big. A flu would leave me bedridden, miserable, and hopelessly behind on my work. The computer virus left me miserable, hopelessly behind on my work, and without excuse to lie around in bed. After all, if my laptop didn’t work, I’d have to find one that did.

At the last minute, I managed to rescue over 5,000 photographs, 700 songs, and biblical volumes of writing — good, bad, and sentimental. I also salvaged some decent vacation videos, and an entire digital copy of The Dark Knight, which I didn’t realize was still on my computer. All of this could be replaced or had been backed up elsewhere; it was the photos that freaked me out. I could download infinite copies of Live and Victory at Sea albums, but that picture of my brother Joe, standing in the cold with a soap-eating grin? Irreplaceable.

In the meantime, I needed a word-processor and Internet connection — for filing columns, for correspondence, for grading papers, for my work-schedule at the medical school, and for my homework at Chatham. I regularly check two different e-mail addresses, whose inboxes are routinely flooded throughout the day, and on any given morning I may have to write thousands of words of new material. One little virus could cripple my output.

So I became a kind of digital gypsy, wandering from one municipal computer to another. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would use the computer in my [shared] office in Duquesne; when another adjunct needed to use it, I skipped down to the underground computer lab in the Union. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I camped out in the library at Chatham, before classes, furiously knocking out new manuscripts and unrelated work. On Fridays, I went to the Carnegie Library. For an entire month, this is how I operated — and when all else failed, I’d use my iPod Touch outside a cafe, exploiting the free WiFi for all it was worth.

In a way, this was nostalgic: For three years, 2003-2006, I worked as a freelance writer without any dependable Internet connection. I would use the computers at the public library in Oakland, or a Pitt student would loan me a password, or I would borrow a terminal at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (and yes, I realize how awful and immoral that sounds, but I also volunteered there, so don’t you judge me). Sometimes I’d even use the computer in the library of Filmmakers, where I knew the librarian in charge; this is how I learned to operate an iMac, which for a luddite like me is now small task.

But the fond memories wore off quickly. Which is why, when I logged onto my own Dell to rescue some final documents, I was astonished to discover that the virus was gone. Somehow, Norton AntiVirus had forgotten to update, and while the computer lay dormant for that month, Norton kicked into gear and erased the offending spyware. It’s really kind of miraculous, like stigmatic palms or the face of Jesus appearing in waterfalls.

Thanks, Norton.

  1. okay a good info, thank you
    glad to know you.

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