Janet Sheridan: Troublesome technology

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When my husband and I entered our assigned room in a downtown Denver hotel, we saw an open suitcase on an easy chair, clothes strewn about and a football game on TV. Joel about-faced, dragged a baffled me back into the corridor and rushed off to the lobby.

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Janet Sheridan

He returned with the desk clerk’s apologies and a different room assignment. We opened the door cautiously and then trampled each other in our panic to depart when we heard off-tune singing and a splashing shower in the bathroom.

This time, the desk clerk blamed our misadventures on a computer glitch. The pesky machine had reversed the occupied and available room numbers and caused our consternation. I didn’t believe him and still don’t, because I think we tend to blame technology for our human errors: It can’t defend itself.

Have you ever blamed a computer malfunction when you failed to answer an email or keep an appointment? When you call a relative’s cellphone and are disconnected, do you wonder whether it was a dropped call or your cousin hung up because he was tired of talking to you? Do you suspect that the person on the other end of the line, taking your order or booking your appointment, is slow, inefficient or napping when she blames extended delays on her computer?

And do you think the advent of technology has increased or decreased our stress levels? I don’t know how you feel, but technology wallops my stress out of the park.

Last fall, the letter I on my laptop keyboard quit functioning, even when subjected to vigorous thumping. We were traveling, and I was in the final stages of self-publishing my book. For three days, I had to copy the letters i and I from a document created before the I-key rebellion and then paste them into my current work. Every paragraph I wrote included a gazillion I's.

Joel remembers this as our time of frenzy.

When we arrived home, we had the computer’s keyboard replaced, but within a few days, it quit connecting to Wi-Fi, except in the office, thus negating the crucial attribute of a laptop. I turned snappish, and purchasing a new computer became inevitable.

Deciding what to buy, where and when — while using an ailing device to keep up with my writing commitments — added heart palpitations and a nervous tic to my irritability.

Finally, with decisions made and purchases completed, an Apple store employee — surely too young to date — handed me my new laptop and told me to make sure my data and programs had transferred and I knew how to work everything. Then he and Joel stood over my shoulder, watching my every move. My stress skyrocketed with a whoosh that knocked the glasses off an innocent passer-by.

Eventually, playing with the faster and more intuitive computer, I began having fun. Joel and the employee, caught up in a conversation, quit watching, and I decided to explore my updated word-processing program.

That was when I encountered a dastardly defect in my sleek machine: It wouldn’t scroll. I couldn’t find a scroll bar anywhere on the screen, never mind clicking and dragging it to move through a document. We’d purchased a worthless computer. My writing career was finished. I should have used the money to buy a new stove.

In despair, I interrupted the conversation going on next to me, “It won’t scroll. I can’t move up and down in my writing. Help, please help!”

The young man, engrossed in his conversation, casually reached over, slid two fingers on the laptop’s touch pad and scrolled through my document.

Technology makes me feel stupid, and feeling stupid makes me feel stressed. It’s a problem I have.

So if anyone knows how to delete the 1,025 email messages lurking on my iPhone since the day we bought it, help, please help!

Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.

Comments

jerry carlton 4 months ago

Amen! Windows XP is going belly up. Do I have to buy a new computer?

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Dan Kuechenmeister 4 months ago

Jerry, Rhys is probably the go to guy for that question, but our new computer is being delivered tomorrow. Thought long and hard about installing Windows 7 on our antique that has XP but decided it was too slow as it was so time to bite the bullet. I now know where I will be all weekend.

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Chris Hadlock 4 months ago

No Jerry, if you are happy with your computer Windows XP should run fine for a long time. Microsoft will no longer support the product which means any security holes will not be fixed. If you do your banking online, you would want to consider a new computer in the next couple of years. If it is just for email and surfing then use it till it drops dead on the floor and pukes up its guts.

When using older computers, make sure you have a 2nd copy of any picture or file that matters to you. If you do not have that copy when the older computer fails it will be gone.

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Chris Hadlock 4 months ago

PS. Rhys should contact me. I have need of some programming help. $$$ not friends and family/

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rhys jones 4 months ago

Chris -- I agree with all of your advice. Microsoft tells me they're not supporting XP any more, but that machine updated itself just a couple of days ago. My main (this) box runs Linux; I got the Windows machine to interface my Linux-based software with Windows software, for testing purposes, and because Skype is better supported on it.

I will contact you through this venue, and I hope I can help!!

Everyone: This would be a GREAT time to make the Linux switch!! It's free, and well-supported: The two times, developing my software, when I had technical issues and nobody in town could help, and nobody owed me support, I had to resort to the Internet forums to plea for help. Both times, some angel picked up my problem within hours, and stuck with me until it was resolved. One was in Tennessee, the other Croatia. It took four days one of the times, between our various schedules. That's the beauty of Linux: It's a COMMUNITY, for the benefit of its members, and we share and help each other. The Ubuntu distribution is extremely pretty and user-friendly, under the hood runs Debian, the definitive Linux, where all development is done, the most advanced operating system on the planet. The real geeks are putting Linux on their Macs, the most advanced hardware, to enjoy the best of both worlds.

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