Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adventures in Technology

This all started with YouTube.

Those who know me understand that among the many and varied adjectives that could plausibly be used to describe me, “tech-savvy” is not one of them.  The material world and I have issues even at the most basic of levels, and when you add computers into the mix those issues just get compounded.  I use computers all the time, but I don’t really understand them.  They’re just magical black boxes where the internet is stored, and if I don’t have to think about them any more than that, then I am happy.

So when I somehow managed to mute everything on YouTube, I was confused.

And I do mean everything.  Every YouTube video I accessed, whether from the site itself or from other sites that linked to it, from every browser on my computer, was silent.  I clicked on the volume button next to the videos, but nothing happened.  I checked the sound on the computer – everything else still made noise.

Aha, I said.  I’ll reboot.  That works more often than not.  I don’t know why – cars don’t magically fix themselves when you turn them off and turn them on again, but in my experience computers do, roughly three quarters of the time.

This was one of those exceptions.

Maybe it’s my software, I thought.  I therefore took the opportunity to update my main browser and Flash, thus quelling the little “Update Me Now!” reminders that have been popping up for weeks now.  And still no sound.

At this point I had plumbed the full depths of the puddle that is my technical knowledge, so I asked for help.  And the UCF came through!  Random Michelle and Phiala led me to the solution (apparently you have to click on the volume button and drag it to the right – who knew?) and I was in business again.

Somewhere in there, though, the discussion morphed into a general conversation about anti-virus software.  I have no anti-virus software – this is one of the nice things about owning a Mac.  Most virus writers don’t bother writing for Macs.  But apparently this is changing, and so I took Michelle's recommendation to download an anti-virus program.

I set it up.

It asked me what I wanted to do, and I figured that well, in for a penny, in for a pound, why not have it do the “Full System Scan.”  Might as well get it all fixed up as a baseline.

I began to get suspicious after about twelve hours.

The program scanned through the hard drive fairly quickly and found a few files that had viruses in them – all of them at least three years old, and none of them put there by me, so I could feel sort of virtuous that way.  This particular screw-up wasn’t mine!  Yay team!

Then it moved on to the Time Machine – the automatic back-up system that comes with Macs these days.  Time Machine is wonderful.  You plug in an external drive, answer a couple of questions, and it automatically backs everything up for you.  I’ve used it to restore things.  It’s great.  It does exactly what it says it will do, and how rare is that?  I figured, might as well get the infections gone there too.

And the program duly found the same infected files on the Time Machine.

A dozen times.

Eventually the little light bulb went off in my head.  Time Machine automatically backs things up every hour.  Every time it does that, it creates a separate, new master copy of the hard drive.  This means that the anti-virus program has to scan that too, which takes almost an hour.

Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick, it’s a race!

I thought about just letting the two programs fight it out, but that seemed counterproductive.  So I told the Time Machine to stop making backups for a while, and I went to bed.

It’s been almost 24 hours now, and the anti-virus program is still chugging away, finding the same small group of infected files, over and over and over and over again.  I suppose I should tell it to stop at some point – they’re just backups, and eventually the Time Machine will delete them itself – but part of me just doesn’t have the heart to call off the dogs after all that work.

Go, little anti-virus program, go!


Megan said...

I am still chuckling to myself about your problems with the volume button.

Random Michelle K said...


And please don't take our subsequent discussions as reason to stop asking questions--as I wrote in a recent post--as I geek I WANT to help you to use and like technology. I just want to make the process less painless for both of us. :)

Eric said...

You should be able to set the antivirus software to skip checking archives. In fact, this a pretty essential step, since checking compressed archives typically requires the computer to uncompress the file, check it, and recompress, which will take more time than there's years left in the universe if you have a full backup on the drive.

David said...

I finally just told it to quit searching. Then I tried to get it fix the problems it found. On one document, it did. On two others it said it couldn't. And after that it wouldn't let me do anything, so I just quit the program.

Oh well.

I'll keep asking, because that's just how I roll. :) And next time I scan I'll have it skip the Time Machine.

The problem I find with computers is that they aren't difficult but neither are they intuitive. If I don't already know the answer, chances are I'm not going to figure it out on my own.

beatrice in Paris said...

"they aren't difficult but neither are they intuitive".
And from the mouth of the male species, WOW!