Now and then the unexpected happens and leaves you floundering. Even though we know that certain emergencies can occur – the punctured tyre, the stolen handbag or the phone dropped down the toilet, for example – we never seem adequately prepared for them when they eventually occur.
Yesterday evening, Tigger said that she could not get the Internet radio to work. Then when we looked at the BBC’s iPlayer site, that wouldn’t run either. Were there problems at the Beeb or…?
I began to notice problems on my own PC, in particular difficulty accessing certain sites online. I couldn’t load even such standards as the Google search box. Some sites would load and then they wouldn’t, or a previously refractory site would become available, but only briefly.
I suspected that the Internet connection was misbehaving even though the PC was reporting that it had a strong signal with good speed. Then I thought to try the iPod and found it could access all sites without the least difficulty. This indicated that the Internet connection was fine and that the problem was on the computer… on BOTH computers, because Tigger was having the same problems.
I switched off the wireless connection and connected my PC to the router with a cable and tried accessing the latter’s adminstration page, thinking it might have some scrambled settings. I found I couldn’t access the admin page on the PC even though I could easily do so on the iPod. The mystery was deepening.
I eventually reached a position where I could access ordinary Web sites with Firefox (though not with Internet Explorer, Comodo Dragon or Opera), though they took an unusual amount of time to load, but all sites relating to viruses, such as Kaspersky’s Web pages, refused tot load. This reminded me of what happened last time I had a virus infection, then too I was locked out of such sites.
There was another piece in the jigsaw. When I rebooted the computer, the familiar little window that pops up to tell you about programs still running would appear and inform me of a running program whose name was unfamiliar to me. It in fact appeared to be a string of random characters. Was I in this catching a glimpse of a virus’s coat-tails?
These clues suggested to me that my computer had been infected with a virus that had managed to sneak past the firewall and antivirus shield and install itself at ease on my machine.
What exercised me, though, was that Tigger was experiencing similar problems. I began to think that I had inadvertently passed the putative invader on to her machine via the wireless connection. (Jumping ahead somewhat in the narrative, the technician I spoke to said this couldn’t happen.)
There was nothing for it but to pack the laptops in their bags and, thIs morning, for me to trundle them up the road in the shopping trolley to the computer repair shop.
I am at a loss to understand how two computers simultaneously but independently develop the same fault unless infected by the same virus. But what is the likelihood of two people engaged in different tasks falling victim to the same virus at more or less the same moment? The odds must be hugely against it. On the other hand, if it isn’t a virus, what is blocking our access to the Internet and Web?
If the worst comes to the worse, I have all my data, together with the installation files of my applications, backed up on external disc drives, though if we do have a virus, then these drives could be contaminated too and would need to the cleaned.
We will now have to wait, as patiently as possible, to hear what the repair shop has discovered. In a household where, unless we are going out for the day, the computers are switched on first thing in the morning and switched off last thing at night, this wait is painful, to say the least. I keep thinking of things to do, only to realize I can’t do them because there is no computer to do them on.
I can do a certain amount on my Blackberry and on my iPod, and we also now have an iPad which can be pressed into service, but the hole in our lives is all too evident nonetheless.
For this reason, I am surprised how calmly I am taking what I would previously have regarded as a calamity. Perhaps recent events on the health front have helped put such things into perspective. The computers will be back on our desks in a day or two, all being well, and normal service will then be resumed, albeit at a cost of money that was needed for other things.
For now, I am enjoying (if that’s the right word) a break from computers and rediscovering other ways of filling my time.