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BELLTONES: Avoiding Tech Terror Attacks

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Sep 1, 2007
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It happened to me recently, for the first time in ages. I had a near meltdown because of a glitchy computer problem. … Actually, I had several problems. … In fact, it was a perfect techie storm!!!

It seemed I could do nothing right. One thing led to another, and my frustration level skyrocketed. The first problem involved uploading a Web page to a domain my department had recently purchased. Uploading pages is something I have done for years. First I used a MAC and fetch. Then PCs and uploading to a university server. I know the basics. Keep everything in a folder, drag and drop, have an index page. But for some reason I could not get the index page to appear where it should.

Meanwhile, my computer had been sending up smoke signals for several days. My virus blocker timed out on me about 3 days prior, and when I tried to update, my computer could not finish the process. Something to do with pop-up blocks. Instead of solving the problem right then, I postponed. Now I was seeing the subtle and not-so-subtle signs that my wonderful laptop, lovingly named Vera Vaio, was not feeling up to par. She was balking at simple tasks. It was my fault, I knew. I was not practicing what I preach about using proper protection. And poor Vera was infected through no fault of her own. I felt guilty, frustrated, and a little angry. Why should Vera be so vulnerable anyway! Arggh! And so on.

Going Public

Then, just a few weeks later, I had a painful public panic attack, which was also something that had not happened in a while. I was setting up to present to a surprisingly large group at our state library conference. I had the usual 10-minute break between sessions to bound up on the platform and get everything up and going. Because my faith in the aforesaid Vera Vaio was somewhat diminished, I had the presentation saved to a brand new computer. A computer I had gotten less than a week earlier. A computer to which I had never before connected a projector.

As I walked into the room—a huge ballroom, for Pete’s sake—I had a fleeting thought: "Maybe I should have given this honey a test- drive before today." Then I went on to tell myself, "Nah, I will be fine." You can probably tell where this is going. Yes, I did have a little bit of a problem with the projector. It seemed my wonderful new little tablet computer wanted to be excessively helpful. Instead of immediately segueing with the projector, it wanted to chat with me a bit about what I really wanted. Did I want to see a display on both screen and projector? Was I sure I wanted to do this at all? etc. Meanwhile, looking out at my growing audience, I could sense the familiar symptoms of panic. My amygdala, home of my over-zealous fight or flight response, had snapped to attention. Just a tad before I leapt off the platform and headed for
the Texas Hill Country, I succeeded in making the connection and breathed a sigh of relief. Next, though, I was confronted with the fact that I could not get online. My host informed me that I would have to pay for the wireless connectivity. Ack! Now, in order to get online, I was putting up my credit card information. Since by now my display was beautifully projected for all to see, that meant sharing my card number with several hundreds of people. But I was afraid to disconnect! Again my amygdala tingled. Finally, I got through the entire process, at which point I felt like I had jogged a good 3 miles. And I still had the presentation to go.

Preventative Computing

What are some tips that might help those of us who are subject to occasional techie panic attacks? Here are some from my own experience. These tips apply to the annoying problems that crop up when your equipment seems to turn on you and to keep you from getting your work done at home or at your desk at work:


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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