Sunday, 28 May 2006

In the time of computer crises

Access control, by ArminH (

I'm writing this on my Pentium III laptop, over a dial-up connection and using the out-dated Firebird browser (the early name of the Firefox browser).

My Athlon XP desktop PC went batty a few weeks ago, as a result of a sudden blackout (I can tell you that there's no quicker way to mess up a Win XP computer than to shut it down abruptly). The registry is now corrupted, making it impossible to start up, and barring me from my broadband connection. I have no choice but reformat the C: drive partition, but first I have to backup some 'important' files. I asked the Bro who agreed to help me if he has any extra 10 gigabytes to spare. 10 gig? You have of a lot of songs?, he asked. No, they're video files, I said. The complete season of Honey & Clover (all 24 episodes that took nearly a week to download) and the 4-part Black Jack: The 4 Miracles of Life, to be exact. But I'm not planning to share with him the exact details.

My tries to resuscitate my PC was met with little success. I scoured the Internet for answers, and with my limited knowledge, I realised that there is so much I don't know. Even after 5 years studying computers in graduate school.

This problem forced me to try something I feared a lot: the command prompt. It brought me back to the heydays of DOS, when I was in the later years of primary school and when the support for the mouse was limited and most functions were executed using keyboard strokes. In the command prompt, all we see is a black screen and white lines of text where results and typed-in commands are displayed. It's scary in the sense that you're unsure of what you're supposed to do next, the little amount of help available and the thought of potentially doing any irreversible damages. All you have is a bleak black background with cryptic white text staring back at you, all waiting for you to mess up spectacularly.

Working with the command prompt, according to my Eritrean friend (he's a big Linux fan), is the way power users use their operating system. He's kinda right, I think, because when I was typing commands in the command prompt, I kind of feel like I'm a hacker.

The experience allowed me to reduce my fears of the command prompts. It is not to be feared, but to be appreciated for its usefulness that it has over the normal Windows environment. Plus, it's probably the closest thing to being a computer hacker for me.

Alhamdullillah, I still have my laptop. I can still carry on doing my work without much hassle, although my laptop has lost most of its mobility. If you're compassionate about the condition of computers, you'll likely to cry yourself a lake once you look at my laptop. It looks as if it has been used by a reporter who came back from a long assignment in Kabul or Baghdad and has survived several bombings.

A few days ago, my thumb drive was infected by a worm from a friend's laptop, which consequently infected mine. It's a pretty sneaky fella, one that disguises itself as a hidden file and making us unaware of its presence. It attacks Microsoft Outlook but thankfully I'm not using it.

The support page from Symantec described how it attacks and how to remove it. It seems to be able to alter some of the Windows registry settings, and making itself reappear in different parts of the hard disk. That's why I called it 'sneaky'.

This episode taught several lessons that I would probably never learn if my laptop is all right. I learned how to use the msconfig to make my laptop to start in safe mode and the regedit to view, edit and backup my registry.

I'll admit there were times when I wanted to give up, and times when I looked at people with their laptops, without any corrupted registry or worms to ruin their day, with a slight feeling of jealousy.

However, I do believe that I've learned a lot from what has happened. I learn to care for and repair my machines and I may use this newly-learnt skill to help others, if they need any. Although I don't anybody who would, they all seem happy typing away and checking emails on their uncorrupted, wormless laptops. They're so lucky.

I know because I am too, but in a different sort of way.


dzul said...

jadi, camne? Boleh ke ko back-up fail-fail video ko tu?

rollie said...

Insya-Allah, Bro tu kata dia akan cuba...

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