Learning Curve

on Jan 16, 2012 by Michael Rupured

I bought my first personal computer back in the mid 1990s. The only software I used was America Online for e-mail and internet access, and because it came preloaded, Microsoft Money. At the time, I questioned whether or not the purchase was worth the money or the space the set-up required in my little Washington DC apartment.

By the time it died a few years later, I could no longer live without a computer at home. I ran out and bought another desktop, and when it bit the dust, another. I dropped AOL when I got internet access via my cable provider. For the most part, I still only used the Microsoft Money and the internet. I spent huge percentages of my free time in chatrooms which kept me tied to my desk.

Somewhere in there, we got wireless at home and laptops provided by our employers. Instead of being chained to my desk, the laptop took up permanent residence on the living room coffee table. I switched from Microsoft Money to Quicken, which was the only reason I ever had to boot up the old desktop.

After that desktop died, I decided not to buy another one. Instead, since the vast majority of my usage was work-related, I’d rely solely upon the laptop provided by my employer. I haven’t owned a computer for probably five or six years.

My employer-provided laptop started acting up on Saturday. The first time everything locked up, I rebooted without thinking much about it. When it locked up again, I was in the midst of making revisions to Glass Houses. I freaked out. What if I lost all the changes I’d made?

Thanks to autosave, I didn’t lose anything. But my confidence was shaken. Yesterday I didn’t get a chance to work on revisions. I did, however, use my laptop quite a lot. It kept locking up, and last night, wouldn’t reboot at all. Uh oh.

I’m the world’s worst about backing up my computer files. When the computer rebooted this morning, I immediately set about backing up all my important files onto thumb drives.  Since I’d have to return it to computer services, I spent the rest of the morning deleting my personal files, clearing the history, and otherwise trying to make it look like the laptop was only used for work.

But of course, that’s no longer true. I started blogging, joined Facebook and Twitter, and wrote two books–all thanks to my employer-provided laptop. It dawned on me that this wasn’t particularly cool. This morning I talked with my tech-savvy partner about buying a laptop.

He said I could get a good replacement for a couple of hundred dollars. Then he suggested I get a Mac. They’re easier to use and aren’t burdened with all the security software our employer requires. The computers provided by our employer are among the most secure in the world, mostly because a lot of employees don’t have enough sense to ignore phishing and virus-laden e-mails. The constant scanning slows operations down to dial-up speed.

Being a savvy shopper (aka cheap), I Googled Macs to check on prices. The model I wanted was available from 51 stores for a reasonable price. My partner said he’d go with me to Peach Mac on the other side of town to make sure I didn’t get up-sold beyond my needs.

I ended up paying about four times the reasonable price offered at 51 other stores. The nice lady at Peach Mac assured me that anything available for that price was likely refurbished. Of course I also had to have a case (I got a lovely red one for $50), a keyboard protector ($25), and a four-year service agreement ($250). After I got home, I decided the word  processor that came with my new MacBook Air wouldn’t work for me. So I went online and downloaded Microsoft Office for Mac (another $120).

The challenge came when I got it home. My tech-savvy partner suggested I go with the voice over tutorial. I spent the next two hours swearing and cussing at the cursed machine, trying to figure out how to navigate. Once we turned off the exceedingly annoying voice, I made more progress. It will take a while to figure out how to use all the features, but already I’m impressed. Swiping the mouse pad to scroll through open windows is very cool. Now if I can figure out how to install the Microsoft Office software I downloaded, everything will be hunky dory here in…

My Glass House

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