Friday, August 05, 2005

And like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes

The Doktah was a recipient of a prestigious graduate fellowship from the Whitaker foundation. Whitaker fellowships are awesome, because they include a certain amount of money every year expressly for computer purchases. I think it’s $1000 or so, and if you don’t spend it on computer accoutrements, you lose it. So, in her first year as a Whitaker fellow, The Doktah bought herself a desktop computer.

The Doktah was very generous with her stuff, and she set the new computer up in the lab and gave us all permission to use it. At the time, there were not enough computers to go around in the lab, so this was a pretty sweet deal. The Doktah had only a few rules to go along with the use of her computer:
1. The Doktah had priority of its use.
2. No one was allowed to install or download any programs without The Doktah’s permission.
3. No one at all was allowed to install Napster.
4. For the love of God, no Napster.

See, this was back when Napster was free and legal, but some people were apparently using it towards illegal ends. You may have heard something about it. But The Doktah found that, anytime Napster was installed on her computer, it got really screwed up.

She uninstalled it over and over, and spoke to the person responsible many times. Eventually, she stopped finding Napster installed on her computer. But the Napster-like problems persisted. She realized that the guilty party was installing Napster at night, downloading songs, and then uninstalling the program. He thought that he would get away with it that way, but her computer went screwy anyway.

Then one day, The Doktah was working on some data analysis and suddenly her file was gone. Poof! Gone! She went into the C-drive to look for it, and found that her files were scattered haphazardly all throughout her computer with new names and file extensions. Tension mounted.

The Doktah figured she might have gotten a virus on there, so she went to click on the icon for her virus software. “Um,” she said, “why is my auto-protect turned off?” Someone had turned off her automatic virus protection without her knowledge or consent.

She turned it back on and started a scan, but she had to stop it at 10,000 viruses found, because the software couldn’t handle it. She called the IT people, and there was a lot of congregating and discussing of options. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that her hard drive had to be wiped. Reformatted. Erase everything, start again.

But first The Doktah had to back everything up. And, thanks to one of the 10,000 viruses, this was no easy matter. Since all her files were moved all over the place, she had to go into every file directory by hand, change the name of the file, and copy it to a CD. One at a time. And she thought reanalyzing data was bad.

We never figured out who shut off the virus protection or why. Our best guess was that someone using the computer, probably downloading songs through Napster, found the little announcements of “file infected” annoying. Sort of like the people in this town who shut off their carbon monoxide detectors because they won’t stop beeping.

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