Summer Computing Blues

by Gilles d'Aymery

September 22, 2003


This has been a rude summer for Swans; not on the scope of the land of the one thousand and one nights or the many spots in the world where poverty, disease, starvation and violence are rampant, but tough nonetheless.

It started with the debilitating stroke that on June 20 hit Deck Deckert, who, after a two-month leave of absence due to his relocation with Alma Hromic from Florida to Washington State, had just begun to contribute again to our bi-weekly editions. While he has recovered his speech and some mobility he still cannot use his right arm and hand, forcing him to type his craft with his left hand only (yet he still manages to keep writing!).

Then, in early July, we had the opportunity to be interviewed by BBC radio Senior Broadcast Journalist Andy Martin on "the situation in Iraq............. and the recent attacks on American and British personnel / similarities with the Vietnam situation." I did not feel I had enough knowledge on the "Vietnam situation," at least from a US perspective. I thought of Deck, Milo Clark and Louis Proyect. Deck evidently was out of commission; Milo Clark managed to royally screw up the time difference; and Louis finally was interviewed but he didn't manage to slip in a plug for Swans. As he told me later, he did not manage to mention his own Marxmail either. For some reason I didn't feel much consoled! How often does such an opportunity cross one's path? Hmm, once in seven years, that's how often...

Next came a late Sunday afternoon, right when I was ready to post the latest issue of Swans. I clicked on my modem connection and a message appeared on the monitor screen: No tone. I tried again, no tone; again, no tone... I checked with a telephone to see if the phone line was in proper working order. It was. Again, no tone... I had to scramble with my backup machine (which, of course, had not backed-up anything in a while) to load the files. I spent most of the next day attempting to fix the darn modem to no avail; eventually went to the local computer store and bought a new modem, uninstalled the old one, installed the new one, no sweat...

No sweat except that the original modem, for a reason totally unbeknown to me, used to connect at 110kb and the new one connects at only 45kb...at best, which has been a real bummer ever since. And how is it that I do not have broadband? Well, yes, Swans Central is located within Silicon Valley, the heart of the digital revolution where speed is king and where you eat lunch or are eaten for lunch. (At least that's how it used to be...) I guess I am an "OFU" (see, Richard Macintosh's current piece for the meaning of this wonderful acronym) because the telephone company's (SBC) relay is over 3,000 feet away from our house (2,000 feet is the maximum distance to get DSL). The cable companies? Excite@Home kept promising (like SBC does) that they would reach us soon. Soon was over two years ago...they've gone bankrupt since. Some other consumer-friendly enterprises would gladly satisfy our needs if only we were first ready to cough up $30 a month for cable TV (which we do not have and do not want) and then they would as gladly charge us $50 a month for broadband. Sprint had a satellite solution to offer but the technician, once on our premises, told us we needed to install a 30 to 40' high antenna on top of the roof and even then was not sure we could get a good reception. Earthlink assures us that they can bring the next wonder (max 400k) for 70 bucks but cannot guarantee the speed. Hey, when was the last time you paid $5.95 or $9.99 a month? I still am working on the trick to make money grow on trees... Meantime, stuck in Menlo Park with the modem blues again!

Jan's machine had a fatal hard disk error that needed attendance.

On July 31, Milo Clark bailed out of Swans. He felt that Michael Parenti's piece on Tibet was a pro-Chinese diatribe that merited "little response other than disgust," and that he found "[him]self embarrassed by association." I guess, after the BBC debacle and various frustrations engendered by my reticence to follow his layman technical advice regarding the future CSS (Cascade Style Sheet) formatting of the site, Parenti's piece was more than he could take. We received a sibylline message: "I'm going on sabbatical for an indefinite period." Better not mess with volunteers and make darn certain that any one contribution from all contributors do not offend any other contributor! Yup, sure.

It was calm for a few days -- ten, to be precise.

In the morning of August 11, a strange message appeared on my monitor, something about the RPC services being shutdown and the need to restart the computer, which I diligently did with a question mark in my mind -- what the heck is going on? The tiny byte lemming came back as soon as I tried again, and again, and again... I eventually managed to reach my anti-virus Web site, downloaded the latest definition, ran a full Hard Drive check (over 40,000 files). No virus was found; yet the lemming was back. Looked at the W2K registry, looked and looked and looked, and by the next morning decided that I would use my backup machine and reformat my workhorse. So I transferred the needed files to the backup and was in business again early in the afternoon. I connected to the Net and -- guess what? -- all of the sudden the lemming reared its ugly head. Okay, now I knew there had to be some malice involved here. The evildoers were attacking us again! I was able to download my e-mails and here was a message from Jan who was forwarding me an article about an Internet virus. You've heard of the Blaster Worm, haven't you? The original one (there've been 5 new strains since then) hit the ground early on the 11th and I was one of the very first to get hit (through a stupid modem connection) without still knowing for sure how I got infected. Had I downloaded the latest anti-virus definition in the afternoon (when it was updated) rather than in the morning, I would have saved at least a full day of work and lowered my blood pressure by a few degrees... Murphy's Law would have nothing of it!

Okay, download the removal tool, go on the M$ site and download the patch (at a 4k snail's pace) and fix both machines. Ask Jan to ever-so-kindly solicit from her computer gurus at work that they burn a CD with the latest service packs for NT 4.0 Server and W2k (Will Daley, whom I trained to take over my computing job three years ago, has simply walked away from the help he provided for a while -- also this summer) and, the next day, bring the whole kit and caboodle up to date.

Of course, since then Blaster II forced M$ to release yet another patch! Meantime, "Sobig" and "Swen" appeared, nicely clogging my e-mail box -- with interesting headers like "New Internet Technical Pack," "Returned Mail," "Undelivered Mail, etc. -- in addition to the usual ads for Viagra, extended penis, mortgage refinancing, get-rich scheme, the "right" girl just waiting for you, sexy call girls, the widow of Mobutu offering a multi-million dollar deal (or is it a general from Iraq?), and the gazillions of junk mail that this crass materialism is forcing down our throats day in and day out, hundreds at a time. Still, I am fortunate to use one of the very best e-mailers that exists today, Pegasus Mail, which allows me to check the headers of all e-mails and delete all the trash before downloading the relevant mail.

Right on or about that Blaster time, I began to sense a little discomfort in my right arm, wrist and hand. Nothing worrisome enough to stop my 8/10 hours a day (when not repainting/remodeling the house -- last year was the front, this year the East side. Two to go...). Work is an American pastime aside from shopping, watching TV and waging war -- Americans work in average nine more weeks per year than Europeans... A few days later, I could not move my arm much anymore and I've been struggling with this Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ever since.

Fortunately, just as I was beginning to wonder whether this entire project was worth the efforts and the pains, Jan and I took a five-day vacation (first time off in two years!). We went to Sheep Dung Estates in the Anderson Valley, North of San Francisco and home of the famous Anderson Valley Advertiser (we even got a subscription).

We hiked and read; read and hiked, and gazed at morning valley fog and evening stellar wonders. Made me forget the computing blues.

· · · · · ·

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.

Please, feel free to insert a link to this article on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans. This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
· · · · · ·

This Week's Internal Links

Environmental Suicide or Economic Survival - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

US Insane Nuclear Policy: Letter to my Senator - by Manuel García, Jr.

Acid Reign - by Michael W. Stowell

Delusions - by Richard Macintosh

Where Are the Democracies? - by Philip Greenspan

Gods, Ghosts, And Superstitions - by Phil Rockstroh

Why? - by Charles Buffalo

Being A Muslim Since 9/11 - by Abdul Latif Aeppli

Action, Reaction - by Tim Bellows

Cancelled, Because Of Budget Cuts - by Alma A. Hromic

The Five Questions — And An Answer - A Poem by Alma A. Hromic

Talking To Myself Out In Right Field - A Poem by Scott Orlovsky

Letters to the Editor


Published September 22, 2003
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]