Not the best start to the new year. Computer problems have come back into my life, not with a crashing bang, but with a growing volume of otherwise minor misdemeanours which are making time at the keyboard less and less productive.
First, it was just an increasing tardiness as the computer booted up. Then Outlook and Internet Explorer decided they'd connect to BigPond only when they happened to feel like it, which was about half the time.
A friend who knows a lot about computers, and is also scornful of open-source software, suggested I'd asked for problems when I downloaded and installed the free OpenOffice.org 2.0 suite as an alternative to paying heaps for Microsoft Office and Publisher. She suggested I run Registry Mechanic to rectify a stuffed-up registry.
But Mechanic was sixty Australian bucks in a box at Domayne, bundled with some other program I didn't want, so I researched registry cleaners online. This took me into lion country.
I don't suppose you ever found yourself surfing porn sites, but from what I've been told of them, modern online software retailers must now be fully au fait with the techniques pioneered years ago by pornbrokers.
Such as "independent" review and appraisal sites set up by vendors to spruik their wares. Popup windows which won't close unless you click "yes", or take you to another popup if you hit the "close" button. "Free" test scans which disclose hundreds of errors, then demand your credit card details to fix them.
In the end, I bought ErrorSmart and Registry Easy plus a few add-ons for almost $90 Australian. They seemed to run OK, although I didn't feel they improved things all that much.
Then I ran some of the add-ons, to delete junk and duplicate files. After that, Windows refused to start at all. The computer would bring up the black and white screen with some basic BIOS commands, sit there for perhaps a minute, then shut down again. And that's all.
Up the road, the computer repair guys reinstalled the important bits of Windows (another seventy bucks), and fixed all the apparent problems like BigPond connections.
Alas, OpenOffice fell out in the process, and I was still unable to access important files. The only answer was to download OpenOffice (now up to version 2.3.1) and its installation files. A couple of hours and 136 megabytes later, everything seemed to have run like clockwork. Except OpenOffice refuses to open.
It's certainly there, lurking in the entrails of the computer, because it's in the menu and labelled OpenOffice 2.3 (so it's not the old software), with startup and desktop icons where they're meant to be. It's listed in the menus of a some files which ask you to select the program in which they are to be opened. But no way can I coax it out into the light.
So I talked it over again with the computer repair guys. The registry must still be cluttered with the detritus of a couple of years' heavy use. So now I'm going to reinstall the basic software from the disks supplied when I bought the computer. First, however, I have to copy everything I can on to backup CDs.
Anyway, don't expect another post to Grumpy Old Journo before the Australia Day weekend. Before that posting, I must give priority to a club newsletter which must, absolutely must, be finished by February 4.
To think that when I retired four years ago, I thought I'd said goodbye to the tyranny of deadlines! Cheers for the festive season, and wish me luck.