The Pride Before the Fall

Kage Baker was a menace to her own computer system.

I’ve recounted this many times, I know. Kage appreciated the heck out of her computer, but she just had no instinctive feelings for the use of the machine. Every time something changed – new OS, new game, expanding a file or adding a drive or (panic stations time!) getting a new computer … well, Kage came unstuck.

She kept careful instructions on how to do anything she might ordinarily need, and she followed those instructions faithfully. When any one of them was altered, it blew the entire system for her. A horrible cascade effect occurred: every L/R, U/D, Y/N decision escaped her and brought down all the vital associations she had attached to it. And as it turned out, Kage had associated things I had no idea could be attached to one another … sometimes literally. She had an inhumanly deft knack for inventing macro commands, whereby some combination of keystrokes undreamed-of even by the top level wonks at Microsoft was enabled.

Those were the occasions when she  erased entire documents, or converted the current font to Wingdings, or inserted large, empty, coloured boxes hither and yon in the text. Once, she called me over to ask that I please get rid of the underlining that was appearing under every other line in her document. She had no idea how it had gotten there, or how to get rid of it.

I’d usually ask her to go read or watch telly or play a game on the laptop, while I tried to undo whatever had happened. It was no use demonstrating it to poor Kage afterwards, either: the topic literally made her eyes unfocus and her head ache. She’d put her hands over her hears and sing “La,la,la!” when I tried to show her how drop-down menus worked. She took a solemn vow to never download anything unless I was right beside her.  Luckily, Kage was as suspicious of anything online telling her to do something as she was of people trying it; it was natural for her to remember to just refuse all cybernetic blandishments.

I had to remove Microsoft Word somewhere around version 6, I think, because Kage simply could not decipher the new format or tool bars. (I didn’t blame her – that version sucked.) Luckily, Open Office became available just as she lost all patience;  for the rest of her life, she used that, with great comfort and relief.

Windows 10 would have driven Kage to violence.

In particular, she’d have hated its insistence on downloading updates without permission. I rather hate it myself … no matter what I enable or deny, it keeps finding ways to download changes and then demand I install them. Furthermore, it won’t tell me what the hell they are – a problem, Dear Readers, with which I am certain you are all horribly familiar. It was bad enough with Windows 8, where you had to track down the definitions for the updates online: at least I could see what they were. Now … I could be downloading the operating system for the Circles of Hell, for all I know.

And do you know what happens, Dear Readers, if you just refuse to install them? After several tries and much pleading, Windows refuses to start up until you let it install the damned upgrades. Sometimes, just to be contrary, upgrading other, non-Microsoft programs gives Windows 10 dyslexia, or a lisp, or transient ischemic attacks … the last time I upgraded Adobe, the Start menu on Windows 10 refused to respond to mouse commands until I deleted the upgrade. Oh, and the bottom toolbar disappeared, too.

Anyway – while I normally know my way around my system pretty well, I am occasionally blindsided; even without Kage converting half a document into Cyrillic. I mean, it happens to all of us sooner or later. “User friendly” is a paradise aspired to, not a level you can expect to install on your daily desktop …

So. Last night, I deleted all my incoming emails.

Now, my incoming mail is separated into several categories as it arrives. And I tag it and sort it into several, other, permanent folders. And of course I trash some of it. Somehow, last night, I ordered all 1,200-odd pieces in my Inbox to be Archived at once – and they all vanished. They were scattered through more than a dozen different categories, and some of them weren’t labelled at all: Papa Legba only knows where those untagged babies went! I’m still digging for all the properly labelled ones.

Some of them went to the appropriate folders. Some didn’t. Some went to folders I had no idea existed until today. Some went places I can find, but I can’t tell why they went there; I’m anxiously examining them in detail to see what weird thing I used to label them in the first place. From a complacent, professional competency, I have been reduced to a gibbering pilgrim through the Dark Unknown Lands of my own hard drives.

There is one consolation, though. Somewhere, I just know, Kage is laughing her ass off.