Monday, January 28, 2008

Tool of the Trade

Our computer is a good computer--a plucky, good-natured, girl-next-door of computers.

She's hardly a virgin, mind you. I voided her warranty a few days after we got her by drilling holes in her case, but that did prepare her for the life she was going to lead. She has never once overheated when my husband and I played games on her.

She has, despite everyone's efforts to practice safe interneting, had a few embarrassing viruses that required intervention. Nevertheless, she has always been our girl, eager to please and game to try anything.

But this week has been hard on our girl.

About Wednesday, she developed a cough--a clicking sound. A few days with the doctor didn't seem to help much, so we tried a home remedy that did: we replaced her graphics card and changed some BIOS settings.

On Saturday, her arm went numb and became unusable (the printer seized up.) Her prosthetic arm was costly, but better than new, because it prints in colour too. Nothing but the best for our girl.

Last night, however, she caught another virus and her immune system collapsed (both the firewall and the antivirus software refused to load.) When we tried to revive her in a sterile environment (re-booting in safe mode), she slipped into a coma and has not woken since.

We have good records of her memories, so we do have the option of raising her from the dead. However, my husband gently suggested to me last night that, to protect her in future, we might want to give our girl an operation that would make her less of a target.

That's right: a sex-change operation. She will be changing her name from the very feminine Ms Windows to the masculine Linux. My husband tells me she will be good as new and better able to defend herself afterward, and that while I will notice differences, I will eventually get used to them. Alas, however, he says she will never be as playful as she is now. (The games will have to be transferred to the laptop.)

Please join me in raising a glass to our good ol' girl. May she thrive in future.


And just to tie this all in to writing, the thing that worries me most is that I'm going to have to start using OpenOffice instead of Word when I write. Apparently you can open Word documents and save in Word format using OpenOffice, but I do worry that the process is imperfect. Word is pretty much the standard in the publishing industry; I need to be able to create Word documents that will work on other people's Windows computers.

It's amazing how a modern convenience can be invisible until you don't have it any more. You don't notice electricity until the power goes out; you don't notice tap water until there's a boil-water advisory. I didn't think about my computer's operating system until we decided to change it.

A functional computer is an essential tool of the writing trade. I don't like writing long-hand even for first drafts because it's slower, I get a tired hand, and I know I'll have to type it in eventually.

What would you do if your computer conked out tomorrow? How would you continue writing? Would you use a typewriter or do it long-hand? Would you pay someone to type the manuscript into Word for you afterward, or borrow a computer and do it yourself? How crippled would you be?

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