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Sorting out my IT at last

I had a rather stressful, but ultimately successful day on Wednesday. For several years now (ever since Chris died, in fact) my home IT system has been getting gradually more and more ropey and unsupportable. It didn’t help that he set the network up in a way that made sense to him at the time, but never explained to me (to be fair, I wasn’t particularly interested) so there’s a mixture of WiFi, wired ethernet and ethernet-piggybacking-on-the-ringmain. His desktop computer blue-screen-of-deathed on me months ago, I get the colly-wobbles turning on his laptop, and my laptop was getting slower and slower until it was barely useable. And of course I only know some of his passwords which is very limiting. At some point I really needed to face up to it all and get a system that I understood and was in control of.

The final straw was when my printer died last month. With the third anniversary of his death coming up next week, I decided that now was a good time to get a grip, buy a cheap new laptop and printer and get it all sorted it out. So two weeks ago I went to the local computer repair shop that’s within walking distance of work, and explained my problem. I don’t in general like playing the grieving widow, but it’s helpful on occasions to do so – especially as it turned out that the chap behind the counter had known Chris and was very sympathetic. They gave me a reasonable quote for acting as a sysadmin and sorting it all out, gave me some advice on what sort of laptop to get, and for good measure were able to “sniff” one of my email passwords, which was helpful – and they didn’t even charge me.

I ordered a printer and laptop off Amazon (the latter running Windows 7, not Windows 8 which has had terrible reviews for non-tablet devices. I don’t want to be an inadvertent beta-tester for them! But it’s surprisingly difficult to get a Windows 7 machine) and they arrived last week. So last Friday after work I walked into town to the computer repair shop – only to find it closed and taken over by a gang of shopfitters! They said that the shop had closed down just the previous day! Drat. But at least they didn’t have any of my money or equipment. I walked back to work feeling distinctly pissed off – I’d psyched myself up to sort this out, and now didn’t have a sysadmin. I decided I needed a treat to cheer myself up, and called in at the bakers to buy a danish pastry. Outside the shop was a van for a rival computer repair/sysadmin company – perfect timing! I called them as soon as I got home, explained my problem all over again, put the grieving widow act back on, and arranged for them to come out on Wednesday to set my system up and leave it working. They charged more per hour than the first place, but on the other hand they were clearly still in business!

At 10am on Wednesday the sysadmin turned up. He didn’t have any sandwiches with him and was clearly expecting to be away by lunchtime. I said to myself “If I thought it would only take two hours, I’d be doing the setup myself one weekend, and wouldn’t have taken the day off work and be paying per hour for sysadmin support!” Sure enough, at 12:30 he was clearly only part way through the job and I had to provide him with some lunch. In the end it took us five hours, working through things methodically, reverse-engineering Christopher’s thought processes, and building a working system a bit at a time. At one point we had three laptops and the iPad all being consulted for various configuration files and setups. It was quite stressful at times, and I was really glad I had someone to help set things up, as I suspect I’d have bottled out at the first hurdle otherwise.

But now I have a much faster laptop, configured pretty much how I want it, with sensible access to my email, with most of my photos and all of my music copied over from my old computer. The only thing we weren’t able to do was change the name of the WiFi network, which is still “Christopher’s Network”. I’d have liked to change that to something more anodyne, but I didn’t have the password needed to do so. We discussed doing a factory reset of the WiFi node, but that would have meant then resetting all the devices that connect to it. Since we deliberately left that to last (on the basis of let’s at least get something working first)  it was 3pm by then, and I decided that enough was enough. If and when the BT exchange gets upgraded to faster broadband, that will be a good time to upgrade my router and WiFi. Until then, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

I feel a lot happier now that I’ve got something that works and is sustainable into the future. That’s another step further forward, which is good.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. pauld | 3 August 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Definitely good avoiding windows 8. I’m even considering worse case scenario that if one of our computers fails then i’ll have to buy a machine with windows 8 and first task will be to install a linux o/s on it !

  2. Julia Jackson | 3 August 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Well done, Gillian! I think I need to sort out my stuff, and Peter’s, before anything happens to either of us – if I was in your position I’d be totally lost as far as the technicalities were concerned, and I know nothing about P’s systems (this despite having taught IT in the dim and distant past. before the advent of modern-type PCs,when everything was much more simple!) Enjoy your new system. Re the above message, Peter likes linux, too – it’s apparently a much more stable o/s thanWindows. I wouldn’t know – but as he designed a very stable o/s himself when he was working he must know what he’s talking about (he was a very senior systems designer for Plessey, working on System X for the first BT digital telephone exchanges).

  3. Gillian | 3 August 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I think the very minimum you need is a complete set of passwords, written down and locked away somewhere safe, e.g. with your Will. And if Chris had left a “wiring diagram” of how he had set the network up, what was connected to what, and who was supplying broadband, domain name, web-hosting and email, it would have made life a lot easier. And I’m an engineer, working with computers on a daily basis! Even so I needed to get an expert in to unravel things…..