I’m on something of an enforced vacation these days. Current work at the property (fooling around with the boat, removing old seats and carpets to make way for new) is of the type that doesn’t require two. Steve says when I’m along on a job like that all I do is “hover,” and it’s true. There’s nothing worse than somebody standing around just watching, hoping to be useful. So this week my mornings are at home. Yesterday I intended to use the down time to play around in the blogosphere. I got waylaid.

When I booted up my computer yesterday morning my McAfee security app notified me that my subscription, which had been free to me as a Comcast customer, had expired. Since the Comcast freebie was a vestige of Arlington and the relationship no longer exists, that meant the time had come to take advantage of another free McAfee promotion, this time through my bank. It was a simple enough operation on the face of it: uninstall the old Comcast McAfee so that a new download wouldn’t recognize a twinned image of itself and abort, go to the McAfee site and establish a new account via my bank, and then download and install the new virus protection. Even at my middling wireless speeds the operation would take an hour at most.


The McAfee installation refused to finish. It would go through every slow-as-molasses step, checking my computer for old versions and viruses, downloading the six components of the “security suite,” and then trying to install them. Always, at the very end of the process, the word “failed” would appear.

I made my first call to McAfee tech support at around 10 am. I would make 5 more such calls over the course of the day. Until 6 pm I was mostly sitting in front of this screen, either explaining my situation to unfailingly courteous Indian citizens whose accents ranged from Simpsons Apu-esque, fun and totally understandable, to the utterly incomprehensible, or watching the slo-mo progress of another ultimately failed installation. At the end of the most frustrating phone session–the one with the diligent and hardworking man 95% of whose words escaped me–I thanked him for his hard work, congratulated him on his knowledge and his seriousness, and urged him to get training in American English if he intended to stay with McAfee so that all that knowledge could be put to its intended use.

In the end it turned out that somehow my computer had become infected with Trojan horses, applications that appeared normal to a virus scanner but were really spyware, and that my Windows security settings were wrong. These discoveries were made when I turned over control of my computer to the technician on the phone with me in India. I watched as the cursor drilled into the nether regions of this piece of machinery I so take for granted and discovered rafts of stuff that shouldn’t have been there. It was an eye-opener to learn that even though I may be conscientious about scheduling regular virus scans and emptying temporary files, the control a lay user really has is limited. I always wondered why so many temp files remained after I “emptied” the folder. Still don’t know why, but the removal yesterday of all of them doesn’t seem to have hurt my computer.

It was on one of the earlier phone calls that I had the fear of God struck into me about using Firefox. The fact that I was trying to download through Firefox was the first theory about why installation was failing. McAfee, I was told in no uncertain terms, does not like Firefox. I dutifully uninstalled Firefox and worked all day only through Internet Explorer, which only added to the fun–IE is exponentially slower on this computer than Firefox. It was a relief to put Explorer back to bed and welcome Firefox back as my default browser.

How’s that for a boring day? Geeze, we can blog about anything, can’t we? For relief I put up a picture I took a couple of months ago of the beautiful Perquimans (rhymes with “persimmon”) River, one of the great, completely unheard-of streams that water this part of the country. It’s brackish, doesn’t taste salty but has enough salt to support a very healthy population of fish and blue crabs. The picture looks east, into the sunrise, toward the river’s mouth (not visible) at the Albemarle Sound. We make this crossing every day on our way to the property.

Steve just called to tell me the electricians are back, putting in light fixtures and switches. One more step. Electricity to the house can’t be too far behind….