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Technological Wonders

POSTED March 6, 2012 1:50 p.m.

There’s really no question in my mind that computers are smarter than we are. Well, perhaps I should speak only for myself. My computer is smarter than me. And just when I think I have it figured out, something else changes and the learning curve starts all over again.

My laptop has been home with me on several occasions now, I have finally gotten over the fear of unplugging it from its dock on my desk at the office, and amazingly, it works the same at home! After hauling the mouse pad and mouse with me a few times, I even left those behind and just use the laptop control panel. The cats, of course, are very curious and more than once while working, I’ve had to fend off a flying feline for fear of them landing on the laptop and deleting an entire story.

This past week, the computer kept giving me these not-so cryptic messages and a countdown. ‘Warning: Your password will expire in 3 days. Please reset your password.” Two days. One day.

It wasn’t something the computer said (although I am almost certain I could hear the voice of Hal the computer from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ echoing from the hard drive), it was just a little pop up message that appeared each time I turned the computer on in the morning. I really thought it was kidding me. Didn’t we as humans get to decide when and why to change our password? I’ve had that password for months, it has always worked and it is imbedded in my memory like my social security number. I don’t want to change it.

But apparently the computer did.

My office manager said something about the computer knowing when it was vulnerable to being hacked and automatically wants to upgrade; that’s when it encourages you to change the password. So Friday morning it let me know my password had expired and, realistically, if I wanted to get anything done, it would have to be changed. A minor tweak later – since I don’t want to learn a whole new password, we’ll just mix it up somewhat and change a couple of things – my new password met with computer approval and I was on my way again. Pounding out the stories right and left, able to access everything I needed.

The entire office staff needed to upgrade to new passwords and technology was performing as expected until our sports reporter Ike Dodson, working from far off Bakersfield where he was following our local wrestlers in the State Meet, frantically got in touch with me because his computer wouldn’t let him log on to access his email. Of course he didn’t call me. He texted.

Just leaving a restaurant early Friday evening, my phone vibrated and I saw it was from Ike and started with the letters OMG, which seemed like not such a good sign. I handed the phone to my daughter so she could read the rest of the message to me while I drove and she indicated Ike was a little upset, based on his text and questioning whether passwords were changed and threats of possible bodily harm to those responsible.

I quickly pulled over, shut the car off and called him.

“They can’t change the passwords! I’m working!” Ike wailed.

I explained to him that it wasn’t our decision; the computers made us do it. My mind working furiously, I figured the easiest thing to do was go back to work and change Ike’s password myself. But I needed his current one so I would know what to log on with in order to change it. Of course I had no paper with me to write it down as he dictated the password so I used the nearest available writing surface – my daughter’s leftover dinner Styrofoam ‘to go’ box. Worked like a charm.

So back to the office, and with some assistance from Friday night personnel still on scene, I managed to find Ike’s email ‘home page’ and put in his old password. It was already not valid. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t log on. A quick call to the office manager, in case she had re-set Ike’s password earlier in the day in his absence. No, she hadn’t but she said it had to be done from a PC, not Ike’s Mac. Okay, for whatever reason the computer requires that, I went to an available PC, which then allowed me to put in Ike’s old password and create a new one, which he and I had discussed and agreed to previously, and re-set the computer. Then a quick call to Ike to let him know he should be good to go. He attempted to log on as we both sat there on our cell phones, discussing the unbelievable timing of computers. Of course it would want a new password the day he’s light years away from his desk, trying to upload stories, photos and up to the minutes results from one of the biggest sporting events of the season for several of the newspapers in our California group: Manteca, Ceres, Oakdale, Escalon.

On the other end of the line, I heard a huge sigh of relief as Ike was able to access his files. He was in. Crisis averted. Technology triumphs (?) again and he was able to send off the Friday wrestling recap just in time for deadline.

We’ll be okay until one of us forgets our new password. Hopefully ‘Hal’ has all them memorized … or office manager Debbie has them written down and safely stored away somewhere.

My money’s on Debbie. But I wouldn’t put it past Hal, either …

 

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at mjackson@escalontimes.com or by calling 847-3021.

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