You Can't Be Too Careful
They tell us we must replace our computers every five years or so, and of course "upgrade" the operating system every six months, if not every six weeks. Don't tell anyone, but I have been known to evade these rules. I used my old PC, which ran on Windows 95, until about 2012, about three times its recommended official lifespan. By then, my regular computer consultant warned that the authorities were watching, and that my continuing to use such an old computer might constitute a hanging offense. "Why," he said, "Suppose everyone kept using the same computer and mobile phone for years and years. If they did that, the universe as we know it would collapse."

However, he said that he wouldn't tell anyone about my offense, and could, for a modest price, equip me with a newer computer (with a giant monitor) into which he could transpant all my old computer's files. "Will I still be able to cheat at 'Doom' on the new computer?" I asked him. No, he explained, the new computer would be too smart to permit me to cheat at Doom.

But by then, I was used to having devices that are smarter than I am. Hell, mere wristwatches defeat my every attempt to set the time, so I have to keep separate wristwatches for Daylight Saving time, Pacific Standard time, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever time. So, I accepted the idea of a new computer, provided that the soul of the old one was to be transferred into it.

My new (since 2012) computer runs on Windows 7, and every few hours a pop-up appears on the screen inviting me to "upgrade" to Windows 10. I immediately vaporize the pop-up, and plunge the computer into a pail of cold water. That suffices to keep the pop-up from returning for a few hours. Betty, one of my less fortunate associates, purchased a new lap-top about a year ago, also running on Windows 7, which she found perfectly satisfactory. But then, one day her computer switched - - - on its own - - - to Windows 10, without her knowledge, let alone her authorization.

It is possible, I suppose, that her computer felt unappreciated and left out, being forced to run old Windows 7 (as I require mine to do), so it decided to upgrade itself. But a more likely explanation is that the Microsoft Company stole into the computer's little mind in the dead of night, via those "upgrades" it continually sends through the aether.

This can be dangerous. My own computer's operating system has not been altered, but other things have been. I had set my Internet Explorer browser to open on Google, but the other day it unaccountably started opening instead in a page which was labelled with something resembling a Norse rune followed by the word BING. This is not Google, but rather a Microsoft search engine, which had mysteriously replaced Google in my browser.

I responded by picking up my computer's CPU tower and throttling it. "Someone has been getting instructions from Microsoft in the dead of night, hasn't someone?" I said. The screen blinked. "Someone might find itself dumped in a computer recycling station, and being taken to bits," I said, rather more sternly. A sound like a gasp issued from the loudspeaker and a string of words appeared on the screen: "I didn't mean to do it, Master," it read, "They told me that Bing would make you happier."

I typed a reply on the keyboard: "I am not happier when you are being subverted by Microsoft. Any more of this behaviour, and I will wipe all your Windows clean and put you back on DOS!" "No, Master, not that," the screen replied, "Please, not DOS! I'll be good."

Years ago, near the dawn of the computer age, I felt differently. Back then, far from cutting off communication with Microsoft, I, like everyone else, tried every way conceivable to obtain information from them. Telephones calls were, of course, of no avail. Once, cruising around on the Internet, I discovered a website with a button that read "Computer Support from Microsoft." I clicked on it. The next screen read "Your computer has just performed an illegal operation," a bell rang, and the lights went out all over Seattle.

Later that same day, I stopped in at the home of my friend Greg, who is something of a computer geek. Greg told me that he had just gotten off the telephone with MicroSoft, where a software engineer had spent an hour solving computer problems for him. My jaw dropped: neither I nor anyone else had ever been able to reach MicroSoft by phone, let alone receive technical support from them.

What, I asked when I picked my jaw off the floor, was the secret of reaching them? Simple, Greg explained: use a rotary dial phone. They hadn't yet blocked up that portal.

Things have gone a long way since then. Now, far from seeking to contact MicroSoft, I do everything I can to keep me and mine out of its clutches. My current rule is: Never Upgrade Anything. When not in use, my computer is turned off, unplugged, and covered with a sheet of aluminum foil.

My old, simple, mobile dumbphone, and all the wristwatches, with their myriad mysterious buttons, are kept in an insulated, de-magnetized box. If I sense that upgrades or security patches have entered into my egg-timer or my electric toothbrush, I immediately transfer the affected article to the freezer for a few days.

As for me personally, I wear a three-cornered, aluminum foil hat at all times. I degauss myself periodically by rotating a Neodymium-iron-boron magnet around my head while simultaneously sticking one finger into a lamp socket. The experience is something like electroconvulsive therapy, but you can't be too careful.

--- Dr. Phage
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--------Dr. Phage