How I spent my week: Hunting down an insidious virus that had turned my desktop computer into a billboard for bogus downloads promising to fix nonexistence problems for an outrageous price.
There is nothing like a bare-knuckle fight with a bunch of cybercriminals to ruin my usual sunny disposition.
I contemplated flinging the damn thing off the Santa Monica Pier, or, better yet, removing my hard drive and dipping it in boiling oil while laughing hysterically. Instead, I reached for another handful of blood pressure medicine and washed it down with a dry martini.
Up in Colorado, Lucas Hinch had a different approach to his computer problems. He pumped eight bullets into his 2012 Dell XPS 410.
So much for ctrl + alt + delete.
Hinch reportedly got great satisfaction from his action. "It was glorious," he told a reporter. "Angels sung on high."
The Dell kept giving Hinch the "blue screen of death.” “It was extremely frustrating," he said. "I reached critical mass."
Alas, Hinch was cited for discharging a weapon within city limits. His gun was confiscated and he faces a fine although I’m thinking no jury would ever convict him.
I ended up with a menu full of malware and spyware search-and-destroy products which promise to keep my computer pure as the driven snow. Unfortunately, while they ferreted out viruses and other assorted junk, they didn’t prevent them from returning.
A friend finally suggested that I reboot my operating system to a pre-virus version which, as of this writing, has worked with sporadic success.
Had I owned a gun however…
Lest you think Mr. Hinch and I represent some sort of technological lunatic fringe, there is a clinical condition known as Computer Rage which is spreading like, well, a virus. And we have it bad.
According to one research paper on the subject, it is a heightened physiological response with associated feelings of anger and frustration resulting from using a computer or other complex electronic device. It may result in the physical assault of the computer or similar item, most likely leading to the device incurring more damage than it had before.
The malady is so common that a California company offering data recovery services to victims of computer meltdowns features a call-in service staffed by a woman who used to manage a suicide prevention hotline.
Further evidence is found in a survey conducted by the University of Maryland asking those afflicted with Computer Rage how they acted out their anger.
A few answers:
“I poured gasoline on a computer and set fire to it.”
“I once shot a computer with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.”
“I took great pleasure throwing an old monitor into a dumpster hard enough to smash it completely.”
“I have smashed 3 keyboards broken with bare fists caused by pure hatred against Microsoft Windows.”
“Coffee in the keyboard, with sugar works best.”
“Shot a 19-inch monitor with a 12-gauge shotgun. Then with a .22, then hit it with a hammer.”
“I once was so frustrated that my laptop was going so slow I threw it into a fryer when I was a manager of a restaurant.”
“I once got concussion from slamming my head on the monitor.”
And the ultimate comment: “I hate not being able to understand things. It makes me feel inferior, computers have a way of doing that sometimes. That's why I feel like smashing my computer with a hammer.”
One could deduce from these findings that computer frustrations rank along road rage and telemarketing calls as a danger to our collective mental health.
To avoid the kind of computer rage you might regret later, experts suggest using a strategy that's familiar to parents: take a break.
"Usually, the best thing to do is to get out of the environment. Just like if you get mad at your kids. Leave the house, leave the office, cool down for 10 to 20 minutes," said one.
Actually, when my kids misbehaved, I stared at them with a look that, if allowed to continue for too long, could have turned them into pillars of salt.
I it on my computer. It just stares back.
Someone suggested that companies could benefit from instituting 15 minute "frustration breaks" that employees could take during the week. Consider it the 21st century version of Industrial Age break-time.
The consensus from those who study such things is that when something goes wrong with your computer, the best thing to do is slowly drop the mouse and step away from the keyboard.
That smells like surrender to me. Next time, I may just try the boiling oil approach.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.