as with any ecosystem
Wednesday, October 1 2003
Today I fixed that computer that was so incapacitated by adware that I couldn't fix it on site. I thought I'd just be able to re-install Windows and whatever was wrong would be healed, but there was something terribly wrong with this computer. The nature of the problem was similar to a viral infection, though Norton Antivirus was perfectly happy with the computer as it was. (Confirming my suspicion that Norton Antivirus is loosing its usefulness as infection threats come increasingly from legal, commercial enterprises.) Every time I would check the Task Manager, I'd see mysterious process running, but usually one of them would be so badly crashed that essentials such as the Start Menu would be inoperable. I'd track these processes down and find that they were .EXE files in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM. I'd kill the processes and delete the files, but then (when I'd do a view by modified date in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM), I'd find entirely new .EXE files, and they'd be running in the Task Manager. It soon became clear that these .EXE files had been assigned names entirely at random. I could kill and delete them all I wanted, but when I'd reboot, the problem would be back. There was nothing to do but build a new WINDOWS folder and rebuild the system from scratch. Whoever had developed these programs had worked very hard to ensure that they couldn't be rooted out.
Mind you, these problems all came from a teenage girl doing what teenage girls always do with their computers: using it under the twin forces of peer pressure and slick marketing. It's a fate well within normal for a computer, and yet the poor device was driven from operational to useless in the course of a month or so. Nearly every computer I encounter these days is beset with some sort of adware infection, though none quite as bad as this. Yet people seem blissfully unaware of new search bars, taskbar icons, and pop-ups as their machines slowly grind to a creaking halt. I think one of the reasons we're only beginning to see these sorts of commercial infections now is the incredible power of today's computers, which provides a vast attic of surplus computing capacity in which to conceal all manner of spies, trolls, hucksters, and dæmons. But as with any ecosystem, the environment of any one computer is limited, and a computer likely to get infected once will eventually fill to capacity.
I took Sally and Eleanor on a walk on a side trail that branches off the Stick Trail into a large forested area to the east. Up until today, this branch of trail was just a stub, a placeholder awaiting further investigation. I could see it going somewhere, but then it just vanished. Today I found where it picked up again, and I followed it through a more or less level region, past a wrecked hunting platform, to the beginning of a logging road. This sloped gently downward past some beautifully-textured bluestone cliffs and continued on beyond the edge of the known world. This new trail, hitherto unexplored by me, is clearly being maintained by someone, because every tree that had fallen across the logging road had been cut (with a chainsaw) to create a path just wide enough for either a pedestrian or a cyclist. I suspect the person maintaining this path is the brother of the guy who sold us our house. This brother lives nearby and occasionally I see tracks from his mountain bike on the Stick Trail.
Discovery of this whole new world branching off from a world I already know excited and overwhelmed me. I'm overloaded with new territory, far too much to ever really know. And I haven't even ventured across Dug Hill Road yet.
Predictably enough, it's starting to get cold again in the Catskills. I went on a housecall across the Hudson in Redhook this evening and I ran the heat in my truck for the first time in months. Back at the house the windows are all shut (and have been this way almost continually since August), but so far it's been unnecessary to run the hydronic heating system. I expect that to change within a week or so.
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