I have been wary of safety devices of all sorts since I broke my leg in 1959 - the first day I had ever tried safety bindings on my skis. For this reason, I have steered clear of utilities which promise to get the user out of trouble. I have noted that friends who tinker with their software all the time, and have weird gismos lying around their desktop to boost performance, kill all known viruses, navigate their folders, compress data and launch applications in a twinkling, all seem to be trouble the whole time.
The secret of my success has been to stick with bog-standard software, never running too many programs at once, not overloading my store, and avoiding newly released gimmicks. In a word, never making my computer work too hard. In my 15 years of home-working, my Commodore Pet, ICL OPD/Tonto and most recently Mac, have all run sweetly with hardly a glitch.
Until last month, that is when I was tempted to break all my rules, and suffered the worst trauma of my computing life. My son-in-law told me he had speeded up his Mac Color Classic by de-fragmenting his hard disk with Norton Utilities' Speed Disk program. Great, thought I, my puny 80Mb disk is slowing my LC 475 down too. So we loaded Norton onto my machine, ignoring the rather muted advice in the manual to back up the disk first.
There was also a message to say that I should mend any bugs on my disk by running Norton Disk Doctor before using Speed Disk. I found this rather insulting to my disk, which was very well thank you, and has crashed very seldom.
Speed Disk started brilliantly, with a lovely graphic, which showed the program sorting the multicoloured chaos of the fragments of program littering my disk into uniform blocks. It made me feel clean and pure.
But then it stopped, with a message that the disk was too full, and the data might be damaged. "And now you tell me," I replied. It told me to run the Disk Doctor. This I did, to be told that loads of my files could not be accessed. Among them were my accounts for 1996/97. As this happened on 5 April, I was not too pleased. When it told me that Word could not be accessed, I became rabid.
I have come to hate the graphic of the smug disk doctor, unforgiveably half my age, with his dedicated expression behind his Clark Kent glasses, telling me that there is a serious problem on disk, the catalogue-b tree is incorrect. He gave no advice on how to correct the catalogue-b tree - whatever that is. I thought doctors were supposed to tell you how to get well. Various messages appear saying things such as "Node 494 has an incorrect forward link" and offers a button called "Fix". So I press it, and it responds "Fixed". The next time I run Disk Doctor, it tells me that "Node 494 has an incorrect forward link". I have given up.
Maddened, I tried to get rid of Norton Utilities before it could damage my disk - and my heart condition - any further. I dragged it to the wastebasket.
I tried to empty the Wastebasket, but was told I couldn't, because Norton Utilities was still in use. I bought a Zip drive and managed to copy Norton to it and clear the hard disk of it. Even so, with the Zip drive switched off, that smug doctor popped up again, while writing this column, to tell me that my catalogue b-tree is still wrong.
My hands are shaking. I reach for the whisky bottle all the time. I snap at my wife. Can somebody save me from the dreaded Norton Disk Doctor?
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