Computers are wonderful – until they stop working


My laptop working again © Ricky Yates

My laptop working again © Ricky Yates

On the evening of Friday 20th June, after a very interesting but busy week about which I hope to write more here in due course, I returned home just after 10 pm and turned on my laptop computer. I wanted to pick up any new email, deal with new comments on this blog, look at the BBC News website to catch up on the day’s news, and visit Facebook.

I duly typed in my password but, instead of my desktop with icons appearing, I was greeted with the message, ‘The user profile service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded’. Several further attempts to logon just resulted in the same message appearing. I was completely locked out of my laptop and feeling totally helpless.

I had this same problem a year ago. On that occasion, it happened on a weekday and a nearby computer business called ‘Hardware Software Services’ (despite being a Czech company 🙂 ), kindly resolved the issue that same day. But they are only open for business 10.00 – 18.00 Monday to Friday, so I immediately realised that this time, I was going to be without access to email, the internet or any of the material stored on the laptop, for at least three full days.

I did console myself that it could have been worse. The next morning, Saturday 21st June, I had to officiate at a difficult funeral – only the fourth funeral I’ve conducted since moving to Prague nearly six years ago – a reflection of the relatively young age of most of the English-speaking expat community here. I was grateful that I had already prepared and printed everything I needed for that service.

Whilst I didn’t need to write a sermon as we had a guest preacher on Sunday morning, I had set Saturday afternoon aside to do all my other preparatory work ready for worship on Sunday. Most notably, this meant drafting the ‘Weekly Bulletin’ containing the text of the Biblical readings, hymn numbers, titles and tunes, together with notices of forthcoming activities & the contact details for me and the members of the Church Council. Not only did I not have a functioning computer on which to do this, all the relevant information I needed was also completely inaccessible.

I am quite proud of myself that, despite these difficulties, I did eventually manage to produce a ‘Weekly Bulletin’. I did so by using someone else’s computer, creating a new template, before copying and pasting the Biblical readings from a CD. I then printed off one master copy, leaving the back page of a folded A4 sheet, blank. Before photocopying copies from the master copy, I place a copy of the back of the previous week’s edition over the blank page, as the information contained was virtually unchanged.

My greatest problem was bringing to mind the four hymns I’d chosen a few days earlier. I’d sent the details by email, to the musical director of the choir of St. Chad’s College, Durham, who were singing at our service, as their choir organist was going to play for the whole of our worship. But the only record of my chosen hymns was in that email, which was sitting in a file called ‘Sent items’, on an inaccessible laptop computer. Fortunately, by re-reading the Biblical readings, all four eventually came back to my mind.

On the morning of Monday 23rd June, I arrived with laptop in hand, at the premises of Hardware Software Services, within a few minutes of them being open for business. By late afternoon, I once more had a working laptop computer with no loss of any data. I was kindly informed that what had happened was ‘a known Windows 7 problem’ and that mine wasn’t the first one that they had fixed. At the very reasonable cost of CZK 600 (just under £20.00), I was reconnected to ‘my world’ 🙂 Arriving home and connected once again to the internet, I downloaded fifty-eight emails and nineteen comments on this blog. Sadly, all the comments were spam 🙁

This whole experience last weekend, brought home to me once again how dependant I am upon one laptop computer, together with instant access to the internet. Suddenly, I could not carry out many everyday aspects of my job. My laptop computer is such a wonderful tool, storing an amazing variety of information and giving me almost instant communication with others – that is, so long as it works! And it isn’t just my expectations – last Sunday morning I had to apologise to the congregation, that if any of them had written me an email during the previous two days, I hadn’t seen it, yet alone been able to reply to it. Even emails that were slightly older which I had seen, I was presently unable to write a reply to any of them.

There is an interesting postscript to this whole business. The computer engineer at Hardware Software Services explained that, as part of resolving my computer access problem, they had de-installed and then reinstalled my anti virus protection but that everything else was in order. However, a couple of days later, I was unable to carry out an internet banking transaction with a message saying that this was because my internet browser was not ‘Javascript enabled’.

I returned to Hardware Software Services where the computer engineer agreed to look at the problem. He discovered that for some reason, I now had an older version of Mozilla Firefox and he went online to download the newest version. Being Czech, though fluent English-speaking, he promptly downloaded the Czech version of Firefox, something I only discovered when I got home. The simple solution is for me to download the English version of Firefox myself. But to do so, I have to follow instructions in Czech, because of currently having the Czech version of Firefox 🙁

8 comments to Computers are wonderful – until they stop working

  • Oh poor Ricky, it’s the modern minister’s worst nightmare. 🙁 If it had happened to me I’d have been almost as hamstrung as you. Even though DH and I back-up our files on each other’s computer every week, there’s always something that hasn’t yet been backed-up. I think you dealt with the problem very resourcefully. 🙂

    PS If I might make a suggestion, would it be worth downloading Chrome as a back-up browser until you can sort out Firefox?

    • Ricky

      Nightmare indeed, Perpetua! Your comment also reminds me that I need to do more to back up my own files. But short of having a second computer with every file on both computers, in case one malfunctions, I don’t really know what else to do. As I wrote, I was quite proud of myself with what I was able to conjure up, despite all my difficulties.

      Your PS suggestion is one I had been thinking of trying. Sybille is a great Mozilla fan & both of us use Firefox as a browser & Thunderbird for our email. One of my additional problems is the current absence on pilgrimage, of my computer & internet savvy wife 🙁

  • I downloaded Chrome when Internet Explorer started to conflict with Blogger and cause me all kinds of problems. It very soon became my preferred browser and I hardly ever open IE. I find Chrome light and fast and it would certainly be a useful back-up to have.

    DH and I only have one computer each, but at least if something went wrong our files would be safe on the other’s machine. DH also backs up the main files regularly onto memory sticks, being very much a belt and braces man. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Sybille calls IE ‘the dark side’ 😉 Will certainly try Chrome as you suggest. Backing up using memory sticks was also something I was considering so it’s interesting to know of DHs endorsement 🙂

  • Chris

    Hey Ricky, you may try to save and edit everything online, instead of backing up etc.
    You can try google docs/drive or dropbox for saving online your documents or combination of both.

    With that solution , in an event of a loss of your personal computer,
    you can just go to a public computer in a internet cafe, login to google docs/dropbox with your personal details and start editing your previous personal documents.

    • Ricky

      Thanks for the advice, Chris, which you will see is endorsed by the next commenter 🙂

  • Em

    What a pain! Glad you were able to get it sorted. I second the Google suite comment and also suggest Evernote. Nice work on the no-laptop troubleshooting!

    • Ricky

      A pain indeed, Emily! I am, for better or worse, so reliant on one laptop computer. But I was certainly very glad when I was finally reconnected to ‘my world’. And whilst I am quite proud of what you describe as my ‘no-laptop troubleshooting’, I wouldn’t want to go there again for a very long time!