Saturday, August 31, 2013

Revisiting The Stephen King Novel: Real Life "Christines" In The Computer World.

Remember the vengeful, possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury from Stephen King's novel, "Christine"? This distinctive looking red and white classic seemed to have its own evil agenda of eliminating anyone who stood against it. It could even repair and rebuild itself after being severely damaged so it could pursue its next victim. So much lost business for the auto body repair shops!

Although the story is fictional, I have actually seen demonic "Chrisitine-like" entities in my and business over the years. Although most computer issues are relatively minor and can be fixed without too much trouble, there are some horrific things that can rear up and do serious damage.

Long ago in 1993, I was working for a non-profit agency that assisted with settling new immigrants. Their computer ran a dBase IV custom database application that kept track of all the loans they made to help people start their new lives. For a while, there was a very serious problem with this database. Blocks of records in the database were mysteriously disappearing and no one could figure out why. Finally, the computer was taken to a repair shop where it was determined that the file allocation table (abbreviated FAT in techie lingo) that managed the file system was corrupted. It was like putting a running chain saw through their database. Everything had to be backed up and the MS-DOS operating system was restored with the backed up files to finally put an end to all the trouble.

I have had 3 encounters this year alone with a really evil malware known as "FBI Moneypak". This thing is so treacherous that it will freeze up the Windows OS before it can even start up. You can't mouse click or CONTROL-ALT-DELETE your way around it or anything short of powering down the computer. There are a number of variations of this monster. Sometimes it won't even let you start the computer in "Safe Mode". Aside from the locking up, it can show a live picture of you if your computer has a web cam installed. The screen that freezes your computer typically displays serious looking federal government stuff and can even show a picture of President Obama pointing his finger straight at you! Needless to say this thing can quickly make people think they have to follow the bogus instructions or even buy a new computer. However, it can be defeated. Of the 3 encounters I have had with it this year, I backed up the files/folders of one computer and did a factory reinstallation of Windows and then copied everything back -virus gone. With the other 2, I did a system restore of the Windows OS to an earlier date and that seemed to do the trick.

One time in 1992, I accidentally created my own home grown "Christine". At this time I was building a MS-DOS invoicing and accounts receivables for a small business that sold toys as fund raising packages for schools. The was basically built and working, but I had to go back and make a change to the way the accounts receivables file names were being automatically generated. This minor change created a minor error that slammed into this business like a cruise missile!It was creating AR file names that already existed in the system. To make a long story short, it over wrote 41 accounts receivables ledgers. It took me two and a half days to manually rebuild all of them and believe me it wasn't fun!

By now you are probably wondering, where did he get the idea for this crazy post? When I was attending The University of Toledo in the nineteen eighties, I was driving a 1975 Chevy Malibu four door sedan, brownish-gold color. I was having a recurring problem with the carburetor. It would either idle very lightly or very hard - never in between. I kept taking the car to a mechanic at the northwest corner of the university. He could never make heads or tails of it. The problem was never solved. I thought the '75 Malibu had a mind of its own, so I gave it a fitting name: "Christine".
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