Uneasy Money

The best part of the computer service gig is unboxing a new computer, setting it up and then watching its owner oooh and aaah as he compares the zippiness and new features to the sluggishness and limitations of his old computer. Setting up new computers is a pleasure, not to mention a fantastic way to earn a living if you are going to work in IT.

The second best task in the IT gig is attacking a business-halting computer crisis that you slam dunk, resolving it in less than thirty seconds. For example, your client begs you to rush over because
Internet and email is down. When you arrive, instead of wasting time with sympathy and speculation, you dive under a cluster of desks, crawl through the dust bunnies and stale potato chip fragments and pat your hand around in the dark until you feel the correct cable. You press it in and feel a magnificent click as it locks back into the computer -probably dislodged by the vacuum of an overzealous janitor. That's the good stuff in IT -when you rise from under the desk, dirty and heroic, basking in the accolades of grateful Internet addicts. Kind of rare, but a very nice buzz, indeed.

The IT gig has unpleasantries too. The number two worst task for a computer guy is having to remove harmful software (worms, spyware or viruses). Success feels OK, but the insidiousness of the problem taints the joy.

The worst task of all is removing malicious software again, after you begged a client to follow your guidelines to avoid re-infection.

My client, Miranda, compulsively installed any "free" games, smiley, chat, and file-sharing program she could get her mouse on. She also opened all attachments that popped into her Inbox. In the process her computer contracted some of the most severe and diversified infections of computer-clogging, malicious software I had ever seen. I visited her, spent two hours using everything I had to get her computer cleaned. Before leaving, I installed a web-based antivirus program that would email me if problems returned.

A week later, her antivirus software emailed me, saying that it detected and quarantined a new trojan file on her computer. I called her and asked, "Did you just open an email attachment?"

"Oops, you caught me!" Miranda laughed. "Guilty as charged. I've got to tell my boyfriend to stop sending me those. How did you know? " I wanted to holler, but bit a knuckle until the urge passed. I reminded Miranda of safe email practices and she agreed to follow them. Soon thereafter I got a regular flow of email notices of other cleaned files on Miranda's computer.

Eventually, I may have to revisit Miranda since her Internet recklessness is roulette -even with good antivirus software installed. I won't complain, because IT guys often are paid to re-fix avoidable problems. But, gosh, that's a tough way to earn a living.

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