Two and a half hours after my tech guy began trying to uninstall Norton, he had purple smoke coming out of his nose and mouth. Well, Vimto-flavoured vapour. Sucking on this pseudo-crack pipe like a junkie, he was, and I was itching all over from a bad case of techno-hives.
‘What on earth is happening?’ I kept asking him as he ransacked the hard drive of my laptop, making code flash all over the screen. He told me that if this didn’t work, the only option would be to wipe the entire hard drive clean and start again.
I couldn’t explain to you what he explained to me about what was going wrong if I wanted to, or not in his words. The gist of it was that since I refused to put in my credit card details to renew my subscription for the first year in a long, long time, Norton, whether through design or accident, was taking up 30 per cent of the memory of my computer by permanently triggering windows to try to open itself up.
Trying to uninstall by activating the uninstall option to no effect was taking up further memory, creating an overall scenario of what I like to call, using a technical term of my own, a pig’s ear of a mess.
Andy Tech was missing bowling night with the lads. I thought he could just pop over for half an hour to uninstall Norton, but from the outset he warned me that this was unrealistic. Norton doesn’t just uninstall in half an hour. It requires someone of the calibre of Mark Zuckerberg or Tim Berners-Lee to come round to your house and spend hours bending their brains in half.
The idea that an anti-virus programme can begin to act like a virus, to all intents and purposes, is mind-boggling to me. When I didn’t renew my subscription, the blasted thing didn’t just go away, it remained there in the background popping up every five minutes to remind me that I didn’t have it. And this slowed everything down to the point where I was pressing a key and it was taking ten seconds for a letter to appear on the screen.
Andy arrived and found the uninstall option, but after an hour it was obvious that wasn’t going to work.
Nearly three hours and £100 later, I had spent more in tech assistance than the cost of Norton itself, but a point of principle was at stake.
Was I to be indentured to Norton for the rest of my natural life? No! I would never surrender! (If Andy could get me out of it.)
‘I’m so sorry you’re missing your bowling night,’ I said. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said through teeth clamped around the spout of his vaper.
He was sucking great gasps of sweet-smelling clouds into wherever that stuff goes and bashing at the keys with increasing fervour. At one point he happened upon a window that asked him to click a box saying: ‘Let Windows choose what is best for my computer.’
‘Oh, God no!’ I screamed, as he clicked the cancel button. There were endless untold horrors in this hard drive of mine.
Even I could not have imagined that my laptop was so stuffed to bursting with devilish programmes attempting to crush my self-will.
Andy sucked Vimto-laced nicotine and bashed the keys shouting ‘No!’ and ‘You will not!’ as he manfully defeated a string of mysterious attempts coming from deep within the computer to disable the uninstalling of Norton.
In the end, it was too much for me and I had to open the drawer in a console table where I stash a single packet of Marlboro Lights for situations so bad they cannot be handled any other way. It is in a rare first edition white and gold pack without mangled organs because the last thing you want when you’re puffing on an emergency fag is to be told that it’s going to give you a tumour the size of a guinea pig on your neck.
That just makes you even more stressed, so the first fag doesn’t hit the spot and you have to have a second to get over the trauma of the gore on the packet.
As I risked death, Andy began downloading a programme called a Norton Remove and Reinstall Tool. He promised me he could defeat the last bit and not reinstall. It seemed a mad, touch-and-go scheme to me. But he is a great man.
Finally, three and a half hours after battle commenced, Norton lay dead. A great peace came upon my laptop and lo, everything started working.
Andy installed some free AVG anti-virus and allowed it to run tests. And the first thing that came up as suspect was a ‘browser add-on’ from Norton.
The Spectator, 6 October 2018, pp.70, 72
(A supreme understatement)
Sir: Lionel Shriver’s concern about #MeToo is timely, welcome and apposite (‘Men should be angrier about #MeToo’, 29 September). The #MeToo movement has brilliantly leveraged the amplifying power of social media. Newspapers jump on to the sensationalist survival bandwagon, and reinforce the victimhood vibe. Their magazines are now almost predominantly female-focused. The Times is a prime example, where the columnists in the main magazine don’t appear to like men very much. One male writer, Robert Crampton, has a column titled ‘Beta Male’. Can you imagine what would happen if there were a column titled ‘Submissive Female’? Every day on ‘serious’ radio we are subjected to Women’s Hour with no male equivalent. There appears to be no platform for rebuttal or discussion from a male perspective. Men are effectively being written out of the script. However, if the confected female/male conflict continues, I predict that eventually men will indeed rebel vehemently and the feministas will have reaped a whirlwind that perhaps they might have wished to avoid. Workplaces are already altering to the detriment of all.
Letters, The Spectator, 6 October 2018, p. 27
‘Women’s stupidity is so overwhelming that anyone who comes into contact with it will become, in a way, infected by it. That this is not obvious is solely because everybody has been exposed to it from birth and, as a result, has become inured to it. In previous years men either ignored it or believed it to be a typically feminine characteristic which harmed no one. But with the increase in leisure and money to spend, woman’s need for entertainment has grown. Consequently, her imbecility is spreading into public life as well, reflected not just in vases, bedroom pictures, brocade curtains, cocktail parties, and Sunday sermons. The mass media have become more involved in it. Women’s programs are gaining ground in radio and television. And even respectable newspapers print society gossip, crime features, and fashion news, horoscopes, and cooking recipes. And women’s magazines become every day more numerous and sumptuous on the stands. Step by step, not only the private sphere of men but all of public life has become infected by this stupidity.’
The Manipulated Man, Esther Vilar, first published 1971. This from the 1998 edition, which appears in earlier translation in the Abelard-Schuman, London 1972 edition at p. 115.