It’s been an interesting few days

Not in any really desirable sense of “interesting,” unfortunately.

Sunday morning, I came back to my house to find my front door not working. What had happened is that something had jammed in the latching mechanism, and the latch wouldn’t withdraw enough to allow the door to open when the knob was turned. If it had happened a week before, it wouldn’t have been much of a problem, because the weather was warm enough then that I had most of my windows open to let the breeze through, and all it would have taken was removing a screen and climbing through. However, this past weekend was chill enough that I had all of the windows latched closed.

Marion had a locksmith she’d used before that she recommended highly, so I called them. The dispatcher said he had nobody he could send, but he could set up an appointment for the next day. Not acceptable. He did have another locksmith company I could call, though. Unfortunately, he’d set up his booth at the Mile High Flea Market and was unavailable until about 4:30 or 5:00 pm. Again, not acceptable.

I went to the local Home Depot and Lowe’s to see if they had a locksmith service or someone they knew who worked Sundays (and Mother’s Day in particular). No luck. No “home break-in kits” for sale, either. The lady I spoke with at Home Depot pissed me off, too – after explaining about how my door mechanism had broken, she asked some co-workers about locksmiths by calling out across the store, “Hey, this guy locked himself out! Can we do anything?” Why, yes, having broken door hardware is just the same as pulling a locked door closed without having your keys.

When I got back, Marion called a 24/7 emergency locksmith while I was otherwise occupied. When he got there, he tried the doorknob for a couple of minutes, then drilled out the lock cylinder (which scared me, because he was using a bent drill bit) and tried the doorknob again. When that didn’t work, he put his shoulder to it and broke the door open. The jamb was split completely across through the hole for the latch, and three pieces of it were on the floor (two large and one small). He then took two screws and put the two larger pieces more-or-less back in place and asked me if I wanted him to put a new doorknob in. As if.

I probably shouldn’t have paid, but I did. Way too much. I changed the text on the receipt that said that there were no problems and that I was satisfied with the job, though.

Monday morning, I called and asked for the owner, and complained to him. He gave me a $50 refund (insufficient, but I didn’t want to get into kicking and screaming). I then called the original locksmith Marion recommended. The phone dispatcher said, “You’re kidding!” when I described the situation, then connected me with Mark, one of the owners, who gave exactly the same response. Mark came out and examined my door, then said I didn’t need the jamb replaced. All I needed was a better repair job. I’d have needed a replacement if the split had gone though the deadbolt hole, but the latch isn’t what gives me security on that door. He couldn’t do the work until Wednesday morning, though, so we set up an appointment and I went in late to work.

Then yesterday, I thought I’d go out into the back parking lot and play ukulele during lunch – the Swallow Hill Ukefest is this weekend, and I could do with some more practice. Unfortunately, the C string on my uke had broken. No ukulele for me.

I got back to my office and started to work again, but found a large number of “disk error” alert boxes pop up. Then a program I knew I hadn’t installed started running and claimed that I had tremendous numbers of hard disk errors. I immediately did a hard shutdown of my desktop, and started investigating using my laptop. It turns out that I’d been infected by S.M.A.R.T. HDD, a piece of scamware/ransomware that purports to find disk errors, and offers to fix them if you provide a credit card number and upgrade from the “free version.” It also hides all of your desktop icons, prevents Windows Task Manager from running, and takes up enough system resources to make it difficult to run anything else.

According to Microsoft’s website, this is a new version of a several-year-old program, and they really can’t protect against it. The approved removal method involves booting into safe mode with networking, then running Internet Explorer to download several programs that will take care of removing the infection. That didn’t work for me; I had no access to programs from the Start menu in safe mode – the “run” box was missing and the only program on the menu was the fake disk utility.

I got in touch with our IT services provider and got walked through a recovery process, but that failed. We set up an appointment for him to come in this morning while I was dealing with the locksmith, and he’d clean the infection from my system. I stopped and picked up some ukulele strings on the way home.

The IT guy had just finished when I got to work (by the way, the locksmith did great work on the jamb, and cleaned up a couple of other door-related problems I had – I can whole-heartedly recommend Master Security of Arvada).

Unfortunately, the scamware had also hidden a number of documents, including an entire directory that I need to work with, which I admit would have been hard, if not impossible, for the IT guy to notice. Luckily, the applications needed to clean my system, including an “unhide” utility, were left on the system, so I’m running that in hopes that it’s all I need to get back to work.

Now, I find I can’t get into my Google Plus account. We had a meeting yesterday with a web design person, and I brought my laptop into the meeting so I could show her the statistics on our current site as well as the site itself. Showing the statistics required logging into Google Analytics with my work email address, so now Google Plus wants me to “upgrade” with my work email address, and I don’t seem to have a way to tell it I want to log in with my Gmail account information. Way to go, Google!

I’m hoping that I’m not told that there’s no record of my buying my pass for the Ukefest when I try to pick it up. I’m not sure it will surprise me if it happens, though.

Sunday, when this all started, was May 13th. It’s a day off, but it reminds me of the lament in one of the Pogo strips, which went something like this: “Friday the 13th done come on a Monday. We’s gonna have a whole week of bad luck!”

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