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December 01, 2010

Blog Blocked by Breakin

Shards of shattered window glistened on the asphalt and on the backseat where my laptop bag shouldn't have been so conspicuous. The bag was gone, of course, and with it the laptop, extra batteries, several cables and chargers, a mouse, a USB multiport, my Garmin watch and chest strap, miscellaneous pills, and whatever else had accumulated in the bag's many pockets. I always put the valuable stuff in the carryon bag so it won't get lost by the airline. Ironically the to-be-checked suitcases lightly disguised under the hatchback weren't taken, and Mary's carryon bag was still on the floor of the back seat. Truly a smash and grab and a lousy way to end a great week visiting grandchildren and their parents.

The purpose of this post isn't to whine, though, or even to make an excuse for not blogging for a couple of days (there's an unfinished post still on the laptop – maybe). The real story is about technology, reconnecting, and help from the cloud.

First things first: Mary called the cops; I called Hertz. The very polite Sunnyvale police told us we were unlikely to get the computer back; but opened a case and gave us a number. You can't file any claims without a number.

Hertz said they'd come and tow the car but that I'd have to go the Hertz office to file a report, not what I wanted to at the moment since son-in-law Hugh kindly said he'd drive us to the airport hotel and we didn't need another car. They said I had to; but, when the human hung up, a robot gave me further instructions for reporting an accident, which said I had 24 hours to report and gave the URL of an online form. Much better.

The stolen computer has built in Verizon wireless connectivity so, while waiting for the tow truck, I 611'd VZW. I could get to the place in the voice menu where it asked if I wanted to cancel the phone I was calling from – "Duh, no". But I don't know the pseudo phone number associated with the radio in the phone. Pushed zero for an operator. Was told zero is not a ten digit number. Tried zero again. "Push zero to confirm you'd like to be connected to an operator." Did that. Robot hung up. Tried again; same sequence; same result. Calling and immediately saying "operator, operator" AND pushing zero did get through to a very helpful human who retrieved the computer's number and suspended it without inadvertently killing the phone which was now my only remaining connection.

In the hotel in the middle of the night it occurred to me to worry whether I had let the browser remember my password for anything important. The computer itself was protected by its own password but I assume someone knows how to hack through that. Decided to change my passwords for Google, PayPal, and Amazon; but, of course, had no computer to do that with. Took my Droid into the hotel bathroom and fired up its browser. All three of these services have mobile-formatted pages but none of them let you change a password without going to the regular version of the website. I could never have done this on my old Blackberry but did get the passwords changed for Google and Amazon. PayPal's site and the Droid couldn't agree about where on the screen I was touching (clicking); and PayPal was the service I cared about most.

Ah, but I still had my Kindle, which had been in Mary's bag. Kindle has Internet capability. Used that to change my PayPal password but didn't quite get back to sleep before it was time to get up for the 6am flight.

There was a lot not to panic about. My computer, except for the partially completed post I'd worked on that day, was backed up in the Mozy cloud. Incremental backup happens every connected night. I wasn't out of email touch since I get and can respond to email on my Droid. My contacts and calendar are not only on Mozy but also on Gmail thanks to gsyncit; and they replicate from gmail to the Droid. A year ago I would have been much more concerned and much less connected.

next the world's worst e-form, an unfriendly business center, and training a new computer: Getting Back Online

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