Well, I finally got my computer back to normal. I lost a good day and a half of productivity last week thanks to that malware/spyware attack, and I'm still not totally back where I was. Though my computer is now virus-free (or so my MacAffee program says), and even though I didn't lose any actual files, I did lose my entire RSS feed. Which is a total bummer. (I had to completely disable it/delete it because that's where the spyware decided to attach itself to my computer).
For those of you who aren't familiar with RSS technology, it's basically a way for you to keep track of any new content that shows up on sites that you visit frequently. It first appeared in connection with blogs, and allowed you to track when your favorite bloggers posted new entries without actually having to go visit their sites over and over again. Then news/commentary sites got in on the bandwagon and added RSS feeds, then social networking sites, and so on.
I only had about 15 feeds set up in my desktop RSS widget (I know people who have hundreds), but I accumulated those feeds over a couple of years and now they would take me a long time to redo manually. I followed a few of my friends' blogs and those were in there, plus some publishing industry blogs, some Huffington Post commentators that I like, and a few custom online news feeds that I set up around certain keywords. Plus I had the Playbill.com news blog, which helps me keep up with Broadway and off-Broadway theater news.
The RSS feed really made my blog and news reading more convenient. Once or twice a day I'd look at the feed widget and see if any of my favorite sites had new content. If they did and it looked interesting (you'd get the blog/article heading and the first sentence) I'd click on it to go to the full site to read. It really saved me a lot of browsing time and also helped me be a little more choosy about what I read.
Of course, when the spyware made my computer blow up, the RSS feed went haywire. The spyware was probably running contantly, scanning every site I had linked in my feed looking for site traffic data. Popups kept appearing all over my screen, and eventually my computer shut down. I had no choice but to get rid of the whole thing. Which sucks, because now I either have to spend hours manually re-entering all my old feeds, or spend hours actually going directly to all those sites every day looking for new content. Neither of which I have time to do right now. So, I guess I just won't be reading online as much.
I think maybe this whole thing was a divine message from the universe sent to tell me that I waste too much time screwing around online when I should be working on my book.