The Maltese Window Cleaner

The night was as dark as a spammer’s heart. I had just finished a big case…some recording company wanted to know who was stealing their music. They didn’t like the answer: everybody. But I liked their check; it was big and fat and had lots of zeros—some of them before the decimal point.
The name is Rowe. Mack Rowe. Private consultant.
I was debating what I should do with the money—buy a new overcoat or invest in gumshoes—when someone knocked on my door. When you work in the scummiest part of town and someone knocks at 3:00 in the morning, you can’t be too careful.
“Come in,” I called. “The door is unlocked.”
In walked a gorgeous dame with blonde hair out of a bottle, a bright red dress with a slit skirt, and legs that stretched all the way to her waist. “Mr. Rowe,” she said, “I’m in a terrible fix. I need your help. Teddy hasn’t been himself, lately. I suspect foul play.”
“And Teddy is your husband,” I asked.
“No,” she explained, “my computer.” She pulled a notebook out of her oversized purse and laid it on my desk. “He’s painfully slow. Several programs don’t run at all. It can’t be a virus, I’m running Kowalski Internet Security Suite.”
That explained it. Kowalski might protect her from viruses, but she needed me to protect her from Kowalski. I named a price, we negotiated, and I agreed to do it for nothing. Then she left some CDs and an AC adapter and disappeared into the night.
I plugged in the AC adapter, booted the notebook, downed a shot of bourbon, rolled a cigarette, smoked it, then checked the PC. Still booting. Three cigarettes later, it was ready.
The first thing I did was slip the Run box a little msconfig. But instead of the configuration utility, I got a web page full of naked women. This puzzled me for a moment. Had Microsoft changed the interface or was my client just a little bit kinky? I tried regedit with the same results.
I scanned the hard drive with Kowalski Internet Security Suite—just on a hunch. Turned out the dame had installed a free program named UCanTrustUs. According to Kowalski’s site, this package records your every online move, slows down your PC, and—to protect itself—redirects all calls to msconfig or regedit to a porn site.
Coincidence? Could be.
I knew I needed something better than Kowalski to go up against UCanTrustUs, and that meant Hammett and Chandler’s PC-Spellen. The trouble was that installing PC-Spellen and Kowalski on the same computer was like mixing whiskey and gun powder. It might taste good in the short run, but it could blow a hole in the back of your head the size of a Windows bug report.
And uninstalling Kowalski wasn’t going to be easy. That program digs itself into Windows like a rat in cheese. I started with Kowalski’s own uninstaller. When that finished, I rebooted.
Windows came up with an error message. I clicked Cancel and up came another. And another. And another. Who would have thought that Kowalski would load 17 different startup programs, and not bother to turn them off at uninstall? Who was I kidding? Anyone who ever tried to uninstall Kowalski would think that.
Luckily, I knew how to remove unwanted autoloads. I went to that old Run box and typed “msconfig.” You know, sometimes even I don’t like looking at naked women.
This was going to take a different strategy—or at least a third-party Registry editor. I ran RegUrgitate and removed the 17 autoloading commands, plus the 873 other references to Kowalski.
For good measure, I also tried to remove the C:\Program Files\Kowalski folder. Windows wouldn’t let me. It appeared that there was still something in that folder running in the background. But I know a few tricks, and managed to remove it.
How was I to know that Kowalski moves system32 to its own folder? There was only one thing left to do: Reinstall Windows from scratch. I looked through the packet of CDs my client had left me and found what I was looking for: a Windows Restore disc made by the company that had sold her the notebook.
I put it in the drive and rebooted. No long wait this time. Just a simple text screen with a single question: “Reinstall Windows? Y/N.” I hit the Y key and waited.
In a few minutes the screen showed me a more detailed message: “Your hard drive has been reformatted and returned to the condition it was in when it left the factory. All viruses, incompatibilities, and incorrect settings have vanished with your data.”
I removed the disc and rebooted. Everything was serene, so I called my client and gave her the good news.
“But Mr. Rowe,” she asked after I had explained my brilliant solution, “what happened to my financial records? My photographs? My rare collection of antique word processors?”
“Don’t worry about it, Toots,” I reassured her. “You can simply restore all that from a backup.”
She sighed with relief. “That’s wonderful, Mr. Rowe. I’m so glad to hear that. Just one question: What’s a backup?”
Dawn was breaking as I left the office in search of breakfast. I was heading for the cheapest hash house in town. Something told me I wasn’t getting paid for this job.


1 Response to “The Maltese Window Cleaner”

  1. 1 Adan July 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Another option is to use an extension pole, which allows you to clean higher areas from the ground.
    An experienced window cleaner can usually consent to smartphone inquiries.
    So the moral of the story here is to just treat your customers
    to outstanding customer service.

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