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January 15, 2006

Hard Drivin' Blues

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I guess nobody noticed.

Nothing about it in the Style section of the Post (Washington), ditto in Page 6 of the Post (New York).

Even Instapundit didn't give it a single "Heh."

And if you didn't notice it either, it so happens that I haven't been blogging for more than a week save for a couple comment posts.

You see [sniff] my hard drive went south. Bought the farm. Went to Blighty. Croaked.

But here I am, back in business with a (mostly) working computer and a newly slimmed-down wallet (lighter by $200).

I suppose that most of you have lost hard drives now and then, so my experience is no big deal given any true disasters you might have experienced computer-wise. But humor me. Let me vent.

For the past 23 years of personal computing I've had pretty good luck on drives. (Though my previous computer, age 6, probably died because of a hard drive failure.) I did lose at least one hard drive at work, but because my agency is at the top of the state government administrative heap, we have good tech support and a new computer arrived the same day.

This time, however, I was on my own. Initially I thought I simply had software problems due to conflicts in all those software patches the Internet allows one to receive. But the tech at the repair shop thought it was the drive. Several days later, once the machine worked its way to the top of the work queue, word came back that indeed the drive was failing. So in went a new, empty drive. To save big bucks I opted to install the operating system and other software myself. It turned out that Dell's driver set is hard to install (thanks to an unclear user interface). But it seems I have a year left on my warrantee and I could get a Dell tech to walk me through installation. In the midst of that we found that my internal Zip drive hadn't been re-linked at the repair shop so I had to open up the machine and fool with various cables: haven't done that in ages.

Once the basic stuff was in place I had to re-install internet service and Norton Internet Security. Before I got to Norton, a virus slipped into the machine. While pondering what to do about that I spent nearly nine hours (I'm on dial-up at home) downloading and installing all the Windows XP patches and service packs that were issued over the last two years. This morning I got on the phone with a Norton tech (probably in India -- he had the accent) and, $70 later, the virus was gone.

I still haven't quite gotten my e-mail working and I have more applications to install. But I'm almost okay. Essential files were backed up on Zip cartridges, so nothing serious was lost.

The most annoying loss concerns e-mail. All my in-box and out-box content was lost, but probably no show-stopping communications (I print out those e-mails).

But I did lose any e-mail addresses that I hadn't written down (must do better this time).

So Friedrich, could you please send me your non-Blowhards e-mail address? I'd really appreciate it.



posted by Donald at January 15, 2006


Have you ever thought of a Mac?

Posted by: Raw Data Complex on January 15, 2006 02:21 PM

There is a file for e-mails, and you can copy it to a doc file I believe--I don't have the info close at hand, but I've been through this before so I learned how to back them up. If someone a lot smarter than me doesn't post with an easy solution, e-mail me and I'll look up the procedure.

Posted by: susan on January 15, 2006 03:09 PM

I'm with Raw Data Complex. He evidently has good android connections. (Data was always one of my favorites on Star Trek.) MAC's rock. I've been trapped on Windows for jobs and screamed internally the whole time -- so now I'm WITH Jobs.

Seriously, the hardest thing about Mac's out here on the prairie is that the office supply stores, internet support, and free-standing tech companies say that Mac users aren't worth their time and attention since they are a minority group. Serious marketing error on their part. A high quality minority, esp. one with deep roots in education, newspapers and graphics, can be a profitable group. And out here, everything is brought by UPS anyway. So -- one of the big box office supply stores in Great Falls just closed. A smart person ought to lease the building and relaunch it as a specialty Mac store.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 15, 2006 03:41 PM

Be careful about trusting your backups to Zip disks. The disks and the drives are very unreliable over time, and you're much better off with burning CDs. I've read anecdotes that even people at Iomega don't trust their backups to Zips.

Benito (Apple user since '83)

Posted by: Benito on January 15, 2006 05:52 PM

I'm a sysadmin and regular blowhard reader. Donald, anything you write and care about, you will keep copies thereof on at least 3 separate computers. One of them can be a Gmail server, and another a Yahoo server. But you will do this. If you were one of my users I would make this speech longer and finish with an implied threat regarding kneecaps.

Posted by: Omri on January 16, 2006 03:39 AM

Data -- A few years ago I would never consider an Apple, but the hassles introduced by the Internet are making me reconsider. My Dell is only 2 years old and I want to wait another year or two before shelling out for a new one. But the fact that Apple is going Intel is a plus in terms of software compatibility thanks to consistency in binary byte layout with the Microsoft world. On the other hand, should Apple regain serious market share, it has the potential of attracting hackers who might be able to cause as much trouble as we're getting on Windows machines.

Susan -- Even though I'm a programmer, I'm also a babe in the woods when it comes to running apps. I know it's posssible to archive, but I've never bothered to find out what it entails. If my e-mail was truly mission-critical, I'd take action.

Mary -- Here near Seattle (or south of San Jose where I might wind up later this year) I don't have such problems, thank heaven.

Benito -- You're probably right. I do have a pile of blank CDs on my desk and should make use of them. My previous computer could burn CDs, but the software was hyper-clunky and I stuck with Zip drives first from necessity, now from habit. I even used to have those old Bernoulli Boxes: time flies.

Omri -- The programs I wrote when I was in the demographic data business I keep on the current computer and on a Zip cartridge (and soon, a CD) at my day office across town. At work we have backup directories that themselves are backed to some medium (used to be tape). I try to keep my saved files here trimmed down to essential raw or application input data, documents and programs. I assume that data the programs generate can be reconstructed from the raw metrial. Not three separate machines, but not naked to the world either. I appreciate your advice: it is sound.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 16, 2006 05:32 PM

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