Now is the Winter…

3 Nov

Unfortunately there is no glorious summer yet. My computer, a beautiful 24″ iMac I’ve had for several years, suffered some sort of ailment last week and needed to go to the repair shop. I’m no luddite, so I naturally tried everything I could think of (and everything the web recommended) to revive it. I think the hard drive has failed, but it could be worse and anything over a few hundred dollars of repairs may make me decide to get a new machine. All of my files are safe–thanks to Apple’s Time Machine and hourly backups of my work–but without another Mac around I can’t get back to work on the things I’ve been writing lately.

It’s a frustrating experience made worse by the timing (middle of the quarter) and the slowness of the repair process. I dropped the computer off last week and the latest update on the repairs was that the initial diagnostic was “inconclusive.” If I don’t know I need a new machine, I can’t order it, and waiting to find out only delays delivery further. Oy!

I’ve taken this opportunity to do some office business and read quite a bit more than I normally do. I’ve got plenty of things on my bookshelf that need attention and reading any one of them is still progress on my dissertation. I do like taking notes and writing thoughts down by hand, but it is difficult to connect these to what I’ve already done (since those are digital files in limbo right now). It’s odd how my regular digital routine can be pierced so easily by an equipment malfunction.

Given the extra time to read and make some progress on the state of my office, I’m also thinking about what further precautions I will be taking with my work. Redundant backups seems to be the next stage, but I’d like those backups to be 1) available in the cloud and 2) compatible across OS. This may mean I need to take greater care selecting programs and file extensions. While many things carry over easily (Word documents, PDFs, browser links, Endnote libraries) it sometimes means I need two copies of programs, one for Mac and one for Windows. Sometimes this is cheap or even free (Mozilla), but a second copy of Office, Endnote, Scrivener, and so on can get pricey. There are ways around this, certainly, but it requires constant updating (remembering to save the latest draft in two formats and in two places), planning, and vigilance.

Anyone out there want to comment on their own computer disasters or methods for ensuring their work in uninterrupted by hardware failures? We’ve come a long way from just a typewriter, filing cabinet, and index cards–although to be fair I’ve got hundreds of index cards (digital and physical ones) and I’ve got two filing cabinets. I guess I just need a typewriter, eh?

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2 Responses to “Now is the Winter…”

  1. PCman1981 November 3, 2010 at 7:19 am #

    Are you a saver or a heaver? At home, I’m definitely a heaver – I have lived in a quite small condo for a decade and still can walk into my closets. When my PC died last summer, I had (BIG pat on the back!) pretty good backups of almost everything, mostly on an external USB hard drive. When I restored to the new PC I actually chose to not restore quite a few files. This was a lot like the concept of throwing out clothes that you haven’t worn in a year or two. I like having the backup in my hands — not yet reconciled to handing over all my files to some anonymous cloud guys who may go bankrupt or be hacked at any moment. My backups included no commercial vids and relatively few commercial audio recordings. If I can’t fit it into 100 gigabytes, do I REALLY need it.
    I understand that it is a different case for people in the middle of big projects with a lot of obscure materials that had to be painstakingly gathered. And I also understand that the cost of saving everything that you have even the slightest interest in is really minimal. But, do you really need everything that you have backed up? And, there is a cost in time to organize and find things in a mountain of random information.

    • D. McConeghy November 6, 2010 at 2:13 am #

      I’m a saver, but I’m trying to change! That show Hoarders creeps me out and I worry I incline toward collecting.

      I try to be fairly organized about my saving, but I tend to hold on to things for much longer than I need to. I’m always worried I might find a use for them later or want them after I’ve gotten rid of them.

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