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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Crashes and thumps

One essential for a professional writer: back up, then back up again and back up some more, and do it often.

I had a fright yesterday, when my computer died.  I followed that up by a piece of totally amateur over-reaction.  I should have known better.

To explain, I have been messing about with computers since 1963, so I was ahead of the curve when the first home computers emerged 30 years ago, and after a while, I got regularly assailed bloody amateurs who would wail at me in the 1990s:

This computer's got a virus!  Come and fix it!

Me: How do you know it's got a virus?

It won't load my file!

(Patiently) What was the file created in?

(Impatiently, with the tone of saying "Der!") Microsoft!

The amateur doesn't state that there is a problem, the amateur presents a diagnosis, in much the way that many patients barge into a doctor's surgery, shouting that they have a cold (i.e., a virus) and demanding an antibiotic (which doesn't work on viruses).

You can try to educate them, but it doesn't usually work.  Well, in this case, the educator showed his lack of schooling, because I assumed the worst, a hard disc crash, when I had been working flat out, and hadn't dropped the latest iterations onto Dropbox for several days.  the computer had died, therefore it was a disc crash.

Luckily for me, Eddy the Techie at Hibiz has been helping me out for more than 20 years. He is a gentle and courteous man, and he took my diagnosis with a grain of salt, though it wasn't quite as simple as he had hoped.  In the end, he took the machine away and I am working on the MacBook.

While I was waiting for him, I redid one of the two jobs, an urgent analysis of the location of some 300 images for Curious Minds, and as the fault appears to be either a fritzed CPU or a dodgy power supply (or both), he had no trouble extracting the draft ms of the book-in-progress.  So far, so good, and the disc drive seems to be in good condition.

But, while I have an external HDD, and this week, I actually found a place for it on the desk, it holds nothing as yet.  No music, no photos, no reference PDFs that I need to read for the book, nothing.  I can (and do) burn CDs, but I haven't done so lately.  I transfer copies of many files to the travelling netbook and the MacBook, but not of late.

I also park copies of a few key files, over the network, on my wife's computer, but not lately.  Works-in-progress are regularly uploaded to my Dropbox account, but between the last upload on Monday afternoon and the early Friday morning crash, I had written about 10,000 words of first draft, mainly because I was taking smaller bits of text, already written, and assembling them into a whole.

In short, I had been a double-amateur.  I had offered a diagnosis when I should have stated symptoms, no harm done there, but I had made the effects of the disease far worse by getting too busy working when I should have been doing some basic house-keeping.

I hope to find that I have escaped the worst, but I will certainly be taking more care in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I'm enjoying your ramblings yet again, Peter. A thought about computers and backups: on usenet, Pterry Pratchett, when told by some pimply teenager that he needed to back up his computer in case the book in progress died, told him that he had five of the most expensive computers money could buy in the house, networked for instant backups every time he wrote. And a lead-lined bomb shelter in the cellar. And paper print-outs. And USB drive backups. And he burnt a CD every week with the week's work. And if that wasn't enough, every second friday the friendly neighbourhood druid arrives to chiesl his new work onto a megalith to bury at the bottom of the garden. I'm sure there's plenty both he and you could teach me about backing up, although I've never really been afraid of reverse gear.