Sunday, September 25, 2016

Still Life with Robin: Crash!

Photo by Michael Jastremski (via Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

I usually write a column on Saturdays. I was thinking about it on Friday, planning to write something about an obscure holiday, or maybe some astronomical phenomena. There’s “Eat Like a Lumberjack Day” ( coming up on Monday, but I was thinking maybe I would say something about last week's phenomenal Harvest Moon ( Well, Saturday came and went, and no column. Why? Because some time on Friday my computer experienced a sudden and complete catastrophic failure, and I ended up spending every waking minute of the day dealing with the fallout. By the end of the day, I had managed to get a new computer and retrieve all the essential data from the backups I had running, but it was difficult, stressful, and certainly not cheap.

I’m still completely wrung out from this experience. Many years ago I was in a parked car that was rear-ended by a UPS truck. The whole back half of my car crumpled in like an accordion. The car was a total loss. In the immediate aftermath, I wasn’t sure if I was hurt; I was too shook up to think straight. UPS wanted to take care of everything right away, but someone advised me not to sign anything saying I was OK until enough time had passed to make sure I didn’t have any hidden injuries. That turned out to be good advice, as I didn’t start to feel anything until I woke up the next morning, aching all over. So far this computer crash has been much like that car crash. I may think I’m OK – I have a new computer and I think I have all my data – but I won’t really know for sure until enough time has gone by and I’ve found out what it’s like to try to use this or that part. I still feel all turned upside-down, the way I did waking up on the morning after the crash.

In time, I think everything will be OK. I hope it will. I keep telling myself it’s only data. I have all my photos. They’re in the cloud somewhere, not organized the way they were in my computer files. But I know they all still exist…somewhere in cyberspace.

As with most bad experiences, I have learned a few things. Here goes:

1. Backup. There’s no such thing as too much backup. I thought I had three working backups. It turned out that I had only two. One of my two hard-drive backups was not, in fact, backing anything up. The other one was working, but it gave back the files in not quite the same filing order as I wanted them. I also had Carbonite online backup, but it took me quite a while to find the proper access to my account. Backup information should always be kept in an accessible PAPER file, with all the info you need to get to your data quickly. Storing it in a computer is a bad idea!
2. Computers can crash without warning. In the past, I always had some signs (slow rebooting; screen freezing) warning me that something was going wrong, giving me time to move from one computer to another. I never believed a computer could just go in an instant, without owner abuse or misuse. I thought I was so careful. Now I understand that anyone is vulnerable, careful or not. I'm a lot less smug than I was before.
3. Do as much as you can “in the cloud.” Everything in the cloud will stay accessible, no matter what computer you’re on. If I had followed this advice, there would have been far less restoration work to do.
4. The hard part isn’t putting the data back. It’s getting the programs to run with the customized displays, sounds, reminders – all these little touches you’ve put in over time or didn’t even know you depended on – and every one of those settings needs to be reset. You won’t know it until the first time some annoying little reminder chimes, and you have to figure out how to turn the damn thing off.
5. Get help ASAP. I was fortunate that Mamadou Diallo was available on short notice. He’s earned plaudits on the listserv before. I called him (301 346 0339) in a panic, and once he confirmed that yes, the poor thing was dead, and I should go out and get a new one, he did everything possible to make that new one work the way my old computer used to work. This was no simple task, but he was patient and calm, when I was anything but. I should also give a shout-out to the techies at UBreakIFix, who examined my computer which I brought in as a walk-in to their shop on Connecticut Ave; they told me within twenty minutes that it was not salvageable, and did not charge me anything for the bad news.

There is still much left to do. It may take a few weeks to get everything running the way I want it to run. I’ve accepted that it will never really, truly be the way it was before. Things change. You have to adapt, make the best of it. This new computer will grow on me…..I hope. And next week I expect to be back to writing about kooky holidays, odd weather phenomena, and quirky little things about life in Cleveland Park.

Still Life with Robin is usually published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and All Life Is Local on Saturdays, except in the event of a major computer meltdown, in which case it is delayed until Sunday.

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