01 September, 2006

Gone! Gone! Gone!

Yesterday evening I turned on my computer, as I do every evening, and it wouldn’t boot. The problem, as far as I can see, is that the machine no longer believes it has a hard disc. Since I didn’t just happen to remove my hard disc drive without noticing, what this probably means is that the hard disc drive is broken. For those of you who have computers at home (all of you?) I don’t need to tell you that this is about as bad as it gets.

I use my computer a lot. I write fiction, I compose music, I email people all over the world, I store all my photos, all the music I listen to, academic papers, business documents. I’ve got tons of software and games, I’ve got half a dozen websites that I work on, a huge collection of jokes and cartoons, all my contacts, templates, application preferences, my priceless set of web favourites. My machine is bulging with stuff – all of it precious to me, most of it representing countless hours of labour.

Now it has all gone.

Did I have a backup? Well, sort of. I have a full backup that is five months old (yeah, yeah, I know) and I have backups of really important things (like my current novel) that are just a day or two old, but some things are gone forever – like all the photos we took on our last holiday on Fraser Island, and all the photos I took with my new phone (which I got just after the last backup – it’s the first time I’ve had a phone with a camera in it and I’ve been going mad snapping and videoing everything for months now). I also have most (but by no means all) my software on discs and it can all be re-loaded, I suppose, but that will take days – just putting on my anti-virus software will take about two evenings because, without broadband (want to know why?), all the stuff it has to get from the Web takes hours and hours to download. And when I have it all loaded, I will yet again have to adjust all my preferences on all my applications.

So it’s not just all the things I’ve lost from the past five months, I am also feeling miserable and daunted at the prospect of all the work ahead to restore my system.

They say there are five stages to grieving - you know, denial, anger, bargaining, appearing on Jerry Springer, etc., etc. (but see http://www.counselingforloss.com/article8.htm). I’ll probably be working through these for the next couple of weeks. I know from experience that I’ll be waking up in the night having suddenly remembered yet another precious item that was also lost.

Being a computer user is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride. On the two days a year that everything works, it’s great. The rest of the time it’s one of the many and varied degrees of Hell. Overall, the feeling is one of astonishment that these machines can be so fragile and yet, despite their fragility, so badly designed. Why wouldn’t every computer have at least two hard disk drives and keep a copy of everything all the time? Why wouldn’t every operating system have a simple and robust backup program that automatically saves a full baseline every few days and all incremental changes to this, as they’re made, onto an external drive?

Come to think of it, why doesn’t mine? The extra $500 that it would cost? Am I really so stupid that I’d live with this kind of catastrophe hanging over me all the time rather than spend $500?

I suppose I must be.

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