Saturday, November 10, 2012

The More You Know. . . .


As it looks now, although 2012 has been quite an eventful year for me, the defining event of 2012, the one that I will be dealing with for quite some time, will likely be the crash of my computer. The repairs and recovery are still on-going, and this is is the first blog entry since Halloween that I've been able to post with my old PC.  

It's taken a while for the full impact to sink in, as well as a recognition of what really matters and what doesn't, what's easily repairable and what isn't.  As in the Five Stages of Grief, I've gone through anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  Back in the '60s, Marshall McLuhan famously said that just as cars are extensions of our legs, allowing us to travel further than we could by our prior methods, so radio is an extension of our ears, allowing us to hear distant sounds, and television is an extension of our eyes, allowing us to see the entire world from our living rooms.  In that light, computers are extensions of our minds, allowing us to store more memory, access more information, and process data faster than the organ in our skulls.  So the damage to my computer is damage to my extended mind and what I'm recovering from after the crash is the equivalent of a virtual stroke.  The K├╝bler-Ross analogy isn't really as far fetched as it might sound at first.  

Now, I also realize that my misfortune is trivial compared to that experienced by victims of Hurricane Sandy, who've not only lost entire computers and all of their contents, both the hardware and the software, but their homes, furnishings, appliances, and in some cases, their loved ones as well.  So, yeah, it's all relative.

The best news that's come out of the process for me is that I was able to get all of my work files copied onto a thumb drive within 24 hours of the crash, and was allowed to borrow my old laptop from my former employer for the weekend.  But as the repairs stretched into the week, I was forced to buy that old laptop from them at an exorbitant price.  They knew I was under a tight deadline to submit the report and that I didn't have any other option, and in my typical "clients first" fashion, I agreed to the purchase - outrageous as it was - rather than let the client down or miss a deadline.  

As it was, I didn't get my old PC back until late Wednesday.  The repair techs installed a new hard drive in my computer and when I started it up, I was glad to see that all of the work, music, photo, and personal files that had been stored under My Documents had been moved successfully to the new drive, but was disappointed to discover that all of my programs were gone, including Word, Excel, Outlook, and  other MS Office programs, as well as Quicken, my Norton Virus Protection, and dozens of other helpful little programs and utilities that I've purchased or picked up over the years.  The worst, though, is that the Outlook .pst files that contained all of my emails for the past 7 or 8 years and the Quicken files that contained all my financial info are gone, so that even after I installed the brand new copy of MS Office that I bought today, I no longer have any of my old emails or any of my contacts.  I was meticulous about storing all my messages into archived project directories, and in many cases, my official "project files" were the contents of those directories.  And now it's all gone.  I've returned the old hard drive to the repair techs to scan again for any surviving .pst files (classic "bargaining" phase), but if you and I have ever corresponded in the past, you might want to send me a quick email just so I can re-enter your information onto my contacts list.

The loss of the Quicken backup files is just as devastating.  I used it to not only track but also to pay my bills, and I still have no idea how I'm going to reconcile all my financial information when I prepare my tax return at the end of the year.  

So that's the half-empty glass.  The half-full glass is that the computer is now running better than ever, and the new hard drive has twice the capacity of the one it replaced.  There is also now a Zen-like lack of clutter on my desktop, and adding only those programs that I think I really actually need also provides insights into my priorities.  The old PC will run faster and cleaner, at least for a few more years (I hope), and I also now have an (overpriced) laptop that I can use both for backup and for portability.  

And at 4:25 yesterday afternoon, I got my clients' report to the State office building a full five minutes before the deadline.

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