Death of a hard drive

With Passover barely a week past, plagues are still on my mind. Blood, frogs, cattle disease, death of the first born….

And a modern one — death of the hard drive.

Image by Audrey Polichenko

I didn’t manage to post this week since my hard drive bit the dust last Monday. It exhaled a desperate DOS error message, powered off, and when I turned it back on, was a ghost of its former self. It couldn’t access any documents. It could surf the Web and it could access my email files, but no photos, music, recipes, ¬†invoices, interview notes, query letters, journal entries, freelance assignments, or (oops) novel manuscripts.

Before you start hyperventilating in sympathy, let me say that I didn’t lose anything permanently. This was not Hemingway leaving his manuscript on a train. My wonderful in-house tech support guy (yay Sam!) had persuaded me about a month earlier to sign up for Carbonite, a “cloud computing” service that automatically backs up your computer. So there were copies of everything stored somewhere in the ether on Carbonite’s servers.

It wasn’t a disaster, just a pain.

On the plague scale: Closer to frogs than to death of the first born.

Caving into to my teen daughter (longtime Mac evangelist) and husband (recent Mac convert), I decided it was time to make the switch from PC to Mac. I ran off to the Apple store in Emeryville and bought a Mac Powerbook Pro. At the same time, I was using an old Windows laptop to try and download the backed-up files from Carbonite. And I was using my old limping desktop to view emails and print out the important ones just in case. At one point, I had all three computers running simultaneously in my study: It looked like some mad scientist trying to emulate the NASA command center.

So now I’m having to figure out how to use a Mac. For years I’ve listened to Apple users wax on about the ease and elegance and intuitiveness and overall complete and utter superiority of Macs to PCs. But I’m not exactly blown away.

Maybe it’s that over the years, Microsoft copied enough Mac features that Windows now does pretty much everything that Macs do, at least for basic word processing-type activities. But whatever the reason, I feel irritation rather than liberation.

I’m having to re-learn a bunch of minor computer habits — things like¬†having to type “command c” and “command v” to copy info from an email into a Word document rather than click on the familiar Windows “copy” and “paste” icons. (Unless there’s some easier way to do it that I haven’t found?)

I miss having a right-click feature on my mouse. I miss having both a “backspace” key and a “delete” key.

I feel a little like a stroke victim having to relearn basic motions of daily life — holding a spoon, tying my shoes. Small abilities we take for granted until… one day they’re gone.

There are Hebrew blessings for many of the activities of daily life, expressing gratitude for waking up in the morning or eating a meal or washing your hands.

Is there a blessing for a properly functioning computer?

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7 Responses to “Death of a hard drive”

  1. Foodie McBody Says:

    Mac has copy and paste icons too! Get your IT guy to show you how to put them on your bar. It’s easy-peasy! WELCOME TO THE LIGHT!!!!! (nothing but Mac since 1988)

  2. Mary Mazzocco Says:

    It’s like moving to a foreign country. Expect a few months of annoyance, then the transition will feel seamless. I use a PC at work and a Mac at home, and I no longer notice when I switch from one OS to the other.

    Plus, you can add a “right click” function to your Mac mouse.

  3. Nancy King Bernstein Says:

    a) what Mary said; and b) there’s right clicking on Mac mice now too… need to learn to use your fancy trackpad (and/or get a mouse–I couldn’t live without my mouse….) All right-click stuff available on macs now too, and any control-whatever keyboard commands you used to do are just command-whatever now…. You’re just annoyed because you’re annoyed. You’ll love it soon, promise. xx

  4. Nancy King Bernstein Says:

    sorry, misattributed everyone above’s advice. Foodie told you about the cut & paste & Mary already about the right-clicking. Apologies to all. And Ilana: let yourself have fun!!!

  5. Nat Kuhn Says:

    Sam is the big hero here!! I started with a 128K Mac with one floppy drive back in the early 80s. Sometime in the 90s I switched to a PC because Windows had in fact copied most Mac features and Apples didn’t seem worth the extra bucks. I switched back in 2007 when my IBM laptop died and I was extremely frustrated with PC video-editing software.

    Steve Jobs is a design genius and if you want to do what Steve Jobs wants you to do, the Mac is awesome! If not, there may be some painful adjustments.

    1) He should bite the bullet on the two-button mouse, and make them standard on Macs. But no, that would involve saying he made a mistake at some point. Buy any USB two-button mouse and plug it in, it will work fine. It will not feel as good as the Apple mouse. Oh well. But it will save you having to move your other hand to the keyboard to hit the control key.

    2) There is still plenty of software that either doesn’t exist for the Mac, doesn’t work well on the Mac, or would involve shelling out a lot of bucks to re-purchase software you already own for the PC. If any of this applies to you, I high recommend VMWare Fusion. It will let you run Windows software on your Mac without having to turn off your machine and turn it back on. While you think it over, don’t throw out your Windows re-install disks from any of your old PCs. VMWare is one of the most solid, reliable, well-designed pieces of software I’ve ever used. Windows XP running on my Mac is at least as stable as it was on my IBM laptop. You could install it yourself, but it might be a fun project for Sam. (Recommendation: install it directly, don’t make a Boot Camp partition and then try to convert; also, if your old Windows install disks don’t work, you should be able to buy a new copy for about $100. You’ll also need to buy VMWare fusion, about $40 last I checked).

    The Mac really is better-designed system, I hope you come to love it!

    Meanwhile, think of what it would have been like to lose your novel, and do something really, really, nice for Sam! (And for yourself, for listening to him instead of blowing him off).

    • Ilana DeBare Says:

      Thanks Nat! You are right. I will think of some way to show appropriate appreciation to Sam…. beyond buying a steak to grill for him when he gets back from riding the Grizzly Peak century today. :-)

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