Monday, November 19, 2012

Computer conniptions

No academic or current affairs posts today. And possibly a slow month or so for blogging, depending on what happens next. My old 2008 MacBook computer, which I use for just about everything at work and at home, has died. There was a click and then the dreaded black screen, and then it was impossible to fire up -- you'd get the grey screen, and it would cycle through the first five percent of the start-up process exactly twice, and then you'd get the black screen.

I had some hopes for a while there, because it would start and run from a Mac start-up disc, and therefore the processor and disc drive were working fine, but none of the disc repair options, neither the ones from the original Mac start-up disc's Disc Utility software, nor a couple of commercial ones, would work. The hard drive was toast; most likely irreparable. And the file-saving disc imaging option in Disc Utility wouldn't work, either. Although i could hook up an external hard drive, I couldn't image the Mac hard drive to it.

I am, however, able to access and save all my files by ones and twos and by folders. This is because long ago I partitioned the drive and installed Windows on a small corner, in order to run a half-dozen or so software programs required in the energy industry that don't run on Macintosh systems. This option has been available to Mac geeks for many years -- in effect the best of both worlds. I could either shut down the system and start it up as a Windows computer, or using a virtual machine window, run the Windows partition as a desktop window on the Macintosh, and run programs like the Department of Energy's "eQuest" or NRG System's "Symphonie Data Explorer."

I never realized before that one other useful purpose for this second operating system would be to run the computer if the Mac system broke down. Now, with a corrupted portion in the Mac side of the hard drive partition, I can reverse the logic and access the Mac files from the functioning Windows partition. Using the start-up option window, I can access Windows, which starts up and runs just fine, and then by using a commercial file-reading software called MacDrive, I can use the Windows side of the computer to access the many thousands of useful or important files there are on the Mac. Accordingly, I'm copying them over to an external hard drive, several folders at a time. I've already saved the most important ones.

Luckily, long ago, I saved all the essential files to Google's cloud storage service. The only files I still had on the MacBook were more or less optional ones, that I could manage without if need be. But still, it's nice to have them. There's a lot of working history on that computer, a lot of documents and drafts of documents and spreadsheets and pictures, many of which items will come in useful one day.

This process may take a while. I don't really know what I have, nor what I need, until I need it. I'm thinking it would be a mistake to cut the file-saving process short until I'm sure I have it all. Until the college gets me a replacement for the old MacBook, I have a loaner from the college library, which is what I'm using now. But I can't do very much at all with it because I don't even have a basic computer entry password, let alone an administrator's password.

For someone as competent as I am with computers, especially Macs, this is not a happy state of mind to be in. And Aimee has been teasing me about having to resort to the hated Microsoft products to save my Mac's files, the implication being that the Windows software is more reliable, which nonsense I of course heartily dispute. After all, the Mac hard drive ran as much as fourteen hours a day for five years without a hint of a problem before.

But at least I can get my files, and at least I'm still online.

And the college says it will get me a new Mac soon, possibly even before Christmas.

As The BBC TV Test Card used to say whenever there was some kind of glitch, "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible."

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