30 December, 2007

Lament For My Computer

For the past nine months or so, I've had two personal computers, which I've used simultaneously. I had my old college computer, which is about a good 5 years old by now, and a slightly newer computer which my friend sold to me when he left the country (about nine months ago). Now, I was growing up right when computers were becoming huge, so I'm comfortable around the technology, but I in no way consider myself a technophile. My friend, the one who sold me his computer, is a natural when it comes to working with computers, and he's helped me through a lot of computer-related obstacles in the time I've known him (this latest one included).

As it were, I had most of my files on the old computer (hereby referred to as 'nanashi', since I never properly named it), while I worked mostly on the newer computer (hereby referred to as 'harmonia'). Harmonia also had the internet connection, of the two. But nanashi still served the purpose of being my jukebox, containing all my digital music files (mostly ripped from my CD collection), as well as being a storage bin of sorts. I even recently bought a tiny FM transmitter so I could tune into my winamp playlist on nanashi anywhere in the house. But just the other day, nanashi died.

I've never had a computer die on me before. The first personal computer I had all to myself, just sort of got slower and slower, and buggier and buggier, and eventually picked up the habit of shutting down without warning after five or so minutes of use (I got into the habit of saving very, very, very often while typing things in notepad), but it never reached a point where it completely failed to work, at all. Other computers I've had or known of have simply been replaced when they outlived their usefulness, before actually giving up the ghost. But nanashi just died. I woke up one morning, and it had turned off by itself. I couldn't get it to turn back on. I'd push the button, and nothing would happen. No sounds, no lights, nothing. It was plugged in and everything. But no life. Nanashi was done for.

Maybe it was because I kept it on for ridiculous stretches, without bothering to give it a break, or without even restarting it every few weeks or so. Maybe it was because I had it running a playlist practically 24/7 for a long time. Whatever the reason, the reality of the situation hit me hard - if I couldn't get the computer to even turn on anymore, how was I going to get the all-important data off of its hard drive?!

That's where my computer whiz friend came in. With his assistance, he actually had me taking both of my computers apart and removing and installing hard drives. And with his guidance, I seem to be doing alright, despite never having been exposed to the innards of a computer before. And the best part - that precious data on my hard drive has not been lost from my reach!

So, what I had to do was, since the enclosure for the external drive I had laying around refused to work properly, I had to take the hard drive from nanashi out, and switch it in for the larger of the two drives in harmonia, for the time being. It was a thrilling and harrowing experience, knowing my precious data was on the line, and that I might never see it again - if I screwed something up, or if I was just unlucky. But I had the area lit up with my bright lamp; I had tools scattered about; and there were computer parts strewn across the floor. Dust was kicking up absolutely everywhere. I totally went into Lain mode (I even stripped off my clothes, although, unlike Lain, I stripped them all off, and it wasn't necessarily for reasons relating to static electricity). I swapped the drives, like some kind of cybernetic magician, and voila! - gained access to my old hard drive and all the files in it!

The trouble is, I can't access my old hard drive and my newer bigger hard drive at the same time with the equipment I have, so I have to burn all my important files to DVD first, before I switch them over to their new home. It's a real pain, but on the other hand, it's a good opportunity to back up all my files, few of which I have ever really bothered to back up before. But what kind of files could be so important, that I couldn't stand to think of losing them?

First, of course, there's my hard-earned collection of porn, catered entirely to my own taste, and representing years of discriminating effort wading through quite a bit of garbage. (I actually backed it up about nine months ago, but I've acquired a nice cache of good stuff since then). Second, there's my entire collection of photography, including every photograph I've ever taken, many of which (the older ones) were scanned by hand (a process I never, ever, desire to repeat), and many (the newer ones) which don't exist anywhere else, least of all in the 'analog' realm. I would hate to lose these. Then of course, there's my entire digital music collection, which I've mentioned above. Although most of it exists in the form of my physical CD collection, I do not relish the idea of having to rip over 300 albums again. And then, perhaps as important as anything else, there are many random relics of the past, memories of times and people I've known, that would be painful to lose. The rest, I suppose, is ultimately expendable, though I am in no hurry to get rid of it.

I'd like to mention that there is one other thing I would have hated to lose, had I not already transferred it over to harmonia within the past few weeks. That is my personally recorded music, mostly in the form of large wav files - since these files can basically be considered my 'masters'. When I recently posted an incomplete version of the album I've been working on to my webpage at zharth.tenjou.net (Clear As Mud), I was moving some files around, and with all those huge wav files, the space on nanashi's drive was running out. And since I had plenty of free space on harmonia's large drive, I made the move to transfer all my recordings from the one to the other. So even if things had gone worse in the past couple days, I at least would still have had those. But, thank my lucky stars, it looks as though all of my data will be mercifully salvaged.

The process is not entirely finished yet, but I'm hoping for the best!

1 comment:

  1. I'm hoping for the best as well.

    It's always rough to lose a computer... though, fortunately, your data's safe. I'm glad I could help out; I was actually pretty unsure about whether I would be able to help effectively from over here... it was almost frustrating in a way, since I had to imagine things and try to think about what I would do in situations, rather than being able to see the situation and analyze it unconsciously.

    I've never lost a computer before, but I have lost hard drives... which can be absolutely devastating. I mean, on the one hand, you're freed from the chains of the past; all of those painful (and not so painful) reminders are gone. On the other hand... our parents kept scrapbooks and diaries; we have text and image files. Lose those and we've lost pretty much everything.

    Even my chat logs are important to me. I remember being devastated when the floppy I backed up my ICQ chat logs on was broken; that represented something like five years of online history for me. I've been using Trillian since college, and of course I've been saving and hoarding those logs as well... I know we've had fun comparing logs and memories.

    My memory's like swiss cheese (as you know), so it's good to have this kind of stuff around to jog it every now and then.

    As for why your computer broke... as best as I can guess, it would be a combination of stress (running it all the time) and general wear and tear. I remember your computer being pretty dusty, and you said it was pretty dusty when you opened it recently, so there's the possibility that something was shorted. In addition to that, college made us make a habit of leaving our computers on all the time; it's not so rough on good power supplies, but on generic ones that big companies use in their machines, it can take its toll.

    Your computer seemed like it was kind of on the way out, anyway, which is one of the reasons I wanted to sell you mine before I left... I remember those CD drive problems you were having, too.

    Just a general case of bad luck, I guess.

    The next time you go to Circuit City, you might want to ask about recycling programs or something for computers, otherwise it'll probably just end up in a dump somewhere... which, considering the materials used in it, isn't good at all.