So I had some fun awhile ago with my hard drives getting fried, and it looks like my Network Attached Storage went the same way. Not entirely sure, maybe it’s just a HomeGroup config problem with Andrea’s computer (the network doesn’t like me configuring homegroups, it only likes Andrea’s computer to do it). But I copied a bunch of stuff from Andrea’s computer over to the NAS before a computer tweak, and while the PC was in the shop, I tried to read the files on to my PC to process some photos. Nope, I could see them, but the NAS did not want to share.
Which means I can’t trust the NAS for the future.
Now, this presents a small but not insurmountable problem. I can simply get a new NAS. The question is if I want one or not. I have a 2TB and a 3TB regular HD that I use for backups. But I also like having a master that I can keep, just in case, on the NAS. It could be simply a third HD, but I prefer to think of it as a common resource. Plus I can copy any of my other PCs to it without tying up my computer, so kind of useful. But I’m not actually using the network functions on it.
Which means I’m at a small crossroads, with two needs:
a need for a third backup drive, preferably > 2TB; and,
a desire to stream music all over the house from a common source.
The third backup drive is REALLY simple, just over a $100, no muss, no fuss, done. The second element though is the one that creates a question, or at least some options to consider.
A. Keep the music on my main PC
While my main PC is usually on, I don’t know if I want it to be the source of streaming for any and every device. Mostly, I just don’t want it slowing things down if I’m working on something else. But, generally speaking, the person likely to be pulling things from the PC to elsewhere in the house is, well, me. I’m not able to be downstairs listening to music AND working on my machine upstairs, so maybe it’s not a real issue, but I don’t like the idea of having my PC being the main server.
B. Put the music on another PC
Jacob’s PC will not be stretched very far with his usage, and I could easily use it, but that’s a bit of a slippery slope to me, and in a few years if he’s gaming, that will change easily. Not a sustainable option.
C. Put everything in the cloud
I could, indeed, put the stuff in an internet-based cloud, but then everything I stream will be upload/download drains on my monthly usage. And really, it seems odd to stream stuff from the web when it is already on the network somewhere else.
D. Run my own server
Umm, how can I put this? No. 🙂
E. Copy the music to multiple locations
Most of the machines that I’m going to be streaming to have SD card slots, I could easily just make a bunch of copies and stream from the card. But if 3 backups is a pain to manage, 5 or 6 copies of the music library all over the house seems drastic overkill.
F. Repeat the network-attached storage
So I can go back to NAS options, but then I’m again facing a question mark:
Do I want a simple NAS that will allow me to stream about 250GB of data around the house?
Or do I want a more complex NAS that will hold all my current data, around 1 TB in total for active and some change for non-active?
Or do I want to go whole hog and get a full NAS with multiple drive bays for expandability, that will hold all my backups, can even create multiple copies of the backups with mirrored setups?
I’m leaning towards the simplest NAS storage I can do to put the music on it and leave the backups to straight drive copies. Not sure that’s the best solution, but it should work. The middle option is a good compromise but pushes me into the $200-$250 range pretty fast, and not really enough storage for the long-term. If I go the more complex route, I can easily push $300-400 for now, but with a huge amount of expandability for the future. But that seems like overkill.
Sigh. I know I’m obsessing over wanting to get it right, I just wish the “best” solution was obvious or that I was confident I was seeing the right variables.
Computers are a major part of my life. I don’t mean this in the way that normal popular media overviews talk about technology infiltrating our lives, I mean computers themselves as a choice. I have been active with computers since grade 10 (1983/84) and particularly so once I bought my first PC back in ’87. I use it for entertainment, I learn with it, I keep myself organized with it. It’s an active tool in my life. And recently, I realized that when it doesn’t work, it affects me more than it would most people because of that degree of integration.
I’ll start first with the integration. Looking back at my 2017 goals, I had eleven blue ones. The first three were reading goals, which at first glance might seem non-computer related, but it is actually doubly so. I not only read on a digital e-reader so I stop filling up my house with paper books, but I also then like to blog about them. Could I do the first with just paper? Yes, but that’s not the question. The question is if I use computers to do them the way I do, and yes I do. No computer, and my two reading goals are much harder (no ebooks to read, have to go to the library or bookstores, extra “friction” in the transaction to use the economic vernacular) and the posting of reviews is impossible. I also have goals around posting TV reviews, digital photography, and an online learning course. Call it six out of eleven that require the computer. For my goals around organizing and regular backups, that’s another two that are truly “digitally enabled”, if not “digitally required”. Leaving three — astronomy, finance organization, and my honey-do list — that are not tied to computers directly, although I do use a computer to help with all three. Call it seven overall that are computer dependent, and another four that are enabled.
For my green goals, one of the three is computer-dependent, one is enabled, and one is not. For the yellow goals, eight require the computer (four are writing, so could theoretically be done on a typewriter I suppose), and while the other two do not (cooking, baking), they are enabled with web-based recipes and blogging about it. For my five red goals, none of them are computer-dependent, but I do use a computer for keeping track of my progress (weak attribution).
In summary then, I have a total of 16 goals out of 29 that require a computer. No computer, and those goals are almost impossible to achieve. Could I do them a different way? Sure, for some, but likely not. It isn’t so much that they are technically “dependent” so much as that they are so entwined with computers that doing them any other way drastically alters the approach to one that I wouldn’t likely do. Of the remaining 13 goals that are not computer dependent, 8-10 are still definitely enabled.
What does that mean? It means when I have a computer problem, it’s major. It’s not “oops, my computer died, time to get on with my life”, it’s close to causing a mental health breakdown.
If you read that as “he’s too dependent on computers, blah blah blah”, you might as well stop reading now as you’re never going to understand what I’m talking about. I’m serious. That’s not what I said, and so if it’s what you got out of the first few paragraphs, that’s just your own bias and ignorance showing through. Go look at cat pictures, you’ll be happier.
Do I spend time doing other things? Of course, I do have a life outside computers. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my goals. The “big” goals I’ve been setting for myself since the late ’90s, almost 20 years now. Each year, I spend a bit of time at the end of the calendar year reviewing my progress in the last year and setting my goals for the new year. It is a huge part of how I define myself, my self-identity. I don’t care if others set goals, it’s not a normative thing, but for me, not setting goals would be like asking me to stop being me. I don’t know who I am without my annual “check-in”, it keeps me, well, me.
In some ways it is the belief that an unexamined life isn’t worth living, taken to a bit of an extreme, and hardly original. In other ways it is about my stopping myself from drifting too far from my core beliefs, my sense of self, my values, my commitment to some form of self-actualization to keep improving.
For some people, that’s a physical goal like running a marathon. For others it might be a social goal, like performing stand-up or public speaking. Others might be about trips, parenting, a new job, a new skill, etc.
For me, most of my goals are cerebral, and as I said above, digitally enabled if not outright digitally entwined. If I don’t have my computer working, all of my goals STOP. A crashing, screeching, stomach-heaving stop.
I had never thought of it quite this way before, until my most recent crash. I have a pretty good setup for what I need / want to do, but I am regularly pushing my hardware to the limits in certain ways. And so when one drive crashed, I have backups and things in place to deal with that issue. Or at least I thought I did. More on that in a minute.
First let’s talk about the crash.
I have two hard drives in my system, both Western Digital, one black and one red (it’s a series of drives put out by WD), both with 1 TB sizes. C drive is my Windows operating system, M is my data drive. The nice part of these different series is that they are designed to run 24/7, something a lot of drives can’t do. And I have no patience for reboots, startups, etc., so my system is in some form of “on” pretty much continuously. 24/7, 7 days a week, close to 52 weeks a year. Sure, if I’m out of town, I’ll power down, but most of the time I don’t when it’s just through the week.
Awhile back I accepted the upgrade to Windows 10, and because I do a few things outside the norm, that’s presented a few problems. Things like the way in which it migrated Homegroups, or that I had an old parallel printer attached that I wanted to keep using. The printer is 20 years old, not surprising that it didn’t handle the upgrade well, but it’s a shame — that HP LaserJet 4L was a workhorse that did everything I needed it to do, just not super fast. I’ve had it repaired twice over the years, shame to have to jettison it. But Win10 doesn’t play nice with old hardware.
And two Tuesdays ago, my system ran the weekly update and installed the dreaded Creators Update. I am generally okay with Windows approach to upgrades, a cost of doing business, and I’m not one of the ones who gets too fussed about the fact that sometimes it totally fraks my Homegroup settings. I have two machines running Win 10 (mine and my wife’s), plus a laptop running Win8, and most of the time I can get them to work. Then a major update comes in, looks at the setup and goes batshit crazy resetting things to defaults. Whatever. Annoying, but it was a free upgrade, so there’s some pain that comes with it. (I’ll talk about alternatives later, but suffice it to say, there isn’t a viable one, so you dance with the one that brought ‘ya).
CU ran, my system seemed okay initially, and then Wednesday night was acting a bit sluggish. Thursday it was downright piggish, but I didn’t really have time to figure it out. I eventually did a complete reboot late Thursday night, and all hell broke loose.
My system should complete the initial boot in about 60 seconds, max of about 2 minutes to desktop loading. This time? 8 minutes to complete the boot, and it ran a full DSKCHK on my C or M drive for some reason. 22 minutes to fully load my desktop. WTF?
Okay, it finally booted, let’s run some diagnostics. Nope.
Umm, okay, let’s surf the internet and see if this is a CU-related problem. Nope.
Any program? Nope.
The system would not run anything. It acted like it wanted to, it really did, but it just wouldn’t. Weird.
Now, just for fun, this was a REALLY bad time for it to happen. I had volunteered (aka been guilt-recruited) into being the coordinator for the RASC star party for that weekend. I needed a few files that were on my system, plus, you know, a working system to send out the announcements, track replies, check weather maps, etc. I have a laptop to cover off most of that, but I still needed some files off the drive that I had received that week, and not a lot of time to play without them.
I was too tired to figure it out Thursday night, so I went to bed and figured I’d work it out Friday morning. With the upgrade to Windows 10, they finally put in place one of the biggest software developments of the last twenty years. If your phone gets messed up, you can press a series of keys and reset it back to the default bios and settings, essentially wiping everything. Same for your tablet. Just about every phone or tablet now have a “reset” option built into the system…while some people think this was a feature given to users, it’s really a boon for tech support. If you screw things up so bad that they can’t undo it easily, they just reset it. Windows didn’t have that functionality. If Windows (or DOS before it) got screwed up, they basically had to wipe the disk and reinstall from external media. With the phones and tablets, this “reset” is built in, no external media required, and Windows 10 has the same capability. You actually have three options:
Wipe the disk entirely and reinstall from an external source (the old way — you lose everything);
Wipe the installation and data, and reinstall from the built-in version (like a tablet or phone, again losing everything); or,
Wipe just the installation, keep the data, and reinstall from the built-in version.
I have already done option 3 once in the past, and it works like a charm. It still has to install some updates, but that’s fine. It took about an hour last time, so I started first thing Friday morning, around 6:30 a.m. I figured I’d be done before I left for work.
Except it was giving me no end of trouble just to start the process. It was like I wasn’t “fully booted”. Eventually I tricked it into running, it started, and I thought it was good to go. I started getting ready for work, came back 10 minutes later, and now it had advanced to a second menu. It hadn’t been doing it, it was just taking that long to bring up the second option. Wow.
Okay, chose that, and waited. About another 7 or 8 minutes. Chose another option on that menu. Finally, it was good to go.
About two hours after starting, it was still only about 20% installed. I had a light schedule at work, I really wanted this fixed and running again, so I checked with my boss and she said no problem for staying home. Okay, my deck was cleared, even if it made a friend laugh that I was the only person he knew who would take a day off work to install a new operating system. More on that later, but it’s a harbinger of truth.
Finally, just after ten, it said, “Done!”, and I thought, “Finally!”. Except it wasn’t.
It was done the PREPARATION process, not the installation. Now it could start the install. WTF????
Okay, late afternoon, and the system is finally finished the re-install. Whew.
I reboot. It is EXACTLY the same as before the install. 8 minutes to finish initial boot, 22 for full desktop. And again, nothing wants to run.
Time for Level II intervention
At this point, I’ve exhausted my level I knowledge on how to fix it, and I’ve been actively searching online with my laptop and tablets to try and diagnose the problem. I’ve also started doing contingency planning for the star party, and managed to cobble together what I needed. Not everything I wanted or had planned, but enough to handle the announcement. That crisis was averted, although not without some brain cell casualities.
But the level II intervention is starting to look problematic. It isn’t a problem with my Windows, it isn’t the O/S upgrade, it is my hard drive. Likely just my C drive for operations, but I’m suspicious of my M drive. It doesn’t seem to be responding, and I can’t figure out why…my windows problem and the data drive problem shouldn’t be related. Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm.
Because while I’ve been going through all this, I realized a horrible truth. My backups are only partially intact. 1TB of data and I’m not as safe as I thought I was:
My “Documents” folder, which has some 17GB of data going back to 1993, is complete. I might be missing a small file or two, but nothing of consequence;
My “Music” folder is 176GB of files, and I initially think it is completely safe…except it isn’t, not exactly. I haven’t lost any files, that part is clear, everything is where it should be, or if it isn’t, it’s in iTunes and Google, and I can redownload it. Except then I have a small seizure and realize that I spent a good part of my spring completely re-organizing all my files. Stuff that was all over the place between iTunes and general Music folders had been completely resorted, and I cut the cord from Apple Music’s shady file management practices (Averting disaster with my music files). But is my backup before or after all that work? I can’t be sure, because I can’t SEE MY FILES! A potentially really annoying blow, but well, if I had to redo it, so be it…a first large blow from the original crash issue, but not crazy time yet;
My “Pictures” folder has three main sub-areas — “Current” pictures which has 9GB of data in it, and is mostly this year. I was worried that I had lost some stuff that had been uploaded to my drive from my phone and tablet, not yet sorted or processed, and not fully backed up yet from the previous time. It’s a gap, but well, that happens. A second blow, and a bit more painful — with actual loss of some stuff for Jacob including his birthday party and end of year at school. A few other things, but nothing life-shattering. For pictures that are “Done”, there’s another 355GB of data in there of photos and videos. Almost entirely backed up in more than one place, all good. Except then I realized that I just spent a lot of time reorganizing my astronomy photos. Which are now in the wrong directory, unsorted. Nothing huge lost, but a small loss, if I can’t access. Non-Current is another 165GB of files, but those are fully backed up. Haven’t changed in the last three backups, I’m good to go there.
Applications is the e-downloads of all the programs I have installed, since most have moved away from “CD” installations, and that is not an insignificant set of files — 16.5 GB of files. But again, all backed up. I had them better sorted in another version that I don’t think made it into the backup yet, but again, mostly white noise.
Clipart is another directory of little concern — I have two or three clipart collections gleaned over the years when they were on sale or I needed a specific set of sub-files for something, but they’re fully backed up for the 10GB of data they represent.
So at this point, I’m feeling a bit antsy about my current install, but not terrified. I have almost everything, or at least so I think, and if I’m missing a few things, it will teach me to be more hyper vigilant with my backups. I don’t know that I’ve got two more blows coming.
Calling in the big techies
Saturday morning had me at the computer shop where I bought my PC, and I think that mostly what I have is a blown HD for Windows and I just need to fix that, but in the meantime, I’ll remove my data drive and be good to go. The tech pulls the first drive, and it doesn’t show up on their test machine. It just won’t read it. It doesn’t give an error, it just never completes. Weird, but no problem, that must be the Windows drive that is kaput.
Try the other drive, nope, THAT one is the Windows drive. The one that isn’t reading is my data drive. Somehow, they’re both fried. It’s not a malware issue, not a simple tech issue, the two drives are NOT working. And my simple plan to yank out the HD is dead in the water.
I decide to focus on the hardware, get myself going with an external drive bay with the data drive so I can work on it separately, close up the old box in anticipation of future repairs, and head on out. Over to another computer shop that sells last-generation tech. I can’t afford the premium machine that I now want and need, at least not new, but a fully refurbished PC with two HDs, decent graphics card (suitable for gaming if I need it, but I only need the video processor for photograph processing), and an i7 configuration that I’ve wanted for about four years and couldn’t justify. All boxed up by mid-afternoon, working by suppertime, and then I have to break to go to the star party.
A blow out of nowhere
I get back later that night, and of course, most of the time I’ve been out, my mind has been on the data drive. What’s missing? What’s missing? What’s missing? How bad am I screwed from the backups? I think it is just some photos, and even then, not all of them. I might have some other options. But I want to try the drive again.
I’m working on it late at night, and I suddenly realize that there is something missing. My book. My HR guide. While you might think I should have realized that first, I didn’t. Because most of it is online already, and versions exist in the cloud for other types of backup. But over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time learning to format with a template that a super online friend gave me, and I’ve integrated my cover. I can recreate all of it, that’s not an issue. It’s that all the editing, rewriting, tweaking, and layout options that I’ve been doing for a week are gone.
I’m not expecting the blow that comes with it. So much of my personal identity is tied to my HR guide, I feel the loss like a punch to the gut. Yes, I can fix it. Yes, I can redo it. But it’s a second blow after the potentially lost music setup, and twice the size. Plus I feel really stupid.
Separate from the lost work, how can I not have backed it up immediately? How can I not have realized immediately? Rule #1 of any writer is to back up your work in progress (WiP). What kind of worthless piece of sh** doesn’t make a copy of their WiP?
Kind of going back to the early paragraphs above, I know that I’m digitally entwined for my goals. I know how to do proper backups. And here I am taking hits that are totally preventable. Stupid ones. Ones that cut to the core of my self-esteem.
I also know that it’s late at night, I’m exhausted from dealing with it for two days without a solution, and when that happens, I go into mental self-mutilation mode. I am never harsher than when I’m judging myself, and this is a perfect storm that has been brewing for two days.
I try to lock it down and keep working, when I should have stepped back, blew it off and relaxed. And then another blow hits.
I am checking backups, preparing for my reinstall to the new machine, and I realize the data on my Ebooks looks ominous. It’s fairly recent, should be fine, and up until now, I’ve not been worried about it. My ebook collection is rather static. A few files here or there might be missing, but nothing I can’t redownload from Amazon or the library. No issues, I thought.
But as I move from the music files potentially missing all the reorg work, I touch on the ebook directory and see a whole series of folders that SHOULD NOT BE THERE. I re-organized them all. And then deleted the old ones. There should be seven directories, and I’m seeing at least 30. Doesn’t sound like much, as I know the files are fine, but I’m staring at potentially hundreds of lost hours of reorganization. Gone. I didn’t do a new backup because, well, the files weren’t new. I had no new content, I just sorted them differently. I would have caught the backup in the next full mode, but I was another two weeks from that. And the differentials wouldn’t catch that type of change unless I triggered it manually. Which I hadn’t.
I crashed. Mentally. Physically. I felt like a complete and utter waste of skin. Lost photos of my son. Lost work on my music and ebook collections, potentially well over a hundred hours of work. And my work in progress, gone.
If I am supposedly a planner, I’m the stupidest one on the planet. I went to bed and glared at the ceiling for two hours. I was so frustrated, so empty, I wanted to scream. I slept, finally, but not well.
Starting the rebuild
I couldn’t change what “might” be the problem, I just had to triage the situation and assess the battle damage. I separated my mental energy into two halves — the first half started working on re-building from what I have backed up on two external hard drives plus my network-attached storage (yes, I have the tools, I just didn’t use them properly, f***ing idiot that I am).
So it might sound simple to just copy those back over, and each of them are indeed full copies — I don’t do proprietary format / encrypted / compressed backups. I do full copies of the files, fully browsable and active. Missing a file? Just copy it back. No muss, no fuss. Back when storage was expensive, those other formats were fine, but you also run the risk that a couple of corrupted bytes or so can ruin your whole backup. It’s slower, but copies are the only way to fly. But with the reorgs, different dates for backups, etc., it took a bit to figure out which versions to use.
The Documents folder was fine, as was Clipart. Applications is a bit disorganized, something I forgot I had already fixed one afternoon, but won’t kill me. My Pictures folder is a hit/miss proposition, mostly as I’ve lost a lot of organizing work on my astrophotos, but I have what I need in the cloud if I want to redownload at some point from SmugMug. And worst case scenario, I can redo the astro sort. I get a really pleasant surprise on my Music folders — the reorg has been backed up in April to the network. I thought I did some of the reorg in May, but apparently I was done before I triggered a backup on April 24th. Whew. And a partial surprise on ebooks. I ran a backup in May, and once I see the date, I vaguely remembering triggering it because I was about to try something big and wanted a quick restore option. And I stored it in a weird place as it was “temporary”. But it has almost all of my reorg work there. So I’m feeling like I can handle what’s been loss. My book can be redone, I can finish the ebooks, I can use the missing photos as a reminder to be more vigilant in my backups.
I still feel like an idiot though, because that recovery isn’t solving my problem. My drive shouldn’t be doing what it’s doing, and I should be able to fix it. Which is where the other half of my mental energy is focusing its time.
You see, the data drive doesn’t “crash”, it is just REALLY REALLY REALLY slow. Like tortoise slow. I download some trial software to start my deep level scans, and it starts to find stuff. Windows itself times out, but the deep level scan doesn’t. It can “see” the structure and even lets me recover some files. One of the first things I try for is my work in progress. My HR guide. I was up to version 3, and while I can’t quite get that, I get a decent copy of version 2. Or at least, a “version” of version 2, if not the final version before I switched to v3. One of the many saves I did. Not great, but hey, it’s not nothing either. And is promising. I buy the full version, and I’m disappointed with the final result. Once you get through the deep scan, which takes about 15 hours, the program lets you “save” the info so you can then just reload it later without doing a rescan. Except it won’t reload the saved scan. And once it finishes the scan, it won’t actually recover the files…they all come up, but with zero size. Even the ones it ALREADY found. I’m ticked, and disappointed, but honestly, it did find some worthwhile files, so I can’t fault it completely.
I do some more online searching, and I like the looks of a second program. I download it, pay the freight, and start it running. Very similar interface and operations, and 12 hours later, it shows me what looks like a full hard drive directory. What the heck…I tell it to recover everything to my external drive, and press “GO”. It doesn’t get everything, but it sure tried. 21 hours later, and I’ve gotten everything I am going to get.
Including the “lost” photos and videos of my son’s birthday party and final celebration at school. And golfing. And a bunch of other little things that I’m glad I got back.
And my final ebook “structure”, albeit with a few missing files that I had to manually find.
Wait for it.
My work in progress.
My HR guide, version 3, in its entirety. Which I promptly email to myself, upload to two different cloud accounts and copy to a flash drive.
How much did I get back? I’m not really sure. Some files are going to be “bad” when I go to access them. Perhaps a video file that didn’t quite get fully recovered, or a photo that doesn’t want to load. But if it all works, close to 99% is back. And backed up twice at the moment.
What I learned about myself
It seems obvious now, but it was an unintended and unexpected truth bomb to see it in action. I knew that my goals were tightly entwined with a lot of technology, even if the rest of my life isn’t. Again, it’s not about computers being my life, it’s about the fact that I use them as a prerequisite tool when I’m doing my goals. And I know that my approach to self-improvement, as represented by my goal-setting, is a fundamental part of my self-identity, of how I see myself.
I just never realized how A’s link to B and B’s link to C in this instance means that maintaining my self-identity almost requires a functioning computer setup.
Sure, my wife and son will still love me tomorrow if my system crashes. Yes, I’ll still have a house, get up, go to work, all those things. But without the computer enabling me to keep working on my goals, I feel stagnant. And when I feel stagnant, that is not a good thing for my mental health. Ever. I know that.
When I crashed on the Saturday night after the 3-4 “blows” to my ego, I was pretty damn low. I spiraled like a chipmunk chasing a chestnut in a swirling toilet. I have a pretty healthy ego, and self-confidence, partly born out of my past successes in setting goals and achieving them. Or just a narcissistic personality. And although I’ve been a bit more vulnerable this year with a painful job search (50by50: Start a new job (#03)), I am pretty good at spotting triggers that can cause me to spiral.
A computer crash wasn’t on my spiral caution list. But apparently it should be.
And it means I need to be doubly pro-active in making sure my computer is working in a way that a technical crash doesn’t knock me out. But that’s already taken care of…
Interestingly, a friend noted that I’ve had lots of big computer problems over the years. Which isn’t quite accurate, or perhaps is a bit overly simplistic, but I realized with the comment, part of it is that when it does happen, it affects me more than most. Because my reaction isn’t about the specific problem, it’s about the link it has to my approach to my goals and how it affects those. Making me perhaps more hypersensitive to those problems when they happen.
But it’s not just about my goals
Part of the problem is what I’m trying to do on any given day. Two people on my FB list made the frequent facile comments made by all Apple users (insert smug nasal voice here to say), i.e. “You should get a MAC, there’s never a problem with a MAC”. Both people who made the comment know me pretty well, and likely know that there is zero chance of my ever using a MAC.
Most people know that Apple has less than ten percent of the computer market, and that’s not because 90% of the people just didn’t know Apple was out there. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t buy Apple, and only a handful why they do. The biggest reason most people don’t buy them is price. Three times the cost of a PC, for about comparable power/specifications. Another “separate” issue is really just the same issue by a different name — Apple doesn’t sell “entry-level” computers … you get the big guns at a high price, or nothing. The other reason so many don’t buy Apple is that the software they want isn’t available for a MAC. Literally hundreds of thousands of programs are only available in PC versions. Other people avoid it because MACs aren’t good for gaming. Reasons in favour include stability — the system never crashes. My Vic-20 never crashed either, doesn’t mean I want to use it. People also like to tout that there are no viruses, but actually that’s not true. It’s simply with less than ten percent of the market, there’s no reason for people to target them. But there are viruses that work just as well on MACs as on PCs. However, the real added value of the MAC is really about graphics, CAD, and video processing. It does all three excellently. And if you’re in advertising or communications, it’s a great tool. If not, most people buy medium-power PCs at 2/3 the price and can work with anyone.
But those are the “general” reasons people don’t buy MACs, they’re not really the reasons I will never have one. I wouldn’t even take one for free. I simply don’t like Apple’s approach to systems design.
They are very much a one-size-fits-all model. You cannot customize a MAC, Apple doesn’t want you to do so. Because then it might not work and you’ll want tech support. Which is expensive to provide. They also have maintained tight control on both the hardware and the O/S to force that “any colour you want as long as it’s black” approach. It’s also one of the reasons why the system is so stable. It is so locked down, you can’t possibly tweak anything that will cause instability.
That design is pretty good, more or less, when it comes to tablets. I bought Jacob an iPad, and recommend iPads for less-technology-friendly family members. An iPad will just work, straight out of the box. It won’t let you do anything to force it outside of its comfort zone, it won’t get up and dance for you in the way you want it, but if you press the buttons in the order Apple tells you to do, it will do some pretty great things. You’ll pay for that privilege and security, but it’s a solid product. Similarly for iPhones. I even had one as I wanted a bit more bling at the time, but it didn’t take me long before I was frustrated with default settings and had to jailbreak it.
But when it comes to my PC? No way in hell am I letting someone dictate how I do something or whether I can even tweak it. I’m not a hard-core techie, but I do have some special demands. For example, on a busy day, it’s not uncommon for me to be:
Trying out new-to-the-market organizer programs while synching with my tablet, phone, and online websites;
Editing a video down in size, or changing formats, and using three different programs to match my workflow;
Sorting through hundreds of photos, customizing a few on the fly;
Stacking some astronomy photos in the latest astro program, only available on PC;
Ripping music from my CDs into my system;
Running multiple browser windows simultaneously;
Managing multiple cloud accounts for storage, along with backup solutions on the ground;
Managing my ebook library and transferring files to and from my Kindle, Jacob’s Kindle and Andrea’s Kobo; and,
Using Office 365 for Excel, Powerpoint and Word documents.
Of those 10 main functions, I can use a MAC for part of b; c; e; f; g; h; and j. What I can’t do is customize the workflows I would use for each to the way I work — you have to use the MAC’s approach, because it can’t be tweaked. And I can’t do a, d, or i at all, because MAC doesn’t have the software for those, or when they do, it’s several iterations behind the PC version. With the exception of the videos and the photos, almost NOBODY uses a MAC to do those things because the software and the power just isn’t there.
And more importantly? I am often doing 3-5 of those things SIMULTANEOUSLY.
I don’t even like the way iTunes manages music (see above link about avoiding disaster), and it is endemic of the way Apple treats customers. Like stupid sheep that have to be herded in the same direction. You can be creative, but only with your output…not with the design of your system.
I’ll buy iPads for Jacob, and iPhones for Andrea, partly because I know I won’t have to provide any tech support that way. They won’t have the full power that I have available to me to do all the things I want to do, but they also can’t get into too much trouble if the system is locked down as much as Apple likes to do it. I would use Linux before I would go to Apple. About the only exception I would have to that rule is the full MacBook Airs. They are super light and lightyears beyond the sleekness of other manufacturers. If I was in the market for a high-end word processor and web surfing tool for travel or just out and about around town, the price is terrible but the product is perfect for it.
What I really find funny though is when people actually think a MAC would be a viable option for me. It would be like talking to someone with a motorcycle problem with their custom-built Harley, and suggesting to them they wouldn’t have the problems they have if they would just drive a nice reliable but really expensive Vespa scooter. Umm, sure. I’ll get right on that.
As I said, computer functionality and my frustration with it when it drops quality is now on my trigger caution list. I hadn’t viewed it in the same way as other triggers before, but because it was a downstream issue, I didn’t see the link.
I’m testing various new backup tools, and am closing in on a solution. I’ve repurposed my 2TB external drive into a relatively stable / not-much-changes drive, and made my 3TB drive my primary backup. Everything is backed up there twice — one collection of “old” backups, and one copy of the recovered drive. Just in case in future a file turns out to be corrupted and I can’t access it, those two old backups are now permanent copies. I’ll copy them to NAS storage too.
I haven’t figured out quite what to do with some OneDrive and DropBox space that I have. I don’t want it synching in the same way and making another copy, but I do want to “send” them some files for safekeeping.
And I probably won’t talk much about computer problems in the future. Because people think I’m really talking about something “simple” like a glitchy hard drive, when it is more closer to a full on mental meltdown that just happens to be digitally triggered.