.journal 2001.04.14
Fun with computers, not.

Now listening to: Lords of Acid, Farstucker
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Courtney Love: the Real Story
Now playing: Final Fantasy Anthology (Playstation)

Those of you who've been following seanshannon.org.blog already know some of the story I'm about to relate here, but stay tuned here anyway because now I'm about to go into entirely too much detail about what conspired to make these past few days absolutely hellish for me.

Recently my computer started making strange noises, but after a quick unscrewing of the side of the case I discovered that the fan on my Athlon is having some troubles and should get replaced here soon. Not that big a deal, although Best Buy doesn't stock fans so I'm going to have to track down a computer shop here in town and I never liked going to computer stores. But that's not all that big a task.

Then, Wednesday at around 17h, all of a sudden I can't get on the Internet on my main connection. That's not exactly news (my main ISP kinda sucks right now), so I go over to my alternate connection and get on. But then Outlook Express doesn't want to load, and in fact it brings my whole system down with it. Again, while this is hardly ordinary behaviour for my computer, something didn't seem quite so right to me. So I did a cold shutdown, turned the computer back on and was greeted with one of the scariest things I've ever seen on a computer screen that didn't involve Michael J. Fox's head and someone else's body:

Operating system not found

It's funny how moments of sheer panic can cause your other senses to perk up, and right away my ears detected that the humming noise coming from the computer sounded different somehow. So I took the side of the case apart again, and lo and behold there is now another source of buzzing inside the case: the hard drive itself. I have no idea how this could have happened; my computer is up on the shelf below my computer desk, well out of my normal traffic range in this room, and even if I wanted to pound on it in frustration I can't because the keyboard drawer is in the way.

So here I am coming to terms with the fact that my hard drive appears to have died on me, and right away I'm thinking about all the stuff on my hard drive that I never bothered to back up for whatever reason, including my songwriting files (both MIDI and lyrics), my chat logs with L., my writing, my Microsoft Money file, my virtual cat ... all of it, I was fearing, was on the verge of being lost forever, with the only possible source of recuperation being thousands of miles away in a clean room and costing thousands of dollars.

Thankfully, after jiggling a few cords and rebooting I was able to get the system to recognize the hard drive, but it would only boot into safe mode. And of course that made my CD-RW drive useless, because safe mode doesn't load any CD drivers. The files were all still there, but the hard drive was super-slow, it was making funny noises and I couldn't trust it to hold onto my files any longer. And the only possible method of backup I had was floppy disk, and while I'm sure I've collected a thousand floppies throughout the course of my computer life, I didn't exactly have a thousand unused floppies around at the time for that purpose.

Reflexively, I moved all my important files off of the main C: partition (which seemed to be the most affected by the problem) and went through every step I could think of to recover my past condition. Reinstalling Windows on top of itself failed twice, so I decided to hell with it and decided to reformat my C: drive. Only Windows wouldn't allow me to do that, stopping midway through mapping the bad sectors and throwing up its own hands in frustration. My last resort was to run Partition Magic from floppy disk, which did at least make it impossible for me to get back into safe mode but otherwise couldn't help me any. Everything I had was indicating the hard disk was a lost cause, and while I could still access most of the contents of the disk in a command prompt, I didn't want to tax the drive any more than it had already been, in case wear was a contributing factor to whatever had happened.

At that point my only feasible course of action was clear: get a new hard disk, and try to salvage whatever I can off the old disk onto the new disk. Of course, by the time I came to this realization all the stores were closed, and so I had to go the evening and following morning without a computer, which was sheer torture. I just thought not being able to work on stuff for my father would be a pain, but it's not until you lose your computer that you realize how dependent you are on it. Then again, the time without a computer got me to finally finish Exquisite Corpse and move on to Poppy Z. Brite's biography of Courtney Love, so the downtime wasn't without its advantages, however bittersweet they might have been.

So the next morning I wake up, do the bare minimum I need to do, and deposit my paycheque so I can go to Best Buy and get a new hard drive. And while I was there I remembered I wanted to upgrade my graphics card, and there were some other things I wanted to get that were on sale. So I gather everything up, go to the register and for the first time in my life experience the humiliation of having my debit card turned down. Up until that point my bank had been spotless about recording my deposits as soon as possible, but of course when I'm panicking about losing years' worth of work and the records of some of the most intimate moments of my life, now all of a sudden the bank screws me over. Sigh.

Thankfully I did have enough to get the hard drive, so I settled for that and went home, though not without just the slightest feeling of anger. Nobody else was around so only myself and the cashier knew about the debit card thing, but that was still a horrible thing to have happen to me. Given all that I was facing at that point, that was cosmically bad timing, and yet another signal from the universe that I probably should have just stayed in bed Wednesday and woken up Sunday.

So I get back home with the hard drive, and while it was nice to have a new forty gigabyte drive at my disposal, I never really used more than a third of my previous thirty gigabyte drive, even with Windows 98 SE and Redhat Linux 7.0 both on the system. But the new drive works fine, I hook the old drive up and thankfully everything of vital importance comes over to the new drive fairly easily. The only real casualty of the situation was my ICQ chat log which held all the logs of my conversations with C. and J., and that sucked but I'll live. No offense to C. and J., they're two of the most terrific friends I could ever hope to have, but if I'm going to lose any chat records I'd rather lose theirs than lose L.'s.

I lost another couple of files, but they were piddling stuff. The real problem with those files, though, was that whenever the damaged hard disk got to them, it would lock my entire computer up and I'd have to cold reboot. And when you've been through all the hard drive problems I've just been through, the last thing in the world you want to do is cold reboot your system over and over again. But I got the files off and got the hard drive disconnected, and right now it's sitting next to the computer awaiting it's ultimate fate. Do the words "circular file" mean anything to you?

And, of course, there's the joy of reinstalling some forty-odd programs. Granted, my system was kind of jumbled to start with and this gave me the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff I didn't want to use anymore, upgrade some programs and just get better organized. But next time I want to be the one to make the decision of when and how I go about that, thank you. So that's how I spent Friday and Saturday, pretty much. You know me, always the party animal on the weekends.

So earlier today Jeff came over and I went back to Best Buy to get all those things I wanted to walk out with on Thursday but didn't. Actually, that's not entirely true because the bastards ran out of the Princess Mononoke DVD since this past Thursday, and they had it for $5 off this week. I get in enough flack with my anime friends for not having seen any of Neon Genesis Evangelion yet, and adding Princess Mononoke to that makes me feel so out of touch. Oh well, I'm still waiting for Oh My Goddess! to finally hit DVD this year, and that's my main anime concern, poo on what anyone else might think.

Another thing I really wanted to do was upgrade my graphics card and get Quake III Arena. I've never been one for PC gaming as a whole (save Chessmaster and SimCity), but another of my friends is really trying to get me into first-person shooting. So I went ahead and upgraded from my TNT2 Vanta to a full-fledged TNT2 from Palit with 16 megs of RAM, and picked up Quake III Arena. The graphics card is at least a lot sharper in 2-D than my old card, but oh my word do I totally and completely suck at Quake. I can't help but blow myself to bits half the time, and when I actually figure out how to navigate somewhere I'm a sitting duck for everyone to frag. No wonder my friend was trying to get me interested in Quake III Arena, he wanted a way to embarass and humiliate me with little or no effort on his part. Oh well, why should he be any different than the rest of the world?

Anyway, at least there was one good part to the Best Buy trip, and that was that I finally found a copy of Farstucker in Toledo that didn't skip on me. Halle-flippin'-leujah. Ever since I listened to the first skip-infested copy of Farstucker I brought home a couple of weeks ago, I've been going, "Where the hell have Lords of Acid been my whole life?" I've really been digging heavy industrial as of late, but Lords of Acid really take it to a new plateau. Of course, now J.'s trying to get me to listen to umpteen other bands, and L. is quick to nag me about the fact that I still don't own a Robyn Hitchcock album. Geez, what the heck am I supposed to do? I still don't have a car here, you know, and I have to be thinking about that a bit more than buying CDs.

Also on the musical front I picked up Jill Sobule's I Never Learned to Swim today. Yeah, it's a best-of compilation with only a couple of new tracks, but Jill's one of the artists I'm passionate enough about to pick it up anyway. The only real problem I have with Jill is that despite flashing in the pan with "I Kissed a Girl" so many years ago, it's damn near impossible to keep track of her. Oh well, the CD rocks anyway and you should buy it too. Just remember, if you order after clicking on a CD-NOW or Amazon link from this site (not clicking, then shutting your browser down and going back later), I get a meager percentage of whatever you buy, so click on some links, buy some stuff and make me some cash. I'll never make enough to recoup the cost of the .org this way, but at least you can help finance my shopping habits. And that's a good deed.

Going back to the computer, recently I'd switched keyboards because the keyboard that came with my HP had all these special-feature buttons on it, and the software that managed those buttons were causing about 60% of my system crashes. So I went back to an el cheapo keyboard, only to discover that the one I'd bought had both its Alt-keys break down within a matter of days. This is now the third keyboard I've used in as many months, and this one's quirk is that the insert/home/delete six-key set above the arrows is set one key-length lower than on any of my previous keyboard, and since I use the insert and delete keys a lot it's really messing me up. Oh well, at least now when I have a problem with my new hard disk I can actually do a Control-Alt-Delete, and not have to cold reboot each time.

And finally, perhaps most importantly of all, I picked up some CD-Rs and CD-RWs. I'm heading to bed after finishing this up for some well-deserved bedrest, but when I get up tomorrow I'm backing all the important stuff off in duplicate, and Monday morning one copy gets transported a few miles away just in case there's a fire or tornado here or something. Maybe I can't save everything in case something like that happens, but I'm going to save as much of it as I can. So hopefully the next time I have something like this happen, I won't become quite so flustered or frustrated.

Oh, and guess what I forgot at Best Buy? That's right, the fan for my computer. Sigh. I need some sleep. Be well, one and all, and I'll see you all soon.

- Sean