Last Sunday I had my first disaster with my computer. I spilled some coffee on my laptop and jumped up to get something to clean it. Unfortunately I had my headphones on my head and connected to the laptop and the cord caught on the cup and spilled the rest of a 20oz cup of coffee on it. It was soaked, coffee running out through every crack in the case. NOW, I realize my first panic should have been to shut it down, but instead I was focused on trying to clean up the mess and of course the laptop shut itself down, probably due to an internal short possibly frying the circuits. After than disaster then there was the panic to find a repair facility (plus use tiny iPod screen to do searches to find help) and now the laptop is at a shop, hopefully a competent one, and maybe by the end of the week it will be rescued. But quite possibly it’s trashed and I’ll never recover it.
The loss of an expensive gadget is one loss but the data on its hard drive is way more valuable. I have software installed, that can’t be backed up, and I don’t have installers for those programs or even the license rights to re-purchase that software. My own data is partially backed-up but I don’t do that frequently so I will definitely lose weeks of work, so much so I possibly can’t recover. I was working on my own app, little nits to fix, little bugs found, and no records (or memory) of exactly what I did, so even starting with the much older version of the program who knows if I can get all those small, almost daily, incremental changes back into the older backup copy. But I’ve also spent many hours accumulating data, now possibly with weeks, for sure, months, maybe that are gone.
But right now it’s not even that possible loss that bugs me. I have a still working but much older laptop that I’m using now. It is so much slower (plus out of free storage space) and none of the software is up-to-date nor all the little customizations I do installed. Even the keyboard is quite different and it’s taken me a while to get used to typing on this keyboard instead of my usual one. So while this old laptop “works” it is marginally useful in comparison to my more familiar newer machine.
A lot of people only really started using computers when the Web, esp. broadband, became popular, but as a developer I’ve had personal computers since their earliest versions. Since I can program I do write all sorts of little programs for my own personal use, now very likely to be gone. I use a laptop so I can have it with me at all times which means I have all sorts of useful stuff saved there. You use a machine for four years and you just accumulate little stuff all the time.
I’m feeling particularly lost because I’m also a numbers freak. I have a lot of detailed records (as I’ve sometimes posted here) about my weight loss program. I updated those files daily and did all the graphs and analysis to set literally daily goals. I also had four years of details of my exercise. If you crank enough numbers you can always find some little short-term goal, like best consecutive three days, or highest calorie burn / hour, or whatever – anything I can compute where I can then spend today (and all the past days) with the incentive to reach some mini-goal. Now I feel lost – I don’t know where I am. I can measure weights and exercise but I’m missing all my baseline data to compare so single current numbers have no context. Literally I’ve been lost, with my incentive gone, in just the two short days I’ve been deprived of my data.
And as it’s now gloomy winter time here with little opportunity to get outside my time (now ample as I’m retired) inside is missing all the little stuff I used to spend hours doing before. I’m not a social media nut (in fact, anti- social media) so being able to get online with this old machine does NOT make up for all the stuff I had locally on my machine. People in many places get used to constant 24×7 online access; here, I have more intermittent net access, esp. while on the road, so I’ve developed the pattern of not depending on constant online access. So even though I have the services, I don’t put my data in the cloud (in the past, I was more often deprived of access to cloud data than what I held just locally).
So I’m having real demotivating withdrawal symptoms since my usual daily routine is so disruptive. I don’t think having a “dependency” on technology is any different (or certainly not harmful) than dependency on eating and drinking and sleeping. My entire adult life and all my professional life has involved interaction with computer technology, whatever crude and earlier generations than are current today. It’s as much a part of my routine as any other daily living habit. And when it’s gone, it is a huge loss. I’m not so much “sad” about it (although when I get the bills I certainly will be), as just lost without it. And I don’t think that is a problem, to get used to something, and then be lost without it.
Of course I’ve lost data before. Like everyone else I’ve never done proper backup. Primarily because there really aren’t adequate solutions for backup. Every technique for backup has numerous flaws and it’s a bit worse with laptops since I can’t use a backup drive and deferred daily (like nighttime) backup. But also most backup software sucks, doing a poor job of incremental backup (to backup a huge file that has only a few bytes changed is stupid design, plus not very useful given continuing Net bandwidth limitations, esp. upload speed). My former employer was the first to provide real-time incremental cloud backup as a service, which as an employee I got for free. It sucked and eventually even stopped working because I had way more data than their design accounted for. I have all sorts of now unreadable removal media with backups from decades ago, all useless since the read and/or software doesn’t work with current technology. For decades I’ve pondered how to do this better and while it’s easy to come up with better designs, none of these are actually available commercially, at least at reasonable prices. And of course all backup techniques expose one to security loopholes (do I really want all my financial records somewhere in the “cloud” where hackers can get it).
So the lack of adequate solution means I do pretty much what everyone else does – inadequate and too infrequent backup. And the past record of no serious failures (across at least a dozen machines I’ve owned) lulled me into false sense of security that backup isn’t really that critical. Well, live and learn – the hard way.
But even monetary loss (kinda inevitable in life, shit happens and things break) and the data loss (not vital, just useful, but I can live without it) is not what I’m really feeling now. It is the disruption of my routine that involves my dependence on technology. Again, some list computers, or certainly social media, as an “addiction”, but in a cold climate so is my heating plant (which has failed leading to a few rather cold days) or my fridge (leading to lots of discarded food) or car (which lead to expenses getting temporary substitute) and so forth. Modern life involves many bits of technology we take for granted, until, of course, they’re gone. But for me, my specific computer (not just any computer or online access) is my real loss. A broken frig means some extra expense and a little inconvenience until it’s replaced, but that’s nothing like this loss is.
So I can only hope I really didn’t permanently trash my machine and the shop can recover it, but then the question is, now that I’ve been burned what will I do when my familiar capacity is recovered (or replaced and rebuilt).