Switching to new computer is a pain

When I last left you, Dear Reader, I was distressed at destroying my computer and the aftermath of that has kept me off the air for a while, but now I’m back, at Starbucks again, and with a new laptop. So let’s finish the story, then move to my title subject.

After searching a bit I found a local computer repair shop I felt I could trust and took my coffee-soaked laptop in there with instructions to save the drive as top priority. Sure enough, the laptop was trashed but the drive appeared to be intact so for a while it looked like the best I could do is recover my data, but not my installed (and irreplaceable applications). Then the shop discovered it had a nearly identical (refurbished) laptop and I agree to buy that with my drive. It took them a while to get everything running (plus some more cleanup when I got it back) but amazingly I got the replacement back to the same level as the trashed machine.

But all this led me to rethink my strategy. I simply had too much irreplaceable stuff on a machine I expose to high risk of damage. It was just fate that the coffee spill killed my laptop as numerous other times I’ve dodged the bullet on losing it (mostly nearly dropping it). A laptop that I use under wide range of circumstances is at risk.

So I decided to “freeze” my recovered laptop, with its software intact, and get a new laptop specifically setup to use in mobile settings with the possibility of losing this one (as right this minute I’d at Starbucks with a cup of coffee inches from this machine). So I still want to use this as my primary machine (there are a lot of circumstances: out of the house, travel, geodashing, camping, etc.) where I not only need a generic working laptop but all the data (and most of the apps) I used all the time.

But this time I wanted a more effective backup strategy which is tricky with a highly mobile machine. The old “frozen” laptop now has an external USB drive set to continuous backup, so any changes on that should be preserved, BUT, this new laptop can’t use that strategy (yet one more electronics device to haul around, plus taking backup drive on the road exposes it to risk). So I bit the bullet and decided to use cloud backup, even though I haven’t had good results with this before, but this time I think I can structure the backup (including writing some code of my own) to work effectively, exposing me to some possible loss while on the road (although syncing when stopping at lodging with Net access).

But I also realizes I’ve never had a good strategy for: a) organizing my files and folders, and, b) migrating from old machines.

In terms of the first issue, like most people, I just start with the default Windows folders and add new ones in a haphazard fashion. Instead I really need to plan this more, esp. as on this machine I also plan to segregate various usages into different user ids and thus have files even more scattered out. And with the sync’ed cloud folder (OneDrive) I really need a good strategy for how to handle data. Meanwhile I want to consolidate, especially photos, from four previous machines into some sensible organization.

On the second issue, over the years, I’ve done a variety of projects and end up with files scattered all over the place (some not my fault). For instance, when I create a new Visual Studio project for some programming I’m doing, do I save any related files (esp. my logs of development activity) in those folders or elsewhere. And what about OneNote notebooks, where OneNote is obnoxious about where it puts things by default. And then there is Delorme (my main mobile application, GPS and mapping). Delorme puts all the stuff I create (routes, waypoints, etc.) in its own folder structure, directly at the level of C: (not even per user) and most backup will miss this. But as I discovered today it’s difficult to migrate that data anyway (either to new versions of Delorme or new computers) or to share.

And, over the years (now three desktops, four laptops, plus even older Macs) I have tended to just copy all the old stuff over to new machine (since new machines almost inevitably have more storage this “lazy” migration strategy is easy as there is plenty of room for old and mostly useless stuff, while good stuff gets further and further lost).

Standard tools just don’t solve this problems so that means adding to my ever growing list of projects to create some tools of my own. But more significantly it means putting on my professional hat, an architect, and really designing an effective strategy.

Easier said that done – so many requirements to attempt to reconcile and millions of files to attempt to consolidate (esp. de-duplicate) and organize. Months of work to finally get done. So the big question now is whether I’ll have the patience and persistence to get this all done.

Meanwhile I’ve gotten this new laptop up to the level I can (mostly) use it as I did before in mobile situations, esp. here at Starbucks or other out-of-the-house exiles where my computer is my main companion and source of entertainment (time killing). So, of course, there is a temptation to just suck stuff over and I have to resist that.

Meanwhile some panic backups allowed me the chance to migrate much of the stuff on the old laptop to an old OneDrive account (I still have numerous reservations about putting stuff in cloud, but in this case it is convenient to be able to access stuff on multiple computers). So I bit the bullet and decided to go to Office 365 for the primary reason of getting 1T (for me, plus for 4 other installs) online, at a price (including the Office software) for way less than other cloud offerings. BUT, one bad feature is the invisible syncing that may occur. Sometimes, on the road, I really need to get online and get something done quickly. I use a Verizon mobile WiFi hotspot for that, but often: a) it’s only 3G (and even 4G is pretty slow), and, b) often reception is sketchy or even non-existent (where I go). So it would be bad, to urgently need to get online, and immediately get hit with a ton of syncing through a slow link. So one more thing to get right.

So lots of issues and therefore certainly weeks, if not months, before I get this all straightened out, but frankly after 20 years of having personal computers I know realize my use, at home, or mobile, has the same complexity as enterprise networking and therefore I just have to solve these issues. Given I last worked at EMC (Documentum) and with SharePoint, my latest “specialty” is Enterprise Content Management, so I really should know how to get this all done.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile it’s been a couple of weeks to finally get to where I am now and that has mostly disrupted all the other projects or routine activity (like blogging) I would do, but after the holiday events maybe I’ll be back online and start 2015 with a burst of renewed blogging energy.



About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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