Who are the Computer Saints, Anyway?
Thursday, March 26, 2009

I had some Pandora music running in the background, I was downloading photos for my son's final art project, and revising an editorial due in a couple of days. I had my inbox at the ready as I switched back and forth between emails and an online work website. Facebook was live under there somewhere. My computer was hot.

All of a sudden my machine started running slowly, next, the programs wouldn't respond and I quickly tried shutting down extraneous windows. In a few minute's time the screen was black and the machine was unresponsive.

A classic crash...

Somehow my son and I managed to print out his photos on the printer, without the use of the computer and turn his final in the next day... That was mercy.

The next day, I plugged in my external hard drive, hopeful, knowing it backed everything up except email. I needed to finish that editorial and get it uploaded and moved to the copyeditor. Yay, it would be my savior! Nothing. The hard drive had crashed, too, and there was not one recoverable document. I never did see that editorial again. I had to write a new one. Oh, the loss of some of those beautiful words! But there were bigger things lost—some things I haven't even yet faced.

Next step, to the computer dude down the street.

$175 later.


So, when did I come to trust my machine so implicitly that I stopped printing out paper copies or making CD backups regularly? It was so fast, so easy to use... I could move documents from here to eternity in no time. When did I consider all the work I did on that machine so completely retrievable?

For three months, as my computer has traveled first class on shiny fed ex jets between repair centers—as it has received a new hard drive and a new mother board--I've been working on a borrowed Mac ibook, no mouse, no keyboard, a screen the size of a trade paperback. I continually have had to scroll up and down, minimize and cut and paste by using the wrong buttons then finding the right ones... I'm too old for this. I have come to hate computers and put off work all day, until deadlines pile so high I can only scream my way through. I find going to the beach and looking in the tide pools and talking to the seagulls much more preferable.

So, why bother you with all this dredge? Why haunt you with this sad, sorry tale of woe? What can you learn from my foibles?

If you need some mental and spiritual challenges in your life then I suggest you work to help your computer fizzle.

Here's why I'm writing to you, my beloved fellow lover of words... I had four forms of back up, and have still lost an immense amount of information (including a big chunk of my beloved Ted Shred. Many tears...). Please check your back up systems regularly.

Here are some ways to back up your writing...

  • 1. Paper. Print out your work and store it in binders. I used to do this religiously, but at some point started to generate stuff too fast and didn't like using all that paper.

  • 2. gmail/yahoo/whatever. Have another email account and simply email yourself important documents. I don't do this, but know many who do...

  • 3. Have an external hard drive. One that works and won't crash when your computer does. I hate mine and have already stepped all over it and have put it into the trash bin.

  • 4. Use a memory stick and wear it around your neck, but don't jump into the pool or play fetch with your dog with it... Some of my writer friends swear by these, but I know just how likely it'd be that the baby would throw it over the fence into the next door neighbor's pool. He's a thrower.

  • 5. CD's. Just remember to actually use them. My last back up on CD's was nine months before the crash. Thank goodness for those CD's, though.

  • 6. Mozy. I am so thankful for Mozy! After the Tea Fire here in Santa Barbara I wondered what would happen if my house burned, and my computer, and my binders, and my CD's and my external hard drive—if they all burned? Everything would be lost. So many years of writing, and hoping. So I looked into some sort of online storage system and found Mozy.com. I know Mac has some sort of system as well for you Apple folk. Anyway, I was trying out the system when my computer crashed and had uploaded as a trial 2gb of stuff. 2gb of storage is not much for a writer using Outlook, so only some of my material was saved, but it's awesome. I now pay $50 a year for unlimited storage and this will be my saving grace if my machine bugs out on me again, which I'm counting on daily, because I will never, ever trust a computer again in my life... Not ever. They're just machines, you know. They really are. They're heartless. And I found out that there aren't even any computer saints you can pray to when your machine is unresponsive, and sitting there, just black and unbothered by all your tears.