Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

La Ofrenda

I get paid for working at my computer, from home, which is awesome because I don't have to deal with annoying coworkers who hang out by my desk for way too long, whether or not I have work to do, and I don't miss the smelly coworkers (I've had some), or the troubling office politics. But it gets lonely sometimes, and, more importantly, the boundaries between work and play are often blurred, and the result is way too many hours in front of my computer. This includes time spent blogging, which is simultaneously never enough, and entirely too much.

Because I work from home, I have a lot of computer gear, including two large (gigabytage, not square footage) external hard drives. One of them, dubbed the "Penalty Box" by Glen, died the same day my dog, Lacey did, and as such, only registered in my brain as annoying background noise.

So, as I settle into my new Lacey-less routine (which is difficult: I expect her to get underfoot when Glen hits the truck alarm, and I wonder why — if only for a split second, every damn night — why she hasn't come for dinner, or come to bed, that sort of thing, except that sort of thing happens about every 20 minutes of every day. It's hard to retrain your heart and synapses after fifteen years of habit and friendship), I've thought about the contents of that particular hard drive, and initially, it didn't seem to be such a big deal because I thought I only had a zillion or so of my fonts stored on that drive. For reasons too mundane to document, I had copied all one zillion of the fonts to my internal drive about a month ago. So, when the Penalty Box crapped out, I figured "annoying, but no big whoop."

A few days later, I realized, oopsie, it was big whoop, when I thought about updating my iPod. The Penalty Box stored all of our music and videos. I wanted to vomit. Glen wondered why I had turned green. He said, "We can just re-rip our CDs, right?"

"Uh. No," I said. "Remember back in May when I decided it would be a good idea to sell all of the CDs on eBay for some extra dough?"*

"[Expletive deleted]," he said.

"I know," I said.

"You didn't sell ALL of the CDs, did you?"

"No, we had a couple of non-paying bidders, and some didn't even sell."

He went to look at the box and discovered what I already knew was true: it contained, for the most part, only the promotional CDs he received while working for Sony. Stuff like Greatest Hits of 1972, and Greatest Hits of 1973, and Greatest Hits of 1974, and so on, right up through Greatest Hits of 1986.**

I wasn't a big fan of the greatest hits of any of those years, and I hated them even more since they potentially represented all that was left of our vast music library.

Years ago, I had — despite my background in other areas — landed a job at MicroWarehouse, Inc. in Lakewood, NJ, as a member of their technical support team. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I was good at that job. Really good at it. I had a knack of troubleshooting computer problems, and that's haunted me ever since, because now some people (I'm not naming names), continue to call to ask me for advice, when really, all they need to do is a) not give up so quickly; b) listen better, because they generally call me about the same damn issue over and over and freakin' over again; and c) maybe realize that they are incompatible with life with a computer, and should stick to, instead, pen and paper.

I have resurrected my share of dead hard drives before, so I thought I could fix the Penalty Box. But before I even got started, I had a sinking suspicion I'd fail: I could hear that the drive inside was just not spinning. I did attempt a few things, just to see. I connected it to different computers (we have several), I used a few software-based utilities to try to recover the contents. But alas, mechanical failures don't lend themselves to software-based remedies. Computer technology has changed so much since my MW days, and I just didn't feel comfortable cracking open the case and performing surgery. Although, we might yet. But not yet.

After several resurrection techniques failed, Glen, the expert researcher, came back with a couple of ideas:

1) Freezing the hard drive...yes, in the freezer.
2) Forcing the iPod to mount as an external drive.

Both techniques are outside of my geeky comfort level, but I enjoy a bit of risk, periodically. The risks associated with freezing the drive seemed too dire: I cannot get my brain around how this works, but geeks the world over swear by it. But, from what we read, it only breathes about a half an hour's worth of life back into the drive (sounds like a TV show that was introduced this season), and that wouldn't be enough time to copy our music library. Too scary.

Forcing the iPod to mount as an external drive seemed sensible, for sure, but it's far trickier than it sounds, since Apple has the iPod coded up the wazoo, so that it doesn't mount in any traditional sense at all, not without some programming. And plus, the software on the computer, associated with the iPod, automatically grabs hold of the iPod, and will — unless this and that are checked in the preferences — erase its contents, and update it with the music library on the computer. And in my case, that library contains only the ghosts of songs. And since I had honest-to-goodness real songs on the Pod, I had to be careful about hooking it up to the computer.

So, everything had to be just right, AND I had to learn a bit of unix coding to force my computer to show the "invisible files" (which are PROLIFIC and EVERYWHERE).

Long story short, as much as I may curse my computer for taking over my life, my addiction paid off: my music library has been restored.***

Today is Dia de los Muertos; a joyful Mexican holiday, in which the souls of our deceased loved ones visit with us. I would gladly trade my music library, in return for their ability to stay. But I suppose that's not possible.


* I love eBay, and have sold a lot of different stuff. We had a lot of CDs taking up valuable space, and since we added an iPod to our family of electronics, and I had a back-up of everything on the Penalty Box, I figured it was okay to let the CDs go. Aside from not making another back-up of all of our music, selling the CDs on eBay was overall, irritating. I did wind up making a couple hundred bucks, which doesn't come close to what we invested in the CDs, but I'm okay with that. More importantly, a couple hundred bucks didn't come close to paying for our time to get every single friggin' CD mailed out to all the winning bidders. I tried to be optimistic, figuring the positive feedback would be a good thing, but learned that people buying cheap CDs on eBay leave feedback a lot less often regularly than people buying something far more obscure.

** If you want any of these CDs, let me know.

*** There were a few more steps involved, but I didn't want to go full-on geek. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, send me an email.

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