Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Forgot My Toothbrush

It struck me as incredibly ironic this morning, that I had just written this post about not leaving behind that one important item, and then this happened:

I spent a good portion of my Monday working on the personal statement for a Fellowship that I really, really want.  It's a long shot anyway, but I want to apply.  (It's not that I don't think I have a lot to offer, it's that I think there are a lot of people with a lot to offer who will apply.)  I planned to email the statement to a friend as soon as I got home, thus simultaneously backing it up in the cloud.  Fate had another plan.

When I opened my computer at home, the screen stayed black.  I'd been having problems with my computer screen (See Grey Is Better Than Blue post), so this wasn't entirely unexpected.  But two things upset me right away: 1) that application statement, and 2) loss of the ability to communicate with people back home.  I got over number two pretty quickly when my mom responded to my texts and Mr. Trizzle answered my phone call.  But that first one was a biggie.

Trying to Fix It

(Somehow, I have a feeling only Mr. Trizzle and MaryRuth are going to understand most of this section)

Mr. Embassy-man let me try his external monitor, but I could only get into my Linux system.  My machine's on a dual boot and when it starts up I get a black and white DOS-looking (but it's not DOS) screen with a list of choices for loading an operating system.  That screen wasn't visible.  Linux is the default.  Since I couldn't see the screen, I couldn't choose, and Linux booted.

At first, I was happy.  Linux can read my Windows drive (but not vice versa) so I thought I could just get my file, put it on my flash drive and be on my merry little way.  Not so fast. 

When my screen first showed up black, I did the general panic thing and tried restarting the computer, by holding down the power button until it turned off.  This meant Windows didn't shut down properly.  And that meant Linux couldn't access my Windows drive because it was 'in use.'  No file.  Dang it.

I tried guessing about how many times I needed to arrow down on that black and white screen to choose the Windows operating system.  It seemed to load once, but the monitor stayed black.

Linux told me I had two options.  If that other drive (my NTFS partition) was Windows, I should boot into windows and close it properly.  Yeah, ok, great, except I can't get into Windows.  Or two, if I didn't have windows, I could manually force Linux to read the drive (Linux calls it 'mount').  I had no idea how to do that.  'This is why a computer dilettante like myself should not be running Linux,' I thought.

So I headed home (after some yummy cheese and olives!) to wallow in my sorrow (and stupidity).

Mr. Trizzle is a bit of a computer geek trapped inside a lawyer's body.  I called him this morning to explain what had happened, and we spent over an hour discussing options.  He was very patient with me and tried to help, despite his obvious irritation at my not backing up this one important document before I left work.  (But I was going to back it up when I got home!  I was going to pack my toothbrush later...)

A String of Miracles

Today at work, I hooked up the desktop's monitor to my laptop and started trying things.  Eventually, I got into Windows and got it to show up on the monitor.  (A lot of trial and error, using the desktop system's windows as a guide, guessing about how many times to arrow down on that black and white screen and then hitting the right key combination to tell the laptop to use the external monitor.)

Miracle #1: There was power when I got to work.  Ok, not quite a miracle, but not a given either, and definitely a good thing.

Miracle #2: I got into Windows without being able to see anything.

Miracle #3: Windows showed up on the external monitor.

Miracle #4: The internet came on just long enough for my files to back-up in the cloud!

Why I Didn't Go Crazy

You may have noticed I was only concerned about one file.  How?  Why?  I need to thank Mr. Trizzle for putting me on to two amazing programs that literally saved my sanity.  If it weren't for these programs, I would have thought I lost everythingSyncToy and DropBox.  I mentioned both in my post about my work desktop

All my work documents are backed-up both on my flash drive and in the cloud.  SyncToy makes it incredibly easy to have matching files in many places.  I just set up my folder pairs and run the program anytime I'm going to close my computer.  My DropBox folder is one of the folders I sync.  Then DropBox automatically uploads my files to the cloud whenever there's an internet connection.  My semester paper, all my research notes, my numerous projects, even if I had lost my laptop completely, I'd still have all those.

I suggest everyone backup their data now (and everyday), and I recommend both these programs for doing that.  I believe SyncToy is a Microsoft application and thus Windows only.

I'm also very glad I had Linux on my machine (thanks again to Mr. Trizzle).  If Linux hadn't been on there, nothing would have shown up on the monitor at Mr. Embassy-Man's house and I wouldn't have kept trying to get into windows.  I would have thought the whole computer was kaput.  I do not, however, recommend putting Linux on your computer, especially not just so you can tell when only your screen is broken.

This Post

This post is my first trial at using my computer blindly.  You'll have to let me know how it works.  I can hook my laptop up to the monitor at work, but there's (usually) no internet.  At home, there is internet, but no extra monitor.  So I can type and work at work, but only upload or download at home.

I spent some time at work today trying to make my computer useable without a screen: taking notes on how many times to press what keys, adding sound effects for everything (my computer says "oof" a lot now), etc.  Hopefully, what happened was, I got home, opened my computer, logged into windows, got into my LiveWriter and posted this post without needing to see the screen.

I think it's time for me to go change some settings in my Thunderbird so I can do something similar with my email.  (Another thanks to Mr. Trizzle for putting me onto that program, too!)


munckinhead said...

oh dear sister, you probably get to see this until you come home or the internet randomly works at work, but by then you would have seen that you did a wonderful job of typing blindishly. happy thanksgiving :-*

Wendy said...

So is forgetting you toothbrush a metaphor for not backing up your files, or did the family move and you actually forgot your toothbrush?

Jeannie said...

So - you have one sister who types normally like she's typing blindly (love you Kat, okay, I suppose it wasn't that bad,but 'blindishly??) and one who can't decipher metaphors from reality (but tries) and a mother who doesn't know Linux from dos - what's a lawyer-to-be to do? ;)

MaryRuth said...

GR--that's amazing work, you are a genuine computer wiz.
Seriously, I'm about the lamest computer user ever. I know just enough to be dangerous.

goldenrail said...

Munchkinhead: I can see it. And I wasn't typing w/o looking, I was only trying to send without looking. It didn't work; I had to hook it up to a monitor to do it.

Wendy: we haven't moved yet. And I have a spare toothbrush anyway.

MR: Not that amazing. I still haven't gotten my Thunderbird to send messages without me looking, although I have gotten it download the new ones while I sleep. It's a start.

Mommy: What's a soon-to-be-lawyer to do? Come home and hang out with those wonderful people! :*