A Cup of Perspective

As I typed away on my trusty, dusty, highly abused laptop, I decided that it was time so save what I had thus far. Command-S

“An Error has occurred. You can not save to this disk. It is either full or you do not have access.”

Hmmm. That’s not good. I try saving a different file in a different program and the same error appears. This is not good at all.

I’m a Mac guy. I love my MacBook Pro and schlep it everywhere I go, pretty much. I’d be lost with out it. The various arguments both for and against Macs take up an indecent amount of space on the internet and amongst various geek gatherings and I’m not about to get into it here. I don’t consider my self to be a Mac “Fan boy”, but it’s the system that I’ve used for much of my computerized life and therefor, is the one that I’m most familiar with. There are plenty of very good PC’s out there, I’m sure. I just want nothing to do with them. I like my Mac.

So, a little while ago, I decided that the hard drive I had was far too small. It was time to upgrade. I purchased a new, larger and faster drive, broke out the hex drive screwdrivers and prepared to void a few warrantees. Within minutes, the new drive was in and the old drive tossed into an enclosure in preparation of having its brain sucked out and transplanted onto its new, bigger home.

It won’t surprise you to know that this didn’t work out the way I planned. Eventually, I pulled the new drive back out and put the small, difficult but full of my stuff drive back in.

Apple has this little program that you can run called “Fire Vault” and it is, to put it simply, a piece of crap. The idea is a great one. What it’s supposed to do is encrypt your data to keep bad guys from getting your stuff if the machine is stolen. I keep bank info and customer’s credit cards on my laptop so I thought that this might be a good idea to use. The flaw comes into play when you want to copy your old drive to a new one. Fire vault, apparently has a bad reputation for not shutting off correctly and leaving your data encrypted. This is what it did to me. Luckily, I’m pretty fastidious about backing up but this was still a major pain in the butt. I called Apple for help and the very nice level two tech whom I was talking with told me, “Oh, I wouldn’t use Fire Vault if I were you. Everyone here is scared of it. No one uses it. It’s too dangerous.” Talk about your ringing endorsements.

To make a long and painful story far, far shorter, not only did I have massive trouble retrieving stuff from my old drive but eventually it stopped letting even me look at my files, or save anything else to the disk. Great. A reboot of the computer and it locked me out all together. It has been about three weeks since my last back up, so there that goes out the window.

So, rather than being a productive little worker bee, I spent much of my day screwing around with putting the new drive back in and trying to reconstruct everything I lost as best as I can. I was not enjoying this.

When I got home that evening, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one having a less that stelar time. Lulu Belle was in the the snittiest of snits and trying to make her happy was supplanted with trying to make her stop crying until she pukes. She was over tired and grumpy as grumpy gets. Eventually, I managed to get her upstairs and into her bassinet and relaxing to some degree. If I sat there and left a hand on her, she seemed to calm down. The problem was that this gets pretty boring very fast for the human pacifier. I cast about for a book within reach and managed to snag one from a dusty pile.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Eric Sloane, I highly recommend that you take a moment the next time you find your self in a library or book store. This is a man who loved what he did and did it well. Eric had a passion for old New England and the ways that things were done. At a time when everything was changing fast and the old ways were being lost, he took it upon him self to go out and chronicle what he could find before it was gone forever. His research took him to farmhouses and covered bridges, barns and churches and with his amazing talent for pen and ink drawing, sketched out what he found. Where he could, he talked to the oldest of the old timers and found out the secrets of post and beam construction, building the best root cellars, when to harvest what and which tools to use. Tools, in fact, were a particular love of his and he reveled in finding some strangely shaped saw designed for one type of cut only or a axe built for specific use.

As I sat there in the fading light, hand on my now sleeping daughter’s chest, I thought of how It’s nothing short of fascinating when we look back at the evolution of technology. In 1809, the cutting edge was just that, a sharper axe with a better blade that made your work go faster and easier. A broken handle was a decent equivalent to my toasted hard drive. Both stopped work cold and destroyed the day’s productivity. Technology might make our lives easier at times, but when we rely on it and it fails us, it upsets our world terribly.

The difference, I guess, is that I can’t go carve a new drive from a near by ash tree.

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An old friend

I’m going to tip my hand here a bit at let you find out just how long I’ve been a HUGE GEEK.

First of all, I am a pack rat. Actually, the term I prefer is “Old Yankee”. In this case, I use the word “yankee” in its true and pure form. I am a native of one of the original New England colonies and have a deep and abiding affinity for saving something because it might come in handy later. In my younger and more foolish days, I used to think that I wanted a big ole’ farm house and barn. I realize now what a disaster that would be because like a goldfish grows to fill his bowl, I would undoubtedly fill my house and barn with perfectly good “stuff” that I would no doubt need later on. Maybe.

So, I have no barn and alas, my house is small and so, I must pass by perfectly good “stuff” and leave it for someone else to find. I do however, have a selection of items from my past that I will not let go of, even though I know it’s silly to hang on to them. I plugged in one today to take it for a test drive. It’s my Apple ][+

If you know anything about the old Apple computers, If you are thinking, “Hey! I used one of those in school!” … you’re probably wrong. You are most likely thinking of an Apple ][e. The “e” stands for “enhanced”, and this computer is most defiantly NOT enhanced. It’s the Apple equivalent of the lung fish. It’s not quite a land dweller but not anything to shout about in the water either. It is however, an important link.

The Apple ][+ was the machine that Wozniak and Jobs made for the mass market. To take the step out of the garage where it all started, they had to make a few upgrades. One of these steps was that it had to be in an actual cast case. The original Apples and Apple ][‘s came in a case made of wood. That’s right. Wood. (BTW, I am by far geeky enough to want one of these desperately) The Apple ][+ however came with the beige molded case what would become an icon of the 80’s. What the Apple ][+ does NOT have is lowercase. That’s right! No lowercase available. “Why?” might you ask? One simple reason. You don’t need any fancy pants lowercase to do this…

10 NEW
20 PRINT “I CAN STILL PROGRAM IN BASIC”
30 GOTO 20

RUN

Ahhh. All those days spent at summer computer camp still pay off.

So, down in my basement, I dusted off my much loved and practically forgotten best silicon friend. The Zenith green screen popped to life and with a bit of trepidation, I reached around the back and flipped the switch and heard…APPLEIIPLUS.mp3

“BEEP! Chugga chugga chugga”

Hooray! Then, since there was no disk to put in my trusty “Drive II”, I hit “CONTROL-C” to make a line break. “Beep!” and the flashing cursor awaited. I started to type the above program. It looked like this…

10 EW
20 PRIT “CA SILL PRRAM I ASIC”
30 RU

“Aw crap”. So it looks like a bunch of the keys are buggered. The real bummer is that the nostalgia of this being my first real computer coupled with my default reaction to fix things that are broken and then toss in the fact that I’m a computer nerd of epic proportions means that I will now have to take the keyboard apart and start looking for replacement parts to fix it with. I have no idea why I must do this, but I must. Perhaps it’s the fact that in my youth I spent every rainy day possible in front of it. Perhaps It’s because it’s what I learned to program on. Perhaps it’s because I’m just a huge geek. What ever the case is, I will get this bit of personal history running again and some day, I’ll show Short Stack and Lulu Belle where their shiny, mega powerful Mac laptop started and they’ll no doubt look at me and say something like, “And why exactly are you showing me this?”. Oh well…

Now where are my blank 5.25 inch disks and my copy of Copy II+…?

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