2008 — 8 Mar: Saturday, and I'm going in!

Could there be anything nicer1 than that serious repair work on my primary PC2 system? Wish me luck. I'm predicting a fair amount of frustration and distraction today, with scattered showers.

A reminder:

In the wake of my PC crash...
If you haven't received an email from me in the last three days, and you ever want to hear from3 me again, please send me an email (by clicking on my name here) so I can then add you back into my Address Book. Thanks!

David Mounce

I can still send and receive emails, but I'm using my Gateway PC to do so, and I only have a subset of email addresses in my Address Book on this. I'm not going to be switching on the failed HP system until I have retrieved as much data from its hard drive as possible, and the bulk of my email addresses are currently locked away in the depths of that hard drive. Or, in the worst case, zapped.

Unless and until you send me an email, therefore, I am currently unable to send you email because I simply no longer have access to your address. I have now emailed everybody for whom I still have an email address. So if you haven't heard from me, and you'd like to stay in touch, you know what to do.

Money talks... dept.

It seems the British Bankers Association is unhappy about government proposals to protect savers' cash when banks go bang. Details here. Making people like me a preferred creditor threatens everyone else who has lent money to the failed bank, even though many of those lenders will have merely been lending what they got from people like me in the first place. When I borrow money from a bank and fail to repay it, people with large hammers turn up on my doorstep, break in, and remove goods to the value of the loan. When I lend money to a bank and they fail to repay it, I march along to my bank with a large hammer and get shot by the police...

I'm off to see the wizard... dept.

I've been able to boot my primary PC from a Linux live CD and thus confirm that the NTFS drive is (basically, fingers crossed) intact. So Brian J is going to help me undertake the data sucking exercise. However, the root user installed by default during the "live" Linux session has only got read access to the spare USB-connected NTFS format hard drive that I'd rather hoped to use to hold the data. We may yet end up turning the PC, temporarily, into a pure Linux machine and then reconnecting the original drive just to get the data from it.

I'm not off to see the witch... dept.

In the middle of all this, dear Mama has just phoned to tell me that:

  1. she doesn't think she'll carry on much longer
  2. and she'd love to see me
  3. and when am I coming up?

For somebody at the brink of Death's door, she perked up remarkably during our brief conversation, mind you. She was very quickly back to talking about her usual range of topics. I think I can actually feel my blood pressure ratcheting up! Christa, you'd have been very proud of my apparent calm, I think. And, as I turn my attention back to my PC woes, don't think of me as being totally unfeeling. Think of me as someone who's been listening to his mother predicting her imminent death since 1968. It's going to happen one day, but there's not a lot I can do about it.

The wizardry is working... so far

It's now 17:53 and I'm back from the wizard's lair, where I left the errant PC running with its current — temporary — Ubuntu personality. So while I've been slurping a cuppa my precious data (including all the emails I've been sending and receiving for more years than I care to admit) is also slurping (as I type) across from the PC's NTFS drive over to Brian's Slug-connected network drive. However, that drive is of necessity formatted ext3 (because the Slug is an embedded Linux system) so the data will then need to be re-copied across from the Slug's drive to the spare NTFS USB-connected 80GB drive that I took over with me, but that we were unable to persuade the live Ubuntu temporarily inhabiting my PC to write to. With me so far? Good. That's stage 1, if you like.

Stage 2 will (I suspect) be a quick dash to a shop tomorrow morning (I've just checked, and they mostly close by the time I could get there this evening, and I don't want to be anxiously dashing around in frantic last-minute shopping traffic on a Saturday evening, do I?) for another large external hard drive (or maybe two). I am seriously thinking of re-instating my own Slug and attaching a couple of drives to it for the local network. In fact, to remove temptation, I shall now go downstairs and put the car back in its nest for the night. 'Scuse I.

Stage 3 will be where I then carefully make a further security copy of the data. Just call me paranoid. Brian has also promised to leave the data on his network drive for the time being.

Stage 4 (which is the one designed to push me back into at least low earth orbit, as it were) will be me firing up the errant PC and (just before Windows grins its Blue Screen at me) using (in some anger) either:

  1. the "r" option to attempt to repair (in situ) the Windows system, or
  2. the (hidden) recovery partition that purportedly will allow me to re-install XP Pro without zapping my data, or
  3. the (advanced) option of said recovery partition — the one that destructively re-installs XP Pro with a complete hard drive format thrown in for distasteful measure

If unhappiness still reigns supreme at that point, then I think it's fair to say that (after a stiff drink) the box will then be trembling on the brink of major surgery as I shall simply perform a complete Windows excision and just turn it into a pure Ubuntu box. I must admit I still hanker for the days when all you had to do was press the Acorn RISC PC's reset button and reload a pristine copy of the entire operating system afresh from ROM.

I will then (and only then) turn the spare PC (my Gateway Intel Pentium D) back from its current dual booting Linux/Windows state into a pure Windows XP Home system (if that isn't an oxymoron). It is very annoying that there are some things for which a Windows PC is still a pre-requisite, but that's the way of the world. Meanwhile, I still have the iMac purring away in the background, probably chortling to itself. <Sigh>

Remind me: these PCs are aids to increased productivity, are they not?

Sad blast from the past... dept.

Dave Langford's rather wonderful Ansible newsletter tells me of the death last month, at 90, of Ken Slater. Who he? He was the lovely chap behind the SF mailorder business Fantast that I used while an aeronautical engineering apprentice back in 1970 or thereabouts. This was before bookshop shelves started groaning under ever increasing numbers of heavy fantasy trilogies, most of which (I firmly believe) should remain unread.

Plus this delicious quote: "You know sf has conquered the world when a net pundit announces that 'Barack Obama is the Democratic Party's Kwisatz Haderach.'" And, of course, the marvellous Thog is a guarantee of endorphin elevation. Which reminds me:

I know that good people, when their taxes are due or their computers fail, realise that there are people in the world who have schistosomiasis, so that it would be incredibly selfish and insensitive to whine about capital gains or the loss of a great sentence when they still get to eat an unconscionably large amount of protein at dinner, which they don't have to share with blood flukes. Unfortunately, a lot of us aren't good people. A lot of us are bad. A lot of us are so wrapped up in our own little First World lives that taxes and computer failure seem, to us, to cause intense pain, to us.

James Gorman in The man with no endorphins (1989)



1  Entirely rhetorical, I assure you.
2  Let's name and shame this PC, too. It's a Hewlett Packard Pavilion Intel Core 2 Duo Media PC, bought in October 2006 just before I stopped going into the IBM Lab as I began my pre-retirement vacation. I suspect there's nowt wrong with the hardware. As far as we can tell from a cursory examination it's the folder "config" in the Windows - System 32 tree that has decided to become unreadable. No idea why; random cosmic ray bombardment, perhaps? Power supply glitch?
3  If you don't want email from me, of course, don't contact me! But I shall miss you...