Friday, June 23, 2006

Technology Woes

It's some kind of disease to lust after toys & goodies and then lament all the headaches they bring. But there it is.

So I've spent this week in the self-flagellation of transferring of all my shit from one computer to another. I've done this a few times over the years, and each time it's a bit like reinventing the wheel. But this time I seem to have reached the point where the sheer amount of information being transferred makes it like moving one's household from one place to another--there's just a lot of stuff to rummage through. And none of the moving seems quite as straightforward as it ought to be. I'm very fond of Apple's simplicity generally, but one is reminded again and again that any modern computer is a hydra-headed beast and opportunities to screw up are manifold. Plus, a sojourn down the wrong path is not necessarily rectified by simply turning around and retracing one's steps--a lesson I have learned several times over the past couple days.

Turns out Apple has a nifty little utility called the "migration assistant," which is intended to address exactly these kinds of things. It takes from one computer every setting, every program, every permission, every username and password, and it transfers this stuff to a new computer so that on first power-up it's as comfy as an old pair of slippers. But of course I knew nothing about it, and the new computer's attempt to lead me down the primrose path initially (without identifying the process as "migration assistance") was rejected by me since I was not in the presence of my old machine when I first powered the new one up, and the options presented initially were a) do it now, or b) do everything manually. I learned about the migration assistant from computer guru Jeffy (who also told me that I was quite allowed to use it at a later time) after I had spent two days' worth of flailing about--like walking through a gigantic corn maze--trying to do the same business longhand.

My biggest single item to transfer is my iTunes music file, which adds up to about 45GB, or about 9,000 songs. Part of my reason for getting a new computer (apart from the obvious fun new toy angle) was to get a larger hard drive so that more of my music collection could be put onboard, and thus travel with me. Where I used to listen to music primarily at home or in my car, nowadays my listening is almost entirely on the computer. These 9,000 pieces represent my favorite 25-30% of my total music collection and probably about 50% of what I'd like to have ready access to from my collection. The remaining third or so I'm glad to have as part of my collection, but I listen to only very rarely and don't need to carry it with me.

Well, I've learned the hard way that transferring a file of this size is not simply a matter of dragging an icon (perhaps representing as much data as the entire contents of my high school library) from one place to another. And each misstep takes two or three hours of data transfer before I even realize that it was a misstep. On my first attempt I managed to actually get the music files transferred, but none of the preferences--none of the playlist titles, none of the original download dates, none of the play counts, etc. On my second attempt I somehow transferred an older backup copy of the file, one with only about 3/4 of the music files. And while this was happening my iPod gleefully updated by tossing out all but the most recent 1,000 files.

But that wasn't all. Oh, no. It wasn't enough to learn that I was finding the hardest and least effective way to accomplish the task: I was actually about to learn that my entire effort was for naught. Somewhere along this do-it-myself process I managed (naturally) to screw something up so that I found myself locked out of the new computer altogether. I couldn't do anything but turn it off and on. That's it. It asked for a username and password before it would grant me access to ANYTHING, and no combination I put in would work. I spent half a day with this issue. Eventually, in order not to spend any more time rushing toward a debilitating stroke, I decided to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.

At exactly the same time I was rubbing my skin raw about this issue, I was also trying to transfer our checkbook from an old home computer--a seven-year-old iMac; a machine so old that this was its only function anymore, to hold the checkbook--onto my old laptop, which would become the new home machine. And the iMac chose this exact moment--literally, the very instant I was opening the checkbook for what was to be the final time--to crash irretrievably. We tried several things to resuscitate it but in the end it was dead and it took our checkbook with it. And to top it all off, the morning that all this was pounding its electronic shards of bamboo underneath my fingernails was the same moment that Yahoo's email server went down for a couple hours. I could neither send nor receive email from my last functioning computer or from my phone.

It's hard to verbalize exactly the degree of frustration this engenders. Have you ever peeled the cover off a golf ball and seen what is underneath? I did this when I was a kid, and I was amazed to find a hundred million windings of fine rubber band around a rubber core filled with some highly toxic Superfund liquid. Once you started to unwind the rubber bands, the whole thing would snap and thrash about like a hamster that just hit paydirt while chewing on an electrical cord. Well, I felt like that liquid-filled core with a buzillion rubber wrappings around me. I felt as though my head was in a vise and was going to squash like a walnut. I felt at risk to do something that might earn me my very own Law and Order episode.

But Jeffy came to the rescue and all now appears well. I took out my frustrations on a bag of peanut M&Ms, and everybody lived to tell the tale. No dogs were kicked, no spouses yelled at, no old iMac computers smashed into a billion pieces on the concrete of the driveway just as an act of catharsis.

No, really.


Esbee said...

Heh. I'm married to a techie, so I don't have to even think about any of that stuff. No point in both of us understanding it. =)

wunelle said...

I married an anti-techie; and I'm semi-competent. So that leaves me in something of a bind, eh?

Luckily, I have my own personal Jeffy I can borrow from time to time!

Anonymous said...

What am I, chopped liver?

-A. Random