Sunday, July 15, 2012

COMPUTERS: An Unfunny Thing Happened On The Way...

[Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

I REALLY DID have intentions of posting almost regularly this month. I have reasons and even some excuses. But you would be bored by them. Still, ONE explanation is probably important to get out.

IF you are running Avast! anti-virus, make sure you make a backup of the C:\ drive some time on the Monday before Microsoft's Update Tuesday. Oh, and two different types would PROBABLY come in handy IF you one of the chosen few that MIGHT have (let's call them) issues, the unhappy pairing of Avast! and MS Windows update MIGHT cause (I think I have enough allegedly allegories there to indicate how rare a thing this MIGHT be). Patrick tells me he knows of THREE machines where the update process went belly-up and the ONLY solution was uninstalling Avast!, doing the update, and then re-installing Avast!. Once it was the free version, the other times Pro installs. And actually he knows of FOUR machines with the problem.

My machine, Quincy, was the fourth.

And I had backups up the wazoo. I have file backups. I have image backups done regularly. And I even have cloud backup in a couple of places. As of Tuesday night, though, Quincy was an unbootable mess that would boot into Safe Mode (not very viable), or produce the dreaded Blue Screen of Death if I attempted a standard log in.

I spent two days playing email tag with the support specialist at the German HQ of the drive image program. He seemed genuinely shocked when even the latest unreleased version of the product proved unable to recover my lovingly regularly-created drive snapshots to replace the mess Microsoft (and, I believe, Avast!) had made of my year-old Solid State Hard Drive. There are, other potential guilty parties that various involved parties pointed at. Certainly, one early candidate was the ADB driver I installed for my Toshiba Thrive tablet, an Android device. I rooted it a couple of weeks back. That's the subject of a whole different blog later this month. Everybody seemed to agree that it WAS a driver issue. My habit of NOT installing programs, including hardware drivers, to the C: drive came into focus as a causitive agent. But nobody had a confirmed villain and nobody, worst of all, had a working fix.

On Thursday night, I pulled the plug and re-formatted Quincy's C: drive and re-installed Windows 7. At the SAME time, I was back on Popeye (my older, backup machine) programming some important updates for a main client and also finding out somebody was back-dating some data entry for that client thus creating a difference in June's data reports here from the reports running there. Arrrrggghhh!!!!

Still, by Friday night, I had an operational Quincy, minus the programming environment, which for me, is usually a 48 hour commitment when I do it. I think I can probably reserve Tuesday and get it done in a single day. Why? Well, remember that criticism for keeping data on drive D: and programs on drive E:? Well losing drive C: meant I DID NOT lose the program's installed on E: and their configuration files. PLUS, I COULD and DID have backups with almost current copies of whatever configuration files were on C: the day before the crash. PLUS a copy of the registry, which came in handy in NOT having to customize my file manager all over again (a day long process shrunk down to ten minutes).

So, I type this Sunday morning. Most everything I use day to day is back. My Win7 environment is a little faster than before, not having all of those extra 'just to look at' programs installed. I've even figured out some improvements this time around. My shortcuts to programs that I wanted in Startup, but had to OK them during startup, no longer do that. I created a shortcut for them. Went into the properties and changed each of them to run as administrator and then moved THAT shortcut to the startup folder. An annoyance cured. If you right click on the taskbar and choose properties, change the Taskbar buttons to combine when taskbar is full. The best of the Classic XP and Win 7 default behaviours. Very, very neat.

I now have an install order in my Evernote notebook of what I did, what I changed and in what order. For example, I needed Microsoft Intellipoint early in the process, because to use a trackball for decades and then have the buttons do different things ... well, AARRGGHH!!! Did it seventh, should have been third. First, my file manager, then 7-zip. Evernote was fourth, because I've been slowly going through my programs and opening the settings dialogs and just grabbing a screen picture and popping them into Evernote. Like I said, I've largely recovered all of the programs I use more than once in a blue moon, and a large part of it was having incontrovertible documentation of which boxes were checked, radio buttons dotted and pick lists pointing to MY preferred setting.

With these backups, incapable as they were to provide for a 20-minute recovery as I have experienced in the past, I have a very complex environment back after less than 48 hours of work, done simultaneously with setting up a DIFFERENT computer and doing some programming. All with a LOT less stress than you might expect me to respond to. All because I had backups. Backups are good, people. Friday the 13th and their corresponding 3 Days of Hell lead-ups are going to happen. You can either expect and prepare for a semi-relaxed few days after ... or find some place high to jump from.

BACKUP TODAY. And tomorrow, and the day after, and ...

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