February 15, 2002

When your laptop is in pieces on the floor ...

Well, it's been an interesting couple of days. The "interest" coming mostly from tripping over the power cord of my laptop, resulting in its rather sudden demise. Aaarrrggghhh. Then I discovered that the home insurance policy we took out wasn't the all-risks policy we thought it was, so guess what: I'm not covered.

This gave me two problems: first, what am I going to use for a laptop? I've carried the [eventually] trusty ThinkPad with me just about everywhere I've been the last three years, and I wouldn't have been able to write the book without it, not to mention completing a number of paying contracts. Second, given that I have my usual two-week old backups, how do I carry everything both recent and important across to whatever replaces the seriously-defunct ThinkPad.

The first question was answered by a visit to Dell's web site, where I quickly configured a high-powered replacement for the demised thinker. 512 MB RAM, 48GB disk and a 1.13 GHz Pentium III processor, it's going to put all my other equipment in the shade. I'll also pass on a useful tip: since this machine will be tax-deductible I ended up facing a screen that asked me for the details of my incorporated entity. I don't have one, so I called Dell and spoke to a very helpful sales assistant who managed to get me fixed up with exactly the configuration I wanted and saved me $100 (I don't know how, I just challenged him to beat the price the web site had given me).

The second question has been partly answered by Symantec's wonderful Ghost program, which can copy disks and partitions like magic. For some reason (perhaps because of the fall, perhaps because of the disk's having been accidentally plugged in to a machine that was actively running Win2k (!) the system partition was badly damaged. I finally found a program by Steve Gibson (of Spin-Rite fame) origiannly written to fix up Chernobyl virus damage. After I insisted several times that I wanted it to continue, that finally managed to effect a complete repair to the FAT32 partition. If I hadn't put FAT32 on the system partition all would have been lost, including several years of email which I suddenly realised I hadn't been backing up at all -- by default OutOf:Luck Express stores mail somewhere down under the /WINDOWS directory. I might even figure out how to build a bootable SCSI from an IDE master if I'm extra lucky (and get extra help).

I'm just relieved to be able to not lose a couple of weeks work.

Interestingly none of my clients have had any problems (except that I'm repairing disks instead of working on their contracts) thanks to CVS with some and FTP with others. Everything I have delivered or am working on existed somewhere other than the laptop. I shall make this a formal practise after the week's somewhat narrow escape.

Next question: what the hell do you use to back up a 48 GB disk drive?

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