Thursday, October 15, 2015

Geek Speaking of Showering Hard Drive Failures

Geek Speak: Downton Puppy

I gave myself a bit of a break...not a break from drawing the comic, but we'll get to that, a break from having to draw that fucking tutu. The idea of a dog in a tutu who communicates with a human is still funny to me, but I am really looking forward to the day that Wuffles takes the thing off.

To the guys out there, have you ever gone to the bathroom at work and had someone you work with take the next spot and start talking to you? I hate that. It's a bit of a pet peeve, really. When I'm in the bathroom I'm there to do one thing. I'm on a mission. Get in. Get done. Get out. I'm not there to discuss a project, talk about your weekend, or chat about how fucking amazing your new car is. Every so often I'll hear a guy doing his business in a stall next to me while talking on the phone. Seriously? Whatever it is you're talking about can't wait five goddamn minutes? Pro tip: don't call me if you're using the bathroom at the same time. I will hang up on you.

I have to imagine it's similarly awkward when someone's trying to talk with you while you're in the shower .You're trying to enjoy one of life's greatest little pleasures and someone outside is trying to get you to make decisions about something. Here's a decision. I'm going to finish my shower. It will take five minutes, another five for me to be presentable again. Go outside and wait for me. Play Angry Birds, just leave me the hell alone when I'm doing something in the bathroom.

The shower rule doesn't apply to spouses. In most cases if my wife starts a conversation with me while I'm in the shower my thought process is something along the lines of, "how do I get her in here with me."

There are exceptions to everything.

Taking a Break, a Computer Break, 'Cause my Computer Broke

So I did end up taking a longer break from the strip than I would have liked. Sorry about that. I'll lay out the whole calamitous saga here. 

Microsoft recently did something with Windows that is unprecedented in its history. Truly, they arrived at a new milestone. They offered a free upgrade to Windows 10 to people already running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Awesome. That's how it should be. If you already have the operating system you should be able to upgrade to the latest operating system without paying some bullshit arbitrary premium (I'm looking at you, Apple). Under most circumstances I'm a Microsoft skeptic. They've had a couple of big winners like Windows 7. It's great. It's stable. It make sense, and it doesn't get in its own way trying to do everything for you. Microsoft has also had some serious turkeys like Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Microsoft Bob (which wasn't very useful, but was kind of cute). 

Windows 10 was different. It had undergone a rigorous beta period. It was built out of the mistakes of Windows 8 (what do you mean you're doing away with the "start" button?). It was taking design cues from other modern operating systems that were starting to steal its lunch money. I signed up to be one of the first in line to get the update, and installed it as soon as it was available for me. 

I made a huge mistake.

Windows 10 gave me nothing but trouble after it was installed. The first sign of trouble was it wouldn't let me use my usual Microsoft account credentials. It would only accept one of my other Microsoft accounts, which I entered without thinking anything of it and without trying to force it to take the one I actually use. Clearly I had not done enough homework. OneDrive is heavily integrated into the Windows 10 experience, and using the wrong credentials meant I had to figure out a way to force Microsoft to sync OneDrive, and everything else in Windows 10 that's driven by your Microsoft Account, with the account I actually use. 

That was child's play. It gets better.

The next bit of Microsoft fuckery was when I tried to open one of my files to edit the contents only to be told that I didn't have permission. To be clear. Microsoft was not letting me save a file I created because it was in read-only mode and I didn't have permission to make changes. Thus began a quest to recover my lost permissions and thereby save my computer from an abrupt end after a short but exciting trip off the top of a tall building. There was nothing, and I mean nothing, even remotely helpful on any of Microsoft's resources. I eventually found the answer on a CNET forum buried under a bunch of bloated, Cheetos-fingered assholes geek-shaming people coming to the forum for solutions.

It was a seriously arcane process of sharing it with myself and then applying permissions across the whole folder.

Now that I was able to actually open and save my files it was time to get down to work and start drawing some cartoons right? That's what I thought, too. 

When I powered up Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to start the rendering work on the comic strip you see above, I discovered Microsoft had given me yet another gift-wrapped package of dogshit. The cross-hairs used to guide the brush on screen were offset by three or four pixels. You'd think that would be something you could learn to compensate for, right. Again, that's what I thought! No! You can't compensate for that shit! It's not consistent. The cross-hairs would be offset by a pixel or three going top to bottom, almost completely aligned when drawing down and to the left, and way the fuck out of whack when drawing down and to the right. You would have to constantly be adjusting for an offset of between three and up to something like eight or ten pixels. There may be some mathematical genius freak of nature who can do that on the fly. I am not a freak of nature. 

So I started looking for alternatives. I found a good one in a piece of software I had tried so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it. The open source drawing and painting program, Gimp. It got me limping along and I was making some progress when I got yet another little turd flavored treat. One night, after wrestling with Gimp and making slow, but discernible progress I went to turn off my computer only to have it go "click" and then shut off. 

"Huh," I thought tiredly, "that's weird." It had been a long day of pushing boulders up hills only to be nearly crushed as they overcame me and rolled downhill, forcing me to start all over again. As per my usual I probably already had a small glass of bourbon or two in me, and I was in no mood to be troubleshooting my home rig. 

The next day I got home and I went to power up my computer and it turned on, but loaded a black screen with white text bearing the words of my near-undoing "disc read error." That basically means your hard drive is in great shape to get you a few bucks at the nearest recycling center, and not much else. I tried a few different things but none of them worked. The hard drive was, as they say in the biz, kaput. 

To understand the true scope of what this means to me. Imagine you could turn your dreams and aspirations into a fluid; a pretty, pearlescent liquid substance that catches the light and throws the beauty of your best self in rainbows across the room. 

You put that in a glass pitcher so you can put it where it will catch the best light. 

Then you accidentally drop the pitcher. It breaks and you watch your dreams spread across the floor in an unrecoverable mess. 

That's kind of what it felt like.

At the top of the list of things at risk with a hard drive failure on this computer are thousands and thousands of photos of my kids taken by wife, pretty much starting with the day we brought our daughter home. 

Then there is every comic strip I have ever drawn, plus hundreds of other sketches and drawings. For the most part I have all of those in hard copy, so they're recoverable, even if it would be a huge undertaking. 

Then many, many things either I've written or my wife has written that we would never get back.

The story has a happy ending. After a few weeks I was able to buy a new hard drive and an adapter that would allow me to connect the old, defunct hard drive to the computer by USB. I installed the new hard drive and reinstalled good old, stable, dependable Windows 7. Then the moment of truth. I hooked up the adapter to the old hard drive and connected it by USB to the computer. I heard it spin, and Windows 7, good old Windows 7, picked it up as an external drive and I was able to find and recover everything. There was still some work to do to make sure I had permission to open the files, but once I'd given ownership to the new device everything was golden.

I even downloaded a trial version of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It will cost twenty five dollars a year to keep it, but it got me back to being productive again. 

Lesson learned. As soon as I get paid again I'm paying for to back up my files. 

I also discovered a couple of solid, free drawing programs, Gimp (technically I rediscovered Gimp, but whatever) and Krita. Both are seriously powerful with a wealth of features, and I'll continue to play around with them. 

So it hasn't all been bad. 

Oh and, hey, I'm back!

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