I am in a bit of a philosophical mood today, folks, so allow me to share with y’all some of the things I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks:

1) I am not nearly as beloved by the Lord as I had hitherto been led to believe. Which came as a bit of a disappointment, I don’t mind saying. My parents always told me that God loved me. Every Sunday at church, the priests told me that God loved me. And one of the benefits of (a) living in the US and (b) owning a TV set is that every fourth or fifth channel features a man or woman with impeccable hair reminding us of just how much this God person loves us (and just for good measure, there’s an electronic crawl at the bottom of the screen with a number to call to order a set of cassettes, so that I can be reminded how much God loves me even when I’m in my car, boat or recreational vehicle).

Which is all well and good, but I have to reconsider all of that in light of the fact that the hard drive on my PowerBook suffered a complete mechanical failure ten days ago. It’s precisely the sort of thing that makes me wonder if God is much of a team player. Maybe He’s just too busy helping out all those athletes and singers who keep thanking Him every time they score touchdowns or win awards. I don’t know. In any event, I’m seriously considering downgrading Him to just a card this Christmas.

2) When a notebook computer goes belly-up, it’s doubly-frustrating. If my dual-processor G5 tower joined the choir invisible the afternoon before a critical deadline, throwing it against the wall in angry frustration would have been a major production. Frankly, just disconnecting all of the peripherals and power cables and sliding it out of the rack would have been so exhausting that I’d barely have enough energy left to tip the thing over.

But a notebook almost asks to be flung. It’s lightweight, yet heavy enough that you can get some good, discus-like momentum going with it. Thus, when the realisation that you might have just lost a year’s worth of work starts to seep its way into the reptilian part of your brain stem, it’s hard not to fantasise about what this thing would do if it slammed into a wall at extreme velocity. It’d probably look pretty awesome. Particularly if you thought to unlatch the screen before hurling it, and aimed for that thick supporting beam over there.

Fortunately, I had a copy of the inspirational book When Good Things Happen To Bad People handy, and by simply pounding myself on the head with it over and over again, I soon lost my anger, along with the ability to see in colour.

3) Maybe – just maybe – if I had taken more of an active interest in diagnosing the problem when my PowerBook suddenly kept slowing down and crashing for no apparent reason, I could have avoided any loss of data. The old girl was trying to send me a message and, alas, my response was a typical male one: I picked up the remote and watched some cartoons, hoping this would all blow over and its mood would improve without my having to getting involved.

I will also concede that in retrospect, perhaps falling asleep on the sofa and letting my PowerBook slide off the cushion and clatter to the floor a few days earlier with its drives still spinning was a tactical error.

4) Whoever it was that came up with the SMART monitoring system (a self-diagnostic feature which is built into nearly all modern hard-drive mechanisms) needs to be punished. I don’t mean killed or anything; I just want to break into their house accompanied by four or five tailors, and secretly take in all their trousers so they think they’re gaining weight, or something. Because this was precisely the sort of situation where SMART is supposed to don its red cape and tights and save the day. In theory, when I ran Disk Utility, the drive’s SMART status should have reported that the drive was operational for now, but that its performance was nosediving and it was time to do an immediate backup.

But no. The day before my drive died, Disk Utility reported its official SMART status as “Okey-dokey” – I don’t know how this term is localised in the UK edition. So I shrugged and continued with my life, ordering another gin and tonic and flirting with a deposed countess in the ship’s main salon, while on the upper decks, the crew was breaking out the lifeboats and hurriedly donning wigs and dresses to ensure priority status during the mass evacuation.

5) God may or may not love me, but the love of a good, honest backup is unconditional and absolute. Plus, you’re well-served by the bed-hopping nature of modern computing.

A couple of days after the crash, I took my PowerBook to an Apple Store to get the official death certificate from the coroner. I stopped at a diner for a piece of pie on the way back, and the combination of 48 hours of mental distance and a spectacular lemon meringue allowed me to be a bit more philosophical about the situation. A recent backup was waiting on an external hard drive, and nearly all of the data that hadn’t been backed up could be recovered from my iDisk, my email server, Flickr (my online photohost) and other remote file servers. All I really lost were the slides from a new keynote… and even there, I had a backup of all my notes.

I’m in the habit of CC’ing articles and columns to myself when I email them to editors, and if the photos I’ve recently taken are any good at all, I post them to my Flickr blog at full resolution. And Apple’s cheap and funderful .Mac service makes it so simple to automatically synchronise contacts, appointments and bookmarks to your iDisk every day that it’s easy to forget that the stuff is up there, safe and secure.

All of these things saved my skin when I realised that I was using the same backup scheme that I put in place five years ago, when disk space was precious and the speed of my home network was piddlingly poor. My latest backup was two weeks old and life had sped onward in that time. Needless to say, Retrospect now makes a full backup each and every night.

6) Replacing a dead internal drive is at least a three-whisky job, if the computer in question is a modern, aluminium PowerBook. I’m too much of a He-man, Jedi geek to leave that task to someone else, of course. But later, when I discovered that a local electronics store would have done it for $40,
I decided that if this happens again I’ll just spend the cash.
If anyone asks, I can always lie about who did the job.

7) I am one hell of a great guy. Because I eventually found it in my heart to forgive God for dropping the ball so badly. Sure, I was pretty steamed at first, but sometimes you just have to be the bigger man. MW