Me and the Boys from Bangalore

I was hours away from finishing the final qualifying paper, AKA comps, for my doctoral program. It was 10:30 p.m. and if I stuck with it, I could get the citations done before dawn. I was working on a big, graphic-heavy document and Word was acting finicky– I’d started getting messages that my disk was running out of space, which was pretty much impossible, I knew, but I figured it was just Word being Word.

I called in my computer geek husband and told him what was going on. He fiddled with a setting, the machine asked to restart, and my husband headed off to bed. Except the the computer never started. To be accurate, it never got past the black screen that told us Windows hadn’t shut down properly and did we want to start in safe mode? By 2 a.m., it was pretty clear this was a catastrophe. I was proud to have had only three brief bouts of abject hysteria.

The next morning, I tried once more to see if I could get the document to run on my old laptop (XP/Office ) It would open, but none of the formatting had held. None. And most of the graphics were gone. Clearly, I needed a machine running Windows 7 and Office 10. Luckily, I’ve built a nice relationship with the head of IT at the College. Someone actually I was working on a big, graphic-heavy document ran across the expanse of the school to verify that one of the computer labs was configured in this way. I moved in to the lab and my friend’s apartment 2 blocks away.

It took almost three days to piece everything back together. Of course, all of my notes were on OneNote, so I couldn’t use page numbers in my citations. Also, I’d been doing some revising, and that took some digging around to find. But I got the paper handed in.

Then it was time to deal with the computer. I have a MacBook Pro with their latest operating system (what’s with all the animal names?) and I also use Parallels 5 to run Windows & Office. It was a nightmare to figure out the directions to request support from Parallels, but it was well worth it.

I started with Himesh in Bangalore. We must have been on the phone for 6 hours over the course of two days. Once I thought I could hear an American baseball game in the background. Himesh gave the situation everything he had, but when I saw him trying the same fix over and over, just faster, I knew he was done.

Next up: Dewal. He didn’t last long. Which was fine, because then I got Srinivas, also from Bangalore. Srinivas was soft spoken, with a nice sense of humor. O465204207_f1f29487d3_mver the course of a couple of days, we were on the phone for hours as well. He even called back twenty minutes after our call was finished to suggest one other thing to try. No luck. He was kind enough to escalate my situation to the next level.

In the end, it was Sergey from Russia who got my machine running, Parallels Tools reinstalled, Windows back on track, and Office calmed down enough to open without wanting to reconfigure itself every time. My documents were intact, my notes in OneNote–years of doctoral reading– were revived in full, and I am now researching backup drives for my Mac. (I already have one for Windows, but need to get it upgraded for W7.)

There were still glitches. Sergey and I have talked three times this week already. At one point, I said I hated Microsoft and he laughed.

The lesson, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is

  • BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER EVERY DAY. I may do it twice a day.
  • Take advantage of Cloud storage. I use DropBox, Google Docs, Flickr. Some programs with automatic backup features, such as Scrivener, are set up to automatically back up to DropBox. You can get 20G of storage from Google for $5. I need to consolidate as well as devise a clear map of what gets backed up where.
  • There are some programs, like Zotero, that sync with the web but are also stored locally. I’m really glad I had a backup of the Zotero files & plan to make sure I do that regularly.

What else did I learn?

  • Spending $20 to get technical support was a good idea, at least with this company.
  • I was glad that I kept my interactions with the tech support folks low key. The damage was already done & being a pain would have made them less likely to help.
  • As I tell my students, there is always a Plan B—but only if you make it beforehand.

I’d love to hear your backup scheme, especially how yours saved you and what you learned from the experience.

Photo Credit Nooooo 2007 © Drew Brayshaw shared via AttributionNoncommercial CC License;
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