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The Pomps of the Subsoil 1947, Leonora Carrington (1917–2011)
" … further evidence that technology tends to turn evolution backwards …"

In the early morning of January 15, a message popped up on my screen while I struggled to complete my daily SmallThing, a piece about negotiating myself into engagement which I'd labeled NoGoNegation. I did not even distantly expect that this message prefaced seven weeks of irresolution, an enormous disruption to my sacred daily routine. My TimeMachine was reporting that it was unable to initiate my one of my usual hourly backups. My TimeMachine was connected to a TimeCapsule, a nifty bit of usually invisible hardware which auto-magically grabbed fresh stuff off my hard drive as that stuff appeared, making it theoretically possible to BackUp my hard drive to any point within the prior few months. In principle, I could BackUp my stuff to any hourly point over the prior few months as long as the BackUps continued uninterrupted. In that early morning , I experienced my first interruption ever.

Diagnosis ain't my strong suit if it even qualifies as a suit at all. I tend to just go buck naked when I encounter one of these mysterious messages.
The BackUp process operated truly transparently, freeing me from ever needing to understand how it worked, an invisible bodyguard, so I didn't try very hard to interpret this message, though I understood that I'd suddenly begun performing without a net. I fiddled around without figuring out how to translate the pop-up until my initial concern left me, but subsequent messages popped up with increasing frequency and apparent urgency, interrupting my workflow and finally frustrating me. Still, I could not figure out how to figure out the message it was trying to impart. I tried The Universal Correction Procedure, unplugging the sleek little Capsule then plugging it back in, thinking that this would probably resolve most anything, but that effort only yielded a steadily flashing yellow light on the front panel of the box.

A few weeks later, I called a local repair shop, but they never returned my call. The insistent messages had become a new normal by then, hardly tickling my Spider Sense anymore. Then we left for a couple of weeks, creating a time when I wouldn't ordinarily have any BackUp anyway, so the missing security stopped bothering me. Back from that trip, I began to more seriously consider doing something about it. I tried the online help facility, but it wanted a PastWord from me, a clever disqualification which I'm certain exists only to limit the number of service calls. I hardly persisted, poking around when I found an odd minute, but nearly relegating this failure to one of those second-order categories, Broken But Accepted As Unfixable. I figured I could live without a net. I mean, hadn't I already survived weeks of annoying pop-up reminders without resolution or consequences?

I finally got through the PastWord frontier to speak with an actual technician, who as these people tend to do, began asking me the same questions I'd been asking myself but which I didn't know how to answer. She guided me through the EasterEgg interface to discover that the Capsule's hard drive had failed. Why didn't the original message just say so? Oh well, spoiled and sour milk. I learn that this cannot be repaired and that the company dropped out of the BackUp drive business three years ago. My hardware was toast and I was out of luck.

The Muse had been using a little handheld device to BackUp her machine and invited me to piggyback. Her laptop, being almost a decade newer than mine, uses little USB-C connectors. Mine uses USB-A, so I'd need to find a compatible cable, no small quest in this post RadioShack world. The quest consumed a couple of days, but I finally, with the assistance of three (count 'em, THREE) Best Buy employees who ably helped me rediscover how in a bureaucracy, one must just keep asking a question until you receive the answer you need. No, that cable was not in the far back right corner of the store. Yes, it was up much nearer the front. Finally, I found that I needed someone to confirm that I'd chosen the correct cable. I had not. I confirmed the correctness of my eventual selection with the checkout clerk, who probably didn't really know or care, but who nonetheless reassured me.

The initial BackUp took eight hours after seven full weeks without one. Subsequent ones since took seconds, though I've had to add a new routine to my mornings. I'll one day find another network-connected BackUp box, not an obsoleted TimeCapsule, but something which will allow this necessary process to occur without my personal intervention. Any process depending upon me to initiate it must simply eventually prove to be inherently unreliable, for I forget. I could, as they say, get my BackUp over this disappointing state of affairs, further evidence that technology tends to turn evolution backwards, but I figure that this qualifies as just another example of New Normal, a state hardly worth railing against. I'm working above a safety net of sorts now, albeit one which I need to rehang after each performance. Nobody ever applauds for the guy stringing the net, yet he enables the flashier performers to seem to defy death through the show. So it always goes.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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