Monday, January 30, 2012

Computer fun

Got called in to triage the club's PC the other day, as apparently it had failed altogether.  Unsurprising, it's a POS old S478 Northwood that's got to be 8 years old and aging disgracefully.  It also sits on the floor inhaling every piece of crap that floats past.

When I got there it was unplugged, and the side was off.  Not good.  Complaint was "won't go", very typical.  Opened it up and found this (note HDD removed and ATX plug undone at this stage, but otherwise representative of as-found):

Those blotches on the bottom are not good.  Smells like mouse piss to me.

Hotwired the PSU and I can't get more than a faction of a volt on any rail, so that's a goner.  The rest is not worth salvaging, especially when there's a reasonable Core laptop sitting there I donated months ago that nobody could be bothered migrating to, especially when they had a working solution already - even if said "working solution" was taking 10 minutes from power on to a usable desktop.  This is the moment - HDD to be shifted to the other box and this is being junked.  If I can get the other HDD to boot I'll run up Outlook for a full export, if not I'll just have to grab the .PST file and other bits I can find and that's as good as it gets.

The only flaw with this plan is that the HDD blue-screens the other box no matter what I do with it - regardless of booting from it or the regular HDD, by itself or together, master or CS, different channels and cables etc.  BIOS IDs it and then it's a fatal crash.  Bugger.  Inform the club owner that it's not coming back, and the secretaries will be typing a lot of addresses back in again.  You have a backup?  Excellent, when from?  June 2010.  Excellence fading to mediocrity.  Still, not my problem.

Flung Office and AV on the laptop and set up mail, which I long ago converted to IMAP for exactly this reason - at least part of the data is on the cloud.  Club owner says can I move the contacts across from his personal PC to give the secretaries a head start - no problems, done.  Emphasise total data loss, nothing salvaged, he's got what is on the other PC and the >18 month old data disc, and off I go.

Secretary rings me the next day, where are all the files?  Did the owner not tell you?  Gone.

Can't be, she says - I found some of them, where are the rest?  No way, I say - I recovered nothing.  Unless the owner moved them back himself off the backup disc.  No, can't be that - not smart enough, frankly.  Agreed, but I didn't do it - the only other possbility is that Vista is finding and indexing network shares on the other box and you are seeing those.  If so then fine, but listen carefully - total data loss off that computer.  Nothing survived.  Are we clear?

Hmm, so why are most of the contacts there?  [muffled scream in the background]  Because I copied what was there to be copied across from the owner's personal PC.  And where are all the custom fields we spent hours typing in for things like membership anniversaries, birthdays, event achievements etc?  Hmm, the ones I specifically told you NOT to do because it's a bad way of doing it?  All gone, lost.  Remember that bit about 100% data loss?  This means you.  Had you done it the way I told you to -use a spreadsheet, and back that up to a USB drive - or mail it to yourself occasionally - you wouldn't be here now.  Start typing, and while you're doing that, repeat to yourself occasionally - Outlook is a really, really crappy database.

Honestly, people make me want to scream.  If the club had a broadband connection worth anything (ie not a Swiftel 1.5Mbps link that runs at about a third of that on a good day) then I'd just get him to buy a Dropbox account and auto back the whole thing up to the cloud once a week.  Bring on the NBN.

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