In The Beginning...

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Howard (Howie) Merrill is the Master of the Web Manor website, as well as the author of the wonderful newsletter The Funnies.  Comments, questions, and anything else about Howie's Corner should be sent to Howie.
About four years ago, I spent $3200 on Dell Direct to purchase this "STATE OF THE ART" personal computer. Yes, at the time, 233MHz, 64MB RAM, 4.3GB hard drive, blah blah blah, was considered state of the art.

Before the large box appeared on my doorstep, this PC was offered at Joe's Bargain Basement for $750 and state of the art became 733MHz, 128MB RAM, and 20GB hard drives, blah blah blah.

But so be it. Here I have more than enough puter power to perform anything I wanted to perform. After all, what do I use a PC for anyway? Some web designing, some spreadsheets, a word doc or two, occasional games of Rogue, solitaire, casino, or Tetris. I do not need a PC workhorse.

Or do I????

When you pick up just about any software CD, it tells you the "minimum system requirements" which usually reads something like...

"Win95 or better, 32MB RAM, 4MB free hard drive space, turbo charged video express supercard, and four working brain cells"

What no one seems to realize is that if you plan to use this software AT THE SAME TIME as some other software, the minimum requirements may or may not be sufficient.

How do you determine this?

How does trial and error strike you?

Basically there is no way to determine if what you have will be sufficient for what you need until you run out of something. In the case of hard drive space, well, that is pretty obvious. In the case of memory (physical, virtual, what have you), you poke and hope. Usually, you determine lack of resources when your operating system coughs up a hairball and dies. Mine does this quite often, thank you. And it does it in so many interesting and fun ways! Example: I have Netscape open with something like 5 or 6 different browser windows open to various interesting and yet, un-bookmarked sites. I have my HTML editor open with 6 or 7 HTML documents in various stages of editing, of course, not all of them saved. A word document is open as I am preparing some class notes while I edit my website. The CD player is blasting the latest from R.E.M. and everything is beautiful. Until...

As I switch from browser to editor, suddenly, for reasons no one will ever determine, nothing happens. Just frozen with partial windows in various stages of incompleteness, staring blankly at me. Of course you realize that all unsaved work is lost at this point. Do we ALWAYS remember to save and save and save every single time we change something? Well, eventually.

First line of defense, CTRL-ALT-DEL, less commonly known as the " three finger salute". Having hit all three keys approximately 27 times with no results, I now know that my last two hours are forgotten, and it is time to hit the reset button.

Hard booting my PC is the equivalent of shock therapy. Basically, I wipe the memory of any previous knowledge and go back to a point in the past where everything was wonderful, and start all over again. Sigh.

Freeze ups are apparently Microsoft's answer to "You have been working too hard. Take a break for a little while.".

But is ALL really lost at this point??? Not necessarily.

When you hard boot after a crash, freeze-up, whatever, SCANDISK, that wonderfully useful task, checks the health of your hard drive in a mad attempt to locate broken chains and other fragments of garbage left behind by the latest disaster. Usually, many large chunks of data are located and you are offered the choice to save these for future analysis. If you choose to do so, these alien chunks of data are placed on your hard drive for your future scavenging.

99.999999% of the time, I delete the offending piece of unknown hard drive flakes since rarely has ANYONE ever utilized these things to recover lost updates. Only once, when Netscape 3.04 GOLD GPFed while making bookmark updates, did I splice back together a bookmark file from pieces left behind after the crash. Needless to say, it took nine hours and much typing, but I will be damned if I will lose my bookmarks!!!

Which leads me to backups. Yes, you are supposed to backup your hard drive or at a minimum, the important files on your hard drive. OK, pop quiz.... What files on your hard drive are the important ones? Does anybody know? You can back up incrementally. Which basically means if you created it or referenced/modified it since the last backup, back it up now. According to your backup media (Secondary hard drive, zip/jazz drive, tape, floppies), this can be an expensive and/or time-consuming pain in the rear porch!

Some people have orderly hard drives, divided via partitions and/or directory structures that facilitates this backup methodology. Most of us have 19,003 directories and sub-directories and no clue what is where or why.

I have a tape drive (circa 1982) which backs up my entire 4.3GB hard drive in approximately the time it took Washington to cross the Delaware and replace his wooden teeth. I can use pencil and paper documenting each byte of data in great detail using my toes in a faster period of time than my tape drive. And this is with the super sounding "Iomega The Works 1-step Backup System!". (Can we sue software company for the false claims they make when naming their software???)

Needless to say, I back up my hard drive in its entirety about once a millennium. I do back up those important files (which ever look good) to zip disks every so often. Considering the amount of time I spend on my PC, the fact that I maintain a rather large website, teach web design and keep all my class notes, examples, and such on this PC, plus all the kids school projects, pictures of various things (most important of course), and just about anything of major importance in my life on this antiquated ole relic..... Me thinks me oughta do backups more often!

Rule number one of backups: Backups are useless unless you know how to perform a restore using these backups.

Too many people perform backups without EVER having given one seconds thought to the fact that if anything were to happen to their hard drive, they would be clueless how to use the backup to get back their precious data. That is scary. But it is ok. You can just call Cousin Henry, that really smart computer programmer that always knows what to do when you have a problem. His superior knowledge of COBOL programs on mainframe computers has so much to do with how to use your VERY FAST SUPERSPEED NO-BRAINER BACKUP MULTIPURPOSE HARD DRIVE GHOSTER.

In a moment of sheer genius, Norton came up with the ZIP emergency disk where you can boot off of an emergency floppy disk and utilizing your zip drive, boot to Windows. I can not tell you how many times this has saved me from tragic moments! Of course, the software is far from perfect, but what do you expect? After all, it is SOFTWARE!

Well, it is time for me to put on a CD, edit my website, type my class notes, play a few games of casino, and not save even once!

I like living on the edge!

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Last Revised: 02/03/2001