You know what they say about bloggers: all we write about is our cats. This cat actually belongs to my housemate, but she’s fond of sitting on my wrists while I type—which is what she’s doing right now. Just in case you were wondering, cat hair is not good for your computer.
I first discovered “lolcats” about six months ago, via the online postcard service Delivr.net. If you want to waste a few hours and get some laughs, type “lolcat” into Flickr or Google image search. Most lolcats want cheeseburgers, but my lolcat, of course, wants a nice warm hard drive to sleep on. The drive in question is the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini, and it wasn’t all that warm, actually, until she put her furry chin on it. Perhaps she was enjoying the gentle vibrations from the spinning drive.
I wanted to stay on the lighter side in today’s backup reminder. This can be a bit challenging, because there’s nothing inherently funny about backups, and nothing funny about data loss, either–at least, not when it happens to you. It took John Cleese to make lost or damaged backup tapes funny.
A while ago, the Ur-Guru sent me a link to a site called Computer Stupidities. The site collects stories about “clueless computer users.” Some of them do appear to have been pretty clueless, but the mean-spiritedness of the site bothers me. The one good thing about the stories, for those who are not geeks, is that whatever stupid thing you’ve done, someone else has probably done something worse.
You could look at the backup stories as cautionary tales, many of them amounting to “Read the *#%@!! manual,” except for one thing. Very often, there isn’t a manual, or the manual is useless, or the manual is written in gibberish by someone illiterate, or the manual is written by programmers for programmers. Most people who use computers these days are not programmers.
Ignorance on a particular subject is not stupidity. The Ur-Guru is brilliant with computers, math, and physics (you have to know math and physics to develop 3D visualization software), but you should have seen his first attempts at cooking. I had to show the man how to wash carrots.
What’s obvious to me isn’t obvious to him, and vice versa. I remember well my mortification when he asked me why I wasn’t using keyboard shortcuts on Windows, since I used them on my Mac. I hadn’t known that Windows had keyboard shortcuts. I’d only started using PCs a few months before that, and then only because that’s what they had in the department I was working in. So I absolutely sympathize with those people who thought all you had to do was stick the tape in, and the backup would happen automatically.
These days, many backups do happen automatically. The point of the Rebit is that you plug it in and it starts backing up your computer, and keeps doing so as long as it’s connected. Many other backup programs only need you to tell them what to back up before they start taking care of business for you. As I’ve been composing this reminder, my Mozy backup and the backup to my Maxtor Shared Storage II have both run. There’s a little green icon in my system tray telling me the Shared Storage backup was successful, and if I mouse over the Mozy icon, it tells me my files were backed up one hour ago. (Yes, I am taking way too long to write this.)
When I switched to the Mac from the university mainframe, back in the late ’80s, I described it as “The world’s only user-patronizing computer.” I was young, snotty, and arrogant, and had developed a certain macho attitude after learning to use the decidedly user-hostile word-processing program on the mainframe. Contrary to America’s Protestant work-ethic heritage, however, there’s no moral value in difficulty.
Most people are using computers to help them do something else. There’s no reason they should have to become computer experts. Software should not make us feel like idiots. (Kathy Sierra has written some great stuff about this.) And computer consultants shouldn’t treat us like idiots. I’ve talked to a few tech support people in my time who took a “You shouldn’t worry your pretty head about that” approach to my difficulties, and I was not amused.
Fortunately, there are also a lot of helpful, supportive, hardworking IT guys (and gals) out there. You can “has backup,” and you deserve to be treated with respect and to get explanations that you can actually understand. If what you need is the product that’s easiest to use, you don’t have to be ashamed of it. And if what you want is the product with the most features, you should be able to get that, too. But they probably won’t be the same product.