La Divina Commedia – geek style

Much like Dante, I now know what Heaven and Hell feel to a poor geek like myself.

Hell: I was in Oxford to deliver a talk at an outstanding event. Woke up early and refreshed, enjoyed a great breakfast, finished up my slides, put my computer to sleep and walked to the conference. Went to the podium to test my Mac with the projector.

Opened the lid, it didn’t wake up.

Hit a few keys, still no joy.

Oh well, that happens, just reboot the thing and move on.

Not really, it doesn’t boot up.

Cold shivers run through my spine as I extract the battery, to no avail.

It gets scary when the PRAM/NVRAM reset doesn’t seem to help, nor does it doing the same to the PMU: all of a sudden, I realize my Macbook just turned to the most expensive brick ever, the only good news being how incredibly helpful are people at the Oxford Computing Centre: minutes before my presentation starts, my machine has been disemboweled, the hard disk ripped off and put in an external enclosure connected to an iBook G4. Luckily enough, a somewhat dated PDF version of my slides is there, so my talk can proceed.

I still have to manage two days away from home, without a computer, uncertain about what’s left on my data and even unable to recharge my iPhone as the machine is so screwed up the USB plug doesn’t get any juice. If it wasn’t for the great guys at OSSWatch letting me borrow their workstations and notebooks, I’d be probably hanging from the Radcliffe Camera.

Heaven: mortal remains of my laptop are sitting in my bag when I get the following e-mail from the awesome Slicehost team:

At approximately 21-Oct-2008 00:00 GMT the server your slice is on stopped responding to our monitoring systems. After several attempts to powercycle the server it became necessary to fully swap out the server hardware. Your slices are now running on new hardware. We apologize for the trouble, contact us with any questions.

All of a sudden, I start to think how I would feel if I still had to manage my own hardware – that frantic feeling of whether we will find the culprit, find someone who is able to take a day off and drive to the colo, install the spare parts, hoping backups will work. All this now turns into an email along the lines of “your server b0rked, it’s now fixed”: long live the Cloud! If only we could do that for laptops…



4 thoughts on “La Divina Commedia – geek style”

  1. Ouch! Che sfiga…

    It’s not quite as simple as an email, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the service I got on my Dell laptop when its hard drive broke down a year ago. With nervous visions of being asked to ship it back to the states where I purchased it, I called the support line, and after a few questions, the support guy said there would be someone coming to my house the next day with a new drive. Within 24 hours of calling, I had a new drive installed, for free, at my house here in Innsbruck, Austria (which isn’t exactly someplace central like London, Milan or Munich). I was quite impressed.

  2. David, lucky you, I’m impressed too! Give Linux progress, and given how new Macbooks look like glorified Dells, you’re making me wonder. I guess I’m not ready to quit OS X though…

  3. perhaps getting in the habit of using MobileMe, dropbox, or similar folder synching mechanism can help integrate the laptop’s data with the cloud. A habit I’ve been unable to gain for myself unfortunately. I do carry an external rugged drive from LaCie as a backup, which saved me the last time my MBP drive failed. Good luck with your recovery.

  4. Joseph,

    indeed, that might help. Still, missing hardware on the road is a real pain. I’d be happy to pay premium for someone to give me a portable computing device, host my data online, and have a replacement sent in 24 hours should my stuff ever break. If it can be done for credit cards, we should be able to come up with something like that for computers…

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