Why I am Useless for Anything Real Today

Mac Pro Tower

Not my Mac, but looks like it. 

I’m having a sleep-debt, ambition free, don’t wanna — ain’t gonna — do nothin’ day. 

I am tired and semi-functional because I pulled a late night last night and I feel like somebody shot a big dose of Novocain into my brain. 

I’d like to tell you that I missed my zzzzzs because I was working on something really important, earth shattering, or at least, urgent. 

But that would be a lie. What I did was stay up well past my sleep time to put a new boot drive in my Mac Pro and switch the old boot drive into the drive 3 bay and take the old drive 3 drive and put it in an enclosure and then back up the data from the enclosed drive onto the new/old drive bay drive. 

And a partridge and a pear tree.

Or something like that.

I also, (a) had the drive sitting on my desk for three weeks before I decided to do this, and (b) waited all day to start it — at just  a hair past 11. That’s one hour before midnight. On a week night. 

My Mac Pro is aging. In fact, you could say it’s aged. I’ve had it for years and it is, no contest, the best computer I’ve ever owned.

I once had a pc go belly up right in the middle of one of my do-it-yourself campaigns for election. I don’t hire consultants to do my campaigns for me. I do it all myself. That means I don’t have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign for election, which means that I can tell special interests to take a hike pretty much any time I want to, which means that I get to represent the district that elected me by what they want and not what outside interests want, which means I get to sleep nights. 


I usually get to sleep nights. 

Some nights I play musical chairs with the hard drives in my honking big desktop computer. 

But I digress. I do my own campaigns; my own databases, my own literature, my own everything. I do it all on my home computer. A few years ago, I got caught in the nightmare of having my computer go belly up right in the middle of a campaign. 

Now campaigns are 24/7 insanity that leave you feeling like you’ve been drug for several months across open prairie by a runaway horse. There is no tired short of childbirth or chemotherapy like the tired of a political campaign. When this computer went ditzy, it took all the things I needed to get across the finish line of this particular campaign down the drain with it.

I worked like a crazy woman, reformatting the hard disk and then inputting data from various disorganized hard copies to try to reconstruct what I needed. It took time away from campaigning at a critical point and made me almost sick with overwork and anxiety. If it had been in a close election instead of a walkaway, it could have gotten me beat. 

That experience made me a devout backer-upper. But, as I experienced a few days ago when I deleted a post on this blog, even the best back-up strategy is less than absolute protection from an unfocused mind. However, I do back up. And I stopped using old computers in my work.

For a while after that, I tried to protect myself from old computer disease by replacing my computers every two years. The last time I did that, I got one that went bonkers on me just a few weeks after I took it out of the box. I tossed that nearly new pc and bought a Mac, and I haven’t looked back. 

When I got my hands on my Mac Pro, it was love at first boot-up. It never runs out of steam, no matter how big the database I put through it. It doesn’t crash. And in seven years of ownership it has never once eaten a single byte of data. Even though it’s an expensive machine, the cost evens out over seven years of carefree usage and no need to buy another one, especially when you stack it up against the hair pulling, near death experiences of a big crash at a critical time in a campaign. 

No matter what I ask of it, this baby never hiccups.

But it is 7 years old now, and the ssd hard drives on my laptops make it seem stodgy. Not the processor or ram; the Mac Pro still has plenty of horses under the hood. But the hard drives themselves are just slower than the newer ssd technology. 

I looked at buying an ssd drive for it, but the cost of the itty bitty drives in my laptops is a dollop of what it would cost me to replace the really big hard drives in the Mac Pro. It would be take-out-a-loan time, and I don’t do that. So …. I considered and bought what they call a hybrid drive, which is a conventional drive with a good-sized flash cache.

That meant cloning and replacing my boot drive. And, since I’m nothing if not kinda ocd, I decided it also meant moving the other drives in the computer (it has bays for four of them, all full) and pulling the extra out to use as a portable drive.

I bought the stuff, cloned the boot drive. Put the new drive on my desk. And ignored it. 

I just couldn’t find the time to dive into the innards of that computer. And when I had the time, I didn’t wanna.


My Mac has more ram than this one. See the 4 drive bays? Changing drives is idiot proof. (Almost.) 

For some reason, last night seemed like the The Time Had Arrived. I got home about 9 and decided that I wanted to take photos of the full moon. I sprayed myself with insect repellent and went out and played with that for a couple of hours. (All this while knowing that I was going to change out that hard drive.) Then, and only then, I came back in, and cracked open the Mac Pro.

It would have been ez pz except the drive bays are for 3.5″ drives and the new drive is a 2.5″. So I had to do some creative stuff and that took longer than it should have because the first time I tried it, I put the drive on the adapter backwards and had to do it over. (Amateur, working on computer.) That plus the enclosure for the old bay three drive turned out to be a piece of junk that the computer wouldn’t even recognize and I had to take apart an old enclosure for a small drive that I don’t use anymore and cannibalize it for parts and re-rig the dumb thing. (Cheap amateur who bought a substandard enclosure, working on computer.) 

Two hours later, the hard drives were in, and the computer was humming. The new drive jazzed the old computer and it accesses data faster now. I’ve read it gets better as the drive learns my ways.

But I not only jazzed my computer, I jazzed myself. Sleep time was past, and between the sweat from being out in the heat shooting the moon and the bug spray, I felt like I’d been dipped in syrup. The last thing I wanted to do was go to bed. Time for a shower and a movie. 

And that is why I am useless for anything real today. 

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Pretty cool. I wish I knew what to do with computers. Did you ever think of one of those online backup systems just in case your computer crashes?
    Hope you feel better. I know exactly what that novicaine to the brain feels like. Ever since I started with the internet I’ve had a few of those can’t pull away nights.

    • hamiltonr

      I tried a couple of online backups but they are too slow for the amount of data (mostly photos) that I have. Wish I’d had one back in the time of that disastrous crash. I backup routinely with Time Machine. But the backup disk is one of the four in the bay in the Mac Pro. I’m thinking of backup up all my photos and important documents onto cds and putting them off site. I want something tornado proof.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Backing up all the photos turns into a lot of work. What I’ve been doing is saving the memory cards and getting a new one each time. They’ve come down substantially in price.

        • hamiltonr

          I don’t exactly back them up. I plug the camera into my computer and Aperture opens up and downloads them. It even divides them into stacks by date. I’ve read that the images degrade if they’re left on the cards for too long. I usually take several cards with me when I travel if I think I’m going to shoot raw. If I’m just doing snapshots in jpeg, I don’t bother. I put those photos on my iPad at the end of each day. (I have a 64g iPad) and then erase the card and start over.
          The iPhone is a decent point and shoot. The nice thing about it (besides the fact that it’s small and always with you) is that — if I’m in the USA — it uploads the photos onto my home computer for me automatically. When I get home and open up Aperture, I just drag them over to a file and the computer does the rest. I don’t use the iPhone for that when I’m overseas because the roaming charges cost too much.

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            They degrade over time on the card? I never heard that. I did a search and while I can’t seem to find a definitive answer you may be right. I’m going to have to rethink my picture storage.

            • hamiltonr

              I’ve read that, not sure where. But it does make sense, I guess.

              If I wasn’t so cheap, we could print them out. Of course, with all the photos I have, that would be a whole forest! (Not to mention where would I put them?)

              Back when I used film cameras, I was far more discretionary about what photos I took. Now, I take photos without worrying about how many.

  • FW Ken

    Oh… you have a MAC!
    My first real computer was a Mac128K. The internal floppy ran the programs and the external floppy stored data. My best friend from high school was a scientist at the national labs in New Mexico and I figured he would laugh at me. Then I got a letter (an actual letter with a stamp) and the font looked really familiar. It turned out that all the real scientists used Macs (their “other computer” was a Cray) and only the computer techs liked PCs.
    Sadly, I fell from grace into the PC world when another friend offered me the fruit of the tree… but when I win the lottery, it’s Mac-time again. :-)

    • hamiltonr

      My first computer was a Tandy Radio Shack TRS 80: dual floppies and 64K memory, all metal and built like an anvil. I think it’s up in the attic somewhere.

      • FW Ken

        My actually first computer was a TI994A, but I had a girlfriend with a Trash 80. :-)

        • hamiltonr

          My TRS was lacking in software. I had to use their proprietary stuff and it was all on the trs-dos operating system. But the machine itself was tough as a truck. I don’t miss it, but I did use it a lot at the time.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Heh. Today is my birthday, so I’m glad you’re treating it like a holiday. Seriously, that was an impressive bit of updating; I can’t imagine myself doing anything like that to my worse-than-useless machines.

    • hamiltonr

      Happy Birthday Fabio!!

      If you look at the innards of the Mac Pro in the photo, you can see that they made it so that it was easy to update. You just slide the ram in, and you pull the bays out, put in your hard drive. Four screws later and it’s done. No moving around hair-like jumpers and other headaches that you find in pcs. I made it hard on myself by putting in a hard drive that didn’t fit into the bay + buying a cheapo enclosure for my extra drive that needed to be overhauled.

      I agree with you, btw. If the computer itself isn’t solid, updating just wastes money.

      It is running almost as fast as the ssds on my laptops. So I guess it was a success. The hybrid drives do work, and they give you a tb of space without breaking the bank.