Sunday, 16 February 2014


Falling foul of the machines, I plunged through netting. The barrier snapped, and I plunged again. More netting. Snap. More netting. Safety, finally.
   Believe in safety. Plan for danger.
   Let's suppose you write stories on a machine that is very clearly not a manual typewriter. A manual typewriter is a different creature. HERE'S A BLOG POST ABOUT THAT.
   You are brand-new to computers. Where's the off-switch? That new.


Wait. The START button is also the STOP button? That's confusing. And not at all like a light-switch.
   What is the START button? Just an icon that propels a balloon labelled START, if I hover the pointer over that wordless START button. Or NON-START button, I think.
   Surely once the machine has started, thanks to the physical clicky on-switch thingy, I don't need a virtual START button on the screen?
   Oh, only to stop the computer. Okay. And for menu access. Some other things. Like ordering pizza.
   Now there's a new version without a START button?
   The mudder ate the fodder? Bunch of cannibals.
   Doublewait. The START button isn't the same as the START screen or the START menu. Is there a STOP button, and a STOP screen, and a STOP menu?
   For the version without a START button, I can download a START button. Is that done through e-mail or Ouija Board?
   And so on.


I'm typing this on a machine that makes use of an operating system named Windows. Because, in the real world, that's how we gain access to stuff. Not through doors. Jim Morrison's estate would've sued.
   The Microsoft Corporation is too evil to be destroyed. Our only hope is that we send someone back in time to whisper in the ear of Bill Gates.
   Change for the sake of change, rather than change for genuine improvement, is guaranteed to piss computer users right off.
   Still waiting on that time travel patch. Then we're ready for launch. A suitable chair backed by a large spinning disc, a consignment of brass fittings, and the package is done.


Progress was made. I haven't seen an error message containing the word THREAD for a long long time. The BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH is pretty much a thing of the past...
   Well, I heard the latest version is pastel.
   Fatal Exception is not a thriller.


I am here to speak of very basic archiving. For authors. A story starts life inside your mind. Or in someone else's - you just write things down.
   Scribbled notes don't do a roaring trade on Amazon. You'll want to type this material. Load it, laboriously, into a computer. If you wish to use voice-related software and speak your story into a machine...
   ...and you are Scottish, you'll save a lot of grief by loading the story, laboriously, into a computer - by means of typing.
   Save your file. Try to have software set up so the file saves automatically every little while. Set the software so the file automatically creates a back-up copy once saved.
   Store files in folders. Make copies of folders and store those elsewhere. On another computer. And on a USB device. On an external hard drive. And on a DVD, itself stored in a fireproof safe. Save another version of the archive into cloud storage on the internet.
   Yes I've mentioned this stuff before, and recently. Ask yourself the burning question...
   If your house burns down, is the story gone?
   Not if you published - the greatest form of archiving there is.


But wait a bit, what prompted this blog post?
   There are other basic things worth doing. Spare files? Great. Spare cables? Essential. My external hard drive failed. No it didn't. The USB cable was dead. I had a spare connector to hand.
   This is a very specific connector. I'd have to research reality to tell you the exact phylum. ;)
   When archives appear to fail, check the wiring. Check plugs and fuses if you feel you must.
   My computer stopped dead in its tracks. In olden times, we faced whirring and clicking, the operation of gears, a few puffs of steam, and then the magic box activated.
   The other day, I switched the machine on and couldn't walk, crawl, or roll past the first stage.
   My profile failed to load.
   That's right. My card wasn't accepted at the mansion, and I was turned away. But it's MY mansion. I'd have climbed through the windows, but I couldn't use Windows at all. Irony.
   The operating system pretended to load, but went on strike. What's the profile? It's the button I click to say I'm here. A digital doorbell, granting instant access.
   In olden times, after the whirring and clicking, you'd have access. You were the computer user. Progress came along and muddied things.
   Computers could have different users, with different profiles and varying degrees of access to computer functions. Fine for an office, in a building staffed by the Hordes of Mordor.
   The boss has access to porn, while the workers have access to better porn and publishing software. You know the drill.
   Fine for an office packed with people. But utterly fucking irrelevant to an author far from the madding crowd.
   I went from being a user of a computer to a user of a computer with a profile. Instead of pressing a button to switch the machine on, I pressed a button, waited, and pressed another button to confirm launch.
   There's probably a way around this stage, but, frankly, I've lost the will to explore the option.
   Why would I need a second profile? I'm the administrator. That makes me sound as though I am a regional governor, with direct control over my territory. Fear will keep the local systems in line - fear of this, ahem, koff...
   Where was I?
   I had all these back-up archives. But I only had one profile. If I couldn't click the bloody thing to make the computer work, my computer was just a whirring lump.
   The profile material turned corrupt. Yes, this was a first for me. I'd overlooked a basic archiving point. Spare keys.
   To me, the introduction of a profile was a non-event. An extra click on the way to using the computer. But it lurked on my new machine for the better part of five months, before ambushing me.
   My old machine also has the profile clicking stage. I no longer have a computer that predates this innovation. Even the one before that had the same process going for it.
   I have to think back to the machine before that one, to see things in sepia. A man walked in front of my computer, waving a flag to warn pedestrians. No horse were harmed in the operation of that computer.


The profile is useless.
   I stared at this obstacle. The solution was to enter SAFE MODE. From there, I gained access to the computer. I had several repair options.
   One didn't work. I tried another. The machine came back to me. All was right with the world. In full normal mode, I immediately created a reserve profile. The computer was in full normal mode, too.
   This blog post is for people who haven't a clue about archiving. Make copies of your work. Store them in different locations. Have reserve systems in play, whether computers or cables.
   How do you activate the safe mode? Switch your computer on. Hit the F8 button on your keyboard until you see a page all about safe mode. When I say hit that button, I mean like this...
   Repeatedly. No. More often than that.
   Create multiple profiles for yourself. Make sure you are the administrator in each case. Yes, this is very basic archiving advice for authors.
   Learn about restoring the machine to its last known good configuration. And learn about restore points. Hell, just learn. Though this blog post dealt with Microsoft's fun scheme, your own operating system will have its brand-named netting.
   Believe in safety. Plan for danger. Walk the tightrope without a net if you must. Fall. Rise again.

All those archives and copies were supplies. I couldn't cart them anywhere without my trusty workhorse: the computer. Archiving is part of the story.
   My mistake in not creating a spare set of keys? Basic. Flawed. Repairable. Fortunately.

What's this next item?
   It's an unlucky horseshoe emoticon. ;)

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