Sam Hidaka (samhidaka) wrote,
Sam Hidaka

My computer died

Two weeks ago, my computer died.

It didn't take me by complete surprise, though, since it had been sick and getting sicker. Several weeks before its final demise, it started locking up at random intervals -- sometimes even when the computer was idle. (Note: most PCs have a built-in override in the on/off switch -- pressing and holding it for five seconds has the same effect as flipping the master power switch on the back of the box.) Then towards the end, it would even lock up while booting up in the morning. Several times, I had to power down and reboot several times to get it running.

I knew its time was near, and I had been backing up all my data. But I had been putting off replacing the old computer because it's such a major hassle.

Getting everything transferred to the new computer was, indeed, a hassle.

However, the final death of my old computer probably made the switchover easier than it otherwise might have been. Since my old computer was dead beyond resurrection, I took the hard drive out and put it in my new computer as a secondary drive. So I saved quite a bit of time by not having to load in my data in.

My real concern was getting the browser and email programs on the new system to read in my old stuff. Without my browser bookmarks, I don't know where anything is. And I have thousands of emails in my mailbox that I would've hated to lose. And I have some 25,000 - 30,000 messages in my newsreader -- over 15,000 messages in 2,000+ threads in "Baen's Universe Slush Comments" alone. I could re-download the Slush Comments from the news server, but I have a substantial portion of those 2,000+ threads color-coded -- and I rely on the information imbedded in my color-coding a lot to manage the JBU slush forum.

I did finally get my old browser and email stuff back, but it took quite a while to figure it out.

My old Windows system kept my (Mozilla Thunderbird) mailbox settings and data in:

C:\Windows\Application Data\Mozilla\Profiles\default

So I copied it over to the same place on the new hard drive. The email program on my new Windows Vista system didn't pick up the settings or data. And I couldn't find a way to make the email program recognize the old data.

I left my Internet connection turned off (I didn't want the email program to read in any new email until I got the old stuff in place -- or else I'd lose either the old stuff or the new stuff). Then I wrote a draft email and saved it. Then I did a detailed data search of the entire hard drive for a character string in the draft email.

It turns out that Mozilla Thunderbird, on a Windows Vista system, keeps the mailbox settings and data in:


(In my case, %username% is "SamHidaka" -- since that's the name I entered the first time I started the computer.)

I had been looking all through the "Windows" and "Program Files" directories. It never occurred to me to look in a "Users" directory -- until the data search led me to it.

(Afterwards, I found the file directory location in "Tools > Account Settings." And my colleague, Benja Fallenstein, emailed me with the link to the Mozilla webpage that details where the different versions of Windows stores the profiles. But I didn't read Benja's email until after I figured it out. Knowing where the profile info was stored would have saved me a few hours, but while searching, I found out quite a bit about the new system -- so in hindsight, it was time well spent.)

Anyway, once I found out where the email program expected to find the settings and data, I copied over the contents of my old "Profiles" directory -- and everything was in place.

And once I found that, it was easy enough to find that the Mozilla Firefox settings were in:


Actually, Vista has some pretty nifty tools for transferring settings and data from an old system to a new Vista system. But alas, it doesn't seem to work well for non-Microsoft products. And I stopped using Microsoft's browser and email programs quite a few years ago, because Mozilla's Firefox and Thunderbird are better -- they have more features and they run a lot faster.

Then I got the other programs that I use daily up and running, and able to access my old data files.

And over the last couple of weeks, I've been reconstructing a whole bunch of utility programs that I use. I never kept track of the number of freeware and shareware programs I had accumulated over the years, but there are quite a few.

My new computer is fast.
Windows Vista is slooowwwwww.

In fairness, Vista has some excellent security features. It stops everything and asks for authorization whenever anything tries to access operating system files or alter system settings. That should prevent (in principle, at least) intrusions from outside programs or viruses.

OTOH, it prevented me -- at first -- from doing stuff that I want to do.

For example, I like to have Word, Wordpad, and Notepad in my "Send To" menu. Say I have a *.rtf file. The default program, if I just click on the file is Word. But I may want to send it to Wordpad. Instead of right-clicking on the file, clicking on "Open With ... ," and searching through a list of programs, I do it often enough that having it in my "Send To" menu saves a lot of time.

Also, clicking on two *.doc files will put them both in Word, and you can bring up the different files by using the "Window" drop-down menu and clicking on the filename. But (and this is important to me), right-clicking on a *.doc file and sending it to Word through the "Send To" menu will start up a new iteration of Word and put the file in that new iteration. That way, you can have both files up front -- each in it's own iteration of Word. This makes switching back and forth much faster (one click on the Windows Task Bar). As a writer, I often need to look at multiple versions of a manuscript. As an editor, it's crucial.

I need to have Word in my "Send To" menu.

But . . . Vista won't allow me to alter the contents of my "Send To" menu. Apparently, I'm not authorized to alter the contents of my own computer.

That alone was almost enough to make me scrap Vista and load a copy of an older version of Windows.

But there is a way to turn off "User Account Control" -- which allows me complete control over my system. And having the "User Account Control" turned on is a major step forward in protecting the computer from malicious software or spyware installing or altering system settings.

All in all Vista is as slow as a slug. But its security features make it worthwhile.

Yeah, the constant "! A program needs your permission to continue" ... "If you started this program, continue" messages are really annoying. But considering the dangers of all the malicious software out there . . .

OTOH, considering the annoyances of Vista, this might be a time to look into converting to Linux -- since I am an old-time Unix guy. (How many of you know what "grep" is, and what it means? What about "awk"?)
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