Posted by: Rob | June 2, 2008

Fun With Computers

My employer supplies a lenovo (used to be IBM) T60 ThinkPad computer for work purposes. It comes with a raft of IT overhead to enable mass administration of these devices and a host of oft times burdensome policies and procedures. The current computer is the 4th iteration of the “standard” work station since the migration to a (mostly) single hardware platform in the mid-90’s. They are usually always lagging edge from a technology perspective, although I guess that means they are “proven”.

The current version keeps all your data (files and Outlook mail folders) on the local hard drive and maintains their viability by means of a daily back up to server. The idea being that if the computer crashes and burns, you can always retrieve all of your stuff at least to within the last day or so.

I have a bad habit of keeping a few non-work related items on my work computer though. I’ve cached these in encrypted folders that are outside the purview of the backup software. And…I never back this stuff up.

So, I come in to work last Friday morning and power up the ole ThinkPad. Only to be greeted by the following:

Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SOFTWARE

Stop: c0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file): \SystemRoot\System32\Config\SOFTWARE or its log or alternate

Shit. This is bad. The thing won’t even start up. I try it again and get the same result. Shit! I call the help desk and I’m directed to restart the computer in “Safe” mode. No joy. Same error message. Help desk says “You need a re-stage.” That’s parlance for they’ll bring you another computer, retrieve your back up and you’re good as new. They take your old one, wipe it and set it up as a replacement for the next person with a hardware problem.

Except I don’t want it wiped. There are files on there that I’m convinced I have to retain.

No one gets back to me on Friday. Sans computer, I spend the day doing some (non-computer) paperwork and work on getting organized. And I obsess about how I’m going to get those files.

I “borrow” another computer from a colleague away on vacation and begin google searches on the ‘net to see if I can somehow fix the problem myself. I find a lot of tips, tricks and other assorted guesses at what can be done. I manage to make up a bootable XP pro CD, complete with SP2 slipstream and get it burned to a blank disk. I leave work at the end of the day, taking my computer and my newfound knowledge home.

I have learned just enough to be dangerous. On and off and in between various chores around the house, I spend the weekend doing all manner of things to this computer. Without success.

I go in to work on Monday resigned to the fact that I’ve likely lost those files.

But then…I have a breakthrough. One last ditch attempt and success! I resurrect the computer literally moments before the IT guy walks in with my restage replacement. I talk to him for a bit and convince him to come back later while I retrieve and copy off all my files. I also make sure all the work stuff gets backed up too.

In my initial forays on Friday, I ran a BIOS diagnostic that indicates there may be a hard drive problem (i.e. an imminent crash). The IT tech confirms that to be the case and advises I go ahead with the restage. There have been sufficient quirks and other problems with this thing as long as I’ve had it that I’m all for the change out.

So, basking in my victory over the machine, I try to forget the hours lost on the weekend and resolve myself to do a better job of managing my data so as to avoid angst over lost files. That means that only work stuff goes on the work computer. And in the proper places so it gets backed up. And quit deferring the back up tool when it wants to run.

Knowing what I know now has led me to think about the next computer I build for home. I’m strongly leaning towards teaching myself Linux and going that route for the operating system. My daughter J has made the conversion on her laptop and is an ardent proponent for open source and Linux. Perhaps it’s time for child to be the teacher and parent to be the student.


  1. Naughty boy, keeping unwork-related stuff on your work computer. And then working your arse off to save the pornFar Side Comics you had stored.

    I hear that Ubuntu is not too hard to learn as a Linux version, but I don’t know. I am the only person in the world, apparently, who likes my Vista, and has little to no trouble with it.

  2. external hard drive. easier than trying to learn useful things…

    and i’m blown away that you did this while you were doing all that other stuff!. STILL tired…

  3. silverstar: Nah, there would never be porn on my computer – work or home. There was very little really that I had to save, but what there was (like saved e-mails from my late wife) were very precious and dear.

    daisyfae: What really aggravates me about a lot of this computer stuff is that you can waste literally hours sitting in front of a machine while it does its thing. I considered it an efficiency thing to actually get other things done concurrently. *Sigh* Such is life as a Virgo.

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