Day 14: Dead Computers and Lakeside Fun

Trip Start May 25, 2005
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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'Wow! That's a vintage machine - I used to have one of those.....'

Even visiting FedEx guys were now commenting on my poor dying Mac PowerBook G4....

'Actually, mine had a larger track pad, so maybe it was a bit more recent.... but anyway, great machines....'

I smiled, nodded and agreed. If only he knew..... this machine is the best that we have, and hasn't given me any problems until today. Until we tried to install a piece of mathematical software, which meant it needed an operating system upgrade.

Of course, with no wifi capacbilities, this meant getting a disk from the Uni computing department - but my vintage model can't read new types of disks, which meant borrowing an external DVD reader - which in turn couldn't be powered by my machine as it needed more energy than the aged USB ports could supply.....

After consultation with the IT department, we figured it was best to take my machine to them.....which I did.

The chap who was designated to help quickly stopped smiling, and just stared at the screen. It felt ominous.

'Do you realise that this machine could crash at any moment. It's on a knife's edge! How long has it been like this?'

I imgained a bubble coming out of my head containing the words....'Like What?'
There hadn't been any noticeable problems with the machine since we inherited it 5 years ago.

'Your partions are unrecognisable, the hard drive could stop at any second, you will lose all your data. When did you last back up?'

"Just now, and two weeks before that....you know, before travelling. Is it really that serious?"

'Yep. It's quite possible that this computer is about to die. Let's see if we can get another computer to talk to it, and rescue anything.....'

My poor, poor computer. So loyal and strong - or at least that's what I thought! The thing with Macs is that there are no blue screens of doom, unlike the PC. So there is no real way of knowing if things are going badly - as long as the points you use keep functioning, what's to know?

Cables were connected and buttons were pushed to try and trick my computer to booting up from via the external machine.

'Nope. That didn't work. Let's try a less polite way to get these machines to communicate.'

More buttons, reboots and cables.

Still nothing.

And then came the words......'If you continue, you will lose EVERYTHING - i said EVERYTHING that you care about on this machine. But if you don't continue, the computer will NEVER EVER EVER work again. E.V.E.R!!!!'

Wow - it really was dying. I couldn't believe it.

'What would you like to do ma'am?'

"Well, i've backed up everything that I could, and either way this machine is in trouble, correct?"
'Correct'
"Well, then, I gues you must do what you have to......"

What happened next should be all too obvious. The system went down, and we began a total reformatting of the hard drive.

'It will take about an hour, so perhaps you would like to pop back then.....'

Great. How time flies when you are in a tight spot.......tick....tock.....tick......tock.


30 minutes



42 minutes



51 minutes



An hour.........

"Well, it appear that that has worked." said the technician, eyebrows raised. "We can access the drive, which means you won't have to buy a new one. Let's try and install the operating system now and see what we can retrieve......this could take a while...... you may wanna stop by a little later - then we can sort out your software and stuff."

'You mean, that should've solved it?'
"Yeah - most things will be better. Perhaps you should just leave it with us overnight, and we can sort out a few things for you. We'll be back in around 9am in the morning...."

'Ok - thanks'.

Thank goodness for backing up..... thank goodness that has all happened here and not in Hluhluwe.... and thank goodness for the sturdiness of vintage machines.

So what should've taken minutes to install, took an entire day. I felt like going home, but had been invited to an early evening picnic at Lake Merritt in Oakland. Drumming up some courage, I decided just to try it and see - I've been craving some social time, so perhaps this would fit the bill.

Riding the BART is a fun experience - although everyone without fail is plugged into their music systems, using their phones, or head buried in a Kindle (electronic reading book). Perhaps it is because the journey is very noisy, and even vibrates through your shoes as the carriages hurtle along the lines. I like looking out of the window - seeing new places as they go by.

The journey to Oakland is short, which I can remember from visiting a few years back. I emerged into a different world. Less polished, more real. Concealing my map in my hand, I walked along Broadway towards Lake Merritt, realsiing I was now in the heart of the next 'downtown' - the one between Berkeley and San Francisco that you can see easily from campus.

The lake is quite shallow, and does naturally flow into a river to the Pacific - or at least looks that way. People cycle, run and walk around the footpaths, but it looks so different than i remember. Before, we would be on a bus going to the far side, and it was summer rather than an overcast day. But it still looks rather more dirty than I remember. Who knows. Memories can be an unreliable and odd thing.

Children have a 'Fairyland' on one corner of the Lake, but i continued towards towards the Bird Refuge - interested to see the Canadian Geese, herons, gulls and ducks. It feels quite odd to have urban wildlfe - birds you know that should really migrate, but have adapted to the easier lifestyle of 3pm feeding. The trees on the lake islands look like they have been covered in snow, due to all the guano from the birds perched in the remaining branches overhead. I guess I am used to more naturally fluctuating systems - and I am spoiled in that way.  But it did feel odd to see these species sitting surrounded by people and cars, when they have the option of flying away. Fly, fly, fly - go and find some naturally occurring food in a beautiful place....

The picnic was lovely, and it was great to meet an array of new people from a range of backgrounds. I should try and organise some things like this - 'you are welcome, tell your friends, come and use a public space'. Perhaps it would help to generate a community feel. Perhaps it is not really what I am here for.......

Then came 8pm - time to leave, and do the reverse journey. Now, fairy lights illuminated the pathway along the edge of the lake. It was nice to see people out for a stroll - parents with kids in their pushchairs / strollers! Couples out power-walking. Women with their dogs.......a lake is probably a nice feature to live close to......I've enjoyed it before.

BART, walk and home. Feeling confused. I have just met real life, and skirted around an old life. Things are surreal.

I'll end it there.







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