Finally back online and going full speed ahead

Have you ever had a computer meltdown?  OK, so myIT infrastructure meltdown wasn’t as total as the picture to the left, but it still was pretty bad.  In the span of a couple of days I had my main desktop and my main laptop both die.  This happened just before I had several straight weeks of travel and as a result I was left working off of my MSI Wind U100 netbook for a few weeks.  Let me tell you a bit about it and what I learned from it because anyone making a living on the road needs to know this stuff!

First off, let me just say super-redundant backup is a good thing.  In fact, it is a VERY good thing.  Because I had backups available in several different ways the outage didn’t cause me to lose any work.  Groove had always worked in the background to sync my files so the netbook was ready to go.  I use an Exchange server so again the netbook was fine since it could sync just as easily as the other computers.  In fact, most of what I mention in my blog post about a highly mobile team of 1 turned out to be necessary!

The big wins for me were:

  1. Having all of the files already sync’d from Groove.
  2. Having everything in Exchange so I just pointed the netbook to it and let everything stream onto the netbook.
  3. Having a netbook which is very capable of running all the Office applications and still be usable.
  4. Having enough computer savvy to recognize things were failing and stopping them before they damaged other parts of my IT infrastructure.
  5. As usual, Dell came through and delivered my new kick-butt Dell Precision M6500 laptop very quickly.
  6. Bringing up the new laptop worked just as my emergency plan said it should!  Install Office, sync w/Groove, sync to Exchange, copy Favorites, etc.  After all the headaches I had, this part of the process was rather nice.

Things that didn’t go so well:

  1. The desktop computer was (and is) completely dead.  It powers on and then nothing happens at all.  This really stunk because it had all my personal and family stuff on it.  All of that was backed up, but it still was a pain because I had been very good about separating personal and business items.
  2. The laptop would mostly boot, but not quite.  I spent a long time (30+ hours) trying to fix the problem.  Microsoft Windows let me get so close to fixing it, then would make it impossible at the last second.  I wanted to upgrade the Windows on the machine to Windows 7 – no luck because you have to boot from the hard drive for an upgrade to work.  I finally got around that by booting from a USB thumb drive and Windows 7 decided it didn’t know how to talk to the regular hard drive.  Frustrating!
  3. My netbook had several Windows Updates, a Java update and an Adobe update to install, but I couldn’t take the chance of installing them.  If the machine crashed I was going to be in big trouble for my upcoming courses.
  4. The HP printer drivers once again proved incredibly frustrating for me.  I have NEVER been able to install HP printer drivers and have them work first time.  In this case I installed, uninstalled and reinstalled several times and finally gave up on getting it all working.  I still can’t scan through the network like I could before.  I don’t know why, but the printer is near the laptop so I just plugged in a USB cable and called it good enough.

Things that surprised me:

  1. Because I made the decision to just have one main machine (the M6500 laptop) instead of two, I had to put all of my personal information on the laptop as well.  I expected this to be straightforward – copy over old data files, install software and you are up and running.  Wrong.  Quickbooks only allowed a certain number of activations and my backup machines had used those up.  I ended up having to upgrade, which was good, but unexpected.
  2. I used Laplink PC Mover to copy data from a semi-working laptop to the new laptop.  I had high hopes for this software, but as it turned out I had to reinstall several items anyway.  If I had known that would be the case I would have just started that way instead of being led astray by the high hopes I had for an easy transition.
  3. Windows 7 is really very easy to use and quite nice.  I thought all the advertising was going to turn out to be just hype, but I definitely like Windows 7 – a lot!  Microsoft has made some nice changes.
  4. I got a fingerprint scanner on the laptop because it wasn’t expensive and seemed cool.  It is actually very cool.  I can use it to log into the computer but it also came with a program which can store security data for websites.  This can include login information, credit card info, etc.  The difference between this and doing it in a browser is the security involved.  I login using my fingerprint.  It can take a password, but I deliberately made that something even I don’t remember and just stored it in my safe deposit box if I ever need it.
  5. I had to put passwords on all of my financial files (Quicken and Quickbooks).  I decided to share these through Groove with the netbook.  I did this because I’m spending more time on the road than I thought I would and I need to keep these things up to date.  Once I did this I realized I needed to protect the data or someone stealing my laptop or netbook would have keys to my financial kingdom.

So in the end I’ve recovered nicely.  I upgraded my laptop and refurbed the old one (a Dell Vostro 1700 I really liked) and gave it to my wife to use.  I now have access to ALL of my vital information on both of my computers.  I still have redundant backup and now I know it works!

I did miss a month of blogging and keeping up with the world though.  For that I’m sorry.  As of today I’m back on the bandwagon and I should start generating more blog entries fairly soon.

Until next time I’ll be Making Agile a Reality® by continuously improving my IT infrastructure and the processes I use to support it.

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  1. Be careful of the fingerprint scanners, Sir. I saw a MythBusters where they used tape to break into a laptop via the thumbprint. Being curious, I tried it myself and it did not work right away but ultimately, it did. I love it for logging on but CC data might be risky! Then again, everything being relative, your scanner may be better than mine. Probably is 🙂



  2. I saw the same show about fingerprint scanners which is why I’m pretty careful with wiping it down after use. Someone would also have to know which finger of mine they need the print from (it isn’t obvious). I’m sure someone in my house could get a print and make it work, but if they steal the laptop they are going to have to get a print off of it and use that. Since I rarely actually touch the laptop itself (large external monitor and external keyboard and external mouse) it will be tough.

    Thanks for watching out for me though!