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Howard Tayler
Name: Howard Tayler
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Howard Tayler - The Death of Drive C, and The Disposal of 15 Years of Evolution
Ramblings of a Happy Cartoonist
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The Death of Drive C, and The Disposal of 15 Years of Evolution
Don't panic. I didn't lose 15 years of data. I lost an evolutionary dead-end. But that's skipping ahead...

UNBOOTABLE_MOUNT_VOLUME is not a happy BSD (Blue Screen of Death) to see when you restart. My 5-year-old PC running Windows XP Media Edition ("it seemed like a good idea at the time") had gone a long time without BSDs, but apparently the attempt to use Windows Explorer instead of Sonic MyDVD LE to burn DVDs (an honest mistake, for which I forgive Sandra) resulted in sharp, steely sorts of data caltrops being thrown about in precarious places.

The final straw, the BSD from which I could no longer boot, only came when I ran out of space on my portable backup drive. Don't worry -- the stuff I ran out of room on was some movies I don't need. Apparently that BSD kicked some of the caltrops into the boot sector, and Drive C became unbootable, only in ALL CAPS, and with underscores attaching it to other words.

I'll spare you the story of my wrestle with inner demons. I won't bother to regale you with the strings of ear-blistering obscenities, vulgarities, and profanities I concatenated with angry abandon. I'll make only passing mention to my friend Bob Defendi who talked me down from the ledge twice, and my friend Jake Bingham who provided me with hope, if not with the actual tools to solve the problem.

No, the important part of the story is the part where I realized that while I still had all my data (on two different backup drives, as well as on one internal drive), I was going to have to choose whether or not to keep my processes. Installing a new operating system (Win7, about which I've heard wonderful things, and which is, as of this writing, performing flawlessly) necessitated wiping drive C. From there I could easily copy all my documents back, but those directory trees were convoluted.

"Evolutionary dead-end," I said. An example: Before I started creating Schlock Mercenary I used AOL Instant Messenger to chat with friends. At the top of My Documents was a folder labeled "AIM Chats" which hasn't seen new data in over five years. It's at the same level as a directory called "SchlockDocs," which is the parent directory of dozens of nested children. You see, back in 1995 when I first realized I was going to want to save some things pretty much forever, I decided that it made sense to organize them by taxonomy, and the only taxonomies I was familiar with were very general at the top, and increasingly complex at lower and lower layers. So that's how I stored my stuff.

And that's how I stored it for 15 years. When I first started storing stuff that way, the directory trees were on a Mac LCii, or some such. They moved with me, always growing, because if there's one thing you never do to a taxonomy, one thing such trees are never subject to, it is PRUNING. (Note: Feel free to comment with examples of taxonomies that have been pruned. But I bet they got bigger afterwards.) 

Windows 7 seemed to suggest, through its "library" interface, that the things I do most should not be leaves on twigs on branches on limbs of a huge tree. They should be front-and-center. In fairness, my old processes included creating shortcuts to the leaves, but this meant my desktop was a mess of shortcuts. Now Win7 was suggesting that there might be a better way. No, it didn't hold my hand through the process of deciding what goes front-and-center. But by looking at how it tried to organize content, I realized that files I am currently working with should go at the top of the library, front-and-center. Once I am done with them, they should be shuffled off onto the D drive (and backed up to G, H, and beyond...) where it's okay to maintain a deeper directory structure.

So that's what I did, and I did it aggressively. My desktop has exactly one icon on it right now. "Recycle Bin." I should point out that I preferred the name "Trash" from the old Mac interface. Files are not "recycled" unless you reuse their contents. Disc sectors are reused, yes, but when I put a redundant copy of Schlock dialog into the Recycle Bin it's not going to show up on your computer as witty repartee. It's TRASH. But I digress. I should have used parentheses. (Like this.)

One icon. My task bar, which auto-hides, is only half full: Windows Explorer, IE, Google Chrome, FileZilla, Windows Fax & Scan, Media Player, and iTunes. Why so spartan? Because the things I do most often are script, blog, trawl, upload, scan, and jam. Oh, and watch Doctor Who. 

All my other cruft is buried. I created a directory called, appropriately enough, "cruft" in the My Documents directory, and any time I find myself hitting folders there more than once in a day, I give them a new home on Drive D. Eventually the Cruft folder will go away completely. As I mentioned elsewhere, this is like moving all your stuff into a storage unit, then going into a new, empty house, and only furnishing it from storage as you need things. That cedar chest full of sweaters that don't fit anymore? It never shares four walls and a roof with you again.

This process is painful, but it's the right kind of painful. It's like losing ten pounds and realizing your pants fit correctly again (apropo of nothing, I've done that three times in the last 15 months, each time with a downwardly-trending size of pants. There! I used parentheses this time!) 

Soon I'll be replacing this worn-out PC. But migrating my data to a new machine will be fairly painless, because I don't have to carry around a cedar chest full of sweaters that don't fit, and the pants I'm wearing DO fit. 
Comments
jecook From: jecook Date: April 22nd, 2010 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting.

My way is a LOT more chaotic, and I'm still trying to get everything centrally collected, de-duplicated, and put into a proper place. (and by de-duplicated meaning that I probably have no less then three or four copies of some of my older stuff kicking around, all collected from the five or six machines I've had as my work-horses over the past 15 years)

I don't recommend my way *at all*. :D
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: April 22nd, 2010 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure I've got some duplicates, but I don't care. If it's a duplicate of something I need to be working on, it goes front-and-center until it's done, and then it gets filed in the new set of structures. I'll be able to tell the difference using modification dates, if nothing else.

If it's NOT something I need to be working on, who cares if it's a duplicate? My posterity can rifle through these things and wonder why I copied the same business plan in three different locations, but they'll be smart enough not to actually worry about it, because I don't think any posterity interested in rifling through my stuff is going to be STUPID.
computersherpa From: computersherpa Date: April 22nd, 2010 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)
You can rename the Recycle Bin, you know. :-)
unixronin From: unixronin Date: April 22nd, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Though I do agree that "Recycle Bin" is silly. I suspect it was probably renamed to avoid some lawsuit from Apple ... at which point I note that companies sueing each other over mice-nuts crap like that is also silly. The trouble is there are too damned many lawyers, and they all have to find something to do, which usually ends up being bad for someone.
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: April 22nd, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, patent lawsuits are like Mutually Assured Destruction. And this is exactly how the patent team at Novell described it to us. Every company wants a good arsenal of patents so that when they (often accidentally) infringe upon the patent of another company, nobody files suit because there will be countersuits, counter-countersuits, and then only the lawyers win.

When a company actually files a patent infringement suit it's usually because they have nothing to lose, or at least THINK they have nothing to lose.
unixronin From: unixronin Date: April 22nd, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, patent lawsuits are like Mutually Assured Destruction. And this is exactly how the patent team at Novell described it to us.
Heh. An interesting analogy.
kazriko From: kazriko Date: April 22nd, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're not recycling the content of what you're putting in the recycling bin. You're recycling the section of the hard disk platter that it's written on. Just like when you put a 50 page document in a recycle bin in real life, it's not the content they're recycling but the paper its printed on.

:)
kazriko From: kazriko Date: April 22nd, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I've been pretty much doing it all wrong on my windows 7 system. The nice thing is that they don't seem to regulate data that is on the C: drive but outside of its narrowly defined pockets. Thus, I have C:\Projects for all of my Eclipse data, I have C:\Games for all of my legacy games, etc.

It is good that they got rid of the "c:\Documents And Settings" nonsense though, c:\users makes far more sense.

If they keep working towards what you're describing, eventually they'll reach the "Sugar" interface style of work. Sugar works more like a blog, sorting your documents by when they were created or edited. You can go back a week, or a month at a time and see what you were working on in that time period. No directory structures at all.
axiluvia From: axiluvia Date: April 24th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Replacing XP

Quick question, and probably a long shot, but did you happen to have McAfee, and update it recently? Supposedly the newest update caused a heck of a lot of XP machines to crash and otherwise go nuts.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/04/22/cnet.mcafee.antivirus.bug/index.html
howardtayler From: howardtayler Date: April 26th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Replacing XP

Norton 360.
norroway From: norroway Date: April 28th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I did not go through this process with either my recent upgrade to Win7 or in my recent move. Well, scratch that--I did it only partly, and I'm regretting not doing it fully. But I like your thinking here and will be taking it into consideration--I've been trying to figure out a better way to organize my file structure, in particular.
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