Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fever and the Death of a Netbook

The week started out well. I spent Sunday working on a paper, drafting some new reviews on my little netbook, and having some really awesome sex.

Monday morning was pretty good. I did some very successful and painless (metaphorically speaking) back-to-school shopping and worked on those reviews into the afternoon. Then late afternoon hit, and things started going downhill. I started feeling alternately sweaty and chilled. I got a blinding headache that tied me to the couch for a few hours. The headache retreated before the onslaught of Tylenol. I was still nauseous, though and I was starting to get a bit disoriented.

And at this point, I was sick enough that I wasn't sure if I was really sick. I think my prefrontal cortex must have turned off the lights and sent the higher judgment functions on vacation. So I sat down with my little netbook to transfer some episodes of a favorite show onto my mp3 player. While I was waiting for them to transfer, I continued some previous pondering.

My little Acer Aspire One has been the proud owner of a dual boot with Ubuntu for a few months now. I got it because I'm endlessly curious and wanted to play around with Linux, and some dual-booting friends suggested that Ubuntu would be a good place to start. Setting up the dual boot system went off without a hitch. I played around with Ubuntu on and off for a few months. After a while, I came to realize that it just wasn't an operating system I could live on, since so many of the programs I use for work can't be used on Mac, much less Linux. Given the way I bounce back and forth between work and play, I couldn't just set up my computers to live on one OS and work on the other. With a sigh of regret, because it ran so fast and smoothly on my little netbook, I had decided to take Ubuntu off of the system.

Fast forward to last night. Whilst waiting for my files to transfer, I came to the conclusion that the best way to rid myself of Ubuntu was to simply delete the partitions it used, and give the space back to Windows XP. I figured XP would be happy about this, since it's notorious for not liking to share with other OS's.

Why, oh WHY did I ever think that this was a good idea? The only excuse I have is that I was in a fevered state at the time, and could barely function, much less understand what I was doing to my computer. (I may or may not have hallucinated tech support) Simply deleting the partitions is quite possibly the worst thing I could have done, under the circumstances, other than throwing the poor wee bairn into ye olde incinerator.

Having made my decision, I proceeded to go into my partition managing software and delete and resize partitions like a drunken surgeon. On second thought, perhaps a better metaphor would be like a premed on a battlefield: knowing the mechanics of cutting the patient open and removing organs, but not having progressed far enough in her education to know how to perform the surgery safely.

Where setting up the dual boot had taken over 9 hours, demolishing it in this fashion was the work of less than 10 minutes. I didn't even have to restart. Windows continued to work just fine for the next hour of surfing and general piddling around online. The problems occurred after I hibernated it for the night. When I tried to start it up the next morning, startup failed at the bootloader. Feeling increasingly ill from anxiety and fever, I spent the next 7 hours trying to fix that poor computer. It turns out that I might have been able to fix it in the first hour or two, had I just shut down instead of hibernating. Because of that pesky little hiberfile, I couldn't simply reinstall Ubuntu to do a clean removal, or even just access my files to pull them off before doing a clean wipe of the computer. No, because my particular netbook had been slower than its brothers to begin with, I generally hibernated, restarting about once a week.

After those long 7 hours, I finally conceded defeat. Luckily, the only things I hadn't backed up were a few pictures, some games, and those review drafts I'd been working on.

What makes me frustrated is that it looks like the only thing truly wrong with my computer at this point is that it needs to have the linux bootloader removed and the windows one restored. And some other little thing that wasn't needed for normal running of windows once started, but is obviously essential for fixing the above problem. Because the repair console didn't fix anything, though it told me it had.

I now have under a week to either get it fixed, or buy a new one before classes start and the netbook becomes my lifeline. I'm seriously considering buying a new one... because it looks like the bills on fixing the old one will cost more than buying a new one. Which is the same problem cheap watches have: it's cheaper to buy a new one than to buy a new battery. I really hope netbooks aren't following in the footsteps of "inexpensive, affordable" watches.

It is time to bring this rambling to an end, as I suspect my fever has made me less than coherent.

The moral of the story is: never mess with important electronics while sick.

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