Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Saturday, April 09, 2005 12:05 am
Having 2 computers (or backups)
I just read this in a forum… (paraphrased)
If you have need your Mac for work, you should install Tiger on a spare partition, so that you can revert to 10.3.8 just by rebooting. Otherwise, you should not install Tiger until you see read about the experiences of others.
The poster had good intentions, but did not go far enough: Everyone must have a backup of their work before even thinking about starting to install Mac OS X Tiger on a Macintosh.

There should be a “no backup, no sympathy” policy for everyone who complains on an Internet forum that a software install hosed their system, and they had to reinstall from scratch.

Now that I have that off my chest, the initial point of all this was that the value of 2 computers is greater than the sum of them separately.

Most of the requests for help online that I have read come from a computer nerd wanting advice on why something isn't working. Sadly, the rest of the requests are from those who have just bought their first computer and things aren't as rosy as they would like. Advertisements and ringing endorsements from other buyers raise expectations too high. Questions abound, like “Why do all my DVD burns fail?”, “My iPod doesn't work”, “My broadband isn't working”, “I can't scan”… on and on.

Unfortunately, most of these types of questions are easier to solve with a 2nd computer available at hand; and the types of people who need this type of help are those without a 2nd computer. It is hard to find a solution better than: “Try it on another computer/hard disk/account/DVD burner/FireWire port”.

For people with single computers, the frustrated solution is usually “bring it back to the shop”, “do a full reinstall”, “create a new account and try again”. Which for the novice, must suck, and for the helpers is also unsatisfactory. Operating system reinstallation nowadays is a difficult task. For those in isolated areas, the problem is compounded.

I have had to deal with computer issues from family and relatives. Most of my relatives now are quite savvy and can fix things themselves now, thanks to loads of experience, and also to Mac OS X which isn't as fussy as OS 9 was. Probably also because over the years, they have continually upgraded from the ancient Power Macintosh 6200 machines up to the current PowerBook G4s, with about 8 Macintoshes or thereabouts in between. All distributed among themselves, and in use.

Troubleshooting is so much easier then—a Quick-And-Dirty backup (QDB) of important files involves copying them over a network to another Mac. Multiple Macs can perform backups on separate partitions on a single FireWire hard disk. Similarly DVD burners, printers, scanners, and so on, can be shared and troubleshooted on multiple machines/platforms.

A spare power cable, USB cable, video cable and so on, can sometimes be all it takes to separate a major disaster, from a minor inconvenience.

I wonder then, given the amount of computer advice that seems to be required all over the Internet, whether it should be semi-mandatory to expect computer beginners to have 2 computers; or at 1 extra at hand, for troubleshooting. In which case it would be kosher for us to say “get another computer to try it out”, as a response to technical support requests.

If it isn't, then at least let them:
At least to do a QDB, if not a clone. Remember: “No backup, no sympathy” is the word.

[posted with ecto]


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