White-knuckles on the software roller coaster

3 Jun

By Geoff Meeker

June 3, 2013 – It’s a first world problem I know, but my computer has been a great source of stress lately.

It started earlier this year with a note from Apple, advising that the hard drive on my 27” iMac was prone to failure and subject to a recall. The computer is four years old – ancient by some standards – but Apple was offering to replace the hard drive and extend the warranty, free of charge. It was just a matter of arranging an appointment with Computer Services at Memorial University, then the authorized Mac service outlet in town.

The one terabyte (TB) hard drive on my computer was pretty much full, so I paid extra to upgrade to a two TB drive. I backed up my computer to an external drive, brought in the computer and did the swap. A day later, I had it back home and performed the transfer from the back-up drive.

It seemed to go well, until I opened my email. What should have been a full archive dating back to 2002 was empty. All my messages and attachments – as well as calendar and contacts – were gone. I tried to transfer directly from the back-up but was told that such an operation was not permitted.

I called Computer Services and spoke to Sheldon Cribb, who said he’d be happy to take a look at it. A day later, I had the computer back with my email recovered in full. It was $50 well-spent. As I was leaving, Sheldon told me that Computer Services was dropping its Apple service status, and would now serve just university students (which was its original mandate anyway). Service would now be provided by Jump Plus, a new dealer in the Avalon Mall.

Which brings us to my next nail-biter. I was downloading some video from a client shoot, but the iDVD program began locking up. I did a search and, sure enough, the program was four years old and in need of an update (for $20). However, a pop-up advised that my Snow Leopard operating system (OS) was too old to run the program, and I needed to upgrade to Mountain Lion. I did so, forking over $20 for the download, which seemed reasonable.

Cue the scary music. I tried to open my Entourage email, but there was another pop-up, advising that my operating system no longer supported that program. I quickly learned that all four programs in the Microsoft suite – Word, Entourage, Excel and PowerPoint – would not open. My computer no longer recognized the Word files that were the life blood of my business. At first I assumed that Apple was attempting to choke out Microsoft programs, but a search revealed that all programs based on the older PowerPC platform were no longer supported.

Choking back panic, I called Jump Plus and spoke with employee Joe Alderson. He recognized my problem as soon as I explained it, and was quick with a solution: I needed to load the latest Microsoft 2011 – the most recent major upgrade, priced at $249 – and then I should be able to transfer my email archive from Entourage to Outlook. I could load the upgrade and perform the transfer myself, or they could do it in-store. When I pointed out that it was a massive, heavy computer, Joe offered to do a house call – for a fee, of course.

Reflecting on my previous futile attempt to transfer files, I elected to splurge and pay $90 for the home service.

Joe showed up at the appointed time and set to work immediately. He loaded the software and began the email transfer. My computer remained true to form, throwing a few curve balls, but Joe had a work-around for each. I wiped a bead of sweat from my brow and breathed a sigh of relief that he – rather than I – was performing this operation.

Finally, task complete, Joe clicked the email program, which blossomed open to reveal more than 10,000 messages, as well as contacts, calendar and all the rest. It was time for a happy dance – after Joe left, of course. I’m not that foolish.

It had been a stressful couple of days, but I’m not sure what I would have done differently. It took me quite a while to find information online about the PowerPC issue, and how many of us have time to search for problems that we don’t know exist?

However, there is an upside to the story. Students at Memorial can take heart in the fact that their computer repair needs are well supported, by Sheldon and the gang at Computer Services. And the rest of us Apple owners can rest easy, knowing there is a dealer in town with qualified service people who can get the job done.

There is an ultimate solution to my email issues and that is to move the entire system to the cloud, where I can access it anywhere, from any computer – something my old Entourage could not do that is built into Outlook 2011. More on this in a future column…

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