Monday, April 10, 2006

Becuase what I really need in my life are more papers written by an undergraduate

This weekend, I wondered if there was something akin to an electronic siphon. Literally, I stared at my old Mac Powerbook 1400cs (anyone remember those?), wondering if there was a way to get information just by sucking it out.

You see, I've kept the old laptop only because virtually every file I have from undergrad and grad school is on there. All my papers, any creative writing, everything. The problem: the CD-ROM drive never was able to write anything, the disk drive is pretty much broken and won't accept disks, and I can't seem to find the connection to make my zip drive work. In other words: no way to get the information out. A couple months ago, I discovered that my internet PC card still worked and that I could just dial in to AU and download the files from an ancient version of Netscape; this meant, however, that I could only do this three files at a time with a v e r y s l o w connection. I looked for other ways to do this, to no avail.

This week, I really needed to access an article I had written during graduate school which I had promised to my students. Written in 1998 mere weeks before they won the Oscar, the paper is a star study on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, chronicling their coverage as screenwriters being an important factor to their construction as stars. Not only had I decided to share this with my class, but in the last week, a publishing possibility came to light, so I wanted to revisit it. I went to try accessing the file on Friday.

This was when I discovered that I had mistakenly taken out the PC card from the computer, and now don't know where it is.


I sat there for about an hour, looking from one computer to the other, envisioning the electronic siphon. I imagined myself sucking on a big tube stuck into the hard drive, making sure not to get any 0/1 combinations into my mouth as if it were gas.

In the end, I did what is unthinkable these days: I retyped the entire paper. Although it took the better part of a day (23 pages total, including an appendix -- and the day included many interruptions by cute baby), it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was.

In the process, I found this, which may be a solution to my problems so that I won't have to retype EVERY SINGLE FILE. Will update at another point (hopefully) on the ongoing saga.


odio said...

The advantage of working at an Internet company is being surrounded by Mac tech monkeys eager to solve such problems.

My QA guy is telling me you need a firewire hard drive enclosure. Assuming you have a 2.5 inch hard drive, this is what we're talking about:

Hard part is getting your hard drive into the enclosure. But then you can easily transfer all your files to the new system. Don't ask me how. All this stuff is like a new language and I have enough identity issues stemming from the first two, thank you very much. Good luck.

odio said...

Here's a better link:

ShopWiki Firewire Search

You like the plug?

Adam said...

I used to get data off of old computers with a null-modem cable, which allows you to hook up two computers directly via the serial port. They think they're dialling in via a modem connection, but it's really direct, and you can transfer files back and forth.

However, in order for this to work, you'd need to find another computer with a serial port, and they seem to have all but disappeared.

The firewire enclosure trick may not work - most of those are built to take IDE drives, and my uninformed guess would be that an older Powerbook probably has a SCSI drive in it. Still, it's worth a shot if you can't find a suitable wifi card. That's probably your best best.

Adam said...

Nevermind - I was wrong:

The internal drive is ATA, so the firewire enclosure should work fine.

Mindy said...

Isn't it amazing how when you post something on a blog you wind up with all kinds of surprisingly helpful suggestions. And I'm sure that those above would probably work with some trial and error and little investment of cash. But...I have a better solution. I actually *have* a Powerbook 1400cs...kept for many of the same reasons that you kept yours. And, I kept my SCSI zip drive, my disk drive, a PC card modem, and even a PC card external hard well as SCSI CD writer. So...I'm pretty confident that one of those peripherals can get your files off without trouble and without any financial investment!

Oh and btw...very funny that you recognized Melissa on the Metro!

Middento said...


Mindy, I am so coming over. Besides, Levi and Xan need to meet. Particularly if they're going to date later in life. (Hey, I'm not taking any chances: setting up arranged marriages with AS MANY CHILDREN AS POSSIBLE here.)

becks said...

I suggest an extremely low-tech solution: ask either your students to take turns typing up the paper for you, or, if you don't trust the kids, maybe a bored administrative person...

Karamale said...

i like becks idea.

Star Clipper said...


English major? Puh-leeeeeeze!

BTW, Peru was great and you never e-mailed me the magazines you wanted.


Middento said...

OH SHIT. Damn, major missed opportunity. Oh well.

Hooray! You must tell all at some point.