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Missing MacMillan

This past week has been one of the most frustrating, and yet, one of the most surprising. I want to share what I learned, but first, let me tell what caused the frustration.

For starters, the Internet connection in our tiny little village in Italy, which was never stellar, decided to slow down to a ridiculous crawl. Google regularly takes 20-30 seconds to load.

I’m told it has to do with the aging cables in the area. I suspect it also has much to do with the road construction near my home. Maybe someone drilled into a spot they weren’t supposed to, and cut into a cable, forcing all traffic to squeeze down into the undamaged one.

Pure conjecture on my part, of course.

Then, exactly a week ago today, the internal hard drive of my beloved MacMillan, an early 2012 MacBook Pro, just quit. Like, totally.

No warning signs, no weird buzzing in the days leading up to it. Nothing.

Just died.

Now, I love our home in Italy. In a quaint little farming village of population 200 (no, not 200 thousand – just 200), it is blessed with natural water springs, green fields as far as the eye can see, and on most days when clear, a stunning view of the Alps.

But what is the use when I have no computer or reasonable bandwidth to post gorgeous, serene pictures to Facebook? Just kidding.  I meant share on Instagram.  LOL. Seriously, I do love it here.

Anyway, back to the dead computer. Luckily, I ran a backup just a few days before, so I am pretty confident I will recover most of my precious data.

Unfortunately, I recorded several videos for Author Visual Hacks, the online course I’ve been working on, the day after the backup and before the hard drive crash.

So now I know that I will need to re-record those videos.

The good news is that I’m learning to seriously leverage my other devices, an iPhone and a Samsung 10.1 Android tablet.

The bad news is that neither device does screen capture. This means I have to wait until I have a computer again to get back to the course creation.

So here I am, with no computer, no reasonable bandwidth on a consistent basis, and, a week later, still no word from the service shop as to what is the problem, much less how long it will take to fix my beloved MacMillan.

With that long preamble done, let me now share what I have learned. Trust me, it is relevant to you as a fellow blogger and content creator, who may one day be in this position.

Lesson #1: Backups Are Vital

I’ve spent a good part of my life working in IT, preaching about backups to my customers. It wasn’t until a colleague inadvertently spilled a glass of water on my laptop that I realized the importance of really having important stuff backed up.

Sure, I had backups, but few and far in between. The day my laptop got a bath, I was given a replacement laptop, but it took me almost a month to get back to normal.

Ever since then, I’m a bit fanatical about regularly backing up my stuff to an external drive, as well as using Dropbox and Evernote for important documents, current writing works in progress and reference materials.

I have now learned that it’s not enough. I must add video works in progress as well. If they’re too big for Dropbox, there’s Google Drive.

Lesson #2: Organize files

This one is not new to me. I learned it back when I discovered that the secret to keeping my Windows laptop humming beautifully fast was to periodically wipe everything out, and reinstall from scratch.

After the first two times, I had the whole process down to about two hours tops, and I did it once a quarter.

The most critical point to making the start-from-scratch process painless was having clean folder and file structures. This made backups time and space efficient, as I would only backup required files.

Lesson #3: Work in the cloud

Sounds obvious. I even thought I worked in the cloud for the most part. I was pleased with myself and the fact that my data was easily yet securely accessible from any device. .

Accessible, yes. . Workable, not quite as much.

For example, I discovered that I kept the presentations that underpin my video courses only on my hard drive. . Yes, accessible when I can plug my external drive into a computer. Like the screencasts, I should have saved them in the cloud so I could view and edit them from another device.

Going forward, I will ensure that all current work will be in the cloud, and only done and dusted stuff will be archived on a hard drive.

Thank goodness all client stuff was delivered and closed out before the hard drive failure.

Lesson #4: Get comfortable with voice work

This lesson is extremely ironic, as I had toyed with starting a podcast this summer, and was going to get a whole bunch of episodes in the can, right about now.

Turns out, I’m using voice more and more, but not so much for recording of podcasts, but for voice-to-text. Android outshines iPhone’s Siri in this instance, as it can keep going indefinitely, and it doesn’t need to be online to work.

I’m still not super comfortable with voice dictation, as I seem to think better while typing. . But like most things, it’s just a matter of practice, and the word count goes up like mad when dictating.

Lesson #5: Think on your feet

Given that I’m no longer chained to a desk when I’m producing content, I’ve discovered the new ‘treadmill desk’ : the garden.

I’m fortunate to have all this gorgeous green literally on my doorstep so I can walk it in my pajamas. The neighbours already think I’m mad, so watching me in jammies, walking up and down barefoot on the grass, thumb typing furiously or muttering to Google Voice shouldn’t be anything new.

The surprise is that I find I really do think better on my feet. I used to pace in my corporate office when on calls, so it kind of makes sense.

The lesson is that I wouldn’t have discovered it if MacMillan didn’t get sick.

A few days ago I downloaded a pedometer app. While I wait on MacMillan to get well, I can kill two birds with one stone: hit my 2000 words and 10000 steps goals at the same time.

If I get them done before lunch, I get a nap, and afternoon naps, as we all know, are what summer holidays in tiny Italian villages are meant for. No bandwidth required.

How about you? Are you prepared for your laptop to be out of service for two weeks? Will you nap?

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