So while my computer was away I needed another computer so that I could try to get at least some work done. The Fair Piper remembered that our old laptop was stilling hanging out in the office not doing anything. We had given up on that thing because it was extremely unstable. If you even slightly bumped it the computer would crash. But it was better than nothing.
I got it working and after a couple bump-crashes I thought that, since I’ve got time, maybe I’ll reinstall Windows and perhaps that will help. Basically I was hoping that maybe the crashing was a software issue. I wiped the hard drive and began reinstalling windows from the recovery partition…. but it kept crashing. There was one point, the same point no matter how many times I tried, that kept causing the computer to crash. Once again I was stymied.
Something that I always wanted to do was to have a Linux machine. For those of you who are not familiar with Linux, it’s another operating system just like Windows or Mac. It comes in a large number of varieties (or flavors, as they like to say), some of which are expensive and some completely free. The costly ones are mostly for corporate work but there are also some designed specifically for engineering/scientific use. The best general purpose flavor is called Ubuntu. It can do pretty much anything that Windows can do and for free! Not just the operating system but it even comes with an office suite (called LibreOffice) similar to Microsoft Office which is also free!
Now the one complication is that you can’t exactly go to the store and get a copy of Ubuntu (plus paying for it would defeat the purpose!). You need to download it somehow and when you computer isn’t working that is a problem. The coolest way to solve this problem is to download it with a different computer and put it on a thumb drive. Then you stick it into your computer and boot from the thumb drive instead of the internal drive. Now it just so happens that my uncle was staying with us when this all went down so I could use his computer to download Ubuntu but guess what? No thumb drive! Actually, we did have a could but they were older and couldn’t be used to do this (most new ones are bootable but many older ones are not).
So I ended up going to the store and getting a new thumb drive. I got it home and the rest went flawlessly. I had gotten Ubuntu on my old laptop, I downloaded Chrome, signed in, and suddenly everything from my old computer was on this one too! Chrome saves all your preferences, favorites, and everything. It was great, I was using this cool computer that I always wanted to play with, I was getting some work done, and was just generally pleased with myself!
Naturally this could not stand… I made the mistake of lifting the laptop with only one hand. I think it bent the entire casing and caused the computer to crash. Hard. It wouldn’t start up no matter what I did. I mean it wouldn’t even try. No noises, no lights coming on and then turning off. Just nothing at all. All that work and time spent fighting with the computer and setting it up and it goes and breaks on me. Of course.
By the time all of this happened it was only a couple days more before my new laptop came back. They confirmed that the hard drive had crashed and they replaced it. That was nice. I lost all my data but everything was either backed up through Google Docs or on my external hard drive. But before I put everything back I wanted to first wipe the new hard drive. Why would I do that? Because you never know what someone else has done to your computer when they had it. This is pretty important. When ever you send a computer to be repaired, and this even includes smartphones and tablets (they’re just small computers!), you should completely wipe it. It’s probably not likely, but someone could have put some spyware onto the device which could steal your information. It’s just not worth the risk.
So I wiped the drive, reinstalled windows, downloaded Chrome, and transferred all my data in again. It was about this time that, yep, my vacation was over! Two weeks of messing with electronics and I got probably no more than a day and a half of work done… But I got to do some cool stuff with Linux that I’ve always wanted to do. Plus, it turns out that a couple weeks later I picked up the old laptop and it was suddenly working again! I still have my Linux machine! I mean, I don’t have any real use for it… but it’s so cool!