Real men wrestle hard drives before dawn. Or they say a prayer and look humble. I won't tell you which I did.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
When will I learn? When you don't know what you're doing, don't do it

July 30, 2006

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard

   I thought my trusty Macintosh computer was foolproof. But that was before I discovered the biggest fool might be the nut behind the mouse.
   That's me, of course. Or so I've come to realize, after a misadventure two weeks ago in which I gave my Apple G4 Macintosh computer a lobotomy. Unintentionally.
   I wish I could say it was all for a good cause. But the only cause I could muster up in my defense had a "be" in front of it -- because I was foolish, because I had bumbled around inside the operating system's own files for no good reason.
   Later, when I tried to reboot my Mac, the screen was as blank as my mind. After finally realizing that without some kind of emergency repair, my computer was never going to respond -- I'd been waiting more than 22 minutes for it to come alive -- I accepted the fact that I had done a Very Bad Thing. You know the feeling. Like the time in 1954 when I missed the last bus and had to walk home from school. Six miles, in the rain.
   The consequences of doing A Very Bad Thing are mostly mental and stay with you a long time. So I cleared a space on my big computer desk and gave the day over to fate.
   Whatever it took, I was going to fix what I had broken. Real men wrestle hard drives before dawn. Or maybe real men make a pot of coffee and say a prayer for Murphy, the author of all the laws dealing with bad luck. I won't tell you which I did.
   But hindsight sees perfectly well. Let me explain what happened.
   I had read somewhere, probably in one of those subversive Web sites designed for wise-guy geeks with nothing better to do -- no hard feelings there, right? -- that Apple's Macintosh OS X operating system is full of superfluous language files. Programs such as iTunes and iPhoto have menus and support files in Cantonese, Esperanto, Italian and a half-zillion other languages, including, I have no doubt, Klingon.
   Apple even lets you disable the extra languages. You uncheck them, one by one, in each program that has multi-language support.
   Notice that I said Apple lets you uncheck them. Apple didn't say anything about trashing them.
   So when the nut who looks at me in the mirror decided to delete all the extra languages, you can't blame Apple for what happened next. Apparently, my zeal to save space -- more than 500 megabytes of extra language files -- allowed me to delete other files, too. They were ones the operating system needed for various official tasks, such as booting up and running.
   Hold on. I can hear you saying all I had to do was get those files out of the trash -- an obviously triumphant idea if I hadn't emptied the trash already. The only time you need something that's in the trash is after you empty it.
   Luckily, Apple must have had a few knuckleheads in mind when it designed the way OS X reinstalls itself. When I got my OS X installation disk out and booted from it, the installer guessed that I was trying to fix something, so it offered to install OS X anew while keeping all my personal files and settings.
   Yeah, right. Sure. I used Windows too long. I know how this sort of thing goes. Zap! You're a moron. Zap! All your files are gone. Zap! You trusted your computer!
   So I walked away, unable to bear the thought of seeing all my mail vaporizing or all my 52 gigabytes of music being turned into goo. But when I came back a half hour later, my Mac had finished its self-repair and had even rebooted to show my desktop. Everything was intact. Nothing was missing. Nothing was changed.
   But something else had changed. The dunderhead had learned something he'd never forget. When you don't know what you're doing, don't do it. The embarrassment saved might be your own.