Computers have a delightful tendency to screw up the moment we need them most, and this past Sunday while working on a group project I experienced this firsthand.
Microsoft Word is a delightfully functional program, but it isn’t perfect. While in the last lap of editing a massive pathophysiology paper, Word spontaneously closed itself. We had been constantly saving every five or so minutes, but red flags were raised when Word opened itself back up and relabeled the file as “repaired.” Repaired files themselves are fine – they’re part of a process of rescuing files that would otherwise be corrupted – but something went wrong with our file in particular.
When we tried to Save – using ctrl+s – it brought up the dialogue box that typically came with using Save As. It wanted us to pick a file location and name it, instead of just saving it to the already named file. Doing so resulted in…nothing. No file was saved. Again, and again, we tried and it just would not save. We figured it might be because of the “(Repaired)” that was in the filename, so we changed it, and it seemed to work. It finally saved something we could see when looking at the computer’s Documents.
This saved file, we realized much too late, was a blank zero byte file. It was nothing more than a filename and a .docx extension. We lost two and a half hours of work, thanks to a glitch.
Too late, we did what we should have done first and searched online for help. We had experienced an endless save loop. Unfortunately, our situation was already over and done – the work was gone, and there was no retroactive action we could take. The computer’s clipboard had purged itself spontaneously, there were no “unsaved” files in the Word directory, nothing could be done. We had to work late into the night to finish the project a second time.
I share this story with you not in the hopes that you will recognize this one particular glitch in Microsoft Word, but that you will be both reactive and proactive towards computer errors in the future.
The moment you see a red flag, be reactive – take action. Search online for an answer, and chances are you’ll find one. Can’t find anything, or need an extra set of hands for a hardware problem? Go to OIT – that’s what they’re on campus for. Don’t wait for a problem to become irreversible.
The proactive part is understanding that computers aren’t infallible, and preparing for catastrophic failure. A drink could be spilled on your laptop and you could lose everything. The one time you aren’t careful with your backpack, your tablet gets its screen crushed. Even if you do everything right, sometimes computers just stop working. You click a button, and you get the infamous blue screen of death staring you in the face.
Get to know your programs – you don’t have to become fluent in C, just recognize what’s normal and what’s not. If you can recognize the problem before it becomes a problem, you’ll be better off, and you won’t lose two and a half hours of work like my group did. Us USG students can’t afford that kind of thing happening too often.
Yes, all of this does pertain to Mac users as well – I had a Mac last semester die on me in the middle of class. No computer is perfect, no matter the company behind it, or the operating system on it – that means you, Linux users.
Also, if someone tells you to delete system 32 – don’t do it.