Thursday, October 18, 2012

LOCKED OUT! Of my MacBookPro

One of the (many) negative ways in which movies condition us is to assume that all events, good or bad, will be heralded by some kind of audio cue. As a result, when one of us -- okay, let's just be brazen and say "I" -- when I sat down last week at my computer and began what I thought was going to be a simple exercise in changing the User on my machine, there was no Jaws-style jing-jang-jing-jang to warn me of impending DOOOOOOM ...

So yes. I got locked out of my computer. I thought I was changing the User, but instead it turned out I was stepping off the gangplank of my familiar Universe and straight into the Ocean of Otherness that awaits those who mess around with their log-in codes in an ignorant and witless manner.

One of the downsides -- perhaps the only one? -- of owning a Mac is that it confers upon the User a confidence in its perfection such that we forget the Blue Screen Of Death and other nightmares associated with the Other System. It has a welcome screen into which the User enters her name and password. Misspelling either of these results in the little onscreen rectangle giving itself a three-second brrrrrr, a tiny death-rattle jiggle to inform you that you've messed up.

Having created a new log-in name, I logged out of my familiar ID and then ... you know what's going to happen, right? ... I tried to log back in, the welcome screen went into its death-rattle mode and NEVER CAME OUT OF IT.

This is where it would have helped to have the scary music. Lacking it, I just sat there, very calm, very composed and told myself it was nothing. Just a CAPS LOCK issue. Just a misspelt log-in name. Just a misspelt password issue. But after running through the usual series of maneuvers, turning off, turning on, turning of and on, making coffee, turning on and off and on and off, I realized eventually that this time I was really and truly locked out. Six years worth of saved work, dozens of half-written stories, plus one very-close-to-being-finished book had all, potentially, vanished into oblivion.

I am a very calm person. Let me explain why this is not really a good thing. It means not merely that I don't get frantic and hysterical when things go wrong but that I dislike feeling upset to such a degree that I simply refuse to react at all, regardless of what's happening. The worse the situation, the less panicked I get. With the result that, during (say) an all-out Martian attack, instead of leaping up to fly suicide missions deep into the heart of the mothership, I would become dreamy with detachment, completely unable to respond to the threat. 'Who needs the Earth?' I would say. 'We're headed towards eco-disaster anyway.'

This is pretty much what happened last week. While being too becalmed to tie my own shoe-laces, I and my house partner E went on-line, found web-forums at which dozens of users moaned about this exact same (or anyway, very similar-sounding) situation. We read up the instructions and spent much of the day following the moves described by various web pundits. The result was: death-rattle, death-rattle, death-rattle.

By evening, I was looking up the price of a new machine. 'I'll get a MacBook Air,' I told myself. 'That will cure me of any residual sorrows related to losing access to pretty much three-quarters of my conscious mind.'

I'm not going to describe the entire two-day ordeal of getting back in -- YES, that happened --  because it's boring to read the thoughts of someone who can no longer think. The main purpose behind writing this account is to heap praises upon the Apple Care tech team in Bangalore (the City Now Known As Bengaluru). E called them on the morning of the second day and spent about ten hours, working through three different people and dozens of interrupted phone calls (the cellphone service broke down in mid-instruction) before magically returning my computer to its own true desktop, sans death-rattle. Everything was back to normal, as if the entire experience had been a simple nightmare after all.

Two people in particular, Catherine (don't know if this is the correct spelling) and Deepak Kumar Singh talked E through the process of interrupting the MacBook's start-up in order to locate the "black screen" where the codes reside. Once there, E had to pick his way carefully through the neat rows of letters and numbers, lines, colons, slashes, commas, full-stops and all the other paraphernalia that is the supporting superstructure to this virtual world that so many of us take for granted and changed the System Log-in password. All over the phone, via verbal instructions.

Basically, there were two options: to get behind the barriers set up on the machine, download the user-content to an external disk, then erase the memory and start afresh OR to change the password. This second option was of course far superior but involved following instructions for inputing data very precisely. E was a superhero and did that, but Deepak Singh was even more of a superhero, for being able to do the whole thing remotely, without access to our screen.

The moral of this story is: Call Apple Care in Bangalore. They really know their stuff.

And also: whenever possible, run out and buy a MacBook Air.

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