Sunday, January 31, 2010


Problems come in bunches – or maybe they’re always there in the pantheon of problems and I recognize a “bunch” when it’s time to write this letter. This week I’ve gotten a number of calls where a user has “lost” some information on or in their computer. (Most modern operating systems and many recent program versions automatically install "send to PDF" [or some such term] as a printer available to all other programs. If you're offline, use this to "print" to a file which you can open and print when next you have paper and ink available.)

One user printed a valuable coupon off a website while he was offline. He knew from experience that he would get ink on paper when he reconnected to the printer later. Unfortunately, he printed to a non-existent printer installed on his computer. We can see the job sitting in the queue, but have to figure out how to redirect a document from one printer to another.

Another user depended on a browser to store all her critical websites and passwords. This included a stored-value site where she had a $40-$50 credit available. When a computer glitch corrupted the browser, she had no other record of her logon and the vendor could not (would not) recover her account. (see also

A user in a 2-person office called to say she had lost the shortcut to a shared folder off her desktop. I set this up several months ago and could not, off the top of my head, tell her exactly where that folder is. My best suggestion was for her to try and figure out the path from the shortcut still on the boss’ computer. Failing that, it would require a service call – tomorrow.

Another manager called (when I wasn’t at their office, natch) to say someone, sometime, had deleted a record from a database. Could I please recover that record from the backup – oh, and he needs it today. The company has a good backup system, but it’s managed by the corporate helpdesk. Restore requests will be processed in 3-5 days. Because at one time they were doing extensive, sloppy, maintenance on this database; I also create a daily backup on my local desktop. Except I can’t easily locate the record they need remotely.

The moral is Think before you do something permanent. If you don’t get immediate feedback from printing a document, be sure you save it so you can reprint later. If you’re going to delete something, go ahead and send it to the Recycle Bin. Storage is, generally, cheap and there’s no harm in waiting a couple months before actually deleting it. You can go to the Recycle Bin (or your mail client’s trash) and wholesale permanently delete older items some day while you’re waiting on hold. And if you're changing a database (or a complex document that functions as a database), template, or configuration; save a copy before you make extensive changes.

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