Friday, May 22, 2020

Joining the 2020s

I last upgraded my computer in January 2010. It’s possible to nurse a Mac computer that long, even while using it every day, despite Apple’s ruthless jettisoning of hardware and software features that work perfectly well but don’t encourage people to shell out large sums on a schedule that suits the company’s bottom line.

Sir Percy’s iMac is even older, and although I haven’t started up the 2005 predecessor of today’s computer since his hard drive died and was replaced with an unformatted disk that required intensive forays into the wilds of target disk mode, software upgrades, and old manuals, the predecessor came through then at the venerable computer age of twelve.

I’ve been putting off the upgrade for several reasons. The hardware costs double what I’d pay for a cheap PC, but it lasts three to four times as long, so that seems like a fair trade even if gathering the necessary sum requires effort. The real deterrent has been the software, some of which has undergone “improvements” that in fact do not improve the user experience but degrade it. In particular, the move of several essential programs to an online subscription model led me not even to consider buying a new machine. What can I say? I’m a Scotswoman. The thought of being unable to access my own files unless I cough up $X a month feels like highway robbery to me.

All strong reasons to wait. Nevertheless, this month I took the plunge. I do, after all, depend on my computer not only for my job but for my hobby of choice (writing fiction). And as much as I still love my existing iMac, it has started to show the effects of age. Startup takes so long that I turn the machine on before I even eat breakfast, and the one time I needed help from tech support we had to give up midway on the restart in Safe Mode. The hard drive, which once seemed enormous, has become cramped enough that I routinely copy files to a backup disk and delete them from the main machine. And software upgrades, including security patches, lead to constant excitement as to whether the system will reboot. Features in various programs that appear either vital or useful come with disclaimers that they won’t run on my setup.

So when I got a better than expected royalty check for my nonfiction book, I decided it was time. If all goes well, a brand-new iMac will arrive at my house around the time this post goes up. Then the real fun begins. What can I transfer seamlessly? What must I jettison or replace? Will programs that do run on the new machine be less buggy there or more? Good thing we have a three-day weekend coming up.

So far, she typed with fingers crossed, the old computer does still boot, despite occasionally threatening to give me a heart attack because I’ve hit the power switch four times without result. So long as it does, I can shift the newer programs over and still (I hope) access the old ones in a pinch. But I remember the last time I did this, ten years ago, and I know from experience to expect a wild ride for a while. So wish me luck as I make the transition!

Image purchased by subscription from, no. 110337376.

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