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Make Regular Backups

On Thursday, Vickie and I went into Hornsby to see The Lord of the Rings and do some post-Christmas shopping. The Lord of the Rings was great, by the way. This is from the perspective of someone who's not read any of the novels (except The Hobbit). The movie was most enjoyable, all the way through its three hours in length. I know there are several nits that can be picked - Dad owns the BBC radio play that was made about twenty or so years ago, and from that I know there are some things that simply didn't turn up in the movie - but it was still a worthwhile and well-executed production. Kudos to all involved, and boy am I hanging out for the next two!

Anyway, before going to see said movie, we did a little shopping in the Electronics Boutique. We wound up spending about $40 on two games: Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance and Age of Empires. Let me just say X-Wing Alliance is heaps of fun, especially on my 1.2 GHz Athlon. Vickie is a fan of AOE from a while ago, so I bought her a DVD-case copy. I doubt she'll get around to it for a while - the copy of Black & White I borrowed from Cameron so Vickie can train a Tiger has sat unplayed on her desk for weeks, and now that Vickie has quit smoking, she's found a replacement addiction - Bejewelled.

Back to the point - One thing I noticed about XWA is its unfortunate tendency, even on my Athlon (with 256MB PC2100 RAM and a GeForce 3 card with 64MB onboard RAM), to drop frames like crazy at times (usually when looking at a large base for the first time). Admittedly, I was running it on 1280x1024 resolution, but when I dropped to lower resolutions the problem didn't go away.

I remembered reading about an OS optimiser for games, GameOS, on the Penny Arcade website, so last night I tracked it down and downloaded a beta to try it out. It generated errors whenever I tried it, even after restarting, so, as I had simply copied the files to the hard drive from the zip package it came in, I deleted them and thought nothing more of it until trying to organise a multiplayer session of XWA with Cameron. I'd just double-clicked on the game's desktop icon when the PC restarted itself. It seemed to reboot fine, though, but when Windows 2000's shell booted, the only items that appeared were the mouse pointer and the wallpaper. No desktop icons, no taskbar (even when I hit the Windows button on my keyboard) and, thus, seemingly no way to access my computer. Hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL brought up the Windows Security dialogue box, as it should, but I couldn't do more form there bar restarting again and again and again (to no avail).

In the end, after trying several things until about ten PM, I decided the only thing I could do was reformat my HDD and reinstall everything. Thankfully, my network shares were still working, so I was able to recover all my downloads and documents. Everything else, though - Internet bookmarks, ICQ contact lists and save-games - was gone.

My PC is now up and running again, after a lengthy re-install and rebuild last night and this morning. A few system problems from argumentative software on my previous install don't exist any more, thankfully. I haven't tried playing any games again yet; we have some cleaning up to do at home and I need to write some more.

Unfortunately, the rebuild has caused some problems on the gaming front; namely, the loss of all my save-games. This is one of the main reasons why I usually don't complete a game - I make progress, then something elsewhere on my system futzes up (or I futz it up), or I upgrade the system, and I need to rebuild, losing all the saves in the process.

This royal pain would have been avoided if I'd performed the regular backup to CD-R a few days ago as I should have done. It's been over a month since by last backup - which, now, seems to have been screwed anyway, so in effect, I've lost two months worth of backing up. Lesson number Two - always verify your backups after they've been made. This means I'll have to start several games again from scratch: XWA (not so bad, as I'd only just joined the Rebellion), Homeworld (another game I've never finished) and Black & White (on which I've only ever got as far as Land Two - and believe me, despite the fact that the game is brilliant, Villagers moaning "Must build homes!" gets boring VERY quickly, not to mention spanking my monke - er, ape, and starting again seems like a positive CHORE).

Ladies and gentlemen, make regular backups, especially if you're a gamer.

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