Zoe FitzGerald Carter

Zoe FitzGerald Carter
March 27
I'm a journalist whose first book, Imperfect Endings (Simon & Schuster) was published last year. It's about my mother's decision to end her life after living with Parkinson's for many years and the struggle my two older sisters and I had coming to terms with that choice. The book was excerpted in O magazine and was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. Paula Span in the The New York Times, said "I could quote from this book all day." People magazine said, "Carter coaxes beauty from the bleak." And The Boston Globe called it "an engaging and insightful tale of familial love, understanding, and forgiveness, shot through with a surprising amount of wit." I currently live in Northern Cal with my husband and two daughters. I am available to talk to bookgroups by phone or Skype or -- if they are in the Greater Bay Area -- by person. You can read more about my book or contact me through my website: imperfectendings.com


APRIL 21, 2011 3:42PM

When The Apple Turns: A Mac User's Tale of Woe

Rate: 5 Flag

After years of trusty service and almost no repair issues, my beloved ibook finally gave up the ghost – the hinge between keyboard and screen had actually self-destructed from overuse  – and so, with great excitement, I bought a sleek, sexy new 15-inch MacBook Pro.

I figured that the MacBook Pro, like the ibook, would be my trusted companion for years to come. We would troll the net, write fabulous books and articles, make new Facebook friends, and rock out to itunes together. And despite the threat from rogue viruses and unsecured networks, I was confident that my powerful new computer would stand guard over my vast kingdom of photos and songs, my stories and ideas, like a loyal and brave sentinel. I felt giddy at the thought of our beautiful future together, basking in the anticipation of unlimited possibility.

Basically, it was like falling in love with someone new after years spent in a boring, if stable, relationship. 

Sadly, the honeymoon didn't last. Exactly a year after it came into my life, my handsome new machine began sending me cryptic signs that all was not well. First there was the inexplicable gray screen that appeared when I booted up at my sister’s house in rural Vermont in early March. (I would later learn that Macbook Pro users refer to this as “The Gray Screen of Death,” but at the time, I was still operating on the assumption that, unlike users of PCs who always seemed to have viruses and system crashes, I was safe. I had a Mac! A new, super cool, powerful Mac!)

I chalked it up to being on a “foreign” network in a remote location and, indeed, the gray wall disappeared when I got home. All continued uneventfully for the next three weeks although, in retrospect, the telltale signs were there: the strangely long intervals to boot up, the spinning color wheel while waiting for a new page to upload, but still, nothing to unduly alarm me. And so I went about my business, which happened to include getting struck by one of those rare lightening flashes of inspiration which rapidly developed into an idea for a new novel. Excitedly, I tore through a rough draft of the first chapter and stayed up late outlining the rest of the book.

Three weeks later, my daughter Mira and I boarded a plane for the East Coast and I decided to take advantage of the onboard wifi. But as soon as I got myself signed in and began working, things got strange: the color wheel kept interrupting my writing, applications kept quitting, and the whole machine seemed to be sputtering and limping. Baffled, I turned it off, but once again assumed it was a network issue. Or, who knows – maybe it was sunspots. People weren't meant to send emails from 30,000 feet in the air anyway, I thought, as I settled comfortably back to watch a movie.

At this point, you’d think my blind faith in my new computer would have wavered just a little. At least enough to start worrying about the fact that I hadn’t backed it up for the previous six weeks. But no, I had a BRAND NEW MACBOOK PRO. I was untouchable.

I didn’t give it another thought until I booted up at our hotel and there it was: The Gray Screen of Death!

Okay, everyone knows where this is going so I’ll cut to the chase. After countless hours on the phone with Applecare trying various key combos to somehow cajole my machine into fixing itself, and then more hours with the so-called geniuses at the Genius Bar back in California, the diagnosis was not good. The hard drive on my gorgeous one-year-old Mac was shot and – sorry -- they could not recover any of my data.  The only thing they could offer me was a new hard drive. Fortunately, I had Mozy, which backs everything up wirelessly as you create it. Oh, except – oops, Mozy inexplicably stopped backing up my data on March 14th,, three weeks before my fateful plane ride.

Still, I consider myself lucky: all my operating systems and most of my data were on my external drive and I was able to recover at least a few additional weeks of work from Mozy.

But my faith in Mac?  Gone forever. Along with that fabulous first chapter...

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I'm sorry that you lost an entire chapter of a book!

We had a break-in at our house in February, and all three of our iMacs were stolen. We replaced two of them, and only a few weeks later, I kept getting that pinwheel. After calls to MacAuthority, it was determined that my hard drive was probably shot, so we took it in for service. That was two weeks ago, and still no computer. I'm pouting.
Oh, I feel your pain, Jeanette! Theft AND the MacAuthority. Not to mention the broken hard drive. What I really wonder is, since when did it become okay for hard drives to fail on brand-new $2,000 computers???
It doesn't matter which platform or OS you use, hard drives will fail. All hard drives are designed around a MTBF. It's a bit daunting to find out that means Mean Time Before Failure. You would have had better luck with a solid state drive since there are no moving parts on those drives, but the trade off is that the drives are a bit smaller and exponentially more expensive that spinning disk drives. The costs will come down in time and the typical disk drive will go the way of the floppy disc. And really, the future will be more cloud than anything else relegating local drives obsolete except for back up.

All in all, Macs generally have much much fewer problems than win boxes...you could ditch your Mac and go for a series of Dells for instance.

My photo database, much of what I do for a living, is about 1TB in size. I have about 20TB of local storage space here, both internal and external here, with four copies of the photo database that are religiously backed up. But even the best plans fail at times and I lost a project because of inattention. (The only images of a recent trip to New Orleans are the ones that I've posted in a blog here on OS and their connected Flickr reference files.) The 20TB are a combination of SSDs and spinning disks and one copy of my database is located off site. Also I have two cloud backup solutions, me.com for documents and CrashPlan in Europe for the photo database.

It requires attention, and a local and probably cloud based backup plan, but there isn't any reason to not have your data secured with a simpler plan that what I use. Hard drives will fail. Even SSDs aren't forever.

Back up (repeat ad infinitum). Hard drives will fail.

Best of luck for minimal problems in the future.

Thanks for the good wishes, bbd, and all the interesting info. (Who knew about MTBF?)
I can't tell you how many time the Mac geniuses said, "Your hard will fail, it's just a matter of when."
I still maintain they shouldn't fail a year into their lifespan...
Thank you for making me feel happy with my plain old PC instead of coveting the beautiful Mac Book! I do feel your pain... my iPhone-- the only Apple product I've ever bought-- gray screened on me almost exactly one year after I got it. And replacing an iPhone while still under contract with ATT makes me realize how a junkie feels when realizing only the first dose was free...

Maybe your first chapter will turn out to be just a rough draft that will come out better when you re-write it. Right?
Computers bad!! Notebook and pen, better!! ;D

We've all been there. My hard drive suddenly died in my 4 year old Macbook, and I hadn't backed up for weeks so lost some writing, too. BBD is right - all hard drives fail. We Apple fans just don't want to believe that.

And about losing that chapter, you do know about Hemingway's wife losing a suitcase containing the first versions of all his early short stories, don't you? (When he was still a struggling, unknown writer.) He had to write them all over again from memory, and said it was the best thing that ever happened to his writing, because they came out better the second time -- stripped down to their essence. And he learned a lot about the craft of writing from that.

And those are the short stories we know and revere him for.
OMG! As a fellow writer, this is a gut wrenching post! I wasn't on my computer when this first posted yesterday. I have emailed some of my work to myself. I think I will start emailing all of it!!!
Bummer.... >: ( but rated!
Ouch! Particularly that first chapter. To what computer do you now entrust your new book?