Title

The Modern Experience of Computer Death

How a dead Macbook Air caused me to worry about a total dependence on Google Drive.

August 23, 2017
 
 
Today my laptop died.  
 
After 4 years of hard use, my beloved MacBook Air finally stopped working.  My computer did not expire in spectacular fashion.  No blank screen of death or smoke coming out of the vents.  Rather, the laptop has been acting wonky for a couple of months now.  Freezing up.  Quickly draining the battery.  Failing to pick up a WiFi signal.  Acting slow, sluggish, and unhappy.
 
In my working lifetime the experience of computer death has changed.  In the past a computer death was a traumatic event.  Files were never fully backed up.  Data was trapped on the hard drive. Applications lived only the machine.
 
When a computer died the best one could hope for was a couple of days of lost productivity as files and applications were restored.  More likely, a dead computer was a crisis of lost files and irretrievable data.  A bad day indeed.

Nowadays, a computer death is not that big a deal.  For many of us, our files and applications exist in the cloud.  My documents are almost all Google Drive Docs, Sheets, or Slides.  Files that that are not Google native, such as Office documents or PDFs or video files can also live in the cloud on Google Drive.  These files sync between your local hard drive and the cloud, ensuring that you have access from any browser - and you have a backup should your computer die.

Tonight I'm writing this blog post on my backup computer - a Dell Chromebook.  In the past I've flirted with moving totally to a Chromebook, as so much of my individual and collaborative work ids already in the Google ecosystem.  A dead MacBook Air will force me to spend some quality time with this Chromebook as I figure out my next computer move.

My sense is that the design and user experience of Mac laptops, the quality of the keyboard and screen as well as the experience of using OS X applications, is still superior to the Chromebook experience.  I've been so happy with my MacBook Air over these past 4 years that I've not closely followed what Apple has done in laptops.  Although I am concerned that Apple seems to be phasing out the Air in favor of the MacBook (which seems very small) and the MacBook Pro (which seems very expensive).

Perhaps I should take this opportunity to look at a Windows machine.  It has been years since I was a Windows user.  Maybe all the way back to Windows XP.  Would any of you like to advocate for the world of Windows 10?

When was the last time that you had a computer die?  Were your applications and files in the cloud, and did this make getting up and running as seamless as I think it will be for me?  Or did you find challenges in restoring your data and applications that surprised you - knocking your productivity off stride.

A dead computer seems like not that big of a deal.  But if Google Drive were to go down, then I'd be dead in the water.  I've grown so dependent on having all my data on Google, and all my applications as Google apps, that the loss of Google (even for a brief time) would be catastrophic.  My Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are certainly not backed up anywhere local.  Should they be?  Probably.

Have we replaced one vulnerable place of failure (our personal computers) with another critical vulnerability (the Google ecosystem)?

Is the feeling that we have that our digital work is more resilient and robust because it is cloud based an illusion?

What happened the last time your computer died?

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