Technology headaches: changing the writing environment

As a writer with CFS brain fog, I need ABSOLUTE quiet to write. To the extent of needing physical means to block out all sound – I use industrial-strength noise protectors worn over earplugs. The neighbor’s gas-powered leaf blower. The lawn mowers. The TV. The BIRDS chirping.

So, when the Macbook 1,1 I’ve been babying for years (2006-present), bought to be Silent Running, first started spinning up the fans frequently, I did a brave thing:I doubled its RAM (to 2GB – max allowed, from 1GB), and installed a huge new internal HD (750GB), and the noise ceased for over a year. Myself. With special screwdrivers and YouTube videos and online Mac support forums. And very proud I was of myself.

[NOTE: If I EVER get this running properly on the new computer, I will dig out the photo I took of the new insides – must be a museum item by now. If I’m not up and running on the new computer, I can’t GET to the photos.]

I don’t know if it’s just older now, and starting to fail (a disaster of first magnitude), or some background programs (I know, I know – I cleaned it all out) are running, or what, but the fans started spinning up pretty much all the time, and even with the headgear, it was giving me a headache to have to write all the time that way.

So… I took the plunge, bought meself a refurbished Macbook Pro 13″, which arrived in less than 48 hours.

And I expected miracles. After all, we Mac people pay more for our equipment – it should work better and be supported better, right?

The moral:

IT IS NON-TRIVIAL TO CHANGE YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT. I can’t believe I’m not throwing things yet.

If you’re a writer, and your system works, DON’T.

File migration problems:

Wrong. I diligently followed instructions to migrate files from the old system to the new one. I’m an experienced computer and MAC user. It’s not that hard.

But apparently you’re supposed to do this every year – the incompatibilities are so massive in the systems (and hardware – but what would I know) – that the Migration Assistants on the different machines couldn’t even talk to each other. They hung. In cyberspace. Without even a progress bar or a spinning icon.

Can’t do via Ethernet, because the new one doesn’t HAVE Ethernet. Purely wireless.

Can’t seem to figure out how to do this via Dropbox (there goes my backup plan – have email in to support – waiting for reply – growing old).

Eldest son said to try File Sharing – which will require the old computer to be on for a length of time – yup, noise – but if that is the only way to do this, I will: set it up, pray the old one doesn’t melt, go away until files are transferred – unless I have to do it one at a time instead of by the folderfull.

I’m still trying. I’m sure I will figure out.

External monitor problems:

Meanwhile, connect the lovely 32″ Scepter LCD HDTV hubby gave me for Christmas and which was a beautiful display when connected to the Macbook 1,1 running OSX 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard?).

Connect HDMI to HDMI with a high-speed HDMI cable. Terrible: jagged fonts, erratic color, on a gray background black text has a white halo. And the one I haven’t been able to get rid of: the Menu bar starts at a medium gray over on the left (top of screen) and finishes as a light blue on the right. This is just not right. The Apple community discussions seem to imply software driver problems for driving a non-Apple external monitor.

Meanwhile, the brain is adjusting! Which isn’t good! I don’t want to stop seeing the problems – I want to FIX the problems.

I just want it as clear and crisp as the display was on the old Macbook under OSX 10.6.8. Is that so much to ask?

BTW, the retina display is awesome – on the laptop. Unfortunately, 60+ year-old eyes can’t read fonts that tiny! I hate wearing glasses when on the computer – again, headaches – and I didn’t have to before I switched laptops – which is why I loved my 32″ monitor on the Macbook.

Things that have worked well, so far:

Scrivener – re-downloaded. The license covers all Macs in my household that I use – wunderbar! No trouble downloading OR installing – except the Serial number is Case Sensitive and really cares if you type in ONE letter/number wrong. Sheesh – where’s their redundancy? Still don’t have my Scrivener files moved, but I don’t expect problems.

Mail – don’t have my files, and the account settings were a bear – but honestly, how often do you change these settings? I figured it out – mostly (still haven’t migrated my emails). I want to keep my mailbox structure and contents.

Firefox – download, PUT THE TABS BACK WHERE I LIKE THEM, no problems (still haven’t migrated my huge Bookmarks lists). Ditto: want to keep Bookmark structure.

Bellyaching? Not really – just saying…

I know I need to clean out my files. I may not have time to do that properly now – and I’ve lost even more writing time – but it’s kind of messy on the old computer. Sigh.

It takes time, computer savviness, willingness to dig in. Helpers on the internet. Advice from CS older son. Help on cables and monitors from DH (to say nothing of a hunt through the whole house to find the cables).

So that’s why there may be nothing interesting here (except this stuff, which is FASCINATING to ME, not so much to other people).

Feel free to share advice or horror stories.

2 thoughts on “Technology headaches: changing the writing environment

  1. Circe

    Funny–or is it just that misery loves company–that you should write about tech issues today. My poor old Dell faileth, and Firefox restores notwithstanding, nothing works. File migration is so above my level of competency that I gave the unused Lenovo to college-bound boy. File migration must occur, but this will have to be achieved with the assistance of a professional. And not until I have yet another new laptop.
    Silence is the single most important element to a writer’s progress. In this case a pilgrim writer’s progress. It’s a fairly close tie with sleep. I never have enough of either. Though we usually have birthday dinners at home, we wanted a little time with our birthday boy tonight, and went to Conte’s for pizza & beer tonight. The sounds of people speaking in a crowded restaurant, incredibly loud rock concerts, and less loud sporting events are all good because I am not brocading thought, just having experiences. When trying to work, mechanical noise and the sound of human speech are most disruptive to my thinking. A single leaf-blower, lawn-mower, refrigerator fan, or heaven forbid!!!, vacuum cleaner, is my undoing. The Bose noise cancelling ear phones aren’t. One of my jobs at home as an adolescent was to vacuum. I used to cry while I vacuumed, but didn’t mind then, and don’t now, getting down with a bucket & sponge to scrub floors or fixtures. It has taken me a long while to figure out that I am hypersensitive to noise. Your stories not only affirm that I am not alone, but that I need to keep taking action until I solve my problems. Thank you again!


    1. ABE Post author

      You’re welcome – and I hope you find a solution that works for you.

      Noise is the bane of my existence – and I have to have the old computer on, and its fans going constantly, to accomplish the file transfer. I have to set up each transfer and leave the room or put the headgear on.

      As long as the old Macbook holds on at least until I transfer the stuff – I don’t think it’s going to fail, but I feel bad for it. I wonder if I’ll ever figure out WHY it is running hot. Just old age – and that I understand.

      I agree with you: “Silence is the single most important element to a writer’s progress.” I haven’t written a word of fiction since the noise problem got really bad – I’ve been using a (silent) iPad as a text input device, and turning the Macbook on only long enough to print out new copies of things. It’s rather inefficient – but quiet.



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