Whatever can go wrong...

Working-from-home pilot fish arrives at his desk at 6 a.m. and, instead of seeing the new email he expects, he faces a laptop screen that says "Operating system could not be found."

"I spend several hours with the vendor's tech support and they conclude that I had a major disk error," says fish. "Good news: I am under warranty for that and they'll have someone here tomorrow to install a new disk. Bad news: I'm sitting on a time bomb -- and I have a deadline.

"On the fifth restart attempt, the system somehow takes and gets past that screen and I am, for the moment, functional."

Fish doesn't dare restart again for any reason. He figures he just has to power through the deadline as quickly as possible.

But the vendor tech says it's critical that fish do a full system backup immediately. Even if the system doesn't blow up today, he says, they'll be replacing the hard disk tomorrow, so an absolutely complete backup is essential.

The only external drive fish has that's big enough is his RAID array. Perfect -- except somehow Windows Backup can't seem to find it. After several tries (and failures), fish and the vendor tech agree that fish should pay for a different backup app that the vendor recommends for use with that RAID.

"That should permit a full backup," fish says. "Except that at the end of the install, the program insists on doing a restart. We halt it and are left with a dilemma: With the excellent chance that I'll never survive a restart, how do I do a full backup?"

Fish hangs up the phone, crosses his fingers, makes his deadline, then starts copying every file he can find to the RAID.

Next morning the laptop still hasn't crashed when fish gets a call from the repair tech to confirm the appointment, verify directions and make sure he's bringing the right parts.

Thirty minutes before the appointment, fish gets another call -- this time from the repair tech's dispatcher.

"The guy's had an accident," says fish. "Rear-ended. He's fine, but his car is smashed. And my parts? They were packed safely away -- in his trunk. As the oh-so-funny dispatcher said: 'The parts are still there. In fact, the parts are now in a lot more parts.'

"They're going to try again tomorrow."

Right now is always a good time to tell Sharky your story. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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