Saturday, 10 May 2008

Das Leben ist kein Wunschkonzert

This is my favourite German phrase at present. In the UK, a Wunschkonzert is normally a musical request programme, i.e. something along the lines of Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. In this context, the phrase means, "Life is anything but a picnic". And it's a phrase I've kept recalling to myself over the last few weeks.

Being freelance, but currently working part time until the end of June as a member of staff at a bank in Zurich three days a week, means that I'm commuting a lot at the moment. However, it also puts me in the happy position of not being overly obliged to work from home for other clients at least until July. With Euro 2008 taking up most of June in Basle, I definitely don't want to be stuck in my flat busting a gut over long weekends after having commuted to and from Zurich during the week. I did, however, make an exception on the final weekend in April, when I agreed to help out my former employer, bmp translations, at short notice. Given that the material I had to translate - a brochure about Basle - was interesting and would earn me an extra few bob, I set about working over the weekend on it. It literally took four days of sitting in front of the PC to knock up the translation, but I was more than satisfied with the end product when I emailed the text back to bmp late at night before commuting to Zurich the next day.

That afternoon in Zurich, Susan from bmp called me to say that the file I'd sent just contained funny symbols and assorted gobbledygook. She therefore asked me to resend the file when I got back that evening. No problem, I thought. Probably some gremlin which I could sort out when I returned home, and there was still time as the deadline wasn't until the next day anyway.

So, I got back home, switched the PC on, and... oh, what's that strange and loud noise it's making? I switched the PC off and tried to boot it up again. However, I was confronted with the following sinister-looking error message (a picture of which I thought I would keep for posterity):

Basically, the message gave me five options to choose from. I tried them all, but the PC simply wouldn't boot. All that would appear was a dark grey screen. A view into Windows oblivion, so to speak. I left the machine on overnight, but the same dark screen continued to stare at me when I switched the screen on the next morning.

Now, obviously, my nerves were a bit frayed at this point, and I'd hardly had any sleep when I woke up at around 5.30 the next morning. I'd been unable to resend my translation, plus the version of the translation I'd saved on to my external hard drive was only half-finished, since I'd forgotten to save the definitive version there. The only thing for it was to turn up at bmp's offices with the external hard drive first thing that morning and explain the situation. Of course, I apologised profusely. But to my relief, Susan took the news calmly and said it was just one of those things. She would have to translate the remainder of the brochure quickly that day and wrap up the job herself. I uploaded the unfinished version from the external hard drive, bid my farewells and rushed to Basel SBB to catch the train to Zurich, where I arrived an hour later than usual.

This drama cost me half of what I would have earned on the translation, and it was naturally frustrating that some of my work has gone to waste. However, my biggest worry was my PC. Given that I was working in Zurich and due to fly to the UK on 1 May, a public holiday, I wouldn't be able to do anything about the computer until I returned to Weil from the UK on the evening of 6 May. [To be continued..]


mdgb said...

Are you sure freelancing is for you if Windows merely not starting properly gives you the heebeegeebees? Sounds like the regular cloth-touching experience that a lot of friends have - my word of advice - have a DVD-based system copy which will fire up your machine in the event that the hard drive has a wobbly, and make regular backups.

Otherwise the other option (and one I recommend) is having multiple machines - one of which is used only in the event that your main desktop dies - ditto monitors etc. for the eventuality that your laptop screen dies at 3am and you have a 6am deadline!

Simon said...

Windows not starting properly doesn’t normally give me the ‘heebeegeebees’ but it did this time because I was powerless at that moment to do anything about it apart from visit my client the next morning. Lucky that my client is situated so close to home..

I have an external hard drive into which I make regular back-ups. But not as regularly as every few hours or so, and that was the reason why I didn’t have an up-to-date version of the translation. I’ll have to be more diligent in future.

I do have a DVD back-up which fires up the machine in emergency situations. However, starting the machine totally afresh like that wasn’t an option. I have since copied the entire contents of my computer on to the external hard drive, so using the DVD would theoretically be an option now.

I’m going to buy a new desktop soon, as well as a laptop, so that I have more than one system, like you say. I was going to buy a laptop earlier and was intending to have one by July when my new career as a freelancer finally starts proper.