Brenda K’s experience making the switch from PC to Mac in another attempt to simplify her work.  

Listen while you read to “Liar” from The Panache Orchestra’s original EP we recorded in Tokyo when we first began working together in early 1998:

(Ok, I give up!  I’ll quit trying to get all fancy-schamcy with my expensive  new super-cool SoundCloud player for which the”Share in WordPress” code won’t transfer right, and do it the usual way…arrrgh!)

Awww, what the hell…Let’s bring back “So Annoying” (a 2010 track) too:

Welcome home, my new baby!

ca. June 5, 2010 or so:

I heard at an arts symposium we performed at on 19 June 2010 that ever since the early ’90’s, practically everyone in the tertiary education system has had a computer in their home.  Not I.  I was somewhat computer literate, having used computers at work and at school ever since college, but didn’t acquire my first “own” computer until I was in my mid-30’s working a consulting job in Tokyo, Japan, and that one didn’t last too long for a variety of reasons that are hard to explain.  I didn’t get another one that was really “mine” until the late 00’s after we moved to L.A.  Honestly, I just don’t know how I can give perspective on this appalling situation without going into an epic account of life history that runs the gamut from extreme avant garde to extremely cloistered, so I won’t even attempt to here (I’ll eventually get around to finishing and publishing “The Degradation Essays” for readers with that order of morbid curiosity).  Fast forward through a lot of truly gory details to the present.

My trusty (but cranky) old HP Pavilion recently started making noises suggesting that it is on its last legs, and my IT specialist friend confirmed that 4 years is about the average life expectancy for the hard drives in those machines, so it was time to seriously think about getting in front of another tragic hard disk failure and massive data loss.  After consulting the same friend and another one about potential candidates for replacement, Chi and I decided on a Mac Mini, and after setting an appointment with a personal shopper, off we went to the Apple Store in The Grove.

We came home with a beautiful brand-new Mac Mini with the Snow Leopard server and a 1TB hard drive on which I had grand aspirations of setting up a VPN I could access from anywhere and do all sorts of cool things with.  I reluctantly placed the Apple bag filled with delightful new toys in my home office safely out of reach of the Panache Cats, with a resolution not to open it until I had finished 2009 taxes since I knew perfectly well that as soon as that box got opened, nothing else would get done until I had the whole system up and running and in a condition that I could work with.  Interestingly enough, Chi found an ad in the Japanese classifieds from someone selling an older Mac Mini the same day we bought the new one, so we bought that one too.

Finally I sent the tax stuff to our tax guy to work into the form and file, and reconfigured my desk to accommodate the new toy.

Got it done!

It was so little and cute!  (OK, time to fess up that this was one of those rare occasions when I allowed myself to get all girly)

Awwwww!!

And it came in this cute little box with all these cute little books to read, so given my pathological tendency to research everything into oblivion prior to executing it, I held off from even so much as taking the exquisitely neatly arranged plastic off the beautiful, pristine white AC adapter until I felt satisfied that I had a sufficient grip on everything I needed to know in order to avoid creating yet another set-up cluster-f**k by agreeing to the default settings for everything with no idea whatsoever of what I was defaulting myself into.

Pink helping me get acquainted with the new Mac

The first big holdup was caused by the wild wire chase.  It took a crazy amount of time and trips back and forth to various office and electronic supply places buying and returning stuff for me to finally figure out what sort of firewire cable ends my array of equipment could accommodate, and it turns out that a 9-pin Firewire is quite an exotic item.

9-pin to 6-pin 800-400 IEEE 1394 firewire cable

The nice people on the 123 Mac Mini online forum helped get me through the tangle of wires.

Brenda K + technology =

That segued into an identity crisis for the outboard drive we acquired when recording the “10 Strings” album that has been resting peacefully atop the stack of outboard devices piled on top of my PC tower ever since, and our masters are presumably still locked safely inside!  [A gory detail worth mentioning, if only as a cautionary tail (yes, pun intended for sure): my “main” outboard drive met with an untimely death, taking a lot of important data with it, including the master file for our demo video(!), when the Panache Cats knocked it down off the tower onto the floor.]

Wires and things all tidy (well, sort of!) and identified with these cute little color-coded lollipop-y thingies!

Neatness again eludes me, but at least they’re identified!

Next came a gymkhana of hoops to jump through in order to assemble an array of peripherals that would work with the new machine(s) since a couple different TS1 to USB adapters I tried for the keyboard and mouse that came with the HP didn’t work on the Mac.  Chi had found a Dell monitor in the Japanese classifieds, but I couldn’t get it to work.  I confirmed its non-working status by taking it all the way over to the Apple Store in Pasadena to have the Genius Bar folks have a go at it, to no avail.

Fail!

The display from my HP did work though once I got suitable cabling and adapters in place, although it was rather cumbersome having to share it between three different computers.

Cables, Adapters and Wires – oh, my!

Finally I felt confident enough that I had everything sufficiently in place to be able to switch the new Mac on, and called the Apple Guys (we had pre-emptively bought the Apple Care user support program) to walk me through the set-up process.  We were at the end of June by this point.

The first setup

Well, it became clear early in the conversation that I had vastly underestimated what I had just taken on with the server, and in fact my computer friend had insinuated as much, but being the nice person he is, didn’t want to pop my bubble or insult my competence and tell me straight out that I was in way over my head.  The Apple Guys were equally nice about it, and assured me that I had done nothing wrong, and that in fact many people make the same mistake in buying the server model when they would be far better served with a regular one.

That exchange triggered a flashback to an especially wretched period in my life when Chi and I first moved to San Diego from Tokyo and I got stuck for nine horrifyingly miserable months in the most heinous, shit-ass day job of all time (that ironically looked on paper like a match made in heaven a la “The Devil Wears Prada”, and I just might someday get around to writing a blog about this) in which  I ended up working in a never-clearly-identified capacity for a seriously mentally screwed up Nazi breeder trash narcissist micro-business owner who knew absolutely fuck-all about computers, yet had this ludicrously over-the-top convoluted network that looked as if it had been set up to run the government of a small country, and what an absolute cluster-fuck that was.  He routinely had to call his IT consultant on a thrice-daily basis for them to send someone out to un-fuck it.  That solidified in my mind the hazards inherent in dealing with a server-based computer network when you are not technically qualified for the job, and grudgingly admitted that there was nothing else to do but return to the Apple Store and scale back.

Sooooooooooooooooooo, I sheepishly went and out told Chi that I had overestimated my competence and we had to go take it back.  (The why and wherefore of Chi’s involvement in this operation is just way too complicated to explain here – refer to the opening paragraph.)

Anyhoo, there were some tears and separation anxiety as I reluctantly relinquished my beautiful brand-new toy that I hadn’t even switched on yet to the Apple Store and left empty-handed, feeling lonely and bereft, as I had gotten quite attached to that machine.  But we went home and I promptly got online to order the “regular” version (i.e., sans server), and then my spirits sank again when I found out that it would take another week for it to get here since apparently even when ordering online it’s a custom job to cram in all the extra RAM and enlarged hard drive that I wanted.  I kept thinking, did I make the right decision??  After all, it would certainly come in handy to have one more economically viable portable career under my belt since I could always get a job as a server/network administrator in any god-abandoned hell-hole we might end up marooned in.  I do nonetheless appreciate how nice the Apple guys were (and also my best guy-friend who is an IT consultant that I called for a second opinion) in getting me to understand what I would realistically be up against in taking that on.

Ok, I’ll come clean and admit that I dithered for 30 minutes or so over the possibility of not getting the new Mac mini and instead getting a Powerbook Pro since we’re planning on doing some live streaming, and we’re going to need a functional laptop for that.  Chi has a relatively new laptop (not quite 2 years old), but it works in Japanese, which is a total nightmare for me to deal with (for the record, speaking the language and reading computer gibberish in it are two separate and distinct skills.  I have quite enough trouble comprehending geek speak in English!).  After a little more research about live streaming and figuring out how to find out what’s under the bonnet in a PC running Windows XP, I realized that even the meager 2 GB of RAM on my elderly desktop is more than sufficient to support a video stream, and that our problem is going to be bandwidth.  I don’t know what to do about that since I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ve got the “last mile” issue in terms of connectivity to the internet backbone fiber cable for downtown L.A. from the impoverished ghetto-hood we live in on the fringe of it.

Well, needless to say, I got excited again about rigging up the other “new” Mac so I could get familiar with it and start fumbling my way thru building our network with existing equipment (2 working PCs in various stages of decrepitude & a relatively old Mac, the Mystery Drive, an ageing Canon all-in-one printer and a second-hand Belkin wireless router) now that I no longer had to worry about slogging through a multi-year learning curve for the care and feeding of servers.  As it happened, the second “wrong” firewire I bought ended up being “right”!  It turned out to be just what I needed to connect the older Mac to the mystery drive so I could finally see the master files of the “10 Strings” album!!  I began tentatively fiddling with it, and then the new Mac Mini finally arrived just after 4th of July weekend, and Chi hijacked the following weekend to get a bunch of guitars fixed, so I wasn’t able to make much progress.

An exceptionally hellish week finally reached its end with Chi calling from the hospital on Saturday morning (see this post), and after a reasonably pleasant chat, he starting dictating at me what he thought I ought to be doing that day, which needless to say infuriated me.  Upon hanging up, I resolved not to let him ruin my day when he wasn’t even here, and checked my bank account again.  WOOHOO!!!  Tax refund arrived sometime Friday afternoon!!!  Day saved!!!!  Since part of Chi’s laundry list of things he wanted me to do was get the new Mac up and running, I decided that was a fantastic idea after all, and tabling the cleaning operation I had been grudgingly gearing up to do instead, made an executive decision to use most of the refund to buy the Mac Time Capsule wireless network router/backup drive that both my boss at my day job and my IT pro friend had strongly recommended.  SSSSHHHHH!!!  THIS IS TOP SECRET since I did not let Chi in on this course of action because I didn’t want to have to spend the next three weeks fighting with him over it and then have him throw that up at me every time he started going hysterical about money, which he does quite often.  I didn’t even dither over other potential uses for those funds, such as getting the household bills caught up or getting my hair done, so off I sped on trusty Sparky from Chinatown to the Apple Store at The Grove in West Hollywood, made the illicit pickup (they have a nice, user-friendly approach to motorcycle parking, unlike my day job!), and came screaming back down 3rd St. with the new Mac Time Capsule hanging on my back for dear life.  I had 100% confidence that Chi would call sometime within that hour even though he said he thought he wouldn’t be allowed to go home until later that afternoon, so I didn’t stop to fill up even though the needle on the gas gauge was falling well below the “E”.  I did get hung up in a SNAFU with 3rd street getting all gnarled up heading back into downtown, which cost a precious 10 minutes and cooked my goose.

Beet red in the face from the hot, fast ride and the dastardly deed I had just committed, I screeched up the driveway, dismounted and began peeling off all the motorcycle gear, hoping the secret new toy hadn’t melted in the heat on the way home.  I trepidaciously reached into my pocket to consult my Blackberry and check the time, and sure enough…SHIT!!!!!  two missed calls!!  I groped frantically for an alibi that would have taken about an hour and came up with a plausible one – I had to run over to Office Depot to get another ethernet cable for the network (he wouldn’t have any clue what that is, and it would indicate that I am indeed working on the Mac setup as he wanted), and that I’d forgot to turn the BB ringer back on after the ballet last night, so that’s why I missed both the calls to the house phone and the berry.  What happened next deserves to be documented, but is beyond the scope of this post.

the super-secret new toy!

Finally on Sunday 18 July, I got around to having a serious go at getting the new system up and running, by which point a thin film of dust and cat hair had built up on top of the plastic film still protectively wrapped around the new Mac Mini.  Getting the Time Machine brought me the remaining way through the last mile and down to the last inch, which is getting a USB hub so I can plug both the printer and the Mystery Drive into it.  The USB hub ended up being another failure and return trip to Office Depot since Mystery Drive apparently doesn’t play nice with USB despite the presence of a USB 2 port on the back(!).  This time I traded the hub in for something I could certainly use: printer ink.  However unfortunately the overage on the price point dropped my bank balance critically low, resulting in a few days of white-knuckle stress trying to make up the shortfall so I could pay the rent.

Are we quite sure there’s enough alcohol on hand for this operation??

After all that, I finally got everything more or less wired together and functioning, and Chi found another Dell display in the Japanese classifieds – we brought one of the Macs along to make absolutely sure that it worked this time, and as of this most recent reconfiguration, my desk now looks like a landing pad for a bunch of flying saucers with apples on them.

That’s about right!

There are still a few issues to iron out, but I can get work done now and am enjoying getting to know my new Mac, and looking forward to putting it through its paces as we record our new album and shoot some new videos!

Having a go with video and the new (working) monitor

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