Plan ahead when switching computers

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Anticipate problems when switching computers
When I was a kid, my dad purchased a new car every two years, always an Oldsmobile and always the auto that our family doctor was trading in on a new model.
I was reminded of that the other day when I got my new laptop. As a pseudo techno-geek, I have the enviable position of working for an early-adapter super techno-geek. That not only allows me to see and play with the latest and greatest technology, it also means that I get the chance to purchase the hand-me-downs.
The hand-me-down that was the latest object of my desire is a 150mhz MMX, 32mb, active screen, 10 spin CD-ROM, laptop.
I was somewhat comforted in taking on this used machine knowing that buying used enabled me to obtain more horsepower and a much nicer interior than I would have been able to afford if I had purchased new.
Like any recently purchased used auto, or computer, there were a few minor maintenance issues to be resolved before I could go zooming down the information highway. In my case, it was a Lithium Ion battery that brought me to my knees and made me realize how much of my life is now contained on a computer hard drive.
The machine worked fine as a computer, but as a laptop it was worthless. My battery would not take a charge.
Prior to purchasing my first laptop I was a hardcore desktop user. I believed that the screen real estate that one had to sacrifice in order to be mobile was not worth the convenience. Also, at the time laptops were not as powerful as the current state of the art.
The greatest challenge I had with this belief was that as I like to work at home as well as the office, the desktop solution was less than efficient. While I could copy documents onto a floppy or some other removable media to stay mobile I still always seemed to have left the document I most needed on the machine in the location other than the one where I had to do the computing.
A power-user friend of mine convinced me that switching to a laptop would solve my problems. He also said that once I switched to a laptop I would never want to go back to a desktop. I have found that to be true, as I cannot think of a reason why I would ever want to once again own a desktop computer. Except maybe that my aforementioned battery was not charging, thank goodness I had planned my move in advance.
If you have not changed computers for a while, let me tell you that it takes some careful planning before upgrading. If you have any meaningful interaction with a CPU – in other words, if you are doing any more than the most basic data entry – you have to think carefully about what you are about before your impending move.
Document management pays great dividends in these situations. I keep all my documents in the Windows 95 folder called “My Documents.” I never save a document to the root of “C.” This greatly narrows down my searches for mistitled docs as I at least know they are in the “my document” folder on one of the sub folders I have created in My Documents.
When I was preparing my move to the new machine I all I had to do was copy the “My Documents” folder onto Zip disks and transfer them onto my new machine.
It is the small utilities and helper applications that can be the wild card. For example, I have quite an extensive collection of well organized URL bookmarks inside my browser which I needed to move as well as a couple of older shareware applications which I would be lost without.
Don’t forget to search around the data files for your scheduling and e-mail applications. Most current applications will not allow you to simply transfer the application from one system to another, you must use the installation program to properly set up the application.
If you have used the application for some time, there may be some historical or back-up data files which you may need in the future, so think carefully about all the applications you most frequently use.
I tend to customize the menus in the office applications I use most frequently. It is amazing how accustomed one becomes in the appearance of one’s screen and how difficult is to recall were one went to perform the original customization.
Those are the most basic planning procedures one must go through when contemplating a move to a new system. The Nick Card rule of thumb states that when migrating to a new computer, expect a 30-day lag in optimum operator performance while the user tweaks the applications.
I was without my primary machine for about a week. Being homeless in cyberspace is not fun. I practically live in e-mail and my electronic calendar is my guidepost. I had to plan my day around using “vacant” PCs while their primary users were out of the office.
Luckily, being a techno-geek helped as I keep my contacts and calendar on a Pilot. I had the contacts I needed. The biggest challenge turned out to be making sure my Palmtop and my desktop schedules stayed in sync as I could not use the auto sync function with out my laptop.
So the moral of the story is three-fold: First, before migrating to a new machine plan carefully to make sure you get all the documents and data files you need to get your job done. Second, make sure that even if you are not contemplating a move that you back up your data files, you never know. And third, try to work for a techno-geek, like Paul Simon said “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”
Nick Card is a pseudonym for an employee of Allied Computer Group in Milwaukee. Nick can be contacted via e-mail at
May 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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