The other night I was Skyping with my husband as he sat in Kabul and I sat back at home in Bangkok (did I mention, we moved? Yep…hello Bangkok). I was telling him about a book that just arrived in the mail…a book called ‘Oh Baby! Birth, Babies and Motherhood, uncensored‘ (ah, did I also mention, I’m 16 weeks pregnant?! Yahoo! Yup, I’ll be the one looking like a beached whale on exam day…replete with snacks and special dispensation to have more toilet breaks than all the rest of you non-pregnant suckers, muahaha!)…and I leaned across the table to grab the book, knocking over my glass of water in the process.
Before I could even begin to correct the falling glass, our Skype conversation ended abruptly as my MacBook died an instant death. INSTANT! A more-than-mild panic set in…and I managed to call my husband back on another device (as we call them these days…) in order to let the upset bubble out of me and down the proverbial phone line. I couldn’t believe my stupidity. And as any Mac owner will soon learn in these circumstances, while Macs are brilliant machines that usually work without fault (I hadn’t had an issue in almost three years), one spill and all that beautiful Apple goodness is a goner. Indeed, I took the Mac into the authorised Apple service centre (Hurrah for life in Bangkok! At least I never spilt my drink on dear Mac in Pakistan!) and the prognosis was depressing. The guy at the service centre wouldn’t even give me a price for the repair – he simply said, “buy a new one…”
Why is all this relevant to you, fellow students at the University of London, the matters of my personal stupidity? Well, if nothing else, I made the mistake on all yous’ behalves in order that we can all remind ourselves of the importance of a few basic precautions in the lead up to exam season. So if any of yous turn up to the exam room, flustered and upset that yer life was turned upside down by a last minute technical FAIL and therefore you’re now dreading an educational FAIL, I’ll ain’t gunna have no ounce o’ sympathy for ya! This is yer warning…ignore it at yer peril!
a) drinks around technical stuff…quite simply, back to the bottle. Boring, but safe…and if you have any clumsy family members, try to make the study zone a no-go zone. (Generally I’m not the clumsy one…though, my husband did point out that while, within a similar timeframe, he might have a bundle of small moments of low-cost clumsiness, I tend to go for one, whopper expensive moment of clumsiness – i.e. spilling water on my Mac – I can’t fault him, and he’s enjoying all the ammunition this brings).
b) back up…fortunately, I was using both USB sticks and an external hard drive and I think I did my last backup about three weeks ago. Geeky as it sounds, I actually have a reminder in my phone to back up stuff every couple of weeks. An annoying little job but if I do it while making dinner or playing with the dog, before you know it, it’s done.
c) using cloud storage…even more than back up, I was saved by my cloud storage use. Of course, studying online already has the advantage that almost all the materials can be re-downloaded anytime…but I also maintained most of my own notes on Google Drive, and a handful of (easily re-printable) hard copy notes. Practically nothing was actually saved on my computer.
d) bookmarks…what I didn’t think about was the bookmarks in my browser, of which I had quite a collection pointing to various articles of great interest that I had wanted to keep handy for later on in my studies, or helpful websites that had been mentioned here or there. I guess a simply spreadsheet in Google Drive might be a smarter option there…
e) a back up computer…we also have a 6 year old MacBook beast from my husband’s single days (see, I told you Macs are really quite incredible. Find me a PC that has lasted that long without fault?! Cost-benefit analysis is clear…no, Apple is not paying me to write this). It was messy…reflecting his tendency not to sort through piles, whether they be electronic or physical…but within an hour I had it cleaned up (cathartic, at that) and was pretty much back on track. At first I thought, “Oh we can just manage with this laptop…” but found that it’s so old (ha!) that I can’t even watch the Collaborate sessions…and, we realised that if it kicked the bucket right before exams, then I’d really be in a pickle. Better to let it rest as a back up and get on with replacing my MacBook.
So…*steps off her soapbox*…go on, put aside a few moments to take the extra precautions to protect yerselves from a pile of pre-exam misery, which may strike due to your own carelessness or simply bad luck if you device decides to pack a sad (which, I’ll do a sweepstake, it’ll be a PC…Macs simply don’t pack a sad. Hurrah for Macs. I love Macs.).
That is all. Anyone got any other good suggestions?
Lucy is studying the MSc Public Health by distance learning in Bangkok, Thailand. She is originally from New Zealand.
You should try Mendeley for the bookmarks.