It wasn't so long ago that I reported the SD card slot failure on my Sony tablet (see Boxing Day on 26 December 2013), which created immediate backup problems neatly solved by placing my many documents and spreadsheets up in the Cloud (see Dropbox to the rescue! on 3 January 2014). Since then Dropbox has proved to be a major success story: any document or spreadsheet updates made on any one of my devices get synchronised perfectly with the others; backups from the Dropbox folder to the PC (and thence to a separate SD card) are very, very easy; and Dropbox is also a good channel for importing or exporting the odd file - more convenient than Bluetooth, I'd say, when using Wi-Fi at home.
That SD card slot failure on my Sony tablet shook my faith in it for a while, but faith returned. Now it has been tested once more.
I suppose I should expect this. I treat my Dell PC, Asus laptop, Samsung phone and Sony tablet like the crown jewels - but the tablet in particular has been very intensively used ever since purchase in April 2012. No gadget can take constant use forever without something eventually wearing out.
Anyway, two days ago my tablet suddenly switched itself off and would not start up again - it would get stuck on the booting-up screen. Naturally I tried all the usual methods for kicking it into life. Then I wondered whether the on/off switch was malfunctioning. But this seemed to be more of a software failure, as if all the fragmentary remains of apps tried and rejected, and files imported then deleted, and orphaned bits of code, had clogged the Sony's innards up too much so that it had rebelled, plaintively crying, 'I refuse to start up! Restore me to factory condition, and clean me out!'
I found out how to do a 'factory reset' on the Internet. It worked. But I was of course now minus all the apps that I had installed since April 2012. A bit of work there, to reinstall them and then set them up to my preferences. No money cost, but time to be spent. Grrr.
It wasn't all bad. I feared massive data deletion. Not data loss - it was all backed up elsewhere, but hours of inconvenience ahead while I got everything up and running as before. But of course all the apps that synched with my Google account - Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, for instance - had their data restored in a flash. Similarly with Dropbox: all my documents and spreadsheets instantly returned. I was however afraid that I'd lost a big special collection of personal photos (about 3,000 of them) and all of my downloaded Ordnance Survey maps - but not so. They were safe and sound in the tablet's internal memory, which hadn't been wiped.
In fact there were only two casualties of this 'factory reset' - the contents of two listing apps - one that handled what to pack on my caravan holidays; and one that showed past and future events, and how many days away those events were from the present time. Not a disaster to lose any of that.
But I now feel that the best days of my Sony tablet are over, and that these signs of mortality, or at least of feeling the strain, will regularly recur. I will brace myself. At least one major catastrophe is now forestalled - I have copied that special personal collection of photos onto my PC, in case one day I can't even perform a 'factory reset'.
My Samsung phone is loaded up to do and display whatever the tablet can do and display, plus of course handling voice calls and texting as well. I generally have to rely on the phone if away from home. If the tablet became a totally unresponsive piece of plastic, the phone could stand in. But there is really no substitute for the tablet's larger screen. Mobile Life without a tablet would be less convenient, and detrimental to my eyesight.
As always, this latest episode of computer-malfunctioning caused me aggravation and lost time. And it is bound to happen again, as my devices age and become more prone to senior moments. And something like it will be necessary every time I buy new devices too. They all have to be set up. It's a constant cycle of setting up and maintenance and troubleshooting. And it's hard work, a source of anxiety and frustration, diverting one from many other ordinary things that require attention. Getting out into the sunshine, for instance.
And yet you can't abandon these handy electronic gadgets. Not now. It's easy to forget what hard work paper records used to be. And paper's vulnerability. Diaries and address books that might fall out of pockets, or be stolen. Endless lists, that had to be endlessly rewritten. The sheer bulk of paper records. The impossibility of rearranging them, of sorting them, or searching them with a keyword, or easily copying them. No backing up, no encryption, no sharing. Scribble, untidiness, illegibility, crossings-out, all on fragile paper that might turn into pulp if wet, or flutter away in the breeze.
Modern life is geared up to massive computing power and astonishing electronic wizardry, but accessed using products that are not built to last very long. And one has to submit to a global regime of relentless marketing hype, desire-implantation, and fear- or envy-driven pressure. I resent being a slave to it, however much I appreciate what computers can do, such as having the world, and all the world's knowledge, at one's fingertips. I have not forgotten, and never will, that the Internet opened my eyes to what kind of person I really was - and what I could do about it. So I forgive the occasional glitches. That doesn't mean I enjoy dealing with them. Certainly not those moments when I want to do something useful with my favourite gadget, and find myself locked out.