Friday, 14 July 2017

A necessary expense

I thought I might be able to defer this particular expense until later in the year, but I took so many photos on my recent holiday - many of which will now be revealed in a series of posts to come - that the number selected for storage on Tigerlily, my still-new Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone, burgeoned. The old microSD card inserted in her (from my last phone) had only a 64GB capacity and, as July began, I was down to my last 3GB.

It was no good. This kind of storage doesn't do crazy things if you use it all up to the last dregs, but 3GB was too small a margin. Tigerlily could take cards up to 256GB. It seemed a waste of money to get anything less. So on 4th July I'd bitten the bullet and ordered a Sandisk 256GB microSD card online from Amazon. It cost a whopping £162.99. Delivery was free, but I might be waiting over a week for it. I thought this was rather unnecessary for something supposedly 'in stock'! But it turned out that it was 'in stock with a supplying firm in Hong Kong', and in that case getting the card physically shipped to my front door in (as it was) eight days couldn't be complained about. Presumably they used something better than fast camel. Jets, maybe.

Anyway, it arrived two days back, and I set about swapping the new card for the old yesterday, after carefully photographing the packaging in case anything didn't work and I had to invoke the guarantee.

Tigerlily is waterproof, and so you don't ever open her up - by removing a back panel, say - when changing either the SIM card or the microSD card. There is an almost-invisible card tray on her top edge, which has to be released for use by inserting a special pin that comes with the phone into a small hole. Pushing the pin in somehow pushes the tray out. Some kind of pivoting cam inside, I suppose. The plastic tray is rather fragile. Brute force would be disastrous. You have to very carefully prise out the old card - a snug fit indeed - and prise in the new one. These cards are very fiddly to handle, and of course you absolutely mustn't touch the electrical contacts with your fingertips! A slightly nerve-racking task, but I managed it:

With the new card fitted into the tray, it just had to be pushed back into Tigerlily, re-establishing a watertight seal.

The first moment of crisis came next: would Tigerlily recognise the new card? Ah, she did. Phew!

Next job: the new card had to be formatted. I delved into Settings and got it done.

I noted that I didn't get to use all 256GB. The Android OS had immediately appropriated some of that. But I still had 238GB at my disposal. This would be amply sufficient, at my present rate of filling up data storage, to last several years. I envisaged using this card on my next smartphone, and possibly the one after that, so that I wouldn't be looking for an even larger card until the early 2020s. (And on that basis, the £162.99 cost was fine)

Now all I had to do was transfer the photos, music and maps from the old card onto the new. Hah! Easier said than done. It took hours.

Finding the best way to do it was the issue. I'd already copied the contents of the old card onto my laptop and the desktop PC, though not without problems that warned me this wouldn't be a quick or straightforward job. And yet my approach seemed sensible enough. I'd linked phone and laptop with a USB cable, and tried simple copying and pasting. Small files and folders transferred without a blip. But larger files and folders, which took longer to pass between one device and the other, were a different matter. It seemed that after a while phone and laptop grew tired of cooperating, and the process would stall. Was some buffer getting full up? Or was it that the different OSs - Windows 10 and Android Nougat - both had routine background processes that needed to cut in from time to time, overriding whatever else was happening, and stopping the flow of data from phone to laptop? Or was it perhaps some insistent nudge from the Internet making one or other device drop the current task? I had to finish the file and folder transfer using the desktop PC, which wasn't in any way connected to the Internet, and the copying of items from the old microSD card went much better. Hmm, that was suggestive.

Well, I did eventually extract all the photos, music, maps and other things from the old card. I found that it was best achieved by using an intermediate storage medium. I used a spare SD card inserted into a card reader. The process then was to copy stuff from phone to card reader, then, separately, from card reader to laptop or desktop PC. And once the new card was in Tigerlily and formatted, and ready to receive, to do the same in reverse.

It took experimentation and patience to work that out. It was still a long-winded way to get it all done, but it worked perfectly in reverse. I should say 'it eventually worked perfectly'. I had to put Tigerlily into Flight Mode, cutting off the Internet and incoming phone calls, before feeling certain that files and folders would pour into her microSD card in a smooth and uninterrupted fashion.

It seemed to take all day, but five hours after formatting the new card the job was done. I'd loaded the new microSD card up with 56GB of data - mostly 18,000 photos and 1,500 music tracks - and Tigerlily was accessing it properly. Success! But I'd wasted a great day for getting my back garden in good order. I felt a lot of frustration at that.

Still, Tigerlily was now future-proofed.

In the evening I could take a more positive view of the day's efforts. A fine weekend loomed: the garden would be sorted by Sunday evening. And I had a gorgeous phone with a massive storage capacity begging to be exploited. I'd had to remove the protective Tech21 case to do the card swap and data transfer. Tigerlily had acquired finger-marks and some dust on her factory-fresh body. These were now carefully wiped away, and the case refitted. She was sealed in again, and ought now to remain so until (maybe four years ahead) it was time to replace her. Only her lovely screen was exposed.

Somehow I found the day's effort very satisfying, as if I'd skilfully fixed something precious but complicated. As a master craftsman might feel, after mending an old clockwork pocket watch, say, an object with exquisite workings made by one of the old watchmaking maestros - Breguet perhaps. I exaggerate, but it did feel like an achievement!

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