Building Safety Nets

We have all heard the horror stories about computers: hard disk crashed and student lost 20 page paper, computer virus attacked and ate all emails, IRS computer error resulted in $5 billion taxes due, and Y2K bug resulted in collapse of civilization and end of world as we know it. OK, at least the first is true.

How do you avoid these little embarrassing problems? While you can use them as excuses for a while, teachers are going to get more and more irritated and less sympathetic toward these digital dog-ate-the-homework excuses. This will be especially true for the Techno-Patsie who is already irritated about the whole thing.

Moreover, you have to remember that your computer problems will pale in comparison to the disasters waiting in the wings for your school and your instructor. You might lose your assignment. They might lose all of the assignments, all of the final exams, and even the whole course!

To prevent all of this misery, here are a few steps that you can take:

Off-Load
One way to avoid connection and access problems is to off-load or down-load files from the course Web server to your own computer. This way you don't have to stay connected. You have your own local copy of the notes, etc. So right before exams, while everyone else has a poor response time, if they can even get through, you are sitting pretty with your own copy. The only thing to watch out for is when the instructor posts new notes, changes, and late-breaking news. So you need to get in to check on those. But off-loading is particularly good for on-line readings and textbooks.

Back It Up
Anything you write and submit electronically should be backed up. You should keep copies of everything on a removable media (e.g., a floppy disk or a ZIP disk). This is true for everything: papers, emails, dialogues, and Web submitted forms. Let's talk about these last two. For dialogues, you need to keep a record of your entries, so that you can prove to the instructor that you did the assignment if his or her system crashes. The best way to do this is probably with cutting and pasting. Copy it from the entry box and paste it into a simple text editor. Or even just do a screen print. Same with those assignments in which you answer questions in the browser. Do a screen print or use copy and paste to a text editor for longer answers.

Back Up and Buddy System
Your trusty computer is going to go down during the semester. Be prepared. Have a backup way to go, whether through the Welfare Computer Labs or a friend.

One way is to have a buddy in class. Meet together for assignments. Use each other's computers. Study together. And if your computer goes down, you can work with your buddy.


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