Short story writer, aspiring game designer, bad chess player.

The Great Folder Debate

Okay, so the debate is taking place only in my head. Let's listen in (no affiliate links in this post):

Elby is analytical and into efficiency. Arby is whimsical and full of creative ideas.

Elby: So, this cabinet metaphor is creaking under the weight of information overload.

Arby: The forest metaphor isn't much better. I like contextual searches.

Elby: I ain't got all day for that! Every document should be two clicks away.

Arby: That's over a mile!

Elby: Stop playing around. We need to find a better way. All this  software forces us to save in odd places.

Arby: OneDrive is not really up in the clouds, is it? That would be neat. Until the jet stream whisks away your notes.

Elby: You know it's not. Are you going to contribute?

Arby: Okay, okay! Associative storage.

Elby: Too expensive. Remember the Memex experiment?

Arby: I like Evernote and Standard Note.

Elby: Those won't help us find files!

Arby: Well, may we should dump everything into Evernote. It reads PDFs. We have a million PDFs.

Elby: Again, too expensive. We're leaving Evernote, or did you forget?

Arby: Hmmm... You set up a ton of labels in Gmail and now you're sad. Why?

Elby: I thought I could get away with five, but new stuff doesn't fit in any of them.

Arby: Who cares? You can easily see what's new. They're bold. Plus, DarwinMail bundles emails for us!

Elby: I care! I don't want to wade through 60 Quora notifications to get to something more important.

Arby: Well, it's your fault for making Quora send you stuff.

Elby: Actually, you're right. We could unsubscribe to most of this stuff, right?

Arby: No! I'm building resources and making friends. You never visit Quora on your own.

Elby: Yeah, that's true.

Arby: Look at all the stuff you set up: Inoreader email to get newsletters, BurnerMail to hide your main address...

Elby: Alright, alright. you've made your point. We should at least get rid of the RSS email stuff.

Arby: We never read that mess, anyway.

Elby: Fine. Done. {deletes email link}

Arby: Let's look at Workona. I love Workona.

Elby: I left that in your hands for one day. You made a mess of it.

Arby: No I didn't. You can find anything that's been saved.

Elby: Arrgh, you win again. I just hate trying to figure out where you want me to store each new web page.

Arby: We should just have one big, giant inbox for files, emails, web pages and crypto.

Elby: Crypto??!! What have you been up to?

Arby: Never mind that. Look, I almost always find files with Everything. You launch programs with FARR.

Elby: Yeah, I love me some Find and Run Robot. I almost forget how to use the Windows Start menu!

Arby: Exactly! Now, if you put all our files in one big, pretty folder, then use Everything...

Elby: I'm going to stop you right there. We have blog posts, tax records, spreadsheets and games.

Arby: Ugh! I get carried away, don't I?

Elby: Don't be too hard on yourself. I go too far in the other direction. 

Arby: Actually, the best idea you had was to plant a new tree under My Documents and let iDrive backup that.

Elby: Thanks. I saved a lot of time with that one. Just check the root folder and forget it!

Arby: Why can't we extend that idea to the content that we create?

Elby: Because, like I said, software won't cooperate.

Arby: Well, you're the one who started allowing defaults to stand.

Elby: It's a time-saver! If the software remembers where it's files are saved, I won't make new folders.

Arby: Booo! Lazy-ass. Just as you made the Downloads folder the default, you can make new defaults!*

Elby: {lightbulb}

Arby: Base all folders one level beneath the iDrive tree. Data, Projects, Writing. With one click, you're in.

Elby: {Nodding} And, with the second click, I can see all Writing files!

Arby: Oh, posts need pictures.

Elby: {Excited} We can implement my other grand idea...

Arby: What's that?

Elby: File names with tags. Extensions already serve as great tags.

Arby: True.

Elby: Instead of a folder for images, just tag each file in a writing project with the same name.

Arby: I never liked that. Names are really long.

Elby: What do you care? Search with Everything, silly.

Arby: Oooh! That's right. But neither of us remembers whether it's tag1-tag2-post title or tag1 tag2 post title.

Elby: Doesn't matter, don't you see? With Everything, just search tag1*

Arby: Alright. I'm sold. Glad we could come to an agreement. So, that's files done.

Elby: Not quite.

Arby: Erm, what now?

Elby: Our external drive still has over 100,000 files to be catalogued.

Arby: Hmph! You made that mess. You clean it up. I'm sure you can write a batch file or something.

Elby: Come on, Arby! I need you to come up with something quick and clever!

Arby: How about Delete E:\*.*

Elby: I hate you.


* Windows uses the Downloads folder for web browsers. Elby told lots of software to save files there, too. So, for example, the Downloads folder receives all screen shots from Screenpresso, videos from Loom and quick text files from EditPad PRO. (You can google those if you're interested.)

Once the files land in Downloads, yet another program monitors that folder and moves certain files from there to more permanent destinations. This program is called FileJuggler. It has a steepish learning curve, but works wonders to keep the Downloads folder clean.

Elby and Arby are working together to solve some thorny storage and retrieval challenges. They keep me sane.


To the extent that our web hosting and Internet service providers allow it, our domains and websites are the ideal "storefront" upon which to hang our shingle. The irony in that, of course, is the flaw in the analogy. In cyberspace, no one sees our shingle. there is no Main street.

Instead of a shingle, we need a bullhorn. Most folks use Google to shout, "Look at me!" Some folks piggyback on popular platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Whatever bullhorn we use, the experts tell us to drive traffic back to our own websites.

I've never been big on that strategy. I tried all the old-school methods:

  • EzineArticles (a form of guest posting)
  • StumbleUpon
  • HubPages
  • Solo ads (LOL!!! Who remembers those?)
  • SEO (I know it works. I got a ton of traffic on a post about fixing CAPTCHA in a plugin)
  • CommentLuv

With the exception of SEO and CommentLuv, I don't bother with getting traffic to my site. But, now that I'm trying to build something that I want to sell, I'm faced with the decision to do one of two things:

  1. Get on the bullhorn and promote my site
  2. Go all in on someone else's platform

In my indecision, I wound up with a confusing mix of both options. I recently started publishing on BuyMeACoffee. While climbing up the learning curve, I missed an important part of the site's philosophy: an all-in-one site that does away with signups and unnecessary integrations. In the site's FAQ, it is written:

With Buy Me a Coffee, you get everything you need to run your creative business. You don't have to worry about paying for and stitching together a dozen services, from sending emails to charging for subscriptions.

I say I missed this because I was testing out Sendfox, an Email Service Provider. I got it into my head that people needed to be on my own list, rather than that of BuyMeACoffee. That's flawed thinking. If I'm not going to undertake the task of integrating everything into my website, there is no point in just doing parts of it.

In other words, why have a SendFox email list if I have nothing to offer? With BuyMeACoffee, I can already email my supporters and members.

Throw in the confusion caused by sending social media clicks to my website instead of to BuyMeACoffee and you have a muddled mess! 

Despite all of this, I am a firm believer in controlling your content. I just need to reduce the friction between getting interested people from social media to BuyMeACoffee. On my site, I'll link to my BuyMeACoffee page instead linking to SendFox with call to action to subscribe to then get an invitation to BuyMeACoffee.

I only did the SendFox method to invite family and friends without spamming them directly from BuyMeACoffee. I'm going to have to study some other creators on the platform to see how they handle the shingle.

This whole experiment reminds me of Fiverr. On Fiverr, you have something to offer and you have to promote your page via social media. It's unethical to divert Fiverr's acquired viewers to your own website. BuyMeCoffee is the opposite. In fact, it has an entire article on promoting your BuyMeACoffee page. Part of the instructions tell you to link to your website!

Eventually, I plan to use my website to drive traffic to my BuyMeACoffee page. I set up a domain,, for social media branding. That domain redirects to Morpho Designs, where it highlights just one of the puzzles I will be designing. Right now, I just have a button in the footer. Later, I may be more proactive with my Call-To-Action.

The reason I chose this style of puzzle is that it is visual, it (hopefully!) is click-worthy and share-worthy and, most importantly, I have a ton of ideas and the workflow tools to crank them them out. (You should look at Stencil)

Branding is Tough

I recently began a monetization experiment with (BMC).

Right off the bat, branding is a challenge. Just as Hotmail, SurveyMonkey and Calendy all use their own names for viral growth, BMC inherently brands its URLs for its benefit. It is a fair exchange, though. BMC users get built-in platform tools which, theoretically, simplifies acquisition of supporters.

The identifier for BMC users is ephemeral. When I first joined BMC, I didn't pay attention to the custom URL and my presence began life as (notice the period between ff and ee.) Once I learned how to change it, I couldn't decide whether to change it to morphodesigns or anklebuster. The latter is shorter and is the same as my Twitter handle, so I went with that,

However, "Anklebuster" has nothing to do with "word puzzles"! I needed something with more relevance, so I registered the domain and forwarded it to a page on Morpho Designs.

Why not create a separate website? Right now, that is too much overhead for what is, essentially, a bunch of one-page posts. Besides, I have several plugins that I can only use on a limited number of unique sites. This is really just a way to get up and running quickly.

Once I get BMC, PrettyLinks, SendFox and WordPress playing together nicely, I can focus on making the content, rather than maintaining yet another website.

Branding is Tough

I recently began a monetization experiment with (BMC).

Right off the bat, branding is a challenge. Just as Hotmail, SurveyMonkey and Calendy all use their own names for viral growth, BMC inherently brands its URLs for its benefit. It is a fair exchange, though. BMC users get built-in platform tools which, theoretically, simplifies acquisition of supporters.

The identifier for BMC users is ephemeral. When I first joined BMC, I didn't pay attention to the custom URL and my presence began life as (notice the period between ff and ee.) Once I learned how to change it, I couldn't decide whether to change it to morphodesigns or anklebuster. The latter is shorter and is the same as my Twitter handle, so I went with that,

However, "Anklebuster" has nothing to do with "word puzzles"! I needed something with more relevance, so I registered the domain and forwarded it to a page on Morpho Designs.

Why not create a separate website? Right now, that is too much overhead for what is, essentially, a bunch of one-page posts. Besides, I have several plugins that I can only use on a limited number of unique sites. This is really just a way to get up and running quickly.

Once I get BMC, PrettyLinks, SendFox and WordPress playing together nicely, I can focus on making the content, rather than maintaining yet another website.

The Simpler Days

Everything is trying to become the tag-end for the ubiquitous phrase, there's an app for that. In so doing, companies are forcing its customers away from the desktop and traditional browser-based connectivity.

You can call AAA Motor Club and navigate an insane, computer-led menu or, you could download the app before you need help.

You could call a taxi and wait forever or, you could use the Lyft app.

You can call your local pizza shop and hope the order-taker correctly transcribes your request, or you could download the DoorDash app (or the one from Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, etc.)

You could log into your bank from your browser or, you could pop open their app to see your balance, deposit a check, transfer funds to make sure you have enough for that pizza you just ordered.

Mobile phones make this drop-dead simple, once you get used to it. The last time I took a trip, I booked a train on my browser, but used my Amtrak app to show my ticket. When I got to my destination, Lyft took me the last 30 miles to my dad's house. 

Now, my dad is old-school. He only recently started using DoorDash from his ancient desktop computer. Prior to that, dinner was decided by which menus he'd had lying around!

So, despite the title's inference, the simpler days are here, now! Even a dinosaur like me gets used to the convenience of mobile phones.

I used to have unpleasant dreams where I'd run out of the house and gone shopping, only to realize that I had left my wallet at home. Yikes! Dream me never checks to see if he has his phone.

Cloaking Devices

Sorry, Trekkers and Harry Potter fans, I'm going to be talking about URL redirects.

Many years ago, when I still believed that I was going to become an Online Money Mogul, I joined a membership site called WealthyAffiliate. (Kyle and Carson, are still at it, bless their hearts.)

One of my favorite features of WA was the ability to create those cool links that--when you hovered over them--looked like this:

when you clicked one of those links, you would be redirected to

Here is the cool part: behind the scenes, I would have an affiliate referrer code associated with my "" URL. Visitors could not see my referrer code and, according to the WealthyAffiliate folks, hackers could not intercept my link and steal my traffic.

That type of manipulation is called a stealth redirect and is often misconstrued as "cloaking." The former will piss off Google, but cloaking will not.

Well, Google pissed me off lots of times, so I didn't mind playing with stealth redirects. WealthyAffiliate became too expensive to continue so, after I left, I hunted around for something to replace that feature. What I found was perfect: EasyRedirectScript.

This now defunct tool had every imaginable type of redirect. I experimented with them all, just for fun, before settling on plain-old 301 redirects.

The links worked perfectly and I was able to track the effectiveness of various placements (email signature vs. web page, for example.)

It worked great for years. However, the developer abandoned it and, at some point, it stopped correctly making the links. Fair enough, as long as the older links continued to work, I was fine.

Then, I changed web hosts. After the migration, the links still worked, but I could no longer get to the admin panel to view stats. It was time to look for another solution.

My search led me to Pretty Links and, in usual Shiny Object Syndrome fashion, I dove in. It's a WordPress plug-in. I have no idea how it works because I have yet to use it! {sigh...}

I figured that writing about it would motivate me, so we'll see.

As a public service, here is Google's take on the matter:

Sneaky Redirects

Passage of the Week

I don't plan to make this a thing because then, it would become a chore. One of the coolest things I've read this week comes from David Weliver, of

I could give you 800 pages on the mechanics of personal finance— how to budget, pinch pennies, use snowball techniques to pay down debt, and perfectly allocate your retirement portfolio for age and risk tolerance.

Most of you wouldn’t read it.

Why would you? That stuff’s boring as hell.

Let’s face it, some of you would read it and continue your existing financial behavior; just because I read Men’s Health doesn’t mean I have 8% body fat and six-pack abs. (Don’t you wish it were that easy!?)

The harsh reality is, maybe 5% of you would apply some of it successfully, at least for a little while, just like I hit the gym for a few days a week on and off all year, but have yet to put in the truly grueling work it takes to truly shed my love handles. 

Burner Mail Saved Me Some Money (LOL)

I just got an unanticipated bonus from Burner Mail. A few days ago, I signed up for access to "An Important Report." I used a Burner Mail mailbox, so that the emails would not be forwarded to me.

Then, I promptly forgot about it.

When I finally logged in to the mailbox, I discovered that the report was attached to a subscription offer at 75% off. Also, it expired last night.

Oh well!

Burner Mail just might be the cure for Shiny Object Syndrome! The urge to click can be satisfied, guilt-free, as long as I wait a few days to read whatever is sent.

Years ago, I read about a trick that was supposed to help compulsive shoppers control themselves. I believe it was the birth of vision boards, although, at the time, it was just therapy: you were supposed to find a picture of what you wanted and put it on your refrigerator. Apparently, seeing it every day took the edge off that urge.

I certainly do not mean to make light of shopping addiction. If you or someone you know needs help, check this out:

How to Fight A Shopping Addiction

Email Filter Shmilter

Over the past two weeks, I've noticed a wonderful side-effect of using the Burner Mail web service: I get so little email directly, that new, unfiltered stuff no longer overwhelms my default inbox in Gmail! Why is this a big deal? Well, it means that my email workflow has stabilized. Here is the significance:

  • I can be sure that I will not miss anything important in my filtered emails
  • I no longer have to update those filters to add new addresses
  • I can get through my Inbox in less than a minute


In the beginning, I had dozens of filters for many types of email. Whenever something undesirable came in, I created a delete filter. Between the intended filters and the delete filters, I probably had about 60 filters.

Desperate to improve my efficiency, I researched "best practices for Gmail filters" (or something like that.) I found an article that suggested using the Getting Things Done (GTD) philosophy. For your reading pleasure, here is Dan Silvestre's take on GTD in Gmail. I also read articles that emphasize "Inbox Zero", the holy grail of email efficiency.

Now, I'm not big on following systems. I prefer to implement the best ideas presented by systems. In the case of GTD, I liked the ideas of handling email as quickly as possible and archiving emails. Before I switched to Gmail, I used to download email to my hard drive using Mozilla Thunderbird. I spent way too much time devising email backups, filters and whatnot. So, it was hard to change my mindset that email applications are repositories.

It was not until I saw emails from 2002--random jokes, birthday greetings, receipts for services I no longer used--that I knew I was doing it all wrong. Instead of maintaining a burdensome collection of filters and retention policies, I developed a system based on the overall priority of email:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Clients
  4. Everything Else

Updating Filters

The point of these filters is obvious. The Gmail labeling system made implementation a breeze. The hard part was reallocating all the existing filters. The list above does not include the following:

  • Delete Without Reading
  • Lists (the ones from things like listserv)
  • Aunt Betsy's massive CC: emails to everyone she's ever met

Of course, I created one massive Delete filter for everything that comes in that I don't want to see, especially from companies that ignore my requests to unsubscribe. The lists are still filtered individually and, rather than add Aunt Betsy to the Delete filter, I just let her into my inbox. If she has something interesting to say, I'll read it. 

I created a one-off Excel Spreadsheet to regroup the email addresses into their new homes. When I wrote that I no longer have to update those filters, I meant that, for the most part, the list of people who contact me directly via email has not changed in years. Family members have had the same email addresses forever and, until my grandchild decides to start writing me, I don't have any new members to add. Friends are the same. Most clients do not have my email, because I control my availability. Finally, everything else is a collection of low-priority emails for people and businesses I have had a relationship with up until I started using Burner Mail.

The Everything Else category is where I will be culling addresses and switching to Burner Mail addresses, where possible. For example, I recently added a burner mail address to my account. That allowed me to remove the voluminous comments from the Everything Else filter to one of my Burner Mail inboxes, where I can read them at my leisure. I wrote about that exercise, here.

The whole point of Burner Mail is that I can subscribe to stuff and not give out my personal email address. The email can either be forwarded to my Gmail inbox or, as with, be delivered to on of my unlimited Burner Mail Inboxes.

Astute readers may point out that I'm merely sweeping dust bunnies under the rug. To that, I say, "True, but you don't see any dust!"

Forget the Cloud!

Cloud storage is neat. I love having a way to collaborate with clients and to see random spreadsheets created by number-crunching gamers. On the other hand, I hate OneDrive. LOL. I feel like a broken record on that note, but whatever.

I suspect that people who suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome love all the free storage on offer. But, unless you have a business need for cloud storage, I believe you're better off using iDrive to backup your most important stuff and then buying some large, portable hard drives.

I recently purchased a 4 TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive for 89.00 + tax. To get that much storage "in the cloud", I would have I'm not going to calculate that! Instead, let's see what we can get for a yearly fee:

Google Drive: 1 TB, 99.00

Dropbox: 2 TB, 119.88

OneDrive: 1 TB, 69.00

There is a niche in the cloud services space called cloud-to-cloud management. Companies like Cloudfuze, oDrive and Multcloud claim to help you manage many of your cloud services. You can migrate, sync, backup, make pancakes and spend money.

Or, you could create a DOS batch file to do most of those on your own computer. Migration is not an option, due to massive download sizes. That would be the only reason I'd use one of these services.

I'm glad I spent an hour perusing the reviews and pricing plans. The exercise helps to dull the shiny objects to the point where I lose interest.

Keep in mind, "the cloud" is just a bunch of remote servers and they are essential for things like Gmail, Evernote, Standard Notes, Workona and your Words With Friends history. I personally prefer my Toshibas, along with iDrive, in case the house burns down.

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be worried about my files if a real disaster strikes. Let's be real. Clean water and toilet paper are going to be higher up on my list.

Instability is the Norm

The developers at Standard Notes did a thorough review of my account activity from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5th and confirmed that no modifications were made to it. So, my blog posts were not saved on the server. In addition, the sync issues I was experiencing kept the account disconnected from the server.

The good news is that the developers are making note of my case and working on a solution that can prevent data loss if a user has to re-sync with server. I don't know what any of that means for real, for real, but I am encouraged by their support.

This is why backups are so important. I've gotten lazy over the years and have been bitten a few times. Luckily, I'm not running NASA or CDC but, still. My stories about space travel and disease-carrying vermin are important to me. Those links go to my WordPress blog where, ironically, after I lost an entire post during editing, I learned the hard way to compose offline.

That's not going to happen here. Come on! this is a note-taking app! LOL

Consolidated Cloud Contraptions

I got an email from AppSumo Pixelied. The main topic was their roadmap. Dawood Khan, CEO and co-founder, had some interesting bullet points:

Hey Mitchell,

I've been told Sumo-lings love transparent roadmaps.

In case you didn't know, we have our public roadmap with all the important features and updates that we will be rolling out in the next coming months.

Check out our roadmap HERE

Here are some of the important highlights from the roadmap:

  • 3D & Realistic Mockups
  • Logo Creator
  • Live Collaboration with Team Members
  • Custom Brand Presets
  • Text & Shape Masking
  • Dropbox & Drive Integration

The last one made me reply to his email:

Hi Dawood,

Now I would love to see the return of a Jolidrive-like product, especially one that would encapsulate OneDrive. I hate OneDrive ... I have business and personal accounts and can't be bothered with all of the login credentials and account-switching.

I use Microsoft (MS) products like Excel, Word and Access. MS is very heavy-handed about trying to get me to use OneDrive as the default place to store files. That kinda of infuriates me. You see, I like to store client files separately from personal files and, unless my clients initiate folder sharing on one of the cloud platforms, I do not trust 3rd-party storage to handle confidential files.

From a user standpoint, Dropbox is the easiest platform: I don't keep live work on it, but when I want to retrieve or share files, I do so within my preferred file manager (Xyplorer.) And, while Dropbox does offer to integrate with MS products, that only happens if I open the file within the Dropbox ecosystem--my sync folder or in the Dropbox web app.

Next in ease of use is Google Drive. My only complaint is that Google Docs and Google Sheets are native to Google and must be converted to MS for downloading. Other files work like Dropbox.

To be honest, I'm sure that, if I worked at it, I would realize that OneDrive is pretty similar to the other two. However, I just can't get past the unholy account credential mess. I can't even describe the frustration coherently. Essentially, it is equivalent to hurling epithets and/or the laptop.

Getting back to Jolidrive. You have to comb through the past to get a sense of what it was about. Here is one such enthusiastic article on Engadget, along with a more somber one from omg! ubuntu. The death knell is sounded on, with an invitation to check out Polite.

A Zapier expert could alleviate the pain. However, integration is not as nifty as assimilation. Ask the Borg.

Having missed the point of the email, I never sent that reply, after all. I purchased Pixelied from AppSumo. Said purchase puts me on the email list (maybe I opted in, I don't remember.) Khan's use of the term "Sumo-lings" made me think the email was from AppSumo and, therefore, was a reference to a product hunt.

Something made me click on the link to the roadmap. I scratched my head in confusion (I don't use Trello). Eventually, it dawned on me that this roadmap was for the on-going development of Pixelied! Duh!

I'm posting this anyway, because I want to share my thoughts about cloud drives in general, and bemoan OneDrive in particular. If you were confused while reading this, imagine how befuddled I was when I realized my mistake. LOL

So, nobody's working on a Borg-like Consolidated Cloud Contraption...

{Rolls up sleeves}

Scrapping with Standard Notes

This was probably my fault. Let it serve as a cautionary tale for those who like to back up personalized settings (AppData and its siblings, cousins and distant relations.)

Usually, when I reinstall Windows, I restore Appdata before I install the software that uses it. 90% of the time, the reinstalled software carries on as if it had never been violently ripped from its non-contiguous hard drive sectors.

Standard Notes appears to be that one out of ten programs that don't play that shit.

I managed to get everything back and running so, on the surface, I thought everything was fine. However, this reincarnated zombie developed a weird tick: whenever I overwrote the default note title with my carefully thought-out headline, Standard Notes would kick my title out  and restore its default. Imagine having a discussion with a five year-old child about bed-time:

Me: Time for bed.

SN: I don't want to.

Me: Time for bed.


I did what any good parent would; I consulted a psychologist. I was told to basically abandon the child and throw away his clothes and toothbrush, but keep all of his comic books! Then go get him back and let him rebuild his comic collection.

So, that's what I did. I deleted the backup folder. I trashed the database. Then I moved my offline copy of all my notes to another folder. Finally, I put the kid on a Greyhound bus, umm, I uninstalled the application. 

When I reinstalled Standard Notes, I was afraid it would be blank. However, the good psychologist did not lead me astray; the kid came back, and immediately downloaded all of his comics, even the ones I had given him from Evernote. Such a sweetie.

A little while later, I tested his behavior:

Me: Time for bed.

SN: {Didn't say a word, just went upstairs.}

Yes!! I was happy. I went about my business over the next three days, which didn't leave much time for writing. When I came back to Standard Notes, my heart sank. during the time that the program was zombified, it didn't save my notes! I didn't catch it because, after fighting with him about the titles and pushing the posts out to the blog, I just assumed each one was safely stashed away.

After reinstalling, the blog posts from the beginning of February were not showing up, even though they're still online. I'm still waiting for the psychologist to tell me that I'm not crazy, even though they don't use that word anymore. 

I may not be happy with Evernote, but it never pulled that stunt on me, even after three reinstalls. So, here is a parting tip: after a reinstall, Windows puts your previous install in a folder called Windows.old. Keep that around. Depending on how many programs you have to reinstall and how heavily modified they were from their out-of-box state, it may be easier to rebuild AppData and just crawl through Windows.old for the odd license file, configuration file or special file for each application.

This won't happen anymore: I bought Macrium Reflect and set up daily image backups to my external drive. (Windows Backup is too hard to get to, buried as it is 20,000 leagues Under the Settings Dialog.)

Evernote Rollback

After a good night's sleep, I woke up with a burning sensation. Ha-ha, not that one. I wanted to know how to download older version of Evernote. A nifty video came up on a Bing search results page:

How to Revert Back to the Old Evernote - Downgrading from Version 10 (Latest 2020 Evernote)

In less than 90 seconds, Amy shows the speed difference between Evernote version 10 and legacy Evernote version 6. She provides the download link in the description, in case you're interested. (If you are interested, better get it fast, as it is only available temporarily, while the fine folks at Evernote try to fix their broken ship.)

I am glad I thought to look for this, before reinstalling Evernote. The conversion to Standard Notes will be less painful.

  • Legacy allows me to select waaaay more than 50 notes (I was able to select 212!)
  • Faster response
  • Old, familiar interface

Patience is a Virtue

As I continue to recover my data from offsite backup, I keep thinking of ways to make the latest instance of my laptop environment better. One idea is to duplicate the offsite backup locally. I'm an impatient person.

iDrive has an option to backup files locally. I'll do a couple of practice jobs to ensure that I set everything up properly. If all goes well, I can have local backups from which to time. Because, I'm impatient.

If you use iDrive, here's a tip: be patient. During a large restore, the desktop app will show progress. At some point, it seems to be daydreaming instead of telling you what file is being copied. You may think it's frozen but it's not. I made the mistake of cancelling a restore operation. Twice. (You know, impatient!)

Cancelling a restore leaves you with a quandary: you have a bunch of partially restored folders, with no idea what's missing. To get a clue, you start comparing the website's version of what it has to your list of folders. It won't be long until you discover that Uncle Nemo's Reno Vacation Pictures are missing. While that doesn't bother you, you won't feel reassured until that blasted operation runs completely.

So, you fire up the restore operation again and go to bed.

Next morning, the blasted thing still looks frozen! But, you're going to be patient this time. Sure enough, two hours later, the Success dialog box comes up.

When this exact scenario occurred on my laptop this morning, I made a note of the file counts:

[Start Time: 2/3/2021 2:41:43 AM]

[End Time: 2/3/2021 11:31:05 AM]

[Files considered for restore: 53104]

[Files already present in the restore location: 51184]

[Files restored now: 1920]

How sad! Had I just been a little more patient during the second restore, those 1,920 files would have had a chance do be restored. It's not often you get to see a bird's-eye view of the marathon runner who quits, just as she is about to crest the hill beyond which lies the finish line. 

Okay, that was a bit meta, but you know what I mean. At least this account will serve as a cautionary tale to impatient file restorers. The elapsed time was a shade under nine hours, most of which was spent not copying 51,184 files. If I had performed like that at my old job, I would have been fired.

In retrospect, I think the reason the progress appeared frozen is that it only tells you what is being restored. That "daydreaming silence" was most likely the time periods during which it was looking at files that were already on my laptop.

On might think it would be better to show a message like: [SKIPPING Uncle Nemo Outside Moe's Tattoos.jpg]

However, as a programmer, I know that is excessive communication, which slows down the entire process.

Bazooka vs. Mouse

I'm sure everyone has a nightmare tale of laptop meltdowns, unrecoverable backups and precious data lost forever. I do too, but this is not one of them.

After having been burned by my own incompetence, I put many protocols in place to mitigate the next, inevitable disaster. The protocols were activated this past weekend, when I stupidly decided to cave in to Microsoft's Ransom Note:

Windows Update

Your computer needs to restart so we can hose your system. When's a good time for you?

[ ] Now   [ ] Right Now   [ ] Can I get the Vaseline, first?

Well, my wife can't have all the fun, with her blazing fast new computer. Right?

I gave Microsoft permission to update my machine to Windows 2020 H2. Hours later, I'm watching in horror as my laptop gurgles through a never-ending cycle of reboot, blue-screen error message, restart.

During the moment when my laptop comes up for air, I try to read the error message. Eventually, I work out that an important system file is on strike: it refuses to handle an EXCEPTION (computer-speak for human coding error.)

Who can blame the poor file? It probably got tired of getting the blame for everything that is wrong with Windows 10. I didn't take it out on the file, especially once I identified it as nvlddmkm.sys. Even its name evokes defiance, "Nevul dude! Make Me!"

Actually, those consonants mean Nvidia Windows Longhorn Display Driver Model Kernel Mode Driver and, it looks like someone left out the "w". (Read about this hard-worker, here.)

You have to understand, at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, I didn't know about any of this. All I saw was my poor laptop drowning in digital sewage. So, I threw it a shiny 4.7 GB life preserver called "Rescue Disk Windows 1909".

Okay, I seriously edited the sequence of events. I'm not going to bore you with how I swam out, dragged the laptop to shore, performed CPU on it and even opened its BIOS to rewire its boot sequence. I'll just skip to the end...

...the life preserver was ignored. Literally. I had to get an artificial heart from my wife's computer. That worked, but afterwards, my ASUS thought it was an Acer. LOL

And, guess what? The sewage rose and engulfed my Frankenstein's laptop again!

{more serious editing of technical, incompetent attempts by yours truly, involving looking stuff up on a Kindle Fire HD, between rounds of re-installing some version of Windows 10.}

Over 48 unsuccessful hours later--either through osmosis or reductive realization--I decided to rip out the Nvidia graphics card. By this time, I had already attempted to silence Nevul dude, using the Windows Device Manager. But, being an important worker bee and all, the file kept coming back with each reinstallation.

Before I could get my screwdriver, I had an epiphany: disable device.

Now, rewind back to the beginning of this sordid tale and insert the epiphany. What would happen? I wouldn't have destroyed the house, trying to catch a mouse.

I took a break from restoring data to write this out, in hopes of a cathartic release from the consequences of yet another inevitable disaster. In a way, I don't mind doing a clean install. It's politically incorrect to compare the experience to sticking one's finger down one's throat, but I'm not under a gag order and the relief is real.