I Hate The Media
I have to confess... I really hate the media.  No, I'm not talking about NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, CNN, FOX News, The Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, or the Washington Post.

 I'm talking about VHS, doc, miniDV, LP, cassette, PDF, avi, 35mm, Hi8, Polaroid, docx, 8mm, CD, Super 16mm, psi, DVD, WAV, MP3, FAX, Beta, and I have a particular hatred for AAC and  Pages.  

Like it is with so many things, my hatred started innocently enough.  About a year ago, I looked around and saw most of my life recorded in media formats that had become, or were fast becoming, obsolete.  Color pictures were fading, metallic particles were fleeing magnetic tapes, thermal FAX pages were fading into nothingness, and a huge collection of music I loved on records and tapes was never being played because turntables and tape players died long before their offspring.  I also had a lifelong collection of my writing: stories, screenplays, essays, letters, faxes and emails, that were lining the walls of my office (and collecting a considerable amount of dust) in black three ring binders as well as in file cabinets.   And then came the promise... why not digitize it all so that it would sit on my hard drive and never die?  What's more, it would be instantly accessible.

I admit that, to some degree, I have been influenced in this dream, not by science, but by science fiction.  As a writer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Stargate SG-1, I readily accepted the notion of the paperless society.  Why shouldn't everything be instantly accessible via the computer?  Worked for Picard, Geordi  and Data.  Why not me?  The concept  is seductive, but, in the real (read: non-Trek) world it doesn't work quite so well.  What's the problem?  Nothing is compatible with the format that came before it.  Oh, the manufacturers claim that it is, but that's never really the truth. 

I'm relatively savvy when it comes to technology, but I'm certainly not one of the first adopters.  I always like technologies to be around for a while so that the bugs get worked out and the prices come down.  Then I buy.  But even when buying relatively time and market-tested technology (I skipped Vista and waited until Windows 7 had been around for while), the problem we all face is how to get that new technology to work with all the old stuff you've collected over the years. 

My seven-year-old computer died a death in early August, and it seemed that buying a new computer gave me the opportunity to  convert all the old media into files accessible on my computer.  Brand new computer, new operating system, lots of hard drive space.  Sounds good.  Doesn't work.  At least not without a lot of pain (and I mean white-hot, ice-pick to the temple, screaming at the monitor kinda pain).

If you wonder why I haven't delivered on my promise, and updated my web site recently, like, at all... this is where I've been for eighteen out of every twenty-four hour period since August. 

 I won't bore you with details (and they are legion), but I have spent the majority of the last month of my life dealing, not with the creative work I want to do (or work that earns money), but with issues of incompatibility between Windows 7 and all my old software, not to mention all my new software and all my old media.  The new Windows 7 Dell computer couldn't use the drivers of the three-year-old HP printer.  Had to get a new printer.  Microsoft Office 2007 Professional (including Outlook, the center of my universe) was only partly compatible with Windows 7, as were all the programs in my Adobe CS 2 suite.  

Because of this, I have gotten to know a bunch of really swell people in India, and, on the upside, the phone connections between here and the other side of the world have improved significantly in recent years, although being on hold for hours at a time (listening over and over to the same horrible "music-on-hold" song) does test my patience.  And it also tests my self-control, because I have to admit that, in order to avoid being typecast as The Ugly American, I am on my best behavior when talking to Kaustabh, Ravi, Kapur and my other new Tech Help friends.   It's like I'm doing my own "hands across the water" outreach.  I suspect that this is all part of a plot by the American companies that employ them.  Not only do companies like Dell, Microsoft, HP and Adobe lower their costs by using lower-wage Tech Support people from India, they avoid being screamed at about the incompatibility of their lousy products like we would if we knew we were talking to a fellow American.
Anyway, after spending over a month at this, I'm a little better now.  I've managed to find solutions (jury-rigged though they may be) to solve each of the many insane file conversion issues.  I've converted about half of my old letters to PDFs, about a third of my record and tape collection to WAVs and MP3s, about half my photos to JPEGs, and am making a serious dent at old family films and videos to AVI files.  It's really great to have all of them at a fingertips' reach via my hard drive. 

And right now, I feel really good about the process... I really do... until all of these file formats are made obsolete by some new tech development that is incompatible with the past.   As I said... I hate the media.