Sunday Mailbag

February 27th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Has your PC ever gone down in the middle of a big job\tight deadline? How do you handle this? Has travel ever affected you meeting a deadline?

Yes, I once had my hard drive melt on me in the middle of doing two big jobs. It went down on a Monday while I was working on a job due that day and had a MAD job to finish by Wednesday. The disaster happened to my formerly trusty Dell Workstation… here’s my blog post from that day:

Well, it finally happened. This morning I am coloring happily along in PhotoShop when the blue screen of death pops up on my PC monitor. For the most part Windows XP is a very stable OS and I sometimes go weeks without rebooting, but this one was bad. I instantly lost all the work I had been doing as the computer began dumping physical memory to reboot. Unfortunately it went downhill from there.

Apparently my Dell workstation uses a hard drive configuration called “RAID”, which as I understand it is for drive mirroring and server/data security. I don’t need those things, but they came with the system so I had them anyway. As it turns out, RAID drives are specially configured, and when your RAID goes south so does your drives… and all the data on them. So, my computer went from a fire-breathing graphics monster to a useless pile of crap in .5 seconds. I have to get “Grey’s Anantomy” done by Wednesday and was supposed to have a poster job done by today.

This was an emergency. I could not afford not to be working on this today. I could go to Best Buy and get a crappy PC anytime, but getting a good PC with the right hardware is not as easy. So, being down on PC’s anyway at the moment, I went to the one place in town I could walk in, buy a computer that would have the graphics firepower to do what I needed and get home in time to get back to it… yep, I went to the Apple Store.

Came home with a souped up Mac Pro with 4 GB ram, 2 x 3.0 Ghz processors and a 512 MB graphics card. I figured I’d see if those commercials about opening the box and starting to use the computer were accurate. Let’s just say that after one automatic firmware upgrade download, one firmware installation crash, one hour on the phone with tech support and a total reinstall of the system software I am still not using it and those commercials are a load of garbage. Right out of the box my ass.

Well, back to the cyber-battle. If I blow my deadlines I will be very angry with Michael Dell and Steve Jobs, in that order. This may put a damper on blog entries in the foreseeable future….

I eventually got the Mac Pro working that day, and finished both jobs on time. That happened in 2006, and just a few months ago I retired that Mac Pro and got a new 27″ iMac, so I stuck with Apple.

Dealing with deadlines when traveling is all about making sure your travel won’t be a problem for the deadlines. I usually get behind on my jobs and need to pull and all-nighter or three to get caught up, so I do my best to get that out of the way before I travel. Then if needed I bring whatever I need to keep on track with me. Hopefully that is nothing, but as I hate being totally behind after a trip I usually bring some project along to mess about with… The Lovely Anna likes to sleep in and I like to get up early on vacations, so I have some quiet time in the mornings to get stuff done.

Thanks to Leo Kelly for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!


  1. Joan Patrie says:

    Yes, this illustrates something I’ve told clients for years: computers is computers. There is no such thing as a problem-free computer; by being the kind of machine they are they come with a peculiar set of foibles. It’s just that the Mac platform was more carefully designed from the start to alleviate those foibles.

    The best manifestation of this care in design is the relative quality I call ‘creative impedance’‚Äö√Ñ√Æsomething every Creative runs into with a computer. The machine gets in your way. All computers have this negative quality; it’s just that Macs have less of it‚Äö√Ñ√Ælike about a third of it

    Every tool has its impediments


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