"Cyclic Redundancy WHAT?!"
After a little investigating, I managed to localize the problem to my C: drive. This was a major pain in the ass since it meant I was going to have to replace the drive, reinstall the OS, reload my applications, etc. On the upside, that's cheaper to do than replacing the mainboard and, while tedious as all hell, isn't really difficult. So, over the course of several days last week I installed the new drive, reinstalled my OS, and installed my applications.
The more recent issues didn't start until yesterday, when I reloaded my files from the backups in my second hard-drive. See, for some time I've kept two drives in my computer and regularly make backups from one onto the other. Seems like the way to go, eh? So, I reloaded my files onto the C: drive and then went to reformat my D: drive (the second hard-disk). Basically I did this because I wanted to switch the file system from the older FAT32 to the new NTFS standard, which requires a format. When I, at last, completed this process and tried to recopy a set of files to that drive I began getting an error called "Data Error: (Cyclic Redundany Check)."
Now, this brings up one of those things I love about computers. You can be a very intelligent, well-educated person and know what each word in a given error message means all by itself, but have absolutely no concept what it means when they're combined. I mean, "cyclic redundancy?" Isn't that itself a little bit.. well... redundant? The best part is, I've seen some error messages that were even more baffling than this. With my most recent troubles, for example, just before my computer crashed I was occasionally getting an error message that read "Unknown Hard Error." I can remember idly wondering if Windows was trying to (A) tell me that there was some sort of unspecified hardware fault or, (B) simply offering its condolences, as in, "Wow, man, I don't know what's wrong but it sure is gonna suck for you!" But I digress... As it turns out a "Cyclic Redundancy Error" means that an error checking protocol used by the computer during file copying keeps giving evidence of data corruption. In other words, it's a message that (I think) the system isn't able to copy the file accurately.
Consulting the intimidating and, frequently, unhelpful Windows knowledge base led me to conclude that the second hard-drive probably also had physical faults. This wasn't too surprisingly, really, since this drive had survived a previous incident in which my mainboard actually caught fire. Yeah. My luck with computers since I started grad school could be summed up as "piss-poor." So, with a heavy sigh, I went ahead and replaced that drive as well.
Now, for reasons having mostly to do with the fact that the programers at Seagate need to spend a little less time riding the white pony, and a little more time testing their festering shitball software, it took quite a while to get this drive installed and formatted. Still eventually I succeeded and went to copy my files to this new pristine drive. Guess what? Same error as before.
(At this point I'd like to add an editorial remark that my dog just started whining in her sleep. This happens, occasionally, since the car accident in which she lost a leg. I think at such moments she's having nightmares about the accident and I almost always go over and wake her up. Since she never did this before the accident and seems unusually pleased to see me when I wake her, and for my dog that's saying something, I tend to think my supposition is correct. I mention this mostly because sitting next to a three-legged dog who is having a nightmare about being hit by a car really puts my current problems in perspective.)
So, I kept working on it and eventually found that only four files or so caused the error, which makes me think that, perhaps, those files just got corrupted at some point. File copies using files OTHER than these seem to work just fine. So, hell, problem solved right?
No. Hell no. I thought I was all set until I went to get my laptop computer back into synch with my desktop. See, some time back I set them up so they automatically keep their files up-to-date. So, if I write a new Stata program at home, the next time both laptop and desktop are turned on, and connected to the network, that Stata program will get transferred to the laptop without me having to do anything. It's a pretty handy little feature, actually. Well, when I finally got both computers talking again (Anyone who has worked on Windows networking realizes how much I'm glossing over here) guess what? Yep. Cyclic redundancy errors. All. over. the. place.
What makes the current manifestation of this problem so fun is the bizarre extreme it's reaching. One directory won't even open anymore. If I try to open it, my computer sits there and ponders for a while and then returns a message that "The disc in drive C isn't formatted. Format now?" Well, um, shit, you know, C is my operating system so obviously it is formatted, and NO I don't want you to format it now. If I try to delete this obviously fucked up directory I get a message that "Can't delete: directory is not empty." Yeah, thanks for the tip, that's why I want to delete it! To make it empty! Of course, the fact that this particular directory is the one where I've been storing my work for the past two months doesn't make me feel better. We're spending the morning here at Total Drek copying files from my laptop onto CD, just in case whatever the fuck is wrong here happens to be contagious. Needless to say my anti-virus software claims my system is clean and scanning for errors on the hard-drive has, so far, been unproductive.
So, right now, I have a computer that seems to run properly, but has a tendecy to throw errors of a particularly obscure type whenever I try to copy files. It also acts like a gibbering moron when I try to interact with specific directories. I don't know why yet, although I'm increasingly coming to think that, just maybe, my desktop's mainboard is fucked up. You know... it isn't the hard-drive that's causing the problem, but maybe the IDE controller on the board. So, every time I send data somewhere that requires the board to transfer it between physical drives, there's an enhanced risk (read: near certainty) of data corruption. Peachy! But then, if that were so, how is it that I managed to get my OS and software loaded without apparent problems? Not to mention that if I'm understanding this error right, it only crops up if the drive is unable to copy something properly, it shouldn't keep happening if a file happens to be corrupted. I mean, seriously, how the hell could the computer tell? It isn't like it reads my documents and says, "Yeah, this doesn't make any sense, the file must be corrupted." If it did that... well, my computer would never save anything. I'm really at a loss on this one.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I was going to write some charmingly pseudo-intellectual post about Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed today but, seeing as how Satan has taken control of my computer, I just decided to bitch and moan instead.
I really hate these fucking piles of silicon shit sometimes.
Anyone who has a bright idea on this one is welcome to chime in.