Saturday, March 30, 2013

Brain replacement

When computational hardware needs replacement, there is some discretion as to how to re-instantiate software. If the new hardware is functionally equivalent, or can emulate the old hardware, a direct copy of a large fraction of software is appealing for its potential simplicity. If not, more forethought is necessary.

In my case I'm transferring between very similar hardware, an older MacBook and a newer MacBook. There is software to manage the copy (Migration Assistant), but Apple-think has decided that the ethernet cable is to be deprecated. Like the floppy drive (iMac 1998), 8P8C is archaic technology (MacBook Pro, 2012); not white, shiny or invisible. Radio-frequency EM communication is an option, but slow -- two days is too long to be without a brain to tinker with.

So a purpose built dongle was grudgingly desirable. $29 worth of grudge and desire. Even with a  copper wire channel I had time to watch the Oregon Duck's lose a basketball game during the copy operation. No brain required.

The hardware and GUI interfaces on the new and old are strikingly similar, particularly the operator defined elements. It's a bit disconcerting. Is this what it feels like to be a clone, the same in more ways than is comfortable for two bodies?

This feeling is amplified by shared remote memory. Evernote and Dropbox were seamless, but Google Drive failed in recognizing the copied directory ("This is not your original Google Drive folder."), and a renamed copy of the copy was needed, with proper incantations supplied by a Google search. It was a visceral reminder that all is not truly identical to what was.

In the recent past the many steps of getting a new machine up and running was manually reviewed, perhaps while swapping numbered floppy disks and cups of tea while waiting, forcing a reflection on the process. This brave new body hides more than it reveals. There is less need to know or reknow what is unique or unknown about a fresh brain.

There will always be glitches, rare interactions between an increasing number of software and hardware combinations. Bits of gnarl, comforting reminders that a clone is an imperfect copy of an imperfect copy.

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