Thursday, October 05, 2017

Belt and Suspenders

Some of us may have a tendency to panic, when faced with some unexpected computer error (and such incidents generally occur when little help is available, or very close to deadlines, or both), but there are steps we can take to defend ourselves from the worst effects of such mishaps.

On Sunday, my partner's computer froze: suddenly neither keyboard nor mouse responded. We tried disconnecting and reconnecting keyboard and mouse, but without result. The last thing left to try was a hard reboot. We did that, and, after restarting in safe mode and then again in normal mode, the computer seemed to be working right: all programs responded as expected.

Until, that is, my partner tried to launch Studio 2017 to continue a project she was working on. At that point the Studio splash screen briefly appeared, only to be followed by an ominous error message: "Not found".

We clicked on the Knowledge Base Community link, but to little avail: no useful help there for this particular error message, so we opened a ticket with SDL's support. Of course, since it was Sunday, the earliest we could expect to hear from support was the following day... and my partner's deadline was rapidly approaching, so we needed to find another way to continue work on her project.

We had two options: either copy the project's files and memories to her backup computer (a laptop), where we still had a copy of an earlier version of Studio, or work on the project with a different translation tool.

We chose the latter option. Getting the sdxliff file to continue work was a simple question of copying it from the SDL 2017 "Projects" folder to a different working folder, but since we couldn't launch Studio, we had to use a different tool to export the most up to date copy of the translation memory: we used Xbench to load the TM and then export it in TMX format. It was then a simple matter of creating a new project in memoQ, add to it the partially translated sdxliff file, create a new memory, and import into it the TMX file we had created in Xbench.

My partner was then able to continue her translation.

The next day, Monday, we received instructions from SDL support. We were told first to try re-installing the program; when that didn't solve the problem, we tried renaming the "projects" XML file, and then various other SDL files and folders. Nothing seemed to work, and the SDL support technician was stumped. She said she'd need to escalate the issue to a more experienced engineer, but since the second-level engineers work out of the UK office, that would have to wait until the following day.

On Tuesday, we were again on a support call, this time with the second-level engineers. They suggested various other remedies, finally succeeding in restoring Studio 2017 to life -- the culprit turned out to be an obscure Windows file (BTW: kudos to SDL's tech support -- it's well worth the money we pay for it, and they are generally patient, thorough, and professional).

In the meantime, my partner had been able to complete the translation of the project in memoQ, and she then proceeded to finalize it in the newly-repaired Studio. So, a happy ending to our short tale of technical issues.

But it got me thinking that such happy endings don't just happen: they require preparation and planning:

  • If we had relied on a single computer, and a single CAT tool, my partner would have been unable to continue working until SDL support had solved the problem;
  • If we had not installed Xbench, we would have been unable to export the data from Studio's memory;
  • If we had not paid for SDL support, our only recourse would probably have been to take the computer to a repair shop, or perhaps ask for advice in the various online forums available, and hope for the best;
  • In this case, there was no damage to the files or to the computer's hard drive, but if such damage had occurred, we would have been prepared also: we regularly back up our files both to external hard drives linked to our home network, and to online storage.

Technical problems happen, but if you plan for them, you can minimize the damage they cause.

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