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When Windows Breaks Itself…

So I guess it’s time for one of my irregular devlog updates. But this one involves a long tale of woe and tragedy, so settle in!

The October windows update…It broke my PC. I’m still not entirely sure what the root cause was, but I feel like it had something to with the USB drivers. Whatever it was, my keyboard and mouse no longer got recognised. In fact, any keyboard and mouse, whether USB or PS/2 port, would not work.

As you might imagine, this is quite a problem when you need to log into your computer. Luckily for me, keyboard and mouse still worked inside of BIOS, and it would also work inside of a windows boot USB setup. I managed to copy my important files (the ones I hadn’t backed up recently) onto an external hard-drive, which came as quite a relief, but as I thought on the problem, a more terrifying matter came to mind.

I use Firefox’s lock-wise password protector to store my passwords and I auto-generate my passwords. That included my email AND my backup email. I needed access to those email addresses and they were a gobbledegook of letters and numbers that I hadn’t even learnt, let alone was able to remember. Trying to reset one inevitably led to an email to the other with a security code (I also had a security code sent to my phone, but they were being stubborn and weren’t letting me in with the details I provided sans email code).

Anxiety started to consume me. I couldn’t remember my Firefox lock-wise password, so I couldn’t log in to it on another computer, I couldn’t recover my email passwords as they required each other to work, and I couldn’t log into my PC to open Firefox and check the passwords. And until I could get access to something I couldn’t risk trying to reinstall windows, unless it was literally a last resort. I was at an impasse.

So I did a lot of things. A lot of things. I removed, reinstalled and updated all of my windows updates through command prompt, but no luck. I tried installing new drivers for every device I could think of that could potentially fix my problem with input through command prompt. No luck. In my own stupidity, I even wiped the windows boot USB I had in order to copy these files across, thinking “No worries, I can just create a new windows boot USB on my mac”…Poor naive little me.

I become a command prompt god. cd, dir, driverquery, fc, xcopy, sfc, pnputil, wdsutil, the list goes on. I mastered them all. I started to dream in command prompt queries. But still, nothing availed me.

I literally spent a week straight in front of the PC trying to fix it, but I was no closer to getting access to my PC and now I was left without a windows boot USB as well. So I tried creating one on the mac. And holy bajeesus it was an ordeal. Just this took another half a week as I ran into errors and bugs (Mac errors are less than useless, I was getting things like “Error 100000” which yielded no consistent causes on googling). Finally, I managed to create a windows boot USB, but then, I was really back at square one.

So I did the only thing I could, I used my windows boot USB and reinstalled windows, keeping my old files intact, but losing the ability to open Firefox. I had no way of getting into anything. Steam, emails, accounts for all sorts of things, they were all gone. At one point, I accidentally cleared the master boot record for the hard-drive and thought I had literally lost access to everything on my PC, but I was able to reconstruct the partition data and restore the files.

So I sadly booted up my new windows install, unsure as to how I was even going to be able to continue working on the game without access to my steam account or my emails. Then I had a brainwave. I wonder if Firefox stores it’s data anywhere locally? So I googled Firefox local data and found out the folder where it was stored. I had intentionally kept the partition of my old windows untouched, so I had access to the old Firefox data there. I tentatively copied the old data and replaced my new Firefox install with it…

IT WORKED!

I opened Firefox and magically, awe-inspiringly, wonderously… I was logged in automatically.

I quickly copied important passwords to another safe place and literally leant back shaking. All up I think I’d spent two weeks, doing literally nothing but sitting in front of the PC trying to get to the point I had just reached. The sense of relief was intense. Nothing was inaccessible. I hadn’t lost access to Steam. I could continue on the game with no worries. Plus, I had a fresh new windows install, which felt pretty nice. Though I did properly go back, format and restructure the partitions to get everything into a better spot than it was with all my old files hanging around.

This is the way the story ends, friend, not with a bang, but with a copy and paste procedure.

On a brighter note, I’ve got a lot of updates done to the game, release is getting closer and closer and I’m pushing myself as hard as I can to get everything up to scratch for it. I recently made a new “showcase” gif for the game:

I added a “dilation line” which you can see following the ship, which shows how much time dilation you underwent (light blue is heavy dilation, pinkish is little dilation). Rejiggered and added a lot of graphical flourishes as well as fixing some more spaghetti code that lies behind the scenes. There’s a lot that’s been done since the last update, but I’ve forgotten most of it due to the terrifying windows ordeal.

If you’re still reading, I thank you! Release really is coming up soon and I hope you’re excited to start delivering those packages!

By RefresherTowel

I'm a solo indie game developer, based in Innisfail, Australia.

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