Back Up!

We got hit by a mega-storm earlier this week; heavy rain and high winds buffeting our part of the Catskills and turning to blizzard conditions at higher altitude. The snow fall was stunning for this time of year: both Belleayre and Hunter Mountains reported a solid foot of the white stuff, and their web site pictures show that this time they weren’t joking. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean either mountain is open for skiing or riding and I imagine the snow will melt off before the season kicks in a full month from now.

Many of us were hit with power outages as the high winds knocked down trees. Early afternoon Tuesday our electricity went off, came back on again for a couple of seconds and went off again – and when my iBook stayed off, rather than kicking into battery mode, I experienced what is known as a commonly known as a portent of doom. Sure enough when the power came back on three hours later, just as we’d lit the candles for the evening, the computer was dead. Nothing happening. Well, the battery was showing a charge and the power cord elicited the green light, which meant that power was getting into the computer, but that on-off switch? Nothing. Looks like the motherboard had been fried by a power surge.

img_9782.jpg At the annual Phoenicia Halloween Parade, held last Sunday, the event culminated as always with a Haunted House. Toxsick Man showed up to share some scary facts and figures with us. Here he is with a dead computer.

I back up my work, once a month or so, typically when I’m about to take the laptop on the road with me. After all, you don’t expect it to die in front of your eyes. Tuesday, I learned a harsh lesson. Back up all the time. Every day. And if, like me, the most important part of your work is on a small Microsoft Word file, you may as well save it to an external hard drive as you go; it will hardly slow you down. (I could pin some responsibility here on some problems I’ve had with the backup software, but that doesn’t suffice; it’s up to me to get software that does what I want it to do.) In this scenario, I had last backed up two weeks ago, and had no immediate access to my last three tightly edited chapters… A solid week’s work. I think I was in such a concentrated editing mode that the thought of backing up one at a time escape me, I just ploughed on to the next one to try and meet an impossible deadline.

So, I spent all of Wednesday dealing with the recovery and repair. That meant, after checking with a local Mac guy, a 150-mile round trip to the Apple store in Albany. They were optimistic that the hard drive was undamaged. But if you send your computer out for repair with Apple and they see a problem with your hard drive, they’ll replace it, regardless of whether you want them to or not. Hard drive through Apple is prohibitively expensive. So I came home with a $50 external hard drive enclosure from Best Buy that, after the wife and I spent three solid hours accessing my iBook hard drive from beneath approximately 100 screws and five levels of encasement (and I’m not joking: check this online set of directions or this YouTube video to see what’s involved), turned out to be the wrong kind. I’m about to set off again, hoping that by the end of the day, I’ll have my major files back – at which point I then have to re-install my hard drive back into the iBook to send it out to Apple. Such is life. I’m not complaining. When Campbell asked me if there wasn’t someone I could blame, like the power company (ha!), I said no: the only person to blame was myself. And I’m okay with that. I don’t like being helpless, at the receiving end of some other entity’s whim. I always feel better about something bad happening when I know that I – and only I – could have averted it.

So, the usual warnings apply: back up, back up, back up. Forget the new energy-efficient warnings about turning your computer off at night: set it to back up while you sleep instead. And don’t assume that just because your computer is sitting at your desk that it won’t suddenly die on you. Oh, and don’t delete a phone interview from your iPod just because it’s been transferred to iTunes (but not yet on an external hard drive) because you can bet that that’ll be the day that your laptop dies.

In the meantime, I’m happy to have friends. An e-mail sent late last night to request a spare computer for the next couple of weeks elicited four positive offers as of 9am this morning. Thanks… I’m off to borrow them right now. Besides, who wants to dump a laptop in landfill anyway??

img_9782.jpg Scary, huh?

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5 Comment(s)

  1. Geo

    30 October, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Ouch. Got Time Machine going here, and power through APC. Probably not practical with a lap top moving around all the time.

  2. 1 November, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Do you recommend Time Machine? I had Silverkeeper and had issues with it, which might be why I hadn’t backed up as often as i should. And I was recommended a UPS power surge protector after this last crash.


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