Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Tale of Two Hard Drives

I had an adventure today worth sharing. It is a story with a moral, so if you are feeling crass and jaded from law school reading, spare yourself and skip past this.

The story begins at 6:02 this morning, when I fired up my computer to begin the day. Instead of hearing the customary and charming Macintosh jingle over the speakers on my desk, I was greeted with an ear-splitting screech. And instead of the usual smattering of news headlines, weather forecasts and google group banter which downloads to my inbox every night, I faced a pale blue screen of death and a blinking question mark.

A blinking question mark?

What the hell kind of philosophical prank did "Sleeping Me" try to pull on "Waking Me" last night? I thought I had so gotten over that kind of existential crap years ago.

The prank (whatever it was) must have worked because nothing I did to my computer jarred its blinking stare. I held down every combination of "shift," "option," "escape" and keyboard consonant I could think of. I pulled the battery out. I inserted CD's. I pushed secret buttons with paperclips. And I did it all without the NPR Internet stream which usually graces those dark wee hours at my apartment. I would describe the pre-coffee vibe on the 2200 block of Durant as....less than cheerful.

I'll fast forward through the rest of the morning, during which I took notes by hand and solicited various Internet tech searches from my mod-mates. I'll skip past the 20 minutes on hold with the Apple tech people this afternoon, past the entirely unhelpful conversation with "Philip" and his strangely Indian accent, past the drive to Emeryville, past being told at the Apple store that I couldn't see a tech person until Saturday evening, past the hour and a half I spent in "stand-by just in case" mode, to the moment the chipper Apple guy with his too-trendy haircut said:

"Dude, your hard drive is dead. Not just dead-dead, but, like, fried-dead-forever-dead. Was there anything important on there?"

Anything important?

Only about 20 gigs of irreplaceable photos, 13,000 iTunes files, every document I have generated in my life, every email I have ever sent or read, every bank statement I have ever received, every letter to every editor of every publication I have ever sent, and . . . my current grocery list.

Yes, some of that rates out as "important." To me, anyway.

There are also every page of notes, memos, resumes, messy outlines, and ugly flow-sheets of (let's face it) marginal utility I have generated in my short law school career. Finals are right around the corner!!!

Amazingly, this is not a hard luck story: I had everything (and I mean everything) backed up. Even my stored passwords, desktop picture and, yes, my grocery list. After a hard drive swap and few hours of watching that relentless little blue status bar creep forward ("56%.....57%....58%....) I am back online right were I left off.

But for an instant there (and this is why I am sharing all this with you) I had peek at how miserable I COULD have been. It was just a glimpse, but what I experienced can be described as pure, dysfunctional terror. It was a brush with a fate worse than awful. A brush with a fate I hope befalls none of you.

If you are like me, you think it is depressing that electronic data has such a hold on you. Do yourself a favor and save that battle for later. Like, sometime after December 19th. In the meantime, consider backing your hard drive up.

"Future You" might just thank "Present You" for your keen foresight.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you back it up on CDs? Zip drives? Help a luddite out.

11/29/2007 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go pick up one of those free USB drives the firms get you. Store all of your pictures in one folder, all your law school files in another, etc. Then just drag and drop them all into the same USB drive ("replacing all" each time you do it). Do it often. This has happened to me twice, and, trust me, I learned the first time.

If you're really loaded w/ music and movies, you'll have to go bigger and get an external HD and a backup system (new Mac Leopard has the software for backing up built in).

11/29/2007 11:04 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Moral of the story: It's never too late to break away from the Apple cult. Disco Stu, I'm looking in your direction.

11/30/2007 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maxtor also makes a pretty decent line of external HDs that ship with Retrospect, a good and easy-to-use backup program. Lets you keep multiple backups (so that you can leapfrog them in case one gets corrupted, etc) and set things up so you just plug in the HD and hit the big button on the front of the drive to backup. And re: Patrick's "creepier" note, Retrospect lets you encrypt the backup.

11/30/2007 4:56 AM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

You missed it Armen. The point of the story is how easy it is for a mac to interface with another HD and back itself up. Personally, DS uses his .mac website to back items up, but he runs lowly tiger. Sounds like Leopard does it on its own.

On a related note, DS's wife's PC just failed. She lost all work files. That goodness that wasn't as important as photos and law school notes.

11/30/2007 9:01 AM  
Anonymous m said...

Stu, I don't think that was the point at all. The point was to remind everyone to back their crap up - regardless of the relative ease or difficulty and regardless of the OS they use - because a hard drive can fail at any time.

Oh, and if you're looking to break away from the Apple cult like Armen suggests, just remember which was rated the fastest Windows-Vista running PC last year.

11/30/2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

m, assuming you're still a student, shut the hell up you douchbag and leave the joking conversation to alumni and senior-status bloggers. Sorry, but now that I've graduated and passed the bar, I feel superior to all students. Yeah, I know this makes me an a-hole, but you'll know what I mean when you graduate and are joking with a friend via comments of a message board and some 4th generation blogger who can't think up an original pseudonym for a name tries to tell you how it is.

Or maybe I'm just angry 'cause I realize I'll be at work 'till 10pm on a Friday night.

But I did like your link. Keep that stuff coming.

11/30/2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Bekki said...

I use the SD card in my phone. Not as much space as an external hard drive, and not as complete a backup, but it's extremely portable, and my phone is always with me.

On a side note, is it worth getting Leopard now for the backup feature, or later when more of the bugs have been worked out?

12/01/2007 7:22 PM  
Anonymous m said...

I'm going to get Leopard soon, but not until after I'm done with finals. (That's only because I, personally, do not want to mess with a working system this close to the end.) But I'm not buying it for Time Machine, I'm buying it for things like Spaces, Quick Look and some of the other 300 new features that it comes with. Patrick is right about waiting until it is less buggy, but I think by, say, late December it will be sufficiently bug-free to install (though it'll never truly be bug-free). And I don't know that Apple has historically dropped the price on their operating systems (like they do with hardware), but I may be wrong on that.

12/01/2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous m said...

close is a relative term.

12/03/2007 3:10 PM  

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