April 12, 2009

Shiny! New!

Nothing like a computer crisis to bring up deep philosophical questions: am I too dependent on technology? How did I ever function without a computer? Why didn’t I take my computer in to the repair shop when I kept seeing the spinning wheel of death? How come I always wait until too late? How crazy is it that I can’t even look at photographs without my computer? And mostly ... why didn’t I back everything up?

It could have been worse. During spring semester last year, one of my students had a similar computer crisis. LooksLikeHanson opened his computer that morning, and it had simply died. He lost everything. The story filled me with horror. “I’ve got twenty years of writing on my hard drive,” I told my students. “And all my teaching stuff – syllabi, assignments, reports.” Sure, I’d backed up some stuff on CDs but I didn’t do that very often because it was a hassle.

Following the advice of my students, I went out that week and bought an external hard drive. So when my computer died last week, most of my text files were backed up. When I checked, I’d last backed up my manuscript at the end of March, which meant I’d only lose about a week’s worth of work.

But I’ve also taken photographs every day for more than two years. And they weren’t backed up. There’s so many of them, and the files are so big, that I simply didn’t bother. I’m a writer, not a photographer, so I figured it wouldn’t matter if I lost all my photographs. They are snapshots, mostly, not serious photography. Some are saved on the internet – the photos I post to my Flickr account, for example, or the ones that I post to Kodak.com for family members to see. And I’ve printed out photos of my kids. But still.

When Tech Guy from the local computer repair shop called me back, he didn’t even try to convince me that I should pay him all kinds of money to fix my laptop. He said, simply, “You need to buy a new computer.”

But then he told me the good news: we could probably recover all the data from the hard drive.

And we did. So now I’m back online, with a MacBook that has a special program that automatically backs up my data to my wireless external hard drive whenever I’m at home. I’ve had to re-install many of my applications and hunt through my journal to find passwords for stuff I did years ago, but most of my data survived the Computer Crisis of 2009. Reunited with all my photographs, I spent a happy 24 hours sorting them into categories with the updated iPhoto program. My old computer was so slow that looking at photos was almost painful. On the new computer, I just click and they appear. And they look so much nicer on my new screen that has no weird spots or faded areas on it.

Yeah, the harsh reality will be the bill that will come at the end of the month, but still … I have a shiny new computer! And that's a happy ending.

27 comments:

demomo said...

I got this link a little while back and it made me think of you. Everything looks so peaceful, and that's how many of your photos make me feel. I'm glad that you were able to recover them.

http://curiousexpeditions.org/?p=78

BlackenedBoy said...

I love this story.

My laptop computer, a PC that was given to me for my eighteenth birthday in 2006, is completely trashed with viruses.

When I tried to reinstall the anti-virus, the computer wouldn't take it, so the problems have just continued accumulating.

This summer I'm buying a Mac, which I'm told gets no viruses!

I was really apprehensive about getting a Mac, but the virus thing sold me!

Congratulations on your saved hard drive and new computer!

Rick said...

I'm very happy you were able to get a new computer! Despite the cost, I think it'll prove to be a worthy investment. You've needed a new MacBook. I remember the time it took us to install Photoshop! What kind of MacBook did you get? The new aluminum unibody one or just a white plastic one? In August, I am looking into getting an aluminum unibody MacBook so I can have a more capable computer (for photography, stop motion videography, and graphic design) and I'm passing this one down to my younger brother and mother who currently have no computer at home.

jo(e) said...

demomo: Thanks for the link and the compliment.

Blackened Boy: I've been using Mac computers for years, and I've never gotten a virus.

jo(e) said...

Rick: Ha! We must be on at the same time.

I ended up getting the white MacBook. The aluminum one was just too expensive. It's running 10.5.6 and it's so much faster than my old one -- which had really slowed down.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I'd been so proud of myself for regularly backing up my writing files on a thumb drive, just in case.

Of course, last week I lost the thumb drive. Sigh.

Maybe I'll get one of those wireless hard drive thingies for my birthday...

Glad you're back online, and with minimal damage!

SingingOwl said...

Whew! Love the egg pic!

Happy Easter

timna said...

ok, I'll back it up. this week. soon.

sorry that we didn't find our way to you over spring break. some states were quite a blur as we pushed our way through.

Nadine said...

I worry about my photos too. I don't have anything backed up. Maybe I should add an external hard drive to my wishlist...

Yay for your new computer!

bsouth said...

I think the happy ending is the fact that you managed to keep a hold of all your data and especially your lovely photo's.

BerryBird said...

Automatic backup to a wireless external hard drive? I'm swooning! I so need that.

I'm glad you got your data back in the end.

Rana said...

I LOVE the wireless Time Machine backup! It is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Have you had a chance to play with the multiple-finger options on the touchpad yet? My favorites are the scroll and zoom combinations.

Rana said...

I had one virus, once, in all the years I've had a Mac. It was back in the 1980s, when the computer was so primitive that I was able to remove the virus by starting the computer off a disc and deleting the virus code by hand.

I find that Macs are less crash-prone, as well, to the degree that I need to remind myself to do a full shutdown/restart every month or so to clear the buffers. Normally I just let it sleep.

RageyOne said...

Good that your files were able to be saved! I'm sure that was a relief.

I had a HD failure during my comprehensive exams. Luckily, I had backed up my files to CD. Since then I faithfully backed once a week. I've kinda gotten away from that until recently. Now, I'm back to backing up at least once a week. One never knows when technology will fail.

Backing up wireless? How cool is that!

Brigindo said...

Yay for the new computer AND saving the data from the old. Best outcome ever. I'm so happy to see you use the phrase "spinning wheel of death" as that is what I've always called it but the "genius'" at the mac store look at me strangely when I say it.

MaggieMac said...

the "spinning wheel of death ... nightmarish! I'm happy for you that you were able to recover your stuff -- especially the pictures -- what a relief!

I got a MacBook (the white one) last July for the first time -- previously only had PCs. What a life-changing experience. EVERYONE should have a mac.

And I know what you mean -- it is so much fun to have a fast new computer.

Rev Dr Mom said...

When my hard drive died a year ago I was able to recover my data, but I'm not sure I will be able to this time. If I think of all the photos I've lost (especially of BabyJ) I'll cry.

Appointment at the Apple store tomorrow!

Jennifer said...

Oh I'm so glad you were able to recover stuff from your hard-drive. And yes, an automatic back-up to an external drive or server is a must. Glad you've got one set up now. And wow you make decisions fast. I'm still researching replacement options for my dead computer and using husband's spare laptop in the mean-time. And rats, you are yet another writer I admire who's gone Mac just when I've decided to scratch it off the list.

liz said...

Hooray for the happy ending!!

Leslie F. Miller said...

I've got a Macbook Pro. Before it was a year old, I had a defective hard drive, and I lost all the changes I'd made to my book, and I had to start over.

Since then, at the end of every writing session, I've emailed my writing to myself. I have various incarnations of the book at my Yahoo and Gmail accounts, in addition to being on jump drives and external hard drives.

jennifer said...

Hi jo(e)- I love happy endings!

Is it time capsule that you have? Or some other external hard drive that is mac-compatible? Stories like this always give me backup nightmares. I'm trying to decide if it's worth investing in time capsule. Hmm.

jo(e) said...

Leslie: That's the kind of story that made me get an external hard drive. I do periodically email chapters of my manuscript to myself. Just to be on the safe side.

Jennifer: Yes, it's a Time Capsule. I love that it just backs everything up automatically.

kathy a. said...

we got daughter a macbook for her birthday, because of the no-virus feature. she inadvertently killed 2 laptops over winter break.

i'ma hating my desktop madly. windows vista is the devil himself, and so is everything else converging to make my stupid computer crashy. did get an external drive, but alas, not wireless. can't afford a mac for myself for a while....

landismom said...

Great story. I use mozy.com for backup--it's $5 a month, which my piece of mind is definitely worth.

I recently had to get a new battery for my MacBookPro, and the guy in the Apple store gave it to me for free, cementing my love of the Mac. I'm going to have to check out the wireless hard drive thing.

On a related note, I was somewhat terrified, while in the Apple store, to see that hard drives that hold 2TB of data are now commercially available to the home user. And yes, I'm one of those people who runs around saying things like, "My cell phone right now has more memory than the hard drive on my first computer did!"

jo(e) said...

landismom: My first computer was a Mac Classic -- which was not much more than a glorified typewriter. It's amazing how fast things have changed in what seems to me a very short time.

justin said...

I'm very pleased to hear that you've recovered most of your stuff, and that you've got a fab new computer.
Your previous post about your computer crash prompted me to back up everything on my computer onto 2 CDs ... I'd been lazy and had not done this for the last 3 months.

Lilian said...

PHEW! I'm very relieved to hear that you recovered your data!! I was worried about it. And I know I should go back up my latest photos RIGHT NOW (although I have most of them them on the desktop, the laptop AND in the external hard drive). Now... a laptop and external that wirelessly back up everything? That's a dream come true! Someday we'll own a mac... someday (sigh).