Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Data! Data! Who's got the Data?!: A cautionary tale of woe and redemption

Dear Reader . . . oh, Dear Reader -  My day started off wee bit shaky. (This one's kinda longish, so feel welcome to just skip through all of the narrative to the pretty pictures and the tuneful punctuation.)

You see, I got up a little later than usual - just in time to get Miss C up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for school. I padded around downstairs for a bit and then went up to check on email, etc. in the office (I normally get the newspaper that I edit back from my designer, the multi-talented Danny Schweers, late Monday/early Tuesday to send out to my proofreaders, so I was hoping that I might have a proof to review). I, as is my practice, clicked on Outlook (where I get email for my newspaper and the art show that I chair), Internet Explorer (where I get personal email), and Firefox (where I'm keeping my biblion accounts for now). But rather than the programs popping up, I got a seemingly endless (I say "seemingless" because Miss C had a serious debate in school today about the nature of eternity) process indicator - I watched the Weather on the 8s, I watched the weather on WBOC, and still no applications. So I clicked Restart.

That seemed to be taking it's own sweet time, too, so I made my way back downstairs to start some Irish oatmeal.

When I came back upstairs to check on Miss C and my anticipated proof, I did not find my usual log in screen. No. I did not find the pretty green leaf that serves as my wallpaper. No. I found a lovely, clean desktop - just like when the computer was brand new . . . just like when the computer was brand new . . . aaaahhh!

There was NOTHING on my computer. None of my editing programs, none of my years of documents from the newspaper and art show (which I'm due to be launching next week), none of the documents that I've created for the comedy event at Miss C's school (which are currently in the editing process) or the Taste the Fruit of the Vine, none of my personal writing, none of my contacts, and nothing of my work for biblion. NOTHING.

When I clicked on My Documents, it said, in rather taciturn fashion, "This folder is empty."

As you can imagine, dear Reader, this did not seem like an exactly helpful turn of events at this point, particularly since I hadn't backed up all of my files in over a year.

I spazed out a little, tiny bit, trying (unsuccessfully) to call my friend Anne in Connecticut at 6:30 a.m. and wailing out "Nooooo" in such a way that my daughter was terrified to come downstairs, thinking that I'd inadvertently killed one of our cats.

When I finally got her down the stairs, I felt much better after I'd articulated the whole mess out loud, telling her the sequence of events and reminding both of us that we were still alive, we were still warm and protected in our home, and we'd work through this.

Her response? [insert adultified inflection here] "Well, Mommy, at least you learned an important lesson."

That, dear Reader, is when it all just became kinda fun and funny.

I was trying to think of some other adult that I could call to ventilate a bit at an insane hour, and I immediately thought of my friend Sheila (she's a mom, too, so I knew she'd be up on a school day, and she has an humungous amount of precious data, too, as she's working on her PhD and does a lot of consulting and volunteer work as well, so I knew she'd be able to relate to my angst).

Sheila was a huge help, as I'd been thinking up to that point that my only option for data retrieval was Staples. But Sheila'd used the local fellas at AMERITechnologies with great results, so my squeaky clean computer and I headed out to get there when they opened at 9:00.

Tim was initially a little dubious about the depth of recovery when I told him about getting the "clean slate" sort of desktop.

He said, "You must have hit F11 or something. I'll take a look, but I can't promise that I'll find anything - maybe there'll be some of it that I can save."

Tim plugged my CPU into his keyboard, etc. and booted her up.

And while I was waiting, Dixie (formally Dixiebelle), AMERITechnologies resident therapy dog (or so I've officially dubbed her) ran in to keep me company:

But, as the system came to life, rather than the erroneous desktop, my happy log in screen with the orange Gerber daisy popped up. Oh, heavens . . . what was my password? I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and anticipation that I couldn't remember for sure what my fingers normally typed.

But then I did and my desktop popped up - MY desktop with all of my data just sitting there on it like nothin' had ever happened (well, almost - it was jumbled up a bit - but it was all there!).

"Let's try restarting it a few times to make sure it's completely fine," suggested Tim. Panic hit my control-issue-laden brain . . . NO! Let's not! "Can we back it up?" I asked. I told Mr. Tim about the flash drive that I'd tried to use (what a pain!) before, and he said that's not near big enough for all of this data.

"What you need is an external hard drive." "Do you have one?" I asked. "Can I just get one now and back it up before we shut it down again?"

Tim double-checked to make sure that everything was in good working order, and he said "yes"! He had a model available with a terabyte of space (enough to back up my computer, Miss C's computer, and several of our friends' as well) that was on sale for just $99.99:

And it had this really pretty design on it to boot:

Setting up the backup was super easy - it took a few hours to run, but eventually all of my data was copied over. Safely duplicated.

Now I'm back at home, having a treat of a mid-week glass of Malbec, telling you my cautionary tale, dear Reader. As Miss C said, I learned an important lesson: if you do anything with your computer(s) that you value, invest in a reliable way to back them up and develop the discipline to do it.

I needed a little more positive energy in the wake of it all, so following my interchange with Scale Worm, I popped in one of the discs from the Magnetic Fields _69 Love Songs_ collection, hearing one of my all-time favorite love songs, "A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off":

Whoa, Nellie!  - Jenny


  1. Oh, wow...I did read this all the way through. Having a hubby who worked many years as a micro-computer analyst (and who has had occasion to sooth the distress by recovering the "lost" from the computers of many friends), I was familiar with the panic you experienced. I'm glad it all worked out nicely for you....AND that you learned something in the process! :)

  2. Hmm, back up
    Back up. Back up.... Oh yeah, Back Up!
    Maybe I'll go do that too...

    Sorry for your I don't need no stinkin' coffee morning.

    I' d a done a bottle of bourbon to celebrate havin All That not bein' gone...
    I have a Miss C and a Miss T! Congrats Ms. J!

  3. Dang dang dang... I listened to yer toone and went and hit BUY!
    Dang. Dang. Dang!

  4. Morning, all! I'm up and Mr. Computer's up as well, so all's well in Casa J&C this slippery Wednesday!

    Pat - It is nice to know that someone understands - I think that's what was so helpful about finally articulating the experience out loud - completely let the air out of all the panic. And you're right, I learned it darn good!

    Mr. Boxed Set - I was hopin' that my woes, as they say on Oprah, would all be worth it if they helped just one other person out there . . .

    Two Misses? I love having multiple Misses (part of my former life) - wishing you bliss with all of yours. And now that The Magnetic Fields are traveling through the universe to your home, you'll all be able to dance and giggle together (note that a few of the songs have some profane words in them, though, Dad). - J

  5. Profanity and colloquialisms are components of English as a living language! On my commute a dj played Papa was a rodeo!
    Stay warm, I hear y'all have some snow a fallin'!
    Dancing and gigglin' is the BEST!

  6. You got you some quality radio goin' on, Mr. Boxed Set ...

  7. Nice looking doggie at the computer place - labs are wonderful. Dogs make everything better!!!

  8. Love Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs" ... and Malbec. I think we're going to love having you down the street!!!

  9. Ah! Delighted to know there's a kindred soul nearby, Mariah! - J

    P.S. I clicked on your name and was taken to the Dogfish website - I got myself a little ditty of a Dogfish story in my back pocket. Maybe I'll pull it out and dust it off one of these days . . .


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