Sunday, November 23, 2014

Turducken: a Cautionary Tale OR Why Backing Up Your Computer is Necessary

I had a little black MacBook and I loved it true and well.

I am married to an MIT alum that helped build the internet (back in the day when it was just time sharing).  I worked in high-tech for years.  I worked at an Apple Store, so if there is one thing I understood it was backing up.

I never really understood until my first NaNoWriMo in 2009.

After weeks of furious writing, I hit the 30,000 word point and the end was in sight.  I was so excited that my story was rolling along and spent a Saturday morning watching the Food Network and watching Paula Deen talk about how to make a turducken.  (It's where you stuff a chicken, then stuff a duck with the stuffed chicken and then stuff a turkey with the stuffed chicken that is now stuffed in the duck so that you have a turkey stuffed with a duck, a chicken and stuffing.)  I was 1,500 words into incorporating the turducken into my story when I heard it.

Click, click, click.

Like the ticking sound of the death watch beetle in Practical Magic, it was the sound foreshadowing the death of my hard drive.

A moment later all went blank.

"Noooooooo," I wailed, the plaintive cry shook the house with a chilling terror.

My husband ran into the room to find me in an overstuffed chair, a sobbing mess.

"My.... my... hard drive," I choked out between sobs, "it's gone.   It died."

He gave me that patient husband look and, like most MIT types, immediately went to the practical.

"Do you have Apple Care?"

"Yes," I sniffed.

"Did you back it up?"

"Last night, but that's not the point," I whined.

"Make an appointment at the Apple store will you."

I sighed and, using my husband's computer, went online to take the first available genius bar appointment available.  It said, "Hard drive click of death.... 1500 words about Turducken lost.  Help me Obiwan Kenobi, you're my only hope."

Then, with great care, I dutiful packed up my redundant back ups system of two external hard drives and little black MacBook and drove into Chestnut Hill.  The store was packed, as most Apple stores are on a Saturday.  I found a corner back by the accessories, MacBook clutched to my chest and tears welling in the back of my eyes.

One of my colleagues saw me and jovially greeted me, "What are you doing here on your day off?"

The damn broke and my tears began to flow like a small river down my face.

"My hard drive failed," I choked out.

Suddenly I felt a pair of strong arms around me.  And then another and another and another as my co-workers and friends encased me in a group hug.

"It will be OK," they all told me, "you know you're in the best hands here."

My tears stopped and I began to breathe.  Jason, one of our lead genii, came over with a box of tissues and gently took my MacBook from me and tried to turn it on.  He poked at it and made a concerned face.  He double checked something on his screen and smiled.

"The bad news is you need a new hard drive.  The good news is we have one in stock and it's covered by AppleCare.  But this is the hard part, did you back it up."

I held up the non-woven shopping bag containing the two hard drives.

"Good girl," he smiled.  "We'll have this back up and running again in a few hours.  I'll pop in a new hard drive and restore from your back up drive.  It will be ready around 6pm tonight."

For the first time in over an hour, I felt air rush into my lungs as I took my first real deep breath.

When I returned to pick up my baby, I found that one of my external drives had failed and needed to be replaced.  I immediately purchased a portable external drive that I could carry with me when needed.

I still use a redundancy back up because I still live by the motto from the early days of high-tech: save as often as you want to redo your work, back up as often as you're willing to lose your work.

That cold November Saturday morning, I lost 1,500 words about Turducken.  It was fresh enough to jot down and retype that evening.  Had I lost the 30k words to that point... and everything else... it would have been a disaster.

The clicking of the death watch beetle comes quickly and strikes without warning.  You have been warned, be prepared or be devastated.

It's your choice.

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