Monday, May 26, 2008

Up in smoke

Ok, you know that sinking feeling you get when you've done something that you don't understand with your computer and now you are afraid that you've done something to cause irreparable harm to your computer/files/life. Are you familiar with phrases like, "Blue Screen of Death"? Although I didn't employ any intentional method to destroy my data, I did have a heart-stopping moment this weekend.

For several years now, as my collection of personal digital photographs has swelled to the tune of tens of thousands of pictures, my lovely wife has delicately encouraged me to back up our precious memories onto a more durable medium (CDs, DVDs) rather than using a fragile magnetic hard drive. In the past 5 years, I have gone through three hard drives on my PC and ALL of my Emery's Memories work currently resides on one 400 GB external drive. Amelia has expressed her trepidation about losing data at key times such as my clean install of two years ago (I only managed to lose my .doc and .pub files from 4 years of youth minsitry - well 30% of them that weren't backed up onto CDs). I have reassured her that I am fully aware of the situation and it is under control. But I must admit that on Saturday, I was sweating bullets.

Here's the low-down: I've been increasingly depending on my trusty Macbook Pro since I acquired it in September of '07. Unfortunately, the video and photo files I've been doing with Emery's Memories have quickly whittled down my available 120 gigs of hard drive space to about 20 gigs. Soooo... I decided to clean up a bit. First of all, I went through and tossed duplicates or bad photos. Next, I got the external hard drive from my PC (I have one for my Mac, but it is just for backing up the Mac) and set about dumping all the Emery's Memories Projects onto the PC external drive. Because I have an Intel based Mac, it read the FAT32 partition with no problems and I happily transfered gigabyte after gigabyte of information. Skip forward a few days... I had just a few more files to transfer to the backup PC drive and then I was going to take it back to the PC and hook it up to make sure all the files got transfered and were readable before dumping the 40 gigs of data in my Mac's Trashcan. I reconnected the firewire PC backup drive to the Macbook and got this message: "This volume is not initialized. Initialize now? YES NO" For those of you who are strictly PC users, this is akin to formatting (essentially erasing any existing data on the hard drive to have a clean slate). I selected "NO" and took the external hard drive upstairs to the PC to see if it would read it there. Amelia was sewing and saw me come upstairs to the PC and hook up the drive.
Am: "Hi, honey. Whatcha doing?"
Me: (nonchalantly) "Oh, I'm just checking to see if the files I backed up transfered alright."
Am: "You know, I really wish you'd go ahead and put all our old pictures on CDs."
Me: (thinking - SHE KNOWS), "Oh, I know, I know. I'll do that soon. Promise."
----I reboot the Windows Machine and wait. The drive comes up..... I click on it to open up the file explorer window, waiting to see the almost 300 gigs worth of pictures, videos and music I had stored on the drive unfold gloriously before my eyes. Nothing doing. My PC mocks me with the following message: "This drive is not formatted. Format now? YES NO" -----
Me: " Ahhhhh... nuts!"
Am: "What's wrong, honey?"
Me: "Um.... well, I had this drive hooked up to the Mac to transfer a bunch of files and now neither computer is reading it."
Am: "Is that the hard drive with all our pictures on it?"
Me: (almost whispering) "yes"
---------pregnant pause-------- (for reference, ladies: HERE # 72)
Am: Can you fix it?
Me: Um... I'm looking into it now.
------ Furiously searching Google (no, I'm not feeling lucky), I found a forum that explained my problem. It seems that even with Intel based Macs, if you attempt to move a file that is more than 4 GB, the FAT32 system doesn't handle it very well... so the Mac tried to use it's file handling protocol to tell the drive how to handle those files. The next time I tried to access the drive, the partition table was corrupted with data from both the Mac's way of reading files and the PC's way of reading files. Therefore, neither one of them recognized that the drive was formatted at all. Luckily, all the data was intact. I downloaded some free software that analyzes the drive and recreates the partition table and Volia! 30 minuts later, my PC can read all my glorious data. -----
Me: (with newfound confidence) Ok, sweetie, it is all there. Not a byte missing. I just had to (and here I launched into a long winded explanation of the difference between NTFS and FAT32 which she promptly cut me off)
Am: So... will you please back up all our pictures onto CDs now?
Me: Sure.... soon (tm) .

Needless to say, I really worried for a while there that I'd really messed up and lost all the digital copies of our pictures for the last 5 years or so....

So, I'll leave you with this little joke:

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan replied, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my Son, Jesus? With all the technological advances on earth, he has proven himself adept at mastering all of them." Satan said, "You've given him every advantage, it is not a matter of mastering technological skills, he already knows it all. If you kept yourself out of the equation, I'll bet that he couldn't even beat me in a typing test." "Very well," said the LORD. He called Jesus and arranged for them to each have a computer brought before them and told them the rules of the typing test.... the first to finish with the fewest errors would be declared the winner. It was no ordinary typing test and their fingers flew across the keyboards. After 15 minutes, Satan began to break a sweat. After 30 minutes, he crowed, "HA! I'm almost finished!" Just then, the power in Heaven winked out and then back on. "NOOO!", Satan screamed. "Not fair! You can't have a power outage in Heaven!" The LORD said, "Well, it appears that Jesus is the winner." Satan yelled, "That is not fair! How can you say that he won? We both lost power and all the test data!" The LORD replied calmly, "Yes, but Jesus saves."

Moral of the story: Don't be a moron like me.... back up your important data.



em-dash-will said...

That joke was great. Glad you didn't lose your pics and stuff!

Amelia said...

So hunny, I was thinking that maybe you could ACTUALLY back up the files on CD or DVD. . . soon (as in "in the immediate future," not "at an unspecified future date."
Please ???

Deborah said...

Are the files properly backed up now? I know how I feel at losing all of your baby pictures, so heed Amelia's advice.