Back on Track, Baby!

Geeze, I cannot tell you how out of body it is to have your computer cease to function when you depend on it so much!  The only thing I can relate it to is – and I’m just guessing here – having a lobotomy.

Actually, someone recently told me that (it may even be in my blog comments) but I have forgotten.

So much for my OWN CPU in my brain

So I’m on Gerry’s computer.  My hard drive is showing all kinds of errors so it’s back to the manufacturer for a refund.  In March it became clear that I was outgrowing my hard drive very quickly. So Gerry bought and installed a new 500 gb drive for me, and it worked like a charm – until it didn’t.

Apparently the drive itself is wonky.  It hadn’t been acting weird, although iMovie was running weirder and weirder (I just figured it was iMovie, a rather buggy incarnation – I don’t like iMovie 09 at all…)

I lost some stuff, but not much – not really.  Not a lot when I think of what I MIGHT have lost.  The worst thing I lost was 2 weeks, and a feeling of comfort that will take a bit to get back.

And, as I like to say, the only true mistake (or misstep, or minor computer tragedy) is one from which you learn nothing.  So here’s what I’ve learned;

1. Backup.

They tell you this – the magic “they” – and they are right.  I used to use Mozy, but found I was having a hard time backing up completely and when I’d contact customer service they’d insist there was NO problem, but suddenly, magically, my files began backing up on their server again.  Coincidence?  Who knows.  But I was getting tired of the game playing so JUST LAST MONTH I began using Carbonite.

Carbonite could be better, but it’s pretty darned good.  I think it’s a good price for that peace of mind I had in the midst of my traumatic two weeks.  If you are interested and you click on this link, you get a month free.  Just sayin’

I also backup regularly on a separate hard drive.  I do this so I can keep yearly ‘snapshots’ of where my work is.  I do it at least once a year, usually every 3-4 months.  It’s been very helpful at times to return to something from 3 years ago to see EXACTLY how I worked out a pattern, or where I might have gone wrong with something.

Not everyone has extra hard drives lying around, but my husband is a bit if a geeky guy, so we do.

2. Don’t Get Flustered – just walk away

When I realized my computer world was heading south (in the middle of editing a video for one of my classes) I kind of freaked out.  I went through the 5 stages of grief and added a 6th stage; a full pint of Hagen Daas.

Taking Time to Enjoy The View

The next morning I got up early, fuddled and bemused.  In denial.  But Gerry had hooked up my old hard drive (yes, we kept that around, too, in it’s own little easy to hook up case!) and somehow one of the first things I did was – don’t ask me how – installed the newest operating system on my new/used jailbroken iphone.

And, of course, THIS is the operating system for which there is no jailbreak.  So I was without computer OR iphone/ipod, and it was stunning how that hit me.  All because I overreacted and began downloading things with wild abandon.  The next time this happens I will SIT ON MY HANDS for 24 hours.

3. Create Distance

Similar to ‘walk away,’ this is more active.  I worked hard to put myself in a zen place where I moved my brain away from the computer, as much as possible.  I am unlike most of the world, I work on my own schedule, so I can choose to have a few weeks where I am less productive.

Basement Hidey Hole, er, Office

But by compelling myself to actually GO do yoga, ride my bike a bit each day, go for walks, work up swatches of

new yarns, all totally NON computer stuff, I allowed myself to see how much my worth is NOT tied up in my wonderful little MacBook.  It was a step back that’s been very healthy for me, I think I’ll make sure I take a computer break more often, and I’ve committed to attending yoga at least 3 times each week.

I’m also gifting two friends with making their wedding dresses (of fabric, NOT knitting them…)  It’s something I can do well, and these are two friends who mean a lot to me.  So I made myself get some work done on the patterning, and in the process I’ve gone miles toward creating a workable space for myself in the basement.

See how much I can get done when I’m not sitting at my computer all day?

4. Clouds

I’ve slowly been moving much of my work onto off site areas, keeping my calendars at Google (syncing them with my ical every day), keeping my videos, handouts, and some of my databases on my server (yet another type of backup), stuff like that.

But I’m going to get even more serious about keeping my working files on some kind of cloud system so I won’t be completely stymied if I lose the use of my hard drive (or lose my computer, heaven forbid!) I’ll be using google docs more for the kind of work it’s good for, for sharing files.

Max & The Liffey

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Flickr.  My premium membership has always been a good investment, NOW more than ever!  Because the hard drive replacement happened before our trip to Ireland, many of those images went missing in the whole experience.  HOWEVER, I had uploaded all of the ones that mattered to me to my Flickr account.  I am happy.

Gerry’s felt pretty awful about this.  I don’t blame him AT ALL, but he was the one who put the new hard drive in, and he tends to take blame on himself like burrs on a wool hiking sock.

He acquired a wonderful new computer through a program to get disabled folks re-educated so they can get back to work (he wants to do computer conferencing stuff since he can’t really do TV production any more.)

So after he finished with his final exams last week he kindly lent me his computer to use while we wait for my NEW big ol’ hard drive to return.  At least the hard drive was under warranty.

It is pretty ironic, he has this honking big hard drive of which he uses maybe 5%.  I had a teeny tiny hard drive (before the switch) and I was constantly ripping things out and moving them to new places just to keep enough space so I could operate my business.  So now I’m on HIS computer for a few days (weeks?) and I’m enjoying every minute of it.  It’s like someone letting me borrow their Saab.

Today is the first day back 100% on my game, back with all of my working files installed into Gerry’s computer, back using the software I’m used to.  I feel like it’s the first day of the rest of my – Summer? I’ve started creating a working timeline for History on Two Needles, I’m actively pursuing a tech editor to see if we might be able to work well together (harder than a marriage!), I feel like I’m getting back on my game!

Imagine how cool it was to read THIS horoscope today:

Thursday, July 29, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

You may feel as if a new race is officially beginning, yet you are barely stepping up to the starting gate. Balancing your need for perfection with your desire to reach the finish line can be tricky business, especially if there are others involved. Eagerly pushing ahead won’t work any better than lagging far behind. Seek a sustainable pace that works for you and don’t measure your progress by anyone around you.

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9 thoughts on “Back on Track, Baby!

  1. Margaret

    I work with computers for a living, so I’m a big advocate for backups. I am continually amazed at how many creative-types don’t take it seriously; they really don’t realize how important a computer is to their creativity, and how damaging it can be when they lose data.

    It sounds like you’ve got the beginnings of a good system, but I worry that you’re entrusting too much to the cloud. There are two “points of failure” there; their hardware (not infallible, despite their claims) and the internet. I prefer primary backups to be on local, user-controlled hardware. Clouds are good for supplementary backups, and for extra security in case of theft or fire. But for primary backups, nothing can beat an external hard drive for speed, simplicity, and reliability.

    So please, start saving your pennies for a large external hard drive. Partition it so one partition is the same size as your hard drive on the Mac; use that partition to clone your drive daily. Carbon Copy Cloner is a great program, and it’s donation-ware, and yes, I said DAILY. After the initial backup is made, CCC is very fast because it only adds the changes you have made. It also makes bootable backups — a very important feature.

    The second partition of the big drive can be used for extra storage, just-in-case backups (like copying your active files or recently downloaded photos), or archives of older material.

    With such a system, when your internal hard drive fails, all you need to do is re-boot the Mac from the external drive and you’re back in business while you wait for the replacement hard drive. You’ve got all your programs already installed, all of your mail is there (assuming you’ve been doing daily backups), all your settings are the same, even your bookmarks are there. Then when the new drive arrives, you install it and clone the external drive back to the new internal drive. You don’t have to reinstall programs or anything.

    With 1 TB drives hovering around $130, can you really afford not to invest in a system like that?

    Carbonite is a great system and a good additional backup system (and especially nice to have when you’re traveling). But it is extremely slow compared to a hard drive; that can’t be avoided. Download (and especially upload) speeds on the internet are very low compared to the speed of USB 2.0. After the initial clone, it’ll probably take you 10 minutes to run your daily backup. Ten minutes to have everything saved, and no calls to customer service.

    I’d be happy to talk to you further via email about this. You’re a wonderful designer and I hate to see you going through this frustration when you should be creating new & wonderful things for us!

  2. Debra Fox

    I’m telling you computer failure is reaching epidemic proportions. I’m going to pick mine up tonight. I am going to try out the Carbonite back-up, for my purposes it should be fine. One of the first things I want to do is finish your online shrug class and look over you other offerings.

  3. Lisa in Toronto

    For external drive back-up, I am a big fan of Super Duper (not expensive, works really well for me so far). I make a complete bootable copy to an external drive monthly, and leave it at my parents’ house. I have used it after catastrophic crashes and it was successful.
    I also put key folders of photos on a small external drive once a month.
    I recommend if the budget permits the Apple Time Capsule. It will wirelessly back up all of your files every hour … and it is very easy to access old files or old versions from last week or yesterday using the Time Machine software.
    Good luck – these frustrations can indeed be really overwhelming.

  4. Tammie Pfeiffer

    Hello. I’m trying to find is there a way to have your blog posts emailed to me daily? Maybe by Google? I’ve listened to your audio book Knit With Courage and have gotten caught up with your blogs on your blog page. I don’t want to miss an entry. 🙂 I’m thinking of you and your family today and am offering up many prayers! Tammie

  5. Carla (thank you, Apple!) is the latest addition to my backup family.’s iDisk plus my Western Digital MyBook, hooked up to Time Machine, is my current setup, and I’m loving it.

    Good luck–hope it all comes out in the wash, so to speak.

  6. Gillian

    I’m on a Mac too. Time Machine is built in and if you have a second hard drive, it keeps you backed up. I also have Super Duper which backs up daily to another partition. I have both set on automatic.

  7. Jeanie Babbage

    Oh, Annie! I always learn so much from you–about knitting, about life! As I go about redoing my crafts room I am heartened. This is the room where my sons (being HELPFUL as always) have continued to stack things until I couldn’t walk in there and then suffered a flood 18 months ago. If Annie can do all these things so can I.. Of course I forget I am not blessed with your wonderful sense of humor, or the geeky husband (I am the geek in the family). But we do go on…..

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