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Oh Justin? Where are You?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Well. I'm choosing to look at this period as an intensive course in Computer Self-Sufficiency. In Keeping a Level Head when the Worst Happens. In The Value of External Hard Drives.

I've decided, as of tonight, that I need to view my laptop not as the sole repository for the entire contents of my life and work, but merely as a convenience by which I may be allowed to view and work with said contents. It's nice to carry my life and work around with me, but I have learned that, through a mysterious incompatability with an aged email program, the whim of a computer repair technician, a hard drive crash, or a spilled glass of Shiraz (never done that, but I expect to one day), or any number of other slight mishaps, it all can be taken away. "Wiped," in computer parlance. Thus my newfound and fervent faith in external hard drives.

As I write, my faithful Phantom hard drive is grinding away, feeding little spoonfuls of saved photos to the newly re-installed iPhoto '08 program on my laptop. You couldn't have gotten me to delete 18,000 photos off my laptop if you'd held an AK-47 to my head. I needed to, mind you, but you couldn't have made me do it. It was just too wonderful to have them all there, my babies all gathered around me, to be summoned up whenever I wanted to see them. Apple did it for me when they erased my hard drive. Oh, gee, thanks, I guess. Thank you for cleaning my closet, and my clock.

Now I'm importing just the photos I've taken since January 1, 2009, a mere 7,500 of them. They'll finish loading around 2 AM. And when I get up in the morning I'll delete about half of 'em, because HEY they're still on the external hard drive and I've already done showed 'em to you, haven't I? I don't really need to carry them around with me. And now, finally and forever, I realize that it's the external hard drive that matters, not that sleek, fancy little titanium-clad laptop that I love so much. MacBookPro is my mercurial fair-weather lover; the external hard drive is my dependable husband.

I am a hard-headed woman and it took a little computer catastrophe to force me to see how I should be managing and conserving my data. I've really lost nothing but time and several billion brain cells, the ones that spontaneously exploded in frustration as I, reluctant computer jock, tried to understand how to work my way out of this mess, how to rebuild from scratch what I had taken for granted. Thanks to Bill, my unemotional, analytical rock, for his patience. Mad cows are hard to reason with, but he hung in there. At one point, when I had the feeling he thought I was overreacting to it all, I asked him what he'd do if Apple erased his hard drive while fixing his computer. "I'd tell them they needed to send me a new laptop to make it good." Oh. Maybe I wasn't overreacting.

I didn't ask for anything. I choked back tears, thanked them for their help, and accepted their offer of a new Leopard operating system as consolation for having lost three weeks of sanity and work time. I'm still waiting for the disc to arrive, still convinced that, upon installation, it will probably erase my hard drive. Call me leery. I've come by leery honestly.

I did cut and paste my last blog post into the Apple Customer Satisfaction Survey comments section, barely making it under the 2,000 character limit for their comments box. Just to let them know that they erased the Wrong Hard Drive. Just to let them know they messed with the Wrong Blogger. I am sure the corporate HQ is already all abuzz about it. Uh-oh. We messed with Julie Zickefoose's data, man. Heads will surely roll.

What would really help, if anyone at Apple is out there reading, would be for Justin Long to show up at my door, having used The Googles to find me at Indigo Hill. He'd have a brown box under his skinny little arm. He'd be wearing a black hoodie and pencil-thin jeans, and he'd say, "You look like you've had a rough day. I mean, you still look terrific--beautiful, in fact-- but a little tired. Here. Let me put down your new MacBook Pro so I can rub your shoulders. Do you have any sweet almond oil?"

Now THAT would help.


Step away from the cute young Apple boy, ma'am. He's only an actor guy. Remember him on "Ed"? He was playin' a role then, too. Oh, geez, please, don't cry! I'm sure he really does love Macs; that's probably why they hired him.

Now if they'd only recruit you (and me, forced to replace my beloved 8 year-old iMac (the one that stuck its tongue out on the commercials), which still works fine, but at 700 MHz, just ain't up to snuff for the audio editing I now need to do at home) to do honest, unbiased reviews of their fine new products, provided free of charge and strings. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

And you could still announce to the world that you're just stepping around the corner, and you'll be back in a couple weeks. And then you could canoe.

Yeah for external hard drives! I was so surprised when I realized the pretty portable my son gave me held three times the space of my computer. I stick it in the computer bag and carry it with me.

Congrats on mad cow survival. Frothing at the mouth is more than called for under the circumstances!

Does it have to be Justin, or would a short, balding, older fella with watermelon abs do just as well???

Wow - even after such a trying time and catastrophic event, you can still make me laugh. A sense of humor (and a little Shiraz) can keep you going.


I'm going out to buy an external hard drive TODAY!

I think Justin should have a new MacBook Pro in one hand AND an iPhone in the other as a consolation prize, WITH prepaid service for a year!

It is a good thing, I suppose, for all of us to consider just how much data we are cramming into our hard drives, and to always have a contingency plan.

I feel your pain, Julie. Why not get the Swinging Orangutans together and make a video "Apple Breaks Computers."

Here's your role model:

Yes, that's a gratuitous link, but who doesn't hate the airlines these days? And with more than 2 million viewers ....

Julie, you aren't alone. I just got a message from my dear Mac telling me that I haven't backed up in . . . are you ready . . . 244 days. I've worked in the computer industry for lord decades now. (Shudder) I know better. But my hard drive died and I haven't replaced it yet. I have backed up a couple of files that I could not live without into the ether but if it all goes sour, I'm screwed. Sooooooo, I recommend that you start using Flickr as your backup for your photos. I put my best photos up there and then they are "safe" (because they are in 2 places). I'm also starting to make myself delete the crappy pictures so that I have enough room on my hard drive and in my life. Oh, and I'm trying to remember to burn those good pics to cd every year for an archive. Yup. That's my plan and as soon as I get my computer backed up, I'm going to get right on it. It's been awhile, you see. So, once Leopard arrives, use it. Use the TimeMachine (it's AWESOME!!!) and if your back drive fails -- don't wait 244 days to get a new one. That's kinda nuts! :)

Two weeks ago our water heater exploded and a river ran through the basement. We had the most amazing, competent, and considerate guys come and fix it -- and they stopped to admire the garden too! (I'm sure if there were a dog, they would have been bikkits.) It's too bad that most companies have lost this sense of consumer appreciation and service.

I commented on Facebook about using an online backup service in addition to an external drive. I'll mention it again. I've had enough experience with failed drives that I don't even trust the backup.

I use the backup for ... well ... backup, but because I'm human, I also blow five bucks a month on a service called Carbonite that automatically backs up My Documents (including My Pictures) to their servers at least once a day -- no limit. Carbonite's Mac system works the same way, I just don't know the names of the folders.

Call me paranoid, but if I had to I could walk into a store, buy a new computer, and have it up and running with all my stuff in 24 hours, using nothing but a broadband connection. That feels real good!

I have no connection with Carbonite, BTW.

Julie -
As you can tell, after years of working in tech, I've learned one lesson when bad things happen to good people/computers - BREATHE! LOL

On a more serious note, once you get a routine down, it will be like second nature. Change is hard, but most often, tech change is for the good. As I mentioned before, external HDs when used as an archive or strictly storage are a blessing when bad things happen. Buy them big and then bigger.

Another thing I do, is "every so often" (about six months), I burn my photos by month onto DVDs. I used to use CDs, but they got too small. That way I had a back-up to the back-up, but I slept at night too!

Also, if your going shopping, I'd look to an external HD that you can swap the HD itself out as bigger (and faster) ones become available. I'm sure Bill can handle the swapping when necessary. HDs are pretty cheap and just get bigger all the time.

Best of luck and remember rule #1 - BREATHE.


Dear Dave,

Thanks so much for this advice. I don't understand what you mean when you write:

Also, if your going shopping, I'd look to an external HD that you can swap the HD itself out as bigger (and faster) ones become available.

If you could clarify this, I'd really appreciate it. And I'm thinking in terabytes now.


I'm going to break my Internet sabbatical (it's raining anyway) to beg you to not rely only on hard drives. Nifty cool as having an external backup is (I have 4 at the moment), they are mechanical beasties and they do fail.

Getting in the habit of making dvd backups of your photos will make you a happy camper. Maybe not while you're doing it - espcially if you've got a big backlog - but definitely when disaster strikes. Having a redundant backup of your images on a disc, plus on a hard drive, gives you extra insurance.

One good lightning strike can corrupt *all* your hard drives. Ask me how I know that :-D But I'm also pretty fanatic about backing up since I used to beta-test stuff. And we now have a whole-house surge arrestor in addition to the regular ones. I'm sure Mother Nature will still one-up me though.

Oh, Julie, been there, so sorry. It has stimulated your imagery talents. I do love the almond oil massage fantasy. But I don't even want to touch commenting on the paragraph with "sleek titanium-clad" laptops, hard drives, husbands and love all mixed in. Whoa, what brain cells got fried?!?
P.S. Ditto on the multiple backups. Don't trust any one. I do hard drive, CD/DVDs AND Flickr.

Julie -

There are two types of external HDs. The first is a "sealed case" - what you buy is whatsha got. The other type is a case that can be opened. The conveinence of this type is that you can "replace" or swap the actual hard drive (read guts) inside the case. There is a cable or two that plugs into the hard drive - maybe a few mounting screws as well.

Let's say you buy that 1 TB hard drive and 5 years from now the latest and greatest is a 10 TB hard drive. Rather than buying a whole new external HD all you'll need is a new 10 TB hard drive to install into the old case!

Of course if you're nuts like me, when I have a big project to do, and I don't want anything else in the way on the HD, I just swap in a new HD until the project is done. The reason I do it this way is that I have multiple computers in multiple locations. Rather than traveling from computer to computer with my entire life on the external, I can travel with just what I need for the project. (An example for you might be your next big, great book project. That way if you travel to the publisher/editor you can take just the book and not all of your other files. Of course, if it fits on a thumb drive it would be silly to take an external HD!)

I also second the idea of multiple back-ups of different types hence my burning DVDs as well as the archive external HD.


1. You and you visitors have given me a healthy paranoia about back-up.

2. Have you and Susan Williams, across the state in the Cincinnati area, ever considered working together on a stand-up comedy routine? Actually, you're both probably too individual for that, but the wit is great at both sites. Thanks.

If it's any consolation, ACTIVE SOLE, another wildlife photographer blogger person like yourself, recently wrote a blog about backing up your hard-drive. The same thing happened to him around the same time it happened to you. He appears to be a professonial photographer.

His photos are some of the best I've ever seen. So, I guess this happens to the best of 'em.

Posted by Cheyanne (Shy Ann) July 25, 2009 at 3:32 PM
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