Lessons learned

After receiving the scare I had the day before yesterday about possibly losing my computer, I’ve drawn a few conclusions from the experience.  Whether I’ve “learned my lesson” I can’t say, but I did discover some things that are potential lessons for me that I hope I’ll have the wisdom to learn.

  • The first thing is a simple matter of physics. “If you tug on one end of a cable, the other end of it might become loose too.”  In my case, I was plugging and unplugging the end of the IDE cable that connects the hard disks in my computer to the motherboard.  When I experienced the “boot disk failure,” I went back and made sure that the end I was playing with was firmly seated, but I didn’t think about checking the other end because I hadn’t intentionally ever unplugged it.  It took Tom’s reminding me to check that end too before I found that it had also come loose during the operation.  It is usually the simple things that you overlook.
  • Having a blog is a great potential source of help.  Because I posted in detail about what had occurred and invited comment from anyone who had an idea as to what might be going on, a friend figured out what my problem was and saved me a large and unnecessary expenditure.  I’ve seen other people ask for help on their blog and invite comment from the community, and they too have gotten it.  I’ve concluded people are often willing and able to help if you just give them enough information and the opportunity.
  • I realized that a lot of the things that I save in my computer don’t matter all that much, but a few things do.  When I was faced with the possibility that I would never regain access to my hard disks, I began to consider what I had lost.  I realized that even though I save a lot of my email correspondence, losing it wouldn’t matter all that much.  I have correspondence that dates back to when I first got this computer (2001), but much of that correspondence is nothing more than forwarded jokes or web pages, appeals about issues of concern and idol chatter.  I could easily discard many of those messages, and I should because I would regain a lot of hard disk real estate by doing so.  I’ll use the delete button much more in the future as a result of this insight.
  • The few pieces of correspondence that do matter should be backed up — today, not some day in the future.  I maintain a folder called Notes where I store text files of things that I have written since 1995.  Although much of that (maybe even all of it) is inconsequential, some of it seems useful to me. Since backing up text files doesn’t require a lot of space, I should back up that folder routinely.  Also I do my taxes electronically and even though I have a hard copy of all my returns, I should back up the electronic tax documents too.  I have a few spreadsheets that contain historical information of interest or importance to me, so those should be a part of the regular back up as well.  The correspondence I have from software vendors confirming my registration is another thing that I should include in my backups.
  • Pictures should be backed up.  Even though a number of the pictures I’ve taken with my digital camera are stored on Flickr so that I could retrieve them if I lost the hard disk, only 10 or 20 percent of all the pictures I’ve taken are on that site.  I’m sure that the vast majority of the other pictures that are not on Flickr are of poor quality or perhaps of innocuous subjects and therefore not worth keeping, but backing up is the only way to preserve those photos that are worth keeping.  Pictures are one thing that you can not go back and restore. 
  • I do not have a large collection of music in digital format, but if I did, that would be something worth backing up.  However, I do have a number of podcasts that I have done, so they should be preserved by a backup.
  • Automatic backups are better than those done manually.  It’s too easy to put off doing a backup if you must do it manually.  So it is time for me to research a good automatic backup strategy.
  • Computers are like Fibber McGee’s closet.  It is too easy to download things and leave them in your computer when you no longer need them.  I realize I need to resolve to use the delete key more frequently.  Not only will it delay the necessity of purchasing more storage space, but it will make backups smaller and quicker.
  • Computers are an essential appliance.  Having let them into my life, I cannot imagine ever being without one again.  Therefore, as soon as I acquire a new one, I need to begin to save for the next one.  Then when or if something happens to my current one, I’ll already be more nearly ready to get the next one. 
  • And to round out this list with an even 10 items, I have concluded that off-site storage of important documents and treasured digital memorabilia is a wise idea.  So I need to research how best to achieve that objective.

It is not a question of whether a hard disk will fail but of when.  And it is not a question of whether a computer will quit working but of when it will. 

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One thought on “Lessons learned

  1. Pingback: » Backups Should Be Automatic - Webfeed Central

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