HOLY doggerel, Batperson! What a computer adventure yesterday! Went from day-before-yesterday’s ecstatic rave about the Mac’s talking narrator straight to the Ninth Circle. Digitally speaking, that is.
The trip was all my doing, like so many computerized adventures. Two portable external drives that I use to back up data had corrupted. The fix is simply to wipe and repartition them, which you can do easily on a Mac. I, being a master of procrastination, naturally dawdled and delayed until I could dawdle and delay no longer. So yesterday I finally resigned myself to doing some work.
With the smuggest of success, I indeed did manage to reformat one of the external hard drives and set up Time Machine to restart its infinite backups. Problem is, when you have an internal drive that contains more data than Carter has oats, it takes a long, LONG time to establish the first backup. During that time, the computer drags painfully, kindly making work an exercise in frustration.
So I got up and went about some other business: watering plants, cleaning the pool, and generally farting around. I believe a bourbon & water was involved in the latter: user error #1.
Eventually I come back to the machine, plop myself down in my favored writin’ chair, and put the computer on my lap so as to continue the noveloid scene I’d been playing with. Looking forward to this, for a change: the past few hours had put me on a roll. A new character had come to life, and she’s the first in this book that I’ve really “connected” with imaginatively. Finishing the scene I’d been working on for days looked like a piece of cake.
Open the lid to wake up the computer, get the endlessly annoying “External drive was disconnected. Do not disconnect these things, idiot, without unplugging them in Finder, ’cause if you screw up on this you could damage the device.” The short cable I use to plug in the external drives is loose, so that every time you hiccup, sneeze, or pet the dog you elicit this effing message.
A-n-n-d…it interrupted the Time Machine backup and so shut down the process.
Shee-ut. So now I had to wipe the drive again and restart Time Machine.
Remember, the file I’m working on is open. It exists in various iterations in two places on my hard drive (user error!) and one place on DropBox (possible user error?). I save to disk but then go straight to wiping the drive, figuring I’ll come back to my project in a minute or two (user error!).
As I start to do this, I think…waitaminit: I’d better save the current items that matter over to DropBox because if I make a mistake, wouldn’tchaknowit, the thing that matters most to me right this minute will get erased.
This crosses my hot little mind as the Mac is wiping the contents of a large disk full of data, a process I find mildly alarming in the best of circumstances.
So, mildly spooked, I do a kind of panic backup: copy this, save there.
The system doesn’t like that. The backup crashes. I think fuck it and decide to re-open the file, work on my little fantasy for awhile, and then get dressed to go meet my friend for dinner and the concert we’d planned to go to yesterday evening.
So understand: while all this computer diddling is going on, I’m setting my hair so I can put it up, washing up, painting my face, shuffling through the closet in search of presentable clothing…and migrating back and forth from bathroom, bedroom, closet, mirror, makeup drawer to the computer screen. Yeah: user error!
Okay, so I re-open the file, ever-so-distinctively titled “chapter 1.docx.” Don’t do that, for cripes sake. Put something in your filename to distinguish it from the ten or fifteen other chapter 1’s on your freaking disk drive. User error.
Chapter 1 comes up…and it’s a version that’s at least a week old. All the work I’ve done over the past two days is absent.
I bang around and thrash around and I cannot find it. It’s not on DropBox. Whatever I saved to DB overwrote the copy that I’d been working on…deleting the stuff I’d written over the past couple of days. User error.
Word is set to auto-save every 5 minutes, because it habitually loses my clients’ work when I’m trying to edit a file that contains tables, Chinese characters, Hebrew characters or the like. But when I go to try to find a recent autorecover of the Great Novel of the Western World, what do you suppose I discover? WORD HAS NOT DONE AN AUTORECOVERY SINCE MARCH 21!!!!!!!!!!!
So the file that contains the last DAYS of work is GONE. And what’s gone is the most productive and lively copy I’ve managed to gag out for this book since I started.
Check autorecover: the settings have not been changed. No notice to the effect that the hard drive didn’t contain enough space ever popped up. Nothing. I am just screwed! I don’t know what TF is going on but suspect it’s not user error!
Oh, lord, how I hate Word.
Sumbiche. So I emit an electronic wail of dismay and post it to a private Facebook forum I subscribe to, as just about the only way of venting I can think of short of throwing the effing computer through a block wall. It’s now exactly 5:00 p.m. and I’m supposed to be in my friend’s driveway picking her up for our night on the town. Slap on some lipstick, grab a credit card, and fly out the door.
By the time I get back, several hours later, a number of people have posted replies at this forum. One kind person remarks, gently, “Think I heard once upon a time DropBox retains revisions? Might be something there.”
Uhhhh…. Hmmm…. Yeah. Come to think of it: a year or so ago, my business partner managed to retrieve a whole set of “disappeared” files that one of our journal editors removed from DropBox, thinking she was doing us a favor. I had remarked to said Editor that mine is the free version of DB and so in due time we should remove completed articles from our shared folder, so as not to run me past the space limit. She took that seriously, and so she dutifully removed a bunch of stuff that neither my associate editor nor I had downloaded.
Well, Associate Editor is smarter than the average snail. She actually knows how to operate DropBox, and she was able to retrieve not only all the “disappeared” files but a record of who had disappeared them and when. So…there may be something to this…
Click on the DB icon, sign in, and find, by golly, instructions for how to recover a disappeared file:
A-n-n-n-d instructions on how to recover a disappeared file on a Mac:
This latter entails one (1) simple keyboard command. And…damned if it doesn’t work! Command + filename brings up 23 of the most recent pages of draft drivel, just as they were when User Error lost them!
Well, not quite just as they were: they appear in some sort of html-ish format:
But click on “download,” and mirabilis! The thing appears in perfect, uncorrupted(!) Wyrd format, complete with the infelicitous rhymes and the notes-to-self and the puzzling over what on earth (or…uhm…not on earth) this place looks like… (Click on the images to come close to seeing the details.) (No, WordPress will not let you post a screenshot in any way that makes sense, not that I’ve been able to figure out.) Best of all, this file contains the passage I was writing at the time I contrived to disappear the file: not one word is lost!
Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!
It was well after 1:00 a.m. by the time this little miracle manifested itself. I staggered off toward bed to the sound of angels singing.
So upset was I by the fiasco at hand that I had not one but two panic attacks driving downtown last night, scaring the bedoodles out of my friend, who nervously offered to take over the chauffeuring job. Felt considerably better after two margaritas and a plate of hummus. Enjoyed the concert. Was pretty relaxed (heh) on the way home.
Now we know what takes care of panic attacks: margarita mix, right?
By the light of day, I’m thinking it would be good to overcome one’s cheapskate instincts and spring for the cost of DropBox’s premium service. That file recovery function is one helluva value-added feature. I’ll continue to alternate two or three external drives to back up the Mac’s software and data in Time Machine, thereby providing some protection against ransomware. Andthe extra space on DropBox will hold data files that I can’t afford to or don’t want to lose.
It’s $9 a month for the low-end subscription, and only $13 a month for the “Standard” plan that lets several people share its functions and archives files for three months. That plan gives you 2 terabytes of memory, which is twice as much as I need to back up my entire system, programs included, with TimeMachine. Unfortunately, its apparently not configured to work with TimeMachine. But it still would be worth $360 a year to have key files archived for 120 days.
Definitely worth it.
Vivat! So glad you were able to recover your story! When last I switched computers about a decade ago, we backed up my documents onto a CD, but neglected to put them onto the new computer. Went looking for them and…nothing. And more nothing. Had to resign myself to the idea that many stories from a very productive period of writing were gone, except for a few I’d run through an online writers’ forum.
A couple of years after that, MrH went to grab a blank CD from a spindle of them we had. And lo, there was a disk labeled “2007 backup”! And lo, my stories were restored to me!
We’ve just backed my current documents folder up onto an external drive, and I’m planning to get a flash drive to act as a secondary backup. Haven’t tried the cloud yet, but perhaps I should.
I always number my chapters and give them hokey names that remind me what happens within. (“4 When worlds Collide”) So far, I haven’t had trouble distinguishing which novel a chapter goes with, but it’s probably only a mmatter of time! Maybe I should append a two- or three-letter code as well!
Wow!!! I’m SO glad to hear you were able to recover those stories!!!
I found that the Macs can’t read the old CDs I burned on my previous Toshiba PCs, period. My son says that CDs can degrade over time and just one day become unreadable, so I suppose that may be what happened to them. Cloud storage does seem like one option, though of course once the data is on the Cloud you lose some degree of control over it. But that could be better than losing it altogether!
Time Machine has the advantage that it backs up to an external hard drive, and you could use more than one of them, changing them out every couple of days. This would insure that one drive would still be usable if the other broke. Or you could carry one of them off-site, protecting against fire or theft. In theory…in practice, that sounds like a lot of hassle. 😀
I can get EVERYTHING on my computer, including the large number of applications, onto a 1 TB external drive. So 2 TB on DropBox should hold all my data. DropBox and Time Machine don’t play well together, unfortunately. But sooner or later they may fix that.