Helen and I don’t normally actually blog here. It’s a blog in structure on this site but it’s mostly just a place to put our podcast’s episode notes and our live coverage of tech conferences using CoverItLive. We used to blog a little but I guess we both got so busy we decided unofficially to leave the site about the podcast. So I’m venturing from that for just a bit because I wanted to share how three different … things.. prevented me from laying down on the floor, curling up in a fetal position and crying. I’m going to obnoxiously link to their sites every time they’re mentioned below because I’m just that appreciative.
First the backstory. I have a 17″ MacBook Pro that pushing a year old now. I spend more hours a day with this laptop than any thing or any body. I’ve come to really rely on it both for work and for home.
For work, I work on iMovies and podcasts, and work on training materials, and GarageBand, and PulpMotion and Comic Life and gosh I can’t mention them all.
For home, I have a few year’s worth of photos of my family – husband and kids, parents, sisters and families, cousins… I have my banking software and my password software and the databases and spreadsheets I use for church stuff.
For the somewhere between work and home I have more photos of soccer photo orders, and training slideshows and notes and resources for conferences.
You would think I’d be backing this up, right? Well, I sorta did. And that’s where the three things that saved my tushie come in.
I’d used a free trial of BackBlaze awhile back. I’m not even sure how I found out about it in the first place. And I probably would have canceled it had it not auto-renewed on a credit card that I didn’t watch daily like I do my checking account. But at only $5 a month I figured it wasn’t so bad and sounded like a good idea. BackBlaze is an online backup site. An install on the Mac gives you a new system preference. You set how you want the backup to proceed and let it do it’s thing in the background. Then you can use the web interface to download mistakenly deleted files. I figured this was probably a good idea in case anything happened to my computer AND my backup hard drive – that backup hard drive I wasn’t even using…
Because BackBlaze requires a network connection, and with the amount of things I save and delete, it was consistently about two weeks behind. I’d wait for the software to remind me to backup, then I’d tell it to do it’s thing when I got home. By the way, I’d use another app called Caffeine to prevent my computer from falling asleep during the backup. I didn’t have BackBlaze backup continually during the day because of bandwidth issues of how I was connected to the network at work. It’s my own machine so it’s not using the district’s network. Anyway, the point is, at worse, I’m usually two weeks behind.
Well, about a week and a half ago, I was copying images from a co-worker’s iPhone to my laptop while running a great number of very memory-hoggish applications. All of a sudden, I couldn’t switch applications. Force Quit didn’t work. The OS froze on me. I wasn’t surprised really, because I had a LOT going on at the same time. I held down my power button, waited a minute or so, and then powered back up. Only it didn’t start back up again. No, I got the dreaded folder icon with the blinking question mark. And my hard drive started making a not-so-friendly sound.
I held back the bitter bile as I realized painfully that I had not been practicing what I preached. I was not backing up. It had been a good two weeks since BackBlaze gave me the thumbs up. The night before I’d told it to do its thing but I forgot to give it Caffeine before I went to bed and it had fallen asleep early into the process. I had a small glimmer of hope that my dear friend and practically brother Frank would be able to do something but he had no luck with his apps (Disk Warrior froze every time we connected the drive in target mode). I took the laptop to the genius bar at the not-so-local Apple store where they confirmed the bad hard drive. They didn’t have one in stock so I had to leave it there. Quite a painful experience.
So the next morning I started poking around BackBlaze online. I could see my files – particularly my Pictures folder which was the one I was really torn up over – but because my photos are in Aperture, I couldn’t REALLY tell by looking at them if I had them all. The interface isn’t real conducive to just copying to my desktop and looking. I went ahead and paid the $180 to have BackBlaze send me ALL of my files on an external hard drive (I could have tried to do them through the net but with well over 100GB of data that just didn’t make sense. So BackBlaze is obviously the first thing – in this case a service – that saved me. Because they drive finally came in yesterday and I didn’t lose years worth of my children’s growth in pictures. I only lost the two weeks since I backed up. Oh, and I get to keep the 500 GB Seagate drive they sent the files on.
I had a serious OMG moment when I realized that two weeks is REAL significant when you’re talking about banking data (I update every couple of days) and passwords on web sites. Seems there’s new logins daily and I have to remember what email address I used to register – not just usernames and passwords! That’s where saving thing #2 comes in. This one being another service. Dropbox. See, I was hating going back and forth between work desktop and work laptop and home laptop and home desktop trying to keep my password files and my bank files current on each. So I put them in my Dropbox folder and kept them all in sync that way. Which meant that now that my laptop hard drive was toast – even though I used this machine 90% of the time for banking and password keeping – I still had a current file on my work machine. Oh THANK you Dropbox! You really weren’t meant as a catastrophe save but you really came through for me in that regard.
Two weeks, unfortunately, was pretty significant in my home and church life. In those two weeks I’d created a pretty involved database for our religious education program. I have nothing good to say except that recreating it went faster the second time around than the first. But more importantly to me, in those two weeks I’d taken photos of the family on Easter in our best clothes, my son’s very first baseball game ever, my goddaughter’s first birthday party, my kids making their daddy a chocolate pie for his birthday, and my husband getting served breakfast in bed (toast, a Twinkie and a Nutty Bar) by our kids. I can’t exactly recreate those moments. That’s where the third tushie save comes in – my iPad!
I got an iPad on launch day which I’m sure surprises no one. I love love LOVE the screen and viewing photos on it, so naturally I put all my new photos on it. You know, things like Easter, my kids making chocolate pie and serving their daddy breakfast in bed! My goddaughter’s birthday party wasn’t on there BUT I had posted that to Flickr to share with her parents. I have since, of course, emailed myself most of the pictures from the iPad. See, if I try to sync they’ll be completely erased since iTunes doesn’t consider this the same computer. I can’t just copy them down because the iPad doesn’t mount like an external drive. There IS a piece of software – PicsAid – that I’ve purchased along TuneAid – that will let iPods pull off their photos but it’s apparently a different format on the iPad. I was assured that there will be an update in a couple of weeks that will allow full resolution download from the iPad. I’m looking forward to that for sure! TuneAid was great because I didn’t have to wait on the BackBlaze drive to get my iTunes library back to snuff. If I’d synched my iPhone or iPad they would have thought this was a new computer and only transferred iTunes purchases from device to iTunes and most of my purchases are through Amazon.com and most of the movies are downloads and iMovie creations. So thank YOU TuneAid even if BackBlaze would have come through eventually anyway.
I did have another heart palipation moment when I was moving my BackBlaze data to my hard drive. I launched iTunes which apparently saw the Aperture library on the drive and thought to itself, “oh hey THERE’S the library we were synching our photos to!” And then it took it upon itself to CHECK the box that says to sync photos. But stay with me now, BackBlaze was two weeks behind which means it didn’t HAVE those recent really important photos so iTunes would have erased and replaced. If I hadn’t noticed “optimizing images” in the iTunes status area I would have finally had to get into that fetal position I mentioned in paragraph one. I mean, come on! Isn’t this picture just sweet?! And yes, one of our daughters takes after my husband’s side of the family and one takes after my side and the Boy (not pictured) is pretty well split.
So there. There is the story of the (more than) three apps that really saved me. And don’t worry. I learned my lesson. Even though things have been recovered, I’m still in the painful process of reinstalling all of my software – trying to remember WHAT software is crazy enough, but locating all my serial numbers is not a chore for the faint of heart! I bought a portable hard drive that’s waterproof and military-grade drop-tested or something wild like that and it’s now my ALL THE TIME backup that I carry with me and let Time Machine do it’s thing. I’m going to set up BackBlaze again since $5 a month is really nothing and just in case I lose my laptop hard drive AND my backup hard drive… I’m using Time Machine with my Time Capsule at home with the desktop but now I’m thinking I’ll pay another $5 to save it in the cloud as well.
Please – everyone – go backup your data. Like now.