Friday, December 17, 2010

Back your data up - or F.U. FPL

I am not having a good technology day.   It started yesterday mid morning around this time. 

I was making a serving of grits in the microwave and it boiled over.  Spectacularly so.  There was grits all over the microwave that dried into a concrete that the city of Portland would be proud of.  I managed to clean that up, and promised to really clean the inside of the microwave later. 

After spilling the boiling water over the top of the coffee maker and making a mess that later cleaned up easily, I settled in to do the morning routine. 

Later I took a break and set off the smoke detector while roasting some coffee. 

Some would say that I'm being clumsy and should get out of the kitchen so I did.

I settled in the chair with the old creaky laptop and went through the rest of the morning and the lunch hour, without incident.

Part of the morning routine is maintaining a spreadsheet of everything I have done in the Job Search.  There's a significant amount of data on that sheet, and I tend to back it up on an infrequent schedule.  The last time was November 29, as I was going to go to Key West.   When that trip fell through, I thought nothing more of it, since I could keep that little SD card inside the slot securely.

Not so very securely it turns out.

I was sitting in that same chair, surfing, looking at job sites, considering whether to write something for the blog, and listening to some music online.  Trinidad All Stars, a wonderful competition that happens annually in Port of Spain Trinidad was playing some bouncy Steel Drum music through the speakers on the laptop when "it" happened.

The laptop shut off.

I don't mean it went through an orderly shut down.  It didn't say "Battery is low" and wanted me to plug it in.  It didn't do the windows 7 shutdown routine.  It was as if some invisible ghost unplugged the laptop from the wall, removed the battery, and off it went.  I still can get more than an hour out of this battery and the laptop is more than 3 years old.

Uh Oh.

There was more to it than that.  At that very moment the music shut down on the internet radio, the stereo amplifier snapped off, and the house was briefly filled with the hum of the refrigerator - coming back up to speed.

We had taken yet-another power hit. 

This power hit also reset the clock on the microwave and some other clocks in the house.  They were flashing 12:00 at me and let me know that what ever happened, was big.

I'm used to this, I have lost two desktop computers in FPL's very dirty power.  I have written about this before, and moved to laptops because I thought them safer with the power going through a brick on the floor that is plugged into a surge suppressor power strip.  This took out the music - which didn't come back until much later when I unplugged the Logitech Squeezebox Classic and the stereo amp from the power conditioner.

I was NOT happy.  I didn't see anything wrong with the laptop but had to go through a couple restarts before it felt stable again and didn't realize that there was more to happen.

What happened wasn't discovered until this morning.  The old Acer Aspire laptop has a small slot.  The slot is for an "SD Chip" and that was where I kept my job search data.  Last backed up November 29th.  I couldn't get to the chip on windows 7 and it helpfully asked to format it.  NO!  After unplugging it and plugging it and cursing FPL, Thomas Edison, IBM, and the Chinese for making most of this technology, I put the chip in an older windows XP machine. 

Still nothing.  I had a "fried" memory chip.

I have two others.  The other chips are 8GB each, this one was only 256MB.  I was thinking that if it were fried, I got enough life out of the little Sandisk 256 Meg chip so I could toss it and move onto one of the 8GBs.  Finding that none of them had a more recent backup, I formatted the chip and got on with life.

If this could happen to me with many years of expertise in PC and Computer technology, it can happen to you.  Florida Power and Light is notoriously unstable in this are so if the data is worth keeping, it is worth saving.

Here is how I will do that henceforth:

1) I have moved the data backup onto the laptop hard drive and will work from there as the "master".

2) When through the daily work, I will copy the data back out to the 256MB chip and then remove the chip.  It will now be my daily backup not the daily source of the data.

3) Weekly copy the data from the laptop to the other two 8GB chips I have hidden.

You see, backing your data up is very important.  It can get anyone. 

If you're moving into South Florida, get yourself some power conditioners and preferably a power conditioner with a battery backup.  They aren't terribly expensive and will save you what I went through.  The power conditioner will take the hit and you will be able to recover without spending extra time or money on new equipment. 

Remember my own personal experience and my own personal opinion - FPL has Dirty Power.

The first time I wrote about it is here for Part 1.  The second time for Part 2 is here

Good luck keeping your data safe!

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