My Digital Meltdown

November 18, 2012


I’m writing this on the world’s oldest laptop, hunkered down in far corner of my studio behind a wall of old cart screen monitors and empty cases of Diet Dr. Pepper.



My computer just self-destructed.

It was not pretty.


This calamity is probably due to sympathy pains with the mainframe computers on the east coast still sitting under six feet of brackish water.

In this worst-case-scenario both the main drive and the second, storage drive on my computer went AWOL prompting the dreaded “Disk boot failure, insert system disk and press enter”.

While I know there are numerous tech-heads out there thinking “What’s the problem? You’ve got your system backed up on an external drive or cloud service, don’t you? Don’t You?…DON’T YOU???”


Sound effect: (sound of head hanging in shame)


So here I am, the poster boy for “The It Won’t Happen to Me Club”. So let’s look at my tale of electronic woe and learn a few lessons.


Number One Lesson –

Yes it CAN happen to you. Let’s face it, the electronic marvel that is a computer hard drive isn’t much more than a plastic box with a tiny phonograph playing an aluminum record at 7500 RPM.

Just for comparison, a 747 jet engine turns at 2552 RPM, a power saw spins at about 5800 and a Frisbee launches at about 550 rpm, so needless to say, that drive disk is cranking.

Now, consider the hours of you spend playing Angry Birds plus the times you forget to turn off the computer. The whole time your faithful hard drive is racking up 450,000 spins per hour. It’s astounding we don’t have thousands of these 31/2” disks of death flying out of computers like tiny guillotines sending the population into complete panic until a small band of outcast adolescent tech geeks save the town by discovering the government is conducting clandestine overclocking experiments on the unsuspecting town.

(note to self…register that script idea with Writers Guild tomorrow)

OK – back to the issue at hand…backing up…and we’re not talking about parallel parking, baby.

First, there is the “personal backup system” – attaching an external hard drive to your computer. This is a good start but there are a number of weaknesses with this idea. An external drive will be in the same place as your computer so if the disaster that befalls your computer is in the category of flood, fire or pestilence the external drive may get whacked too. It also contains the spinning disk of death and is just as likely to suffer mechanical breakdowns.

Then there is online storage.

There are two kinds – dedicated backup services and cloud sync services.

The main issues in these services are security, reliability, usability and cost.

Security is everyone’s business – make it yours.

There are some services that require your email address as the login name…not a good idea if you have an ex-spouse or teenager. Just guess the password and the magic electronic door opens.

Reliability – There are a whole mess of new online services offering great introductory deals. Does anyone remember the dot com crash? Make sure your gatekeeper won’t be going out if business when the start-up investment money is gone.

Updating can take a toll on your computer. Some services can seriously slow down your computer while they’re transferring files to storage. The only way to find out for sure is to use the free trial periods offered by some sites.

Finally there is the cost. Some services use a flat fee with file size limits, some are on a sliding scale with the amount of data you store. Again doing your own research will answer the question of, “What’s best for me?”

And so gentle reader…what the heck am I going to do?

For starters, it looks like the controller circuit on the motherboard has been hijacked by Nigerian hackers selling timeshares in Florida and has fried under the load of trying to compute how much weight Burt Reynolds has gained.

The final truth is the black box on the floor is dead. And I couldn’t be happier.

I had this computer built for me by the crack team of Brandon, Brandon and Justin. I asked them to build a high speed computer for video editing and animation. When it arrived many of the programs I had wouldn’t run. When apprised of this, ummm…little discrepancy I was told “Man, I just don’t get it. That is, like, the gnarliest gaming computer ever!!”. I calmly explained that my use for this machine was not for blasting pretend aliens, driving a pretend race car or playing pretend football. I had already done that in real life (except the blasting aliens thing…but I was trained and ready). I also explained that I did not live in my parent’s garage or work part time at the comic book store.

The sad tale of the BB&J 3000 is that it has been tweaked and massaged to somewhat do my bidding but like the bear riding a unicycle at the circus – you don’t criticize the bear for poor technique, you should be impressed the bear’s doing it at all. So having acquired a USB hub allowing me to plug in 27 outboard devices into a laptop I will now be blasting away on this tiny keyboard.

First up is the connection of a 1.5 terabyte backup external drive. Looking at the options for online storage, I’m opting for a fixed price backup system to start. This is sort of like wearing a belt with suspenders. Hopefully data won’t be disappearing like an ice sculpture at an outdoor wedding in Palm Springs (another true story we’ll save for later).

Stay tuned for future developments in our next episode.

more blog posts

No comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.