A month ago I wrote about the perishable nature of our digital data. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Historical Erosion has always been on the Fast Track in America...Oh sure, Citizen Preservationists are curating bits and pieces of our history from coast to coast, but American Culture hit the ground running sometime after that first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, and has been running away from the history we make like it's a house on fire.
Now that American Culture increasingly happens in (or, at the least is chronicled in) the Digital Realms, and given that the pace of change multiplies exponentially in the Digital World, I found some calming hope this week in our Digital World.
Here's the back story. Back around the Fourth of July, my 16 month old DELL laptop began exhibiting some overheating symptoms. By July 11th, a file in the Master Boot Record became corrupted and the machine would log me on top a "Temporary Profile"...Not good. As sole user and administrator of this machine this would never do. Under a Temp Profile, I was denied access to all files associated with me, and any changes I made would magically disappear the next time the computer started. As the only user, ALL the files are associated with me...or rather were associated with me!
The first Temp Profile warning occurred right after I downloaded some photos from my digital camera. I freaked out and shut it down to deal with it later when I was fully rested and had nothing on the docket. The next time I fired it up, I could see those photos being uploaded to Carbonite, the online backup service. I couldn't actually see the photos, but I could see their file names on the Carbonite Dashboard as they uploaded to Carbonite's servers
I retreated to my seven year old COMPAC laptop for day to day use, and started researching a solution to get my privileges back on my own computer. Even at Microsoft's Knowledge Base, I found several close but no cigar "solutions". I waited, and continued my quest for knowledge...Like clockwork, I began to receive an email every Sunday from Carbonite, warning me that my computer HAL2010 had not contacted Carbonite's Backup Servers in a week...and some helpful hints to make it easier to restore my files.
Last Sunday, no Carbonite email. A cold chill ran down my back, and I resigned myself to my fate...I would have to reinstall Windows7 and all the drivers and programs and restore my files via Carbonite. The DELL Support FAQs advised me that I was looking at 2+ hours to start.
Two plus hours later, I was chatting online with a DELL Technical Support guy. I was once again in charge, but now I was in charge of a less than cooperative computer. 45 minutes of polite chat later, I fell back to Plan B...I started over...
Finally, I got things up and running with one exception...the computer can't find the Wireless Adapter (which is necessary to connect by WiFi to my networks at the DaveCave and the Ancestral Digs)
OK, that I can deal with. I ran an ethernet cable, and was in business.. Windows Update downloaded and installed a hundred or so Critical Updates, and restarted several times. The fan was kicking on too much for my taste so I shut 'er down, pulled the power cord and the battery pack and using a COSTCO-sized can of Dust Remover blew enough dust and lint out of the machine to grow a potato plant in!
Now that she was running cool, I downloaded antivirus software, and the newest Mozilla Firefox browser. I surfed to Carbonite.com, logged onto my account and began a Total Restore. I reset the power profile so the display wouldn't shut off after inactivity. The progress bar advised me that I had "Several Days" to go until I was back in the pink.
Long story short? In a little over two days time, all my files are back on my hard drive. As it turns out, I restored via the Carbonite Info Center before I reinstalled Firefox, so I had to manually reinstall my Firefox Bookmarks. Piece of cake, they're all there, all organized just the way I had 'em.
Words fail me. I haven't been so relieved and happy since I don't remember when!
So from my vantage point 24 hours removed, I can see that barring some EMP Pulse attack on the West's Digital Infrastructure, most of our Digital History Files will be fine as long as someone is looking after them. Storage hardware will evolve, operating systems will go in and out of favor, but as long as a human eye is cast towards the digital libraries, we should stay ahead of any catastrophic incompatibility losses. The $55/year I pay Carbonite is the best $55 I've ever spent.