Lessons Learned

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A couple of weeks ago, my big 1TB external hard drive died an ignoble death. I tried every trick I knew to recover it, with no success. I even took it to a local repair site to let them try their voodoo; no dice. Thankfully, some parts of the drive were reliably backed up, including all of my photos. *whew* However, I lost my entire music collection. *groan*

What have I learned from this?

  • Don’t be an idiot; backup yer stuff. In a stroke of good luck, I acquired an Apple Time Capsule a couple of months ago and have been using it for backups. Quelle suprise, it does just what it claims to do, and does it really well. Three cheers for technology that “just works”!
  • The drive that died was a Western Digital My Book hard drive. Notice how big and chunky that case looks? If you open it up, you’ll find out there are two 500GB hard drives inside, plugged into a little circuit board that stripes the drives together a 1TB RAID. This works, but it has a pretty serious implication; with a striped RAID data is scattered across both drives. Which means that if one drive in the RAID dies, you’ve essentially lost access to the data in the entire RAID. So a striped RAID basically has double the odds of a catastrophic failure compared to a traditional single hard drive. Yikes! Had I been thinking clearly, I never would have bought this drive in the first place.
  • I’ve purchased a modest amount of digital music online from the Amazon MP3 store. I respect the fact that their music library is DRM-free, and encoded at a high bit-rate. But I was really sad to read this in their FAQ: “We are currently unable to replace any purchased files that you delete or lose due to a system or disk error.” That tears it; I will no longer buy music that way. It’s back to CDs for me.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to retrieve about 2/3rds of my music collection from raiding a friend’s music library (not pirating; just retrieving copies of stuff I own and lost on the dead drive), and I recovered a little more from what tiny percentage of my music was on my little 8GB iPhone. Now I’ve pulled eight (8!!) boxes of CDs from the attic and am selectively re-ripping stuff to fill in the holes in my collection.

  • Keep your CDs; don’t sell them to the used CD stores unless you really don’t like them. You’ll never know when you might need that media again.

I’ll conclude this little blog post with a relevant bible verse (you didn’t know I had it in me, didja?):

To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
– The Apostle Paul, Phil 3:1, advocating backups.

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