Saturday, December 27, 2008

Acceptance...and bargaining

So I've been running my last-ditch effort to back up the data of my dying MacBook Pro. It's been running for quite a while - along the lines of two weeks. I've been getting the sinking feeling that it's not going to work - of course the big "I/O Error" messages I get lead me to that, but also the rate of copying bytes off the disk is dropping drastically. I assume dd (the unix command I'm using) attempts to re-read the bad data several times before giving up. So here are my current estimates: The problem is that the copy started really slow, then it rapidly ran through 70 some-odd gigs of data, now it's slow again. So it's hard to gauge what speed it's actually running at. If the amount of bytes/second that dd says it's getting is accurate (76k/sec right now, but each report is slower than the last...) then it will be complete: January 23 2008. Ow. And as I said, it's not even likely that it will finish at that speed, unless another batch of 'fast disk' comes up. And I just timed how long it took to do a single block. By *that* estimate, it's doing closer to: 4.97 (what the hell, let's be charitable and call it 5) bytes per second. Bytes, ladies and germs. Bytes. At that rate, it will take: 1163 years for it to complete. So, needless to say, I don't think I'm going to be doing *that* one. And, hell, the January 23 option isn't looking that attractive to me right now either. I'm not going to stop it now, but it's starting to seem like I need to make sure my data's affairs are in order. I may have to pull the plug soon, and get some level of closure on this horrible chapter, and onto the new. But, see, there's that little glimmer of hope I insist on holding on to - I haven't cancelled the backup yet. Why am I doing that? Well, the answer is easy, I haven't fully accepted it yet. But if I were to wait until the January 23 timeframe - I'd be just as bad off as if I managed to recover all my data - the loss of 30 days or so. And that date is by no means assured. So, maybe I'll keep it running and the next time I find myself going to the shop, maybe I'll cancel the copy and close up the laptop for good. Or maybe I'll pointlessly cling on to this last shred of hope. I certainly hope not. I think it seems pretty obvious that it's time to move on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spinning magnetic disks of terror

So I feel like I'm going through the Five Stages of Grief. My lovely, wonderful MacBook Pro's hard drive has just completely died, all of the sudden. It's not the lack of a computer that I have problems with - though for anyone who knows me, it's definitely a problem - my problem is with my data. 240GB or so (plus or minus) seems to be completely gone. There, one day, fine and dandy and operating well within tolerance, one firmware update - hey, maybe that'll fix the odd once every couplea weeks hard-freeze issue I get now and then - and kerplow. I can retrieve a mere 300 some odd megs - Megs! - of data. I have lots of work on that thing - and of course, having been making my way to a new machine from an old one, I don't have backups. I am a medium-strength Unix guru, and have tried everything I could, but I can see the history of my emergency dd run - every single block is failing to copy after those first 300 some odd megs. It doesn't look good. It's 19 gigs of the way through a 240GB disk, with a bootcamp partition which I'd also like but can totally live without. So maybe 160 GB of real disk to contend with. It's going to be running for days. and lots and lots of effort to recover zeroes isn't going to help that much. So yesterday was Anger. I think today looks like it's Bargaining - "If I can just manage to save this one VM I had a lot of stuff in, maybe I will survive." I'll just have to slowly but surely make my way through the rest of the stages. Depression should be one of the next ones for me to look at, but I think some of that was yesterday. Perhaps I'm crusing through the stages at more of a reasonable pace than I thought. One thing - kinda philosophical - that terrifies me here is that, at some point, we imagine the data on these strange, spinning platters is permanent. Or that we've "saved" our data to them. But we might as well be skywriting, in the end - the data won't be there forever, and in the blink of an eye everything could be completely gone. How could you trust anything you care about to such a...capricious medium? Oh, I know. Skywrite it twice. I dunno, it sounds to me like that's doing it wrong. Well, I've been able to catch a failing disk every time before now - catch it fast enough and do my emergency copy-off of data, the whole routine, and end up without losing too much. But it looks like my good luck - or good Karma - or good ninjary - has run out. I guess it was about time that I get hit, and man did I get hit hard. It may sound silly, but I feel afraid to store anything anywhere other than The Cloud again - my gmail account and Freshbooks accounts have luckily allowed me to continue being in business without much interruption. Perhaps this is the great big flashing sign that I need to focus on some of my network storage and booting things that I've thought were neat. Just pick up a shitty netbook with a serial port and I'm back up and running again, right? It's too bad, some of those really great things you can do with lots of CPU power and RAM and speedy hard drives are pretty cool...but not so cool if your data is constantly at risk. Which it is - think about it - what if you lose your laptop? What if you drop it? What if you walk through a magnetic field? What if you, say install a trivial looking firmware update and your laptop just stops working? Then what? Well, better have good backups....whoops! I didn't. Maybe I cursed myself by repeatedly inquiring about Time Capsules and getting one for cheap. In retrospect, I should've bought anything at all. A few hundred bucks feels like nothing to me right now. I already bought a drive to do my recovery on - and I didn't even notice. I remember hearing an MP3 of a tech support call - that the tech guys must have thought was hilarious - a distraught sounding guy calls tech support and mentions that his laptop was sent out for service and in the process of describing what has transpired, completely loses it on the phone and screams profanities. I remember being of mixed feelings when I heard that call - on the one side, as a tech guy, bonehead users are a pain, especially freaked-out bonehead users. But on the other side, I felt bad - "6 years of my fucking life!" was the phrase I heard. I think I've gotten away far, far easier. I've probably lost ...oh, a month or two. A month or two of important time, that it's going to hurt trying to recreate, but only a month or two. In some ways, a fresh start is an opportunity. Or, at least, that's how I'm selling it to myself. Is that 'Acceptance', or 'Bargaining'? Not sure. So it's probably going to be that I can save little bits of data I don't care about, but the bulk of my stuff is gone. And I'll probably just go back to using my new MBP, when it comes back from The Shop. But, in the meantime, while I'm computerless and a digital vagabond with no data, I will at least ponder the deeper meaning within The Cloud...