16,000 Year Old Bytes

23 03 2008

On Friday, I was all set to sit down and work on my div III (I am oh-so-close to finishing the first draft). I opened my computer, the hard drive spun up, and there was this awful screech-scratch sound. That’s happened a few times before, but it freaked me out—considering that the last six months of work, and my degree, are entombed in 1’s and 0’s in my computer. I’ve heard that if you hear the hard-disk actually clicking, you’re in deep shit, and you might not even have enough time to back the computer up.

Well, this laptop is a second-generation PowerBook G4, which means I bought it four years ago when I came to college. In my experience, most Apple laptops last a few years and then die catastrophically. At least, that’s what happens to my friends. My AppleCare expired last summer, so I don’t want to take any chances of having that drive head dip down onto the plate like the angel of death and tear horrible gaping holes in what amounts to $40,000 worth of data. So I went out and bought an external drive.

The last external drive I bought was one of those 2005 Porsche LaCie drives which are, in a word, shit. After I backed up my data on one last summer, several people informed me that they’d seen my particular model of LaCie turn into elegantly designed paperweights. To illustrate the problem, the drive clicked, took five minutes or more read on the computer, and in the end corrupted thousands of .rtf documents I saved on it. Until then, there was no reason for me to think that the .rtf format was at all vulnerable, but apparently it is.

The new drive is a Maxtor One-Touch 4 (“They’re already up to four?” said one of my slightly incredulous friends). It was a bargain item at RadioShack—the employees of which were incredibly nice and helpful. It’s the one near Amherst in the same lot as the Stop & Shop, if you ever need to buy from RadioShack, please support nice people.

I named it Lascaux, after the cave paintings. This brings me to the whole point of today. I kind of believe in true names, and if not something as spiritual as that, at least in the power of a name. The paintings in Lascaux are 16,000 years old; I want my data to last 16,000 years. I think it’s clever.

Actually, I believe in clever naming anyway. Name things after what characteristics you want them to embody. Words are a powerful thing. I was going to name the drive something cool, like ‘Waterfall,’ but that would have doomed the drive to a watery fate. ‘Firebird’… Do you really think this hard drive is going to rise out of its own ashes? Not something I want to risk.

So, welcome to the world, Lascaux. May no waters ever fall on you or fires ever burn your hard plastic shell. Act as though I were literally storing my data in a safe cave in France—though please take less time to access than if you were really in France.

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