Friday, November 30, 2007

Laptop Loss: The Aftermath.

In the not too distant past, my laptop was stolen. Our student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, re-enacted the scene of my discovering the theft thus:
When Jeffrey Cohen, the chair of the English department, returned to his office after making some photocopies, what he found astonished him. His desk was arranged as usual, but there was a gaping hole where his laptop computer had been 30 minutes earlier. Also its chain lock cable was slashed.
In the interest of accuracy, I must stress that no hole was in fact gaping. The fabric of the cosmos had not torn, and my laptop had not been sucked into the primal void. There was simply an empty space on my table where my MacBook Pro had been accustomed to reside.

At this time of academic insanity, when those of us who are graduate students are composing three seminar papers simultaneously and those of us who are further along in the profession are frantically struggling against deadline convergence (I myself have two articles, two reader's reports, an abstract and a book review due in the next two weeks) -- and most of us are grading exams and papers and attempting to assist our students in keeping it all together -- well, at this time when we are all generating quite a bit of data, I offer the following two suggestions for safeguarding the fruits (whether they be bananas or kumquats) of your scholarly labor:
  1. Get a program that automatically backs up your computer to a hard drive at least once a day, every day. Since I have a Mac, I upgraded to OS X.5, which includes a nifty program called Time Machine. The entire laptop backs up every hour at both work and home (I keep two external hard drives) ... and retains an earlier version of everything, should I ever want to return to a document after I've revised the vitality out of it.
  2. Since a backup that resides on a hard drive that you keep near your computer isn't much of a backup, pay the $4.95 monthly charge and sign up for Mozy. Over several days, their software program will back up the entire contents of your computer to Mozy's servers, where it is kept encrypted and secure. You can access your files anywhere, and after the initial backup (which takes forever) only new items are sent to the remote server.
Good luck as your semester comes to an end.


Karl Steel said...

For documents--dissertations, articles, gradebooks, &c--I like gspace. For photos I use a Flickr pro account. For music, well, just store it on your portable digital music player cum storage device.

Just my preferences.

Dave Friend said...


My sympathies for the loss of your laptop and the priceless work it contained. You probably read the recent story about Francis Ford Coppola – someone broke into his house and stole his computer AND his backup drive. You’re right in saying that automatic online backup is the way to go. Simple and safe. Carbonite and Mozy are the two leading companies in this space – I highly recommend that you and your readers research online backup to find the service that works best with your technical know-how and backup needs. Best of luck with the end of your semester. I would like to mention Carbonite’s Mac version which is currently in field test. A public beta will start soon. It’s free, of course, and unlimited in capacity. You can ask to sign up for the beta by sending an email to Applications to participate in the free beta will be open for about another 6 weeks.


Dave Friend
CEO, Carbonite Inc.