The Blue Beast Twenty-nine

17 January 2003

Backup and Spike

Being in the Basque country means doing without some of the new-fangled inventions of the 21st century such as satellite TV and broadband internet connection. I was therefore ‘watching’ England fighting to regain the Ashes on my laptop, an old IBM Thinkpad. I had ‘borrowed’ it from Amiri One, the Emir’s Airbus, when I was in Qatar and it stayed with me when I was slung out.

Why we can’t get broadband

It was connected to the real world via an old, slow modem and a telephone cable slung between the trees and snaking over the hills behind the house. By clicking on Refresh every so often, I was able to keep up with the nail-biting score.

Why we can’t get broadband

A pop-up informed me that Microsoft had updates for Windows that would make my computer more secure against virus attacks. When the cricket was over for the day I was redirected to their site. There, I found that the update had been bundled into an enormous 35Mb file that would sort out Office, Outlook and anything else it could find on my old machine. I decided this would be a good thing but it would take ages to download. I began downloading, leaving the computer running whilst I popped down to the village for some refreshment.

The thunderstorm that had been brewing all afternoon began to blow and the dark sky was lit by brilliant flashes of lightening. The heavy rain soon followed and I spent longer in the pub than I had intended, not wanting to drive home in such foul weather. When I got back in the early hours, the power had tripped and I had no lights. I switched everything back on and fell into bed.

My morning ritual is up at 6, feed the chickens, cup of tea and read my emails so I filled the kettle and switched on my laptop. The room filled with an eerie blue light. Inaccessible Boot Device was the error message on the screen.
Goodbye world.

Dominic, my Polish computer geek, said he was confident he could recover the data. The hard drive was corrupted by the spike or surge of electricity caused by the storm. Pop it into his server and download everything onto a DVD. Seventy-five quid.
“You should have backed everything up,” he said.
I had borrowed a CD burner for that very reason but had not got round to doing it. When my wine cellar in Hardly Worthit was burgled, in addition to all my fine wines, the thieves stole a brand new burglar alarm that I had not quite got round to fitting. So I have previous on this.

Two days later Dominic phoned back. The hard drive was unreadable. Even a £600 rebuild had a less than 50:50 chance of recovering any of the photos, emails, letters, passwords, addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, jokes, musings, jottings, favourite web sites, the half-drafted novel. It was a dead machine, an expensive door-stop.

Stepping into the house after a two-week absence, the stench was appalling. The power had tripped again and the food in the freezer had rotted, much to the piggies’ delight. I was forced to throw away all those little jars and packets and tubs of unknown origin that I had never got round to eating or even labelling. I now have a sparkling, clean, empty fridge. And, thanks to my brother, Richard, a spike-protected, fast, handsome Sony laptop, fully loaded with the latest software and an in-built CD and DVD re-writer ready to back-up all my data.

Except I have nothing left to back-up

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