Monday, July 13, 2009

Time Machine Saved My Ass From a North Korean Suicide Cyberattack

I don't actually think my Mac was taken over and forced to self-destruct by North Korean cyberattackers (or whoever it responsible for that bit of business), though the timing is a cute coincidence.

The Problem
On Friday night, my Macbook's hard drive died. I discovered this at about 4am as I staggered relocated from the sofa to the bed, and noticed that the screen was a shade of blue I hadn't seen before.

That was a kind of waker-upper.

I did some poking around. I couldn't get it to boot from the DVD drive, though I think that went south on me last week (refused to play a DVD movie), so that wasn't really a surprise (but it was still really inconvenient).

I was able to boot off my external Firewire drive -- Disk Utility couldn't even find the internal hard drive, so I figured it was toast. I was able to get online, though, so I made an appointment at the Apple Store the next morning and went to bed.

The Resolution
Saturday, I went to the Tyson's Apple Store (the first in the nation, lest we forget) for my 11:20 appointment. The store was pretty busy, with a line of iPhone activators (complete with an armed rent-a-cop to maintain order), but I only had to wait 5 minutes at the Genius Bar.

The tech hooked and looked at my machine. The hard drive, at only 21 months old, was indeed dead. Fortunately, even though I was outside of the warranty, they agreed to replace it (though I was on my own on the optical drive -- at $400 to fix, I decided to leave it be for now). I left the machine with them and went home, computerless, though only for a few hours -- they called later that evening and I was able to pick it up.

The Recovery
I was relatively calm through the whole process (probably overly so), since I was banking on the fact that I had a fairly recent Time Machine backup (from July 8, as it turned out) sitting on my backup drive.

I hadn't been that religious about my backups, frequently getting the "it's been 10 days since your last backup" message, and I haven't used it to migrate or restore a computer, so I guess I should have been more nervous: I would have been kind of screwed if there were any problems with the backup. But I set it to restore, then left the house to go carouse at the Town Center.

When I got back, the machine was fully restored from the backup and good to go. The only thing I didn't get were some minor changes I'd made in the day and a half between the backup and the crash. But I can always re-download that porn.

The Aftermath
Well, the combo drive is still borked, so I'm going to have to figure out what to do about that. Even if I can get a better price at a third-party repair shop, I can't really spare being without my computer for a few days, and I might be better off putting the money towards one of those fancy new unibody Macbook Pros (not sure if I'd get the 13 inch or the 15 inch). Not only would it be an upgrade, but it'd give me a little redundancy.

Somewhat ironically, I'd been on the edge of upgrading my hard drive, anyway -- I'm running a bit low on free space. I still can't feel good about that "21 months to failure thing," though.

I'm really glad that the Time Machine backup worked. I will have to be more rigorous about my backups.

Thankfully, this happened over the weekend, so I didn't have a lot of work to do. However, having a lot of my data in the cloud would have made work easier to do. I still have a long way to go (especially on consolidating and making my documents and mail accounts accessible), but it would have been workable.

Most disconcerting of all was how my routine was disrupted, and how my communications and search safety net was cut off. My phone's browser could get me through basic searches, and I've gone longer without being online, but really didn't like being forcibly disconnected.

I make a lot of noise about our dependence on technology and connections, but I'm in the same boat as everyone else. It was really uncomfortable. Must think about this some more.

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