Friday, May 14, 2010

The Horror of Backups

Posted by LD Keach on Friday, May 14, 2010

Or, Save Early, Save Often!

Sometimes, I suspect my Microsoft Word is possessed by a foul-tempered Taiwanese gremlin. I’ve had too many experiences with glitchy text, overbearing grammar checkers, and tables that move about the page as though they’re self-aware and plotting my destruction. While the program is certainly far better than Corel WordPerfect or anything Mac puts out (feel free to start any Mac/PC flamewars in the comments,) there’s just something about Word that makes me think it’s not quite right.

For instance; once I had a copy of Microsoft Word that, for some infernal reason, liked to suddenly shut itself down at random intervals. These were the days when I was under-employed, too poor to eat regularly, and had an apartment I could smoke in—so imagine the massive cardiac arrest that took place after sitting at the computer for four hours, furiously typing away, downing two pots of coffee and half a pack of cigarettes, and suddenly Microsoft Word gives you the finger and destroys the last three thousand words you’ve just spit out on the page.

I’m lucky to be alive, frankly.

Anyway, my eating and smoking habits have improved, and so have my cautionary measures towards avoiding such gremlin-inspired cataclysms. If you’re a PC user, Ctrl+S is your best friend in the world. And, if you’ve ever played video games on whatever platform, you’ll know the old adage “Save Early, Save Often.” Because nothing is so horrible as to have the technological implements that we so rely on betray us at the least expected moment.

Because, of course, it’s not just Word that can turn on you at any time, but virtually any gadget you’re using to write with. (Pens, too, can be evil—all that running out of ink and blurring when the page gets wet. Insidious.) Desktops crash, Macbooks die, batteries run out, laptops catch on fire, and iPads rise up to suck your soul out of your eyeballs when you’re not paying attention.

Don’t turn you back on that thing for a second. Seriously. Your iPad thirsts for your squishy soul-innards…

Anyway, the only exorcism we can perform to keep the forces of lost-data darkness at bay, is the Holy Backup. Yes, everybody moans about regular backing-up of important electronic files, but that doesn’t mean it’s not super fantastic. Me, I’m a little paranoid, so I back up my writing once a day (sometimes three or four times! Or seven!) But any sane writer would back up at least twice a week, and keep their altar to Papa Legba stocked well with rum and cigars. (Because Papa Legba’s the best voodoo Loa to petition for smooth technological workings. Or, so my husband says.)

And, any sane writer will Ctrl+S regularly during their writing sessions, at least every page—or in my case, every other paragraph. Because who knows when the next power outage or glitchy processor or zombie apocalypse will hit? Saving and backing up your data regularly can rescue you from the heart-stopping shock of suddenly losing the last five pages you wrote.

So, Technology; we can’t trust it. At least not until Papa Legba finally gets around to crushing all the Taiwanese gremlins embedded in our motherboards. Or, at least until he puts them in a better mood with some cigars and rum.