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.


  1. 1. Good article. Backup with no less than two venerable online backup services (I use and, free and stable), along with a localized backup, if you have the means.

    2. Open Office is hit or miss, in my experience. The search function is inferior to Office, always spitting you out wherever you searched to instead of where you started (not such a big deal with a 2,000 word short story, but a huge pain in the ass with a hundred-thousand-word novel). Also, it runs dog slow compared to Office (at least on my current hardware, a PIII 650mhz laptop). I've also encountered some other weirdities that have soured me to it. Maybe it's just me, though. I attract weird.

  2. A.A - Thanks! I agree with you on Open Office. Although I do like it for converting Word 2007 files, Stew. ^_^

    But I suspect Open Office is possessed by the ghost of a sociopathic Network Systems Administrator, because every time I've used to to try to convert back, it seems to only work when I don't need it to. And you should SEE some of the demonic prophecy that comes out in glitchy text after switching back and forth. It's like opening a window to a madness dimension. Which can be fun, now and then.

  3. "Macbooks die."


  4. I've used Open Office and AbiWord (on Linux systems but cross platform versions exist). OOo seems slower on PCs and Macs (NeoOffice) but overall I've had good success with both. OOo gets the current nod due to better overall conversion of documents from the Dark Side (i.e. Redmond). But I've even written with *nix type text editors (vi rocks!)

    While I do agree with the need for backups (I generally run 3: external hard-drive, flash drive and DVD), most of my writing is done with a Cross fountain pen and a spiral notebook. I transcribe every other day or so, print off the new pages and add 'em the pile.

    You want to see some what happens when the chicken's bones and goat's blood come off the fire and are cast onto parchment? Take a look in my notebooks! Don't even try to imagine I can go more than a day or two without transcribing. Sometimes I can't make out what the words are supposed to be from one paragraph to the next. Electronic backup can be the least of my worries. What I want is the rosetta stone for reading my own handwriting.