Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Mac Lazarus

A few years ago my G3 Macintosh computer decided to crash. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to start up. I lugged it into the car and brought it to Jerry, a computer repair man.

"Lazarus and I are going to have a little chat," Jerry said. He took the covers off everything and hooked up a tangle of wires.

"Will it ever work again,?" I asked nervously. "Hummmm, oh yeah," Jerry said.

I thought of all the letters I had written and all the photos I had taken. Down the drain. Stupidly, I hadn't backed up in a long time. Jerry mumbled a few incantations and fell into a deep reverie.

Then for the next two hours, as he contemplated the carcass of Lazarus, I did what I always do when I'm deathly anxious: I sketched.

Eventually my computer came back from the grave. It made some nice noises and some lights came on. Narrow escape this time, I told myself.


Tim said...

Back it up man!

I learned the hard way. For my thesis project in Graphic Design, I decided to do something absolutely insane.

I had this brilliant idea of a future theme park for adventure prone people. It was very elaborate, I wrote up a 25 page background story, did storyboards, graphics, designed everything, got some classmates to become actors, went to the local Home depot and bought materials, lights and props (keeping all receipts so that I could return them after filming) learnt rudimentary Maya and how to handle a 3CCD camera, wrote a script, made costumes, constructed the sets, lived in the schools basement illegally for a month because i didn't have time to go back home after classes, filmed four hours of footage, edited and composited it, had spontaneous nosebleeds from the stress, panic attacks at 3 am after staying up for 48 hours and getting 3hours sleep doing this for 3 weeks.

I finally made it on opening night of the exhibit, missing the VIP party because i was still rendering out and constructing the set for my presentation, breaking a 4 thousand dollar plasma TV ON THE MORNING of opening it all to the public. But I made it god damn it. With the intention of going over the footage again and doing it "properly" after a summer of sleeping I was awakened one night by my external hard drive making a horrible screeching sound.

In the morning it was dead as a doornail. 6 months of the hardest work Ive I ever done, gone forever (or until I'm flush enough to do a recovery) The only things that remains are two photos of my friend in the costume I designed and made, and a photograph of the table of props in the basement before modification, plus some constucting photos of the sets. THe 25 page background is also intact. I put it up on my blog in case anyone is interested on

Needless to say I have THREE backups going all the times now.

Anonymous said...

You really caught that "hmmm - what can I do?"-stare, as it looks for the one who is really worried about the final verdict. I am all too familiar with it - same thing happened to me a couple of months ago ...

Erik Bongers said...

Thank you for the reminder.
As an ex-computer-programmer-nerd-consultant-IT-professional-screen-starer (that still loves programming!) I'm backing up, as I'm writing this comment.
Tomorrow, I'm seeing my sister, and I'll swap my pocket-size backup drive with the one that's stored at her house.

"Off-site backup" we nerds call it.

And once my sister moves into her new (and bigger) house, I will kindly ask her if she wants to store half of my drawings.
That way it would take a Katrina scale incident to destroy all my work.

Haven't needed the backup plan so far. But I'm sleeping better.

Erik Bongers said...

And agree wit cegebe.
You really caught that hmm-look spot-on in that first drawing. Given my background, I can tell!

In support of my ex colleagues - give these guyes a break when they are working on your precious masjiene. It's nerve-wrecking to be working with an audience, not to mention having your portrait made.

Ginger*:) said...

I love these sketches. My computer guy is a gal, Diane. She has saved me from the brink more than once. Now I keep an external hard drive with all the backup graphics for the books I am working on. Lesson learned.

Steve said...

Even for Macs, the crash prognosis is said to be "when," not "if." Heeding that, I finally bought an external hard drive for mine this year, paying around $200 for more storage than I should ever need. When set aside the costs of other insurance, and considering the contents are truly irreplaceable, it seems inexpensive.

I loved both sketches, all the more so for seeing them in sequence. We can see the deepening of concentration as Jerry really sinks into his discussion with Lazarus. And didn't you capture a little Darwin's tubercle in his ear before you knew its name?

Are the time stamps accurate on these postings? Mine shows you posting this at 3:39 a.m. Owlish.

James Gurney said...

Steve: More like vampirish. I usually do my post after returning from flying around the neighborhood gathering a few pints of blood.

Tim, it's happened to all of us, but you get the prize. Erik--smart backup strategies! And thanks everyone for your kind words--and a big thanks to Jerry and others like him who save us all from ruin!

i, me said...

usb key drives are cheap an easy to use these days...and, (i have no affiliation!) has a synched folder on their servers - it works really well, and 2gig account is free (no enough for graphics but more than enough for docs)

James: G3?! I haven't heard that spoken in this decade :)

kev ferrara said...

I knew immediately from your sketch who you were portraying, as Jerry is my Mac Diagnostician also. He has a very strong characteristic that you captured perfectly... that he's a rather big, brusque-seeming guy, with tattoos and leather bands and black clothes... but underneath that he's kind of a softy, which you can see in his eyes. I never fail to have an interesting conversation with him as he has his own culture of witty catch phrases, macintosh lore and comically blase cynicism. Biggest lesson he taught me is "there's always a way." Which prevents panic. He's saved my neck at least 4 times.


Andrew said...

My friend still has two of his old macs from the days when they were multi-colored. His old green laptop he calls his clamshell, and his old desktop he affectionately calls his Ruby Red. He doesn't use them anymore (not nearly the power behind them for the video editing he does,) but I think they still work.

I recall seeing a video of a hyper-realist painter's studio (I really wish I could remember the name,) and that man knew how to back up. He had at least 2 TB's in his computer to start with, with an additional 3 TB split over three or four external hard drives that were synched to back up any changes immediately, plus an FTP backup as well. It was quite the monster of a setup.

Unknown said...


Love the sketches but what caught my fancy is that you had named your harddrive Lazarus. I do the desktop Mac is backup is Bubba Love and my macbook is POOBAH.

I've got one of those programs that backup automatically...its the way to go if you are absentminded like me.

James Gurney said...

Hey, since many of you are tech experts, may I ask you: if I don't have OSX Leopard (my two computers are OS 10.3.9 and 10.4.11), where do I get the software for automatically backing up files?

Until now I've just been backing up ALL the files every few months, but that must be the dumb way to do it, right?

David Morning said...

EASEUS Disc Copy is supposed to be a good disk cloning program which is cross platform. Never used it since I'm not on a mac, but Lifehacker gives it a good review.

Also, the fact that it uses a bootable disk to do it is useful if your machine won't boot from the hard disk, as it lets you bypass that and repair the disk anyway.

Oh, and it's free, which is good since these programs cost so much usually.

Renae Taylor said...

wow, i have not seen jerry in years and i knew that was him before i even read the story, he is a great guy! your portraits sketches never cease to amaze me.

Jared said...

I use Leopard and haven't been using Time Machine since I don't like leaving my external drive connected to my laptop. I use a program called SuperDuper! which does a Smart Update to save time on backups. I believe you can schedule it to do this daily or weekly for example. The best thing about SuperDuper! is that it makes a complete, working, bootable clone of your drive so if your harddrive implodes you can just plug in your external drive and boot from there, and you're back in action (while you wait for your new harddrive to arrive in the, for example).

I really enjoyed reading this little treatise on the Tao of Backup:
It goes over the steps to take to know if you really have a trustworthy backup, how much to backup (everything), how frequently, etc. Do you trust your backups?

Steve said...

On the recommendation of a very knowledgeable friend, I also use SuperDuper. My OS is the same as yours, 10.4.11 -- it's a MacBook purchased in January of 2007. My friend recommended SuperDuper for the reason given by Jared; it not only backs up your files, it clones your harddrive (now there's a phrase). I don't know what it costs, he gave me a copy.

I'm still thinking about those pints of blood...

badbot said...

it's pretty funny the way we have to consider our death threaten computers as living things ^^

" oh! look at him, he's recovering!! he came back from the dead!!! "

especially when we're not "professionals geek" it's sometime really tricky to know what to do in front of a non-cooperative computer...

just as love, computer science as reasons that Reason ignore.

Unknown said...

What a cool little story. I need to capture more of my own slices of life in sketch form.

Stapleton Kearns said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stapleton Kearns said...

I have a subscription service called Carbonite that continually uploads my files onto an encrypted remote server. It costs about $60.00 a year. When my computer died last month I bought a new one and effortlessly downloaded everything that had been on my former unit.

Unknown said...

Hi James, it has been a while. I'm flattered by how kind your pencil was to me, then again I'm sure you didn't want your readers gouging out their eyes. ;)

Feel free to give me a call and pic what little brains I have for back-up ideas.

Be Well

James Gurney said...

Hey, Jerry--what a nice surprise to hear from you, and to learn that two people reading this blog recognized you. Thanks again for fixing old Lazarus--and posing in the bargain.