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The Death of a Computer

A timely reminder of why we should back up our computer data.

Most of us know that we should back up our regularly, but I wonder how many of us do it as often as we should. I thought I did quite well in this regard until last week.

I’d finally decided to produce a print copy of my book "Silent Lies" via Amazon’s self-publishing option Createspace. Given the book is already on sale as an e-book with Amazon, it seemed the most logical option. Unfortunately the two methods of book production differ to the extent that it’s not just a case of forwarding the formatted manuscript and cover for one into the other. (What a joy that would be!)  Once again I found myself reformatting my manuscript – I reckon at this rate there is a danger I’m going to be able to recite it by heart or, that by the time it is published in print, I will never want to look at it again.

I worked flat-out with the idea that if I could get the book printed before a planned trip to the UK at the end of the month, I could take some copies with me for family and friends. I finished the interior pages, a process which was more tedious than difficult, then turned to the cover. An e-book only requires a one page image of your cover. A printed book requires that front cover, a spine and a back cover. And for the graphically challenged this is a huge leap in computing skills – or at least it seemed that way to me.

Createspace does provide some templates for covers which only require you to replace their pictures, text, etc., with your own. Unfortunately, the covers don’t have a spine, which would make a novel look rather unprofessional, and therefore ruled out the easy option. There is also a template for creating your own original cover complete with spine, but to use this you need to have some graphic software. Research online suggested that Adobe CS5.5 seemed to be the most popular choice and imagine my delight when I discovered that I could download a free trial version to see whether I liked it. (Or to be more honest, in my case, whether I could actually use it.)

I happily downloaded the software; amazed myself by being able to follow the initial instructions then hit a snag when I discovered that the dpi of the cover image had to be over 300 for a printed book – a lot higher than the computer image I had for my e-book. While I was debating what to do about this, my computer decided to turn itself off.

Puzzled, and now wondering whether the download was not compatible with my computer, I turned it back on and sighed with relief when it appeared to restart without any problem. Five minutes later it turned off again. Repeated attempts to revive it were less and less successful even though the screen display kept telling me that Windows was checking the problem and trying to resolve it. I finally called The Geek Squad and a very helpful lady tried to assist over the phone. For a while it was looking like she would succeed. We had to part company when my computer was working on something that would take over an hour, but she told me that if that did not solve the problem I would have to take it into a shop to have a technician look at it. It was a tense hour. And I lost.

I scooped up my CPU, took it down to the local Best Buy and left it with them overnight to see if they could resuscitate it. No such luck. Apparently it had nothing to do with the download – one of the cores had blown (or whatever cores do when they’ve had enough) and while computers have several cores, it seems they need them all working in order to function.

That was the moment I realized I had not backed up my reformatted manuscript! Not to mention other new writing as well. All those stories of authors who lost whole manuscripts because of failure to back up their work flooded into my mind. Visions of having to repeat the last couple of weeks’ worth of work made me want to weep. Not to mention the idea of reloading all the data that I did have backed up onto a new computer.

Luckily I really don’t know much about how computers work. The Geek Squad guy, who was in danger of becoming my worst enemy after glibly informing me of the death of my computer, suddenly transformed into an angel when he asked if I wanted them to transfer all the data from my old machine to the one I was about to buy. They could do that! From a dead computer? The knowledge went a long way to assuaging the pain of having to fork out for a new CPU. And sure enough, another 24 hours later, I brought home my new computer, switched it on, and there was all my data exactly as it should be.

I now no longer have the time to get my book ready and printed before going to the UK, but that seems like a minor setback compared to what might have been if the problem had been with the hard drive. I’ve learned my lesson though - I will be backing up my writing each day from now on.

Would you like a chance to read a free e-book copy of Silent Lies? Send your email address to info@melparish.com (with Silent Lies as the subject) and you could be one of the lucky recipients.    

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lisa Larson-Kelley March 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM
A great cautionary tale. Glad to hear it had a happy ending for you! Being the victim of catastrophic data loss (more than once, I regret to say; you'd think I would have learned the first time) I now use a service called Dropbox and I sleep much easier. :) Basically, it creates a folder on your computer, and anything you put in there (documents, photos, etc.) are automatically backed up to their servers. And you can revert to a previous version of the file(s) if you overwrite something or change your mind on a change. You can get 2GB of backup space for free: http://db.tt/67L7Uyd. I got my sister and my parents set up on it after they both lost data, and they found it a little hard to get used to (remembering to put all their important docs in that folder) but they've got the hang of it now. Good luck on your UK book tour! ;)
Mel Parish March 18, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Thanks Lisa. I shall certainly look into Dropbox.

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