Category Archives: workingdigitally

A Tale of Recovered Digital Media

Painting of woman searching for lost coinSeveral years ago a large external hard drive I had been using for home and work for about six years died on me. Because it was so large and expensive at the time, I had no backup. I lost most of my saved work from six years of my life.

When I finally realized that I wasn’t going¬†to see that data again, it literally felt like being kicked in the stomach. Enormous pressure built up in my chest, my heart was racing, I couldn’t breathe and I imagined that people who experience a house fire losing all of their precious family photos must feel precisely the same way because that is what had happened to me.

“You idiot!” I thought. You call yourself a computer professional? You, of all people, know better than to rely on a single drive with no backup. Now you have lost all of the kids’ baby pictures, movies, and sound recordings, not to mention all of that stuff you created for work.

But this was a terabyte hard drive, back when most people did not have so much storage, and it cost over $500. I simply couldn’t afford to purchase another one to make backups (although I certainly could have used another media like CDs and DVDs to make backups of the favorite items). Of course, making print photos was still a thing when the kids were small and we have some of those too, but many, many of our family memories were inaccessible and presumably lost forever.

I looked into a data-recovery service. I was in luck, they told me. As a member of the staff of Kansas State University, I was eligible for a discount because my employer was a partner to that service. I was quoted the reduced price to recover one terabyte of data of approximately $1800 Р$2000! So if I thought $500 for a backup drive was bad, try paying for the data-recovery rate!

I seriously contemplated paying for data recovery. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing all of those memories. The company sent me a special padded shipping box for my external drive. When the shipping box arrived, it was too small to hold my drive. It was meant to hold a (now) standard sized smaller external hard drive, but my terabyte drive was actually a Seagate enclosure that held two full-sized internal hard drives along with RAID electronics that make the two drives appear as a single drive. It was far too big to be shipped in the provided box.

So I hesitated, put off the data recovery idea, put my broken drive into storage in the closet, and tried to forget about it.

Every once in a while, I would pull that terabyte drive back out and test it just to be sure I wasn’t mistaken. Nope. Every time, it still was unreadable by any computer or operating system I attached it to. I even went so far as to remove the internal HDD drives from the enclosure and attempted to read them directly with a USB device that could read and power these devices. Still nope.

This process went on for nearly seven years. The last files that I saved to the failed drive were created in February of 2012. As I began working seriously on my doctorate, I purchased not one, but two external drives that are 2TB in size, and I was very diligent about mirroring one on to the second drive and keeping one at work and the other at home. I had no intention of ever letting a failed hard drive get me again.

Of course, over that time, cloud storage has made its appearance and is taking over the way we save data. I have moved away from using external drives altogether and mostly rely on the cloud. It actually is quite nice since I can access it from home or at work. But I still keep my own copies of personal files like photos and home movies.

Then, last week, something happened. I was doing some cleaning at home and came across that failed hard drive. There it sat, a symbol of my incompetence, mocking me once again. I don’t know why, but I’m going to pull it out and try again. I have a new Macbook I didn’t have before. Maybe my luck will turn.

So I hooked it all up, and the lights came on and… still nobody home. Sigh. Well it was worth a shot.

Hmm, here is something I don’t remember seeing. There is a tiny “reset” button on the enclosure. I wonder what would happen if I pushed that? Now I have seen these tiny little “reset” buttons before, usually on something like a router or other embedded computing device. You have to get a pen or paperclip to even push the button it is so small.

I pushed “reset” and guess what happened? Nothing.¬† A loud cooling fan noise, just like every other time the drive powered up, some blue LED lights, and nothing. No readable drive.

But after a couple of minutes, incredibly, unthinkably, that darned Seagate drive became readable again! Well, I don’t dare turn this thing off again. So I grabbed one of my other drives that had plenty of space and started copying things, beginning with the family photos, then the work documents, then the home movies.

Copy, copy, copy. I spent most of last weekend copying things to the backup drive. Soon, my daughter noticed what I was doing.

She – Dad, isn’t that the drive that quit working you were so upset about?

Me- Yep. It started working again.

She- So what is on it?

So we started poking around in the photos to see what was there. A big smile came across her face as she saw all of her classmates in pre-school. She’s a Junior in high school now. We saw photos of swimming lessons, wheat harvest, Watermelon Festival, birthdays, and family gatherings of all sorts,

Having gone through that difficult emotional loss, and just recently finding the lost thing again, I feel just like those people in the Bible who lost a sheep and a coin (Luke 15:1-10).

It has been a good week. Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost data!

 

 

Social Media Tips

This is just a stream of consciousness thing I wrote a while back while reflecting on how to “do” social media. These are just my ideas. At some point I should polish this up, but I’m going to share it as it is now, so it doesn’t just reside in some file on my device that I’ll ultimately lose or forget about.

Onward to my hastily constructed Social Media Tips…

  • Don’t be a negative, be positive. Nobody wants to hear the negative.
  • Associate with great people. People who are better than you. People who are currently where you aspire to be. You will become like the people that you associate with. That’s¬†the beauty of social media. You can associate with really great people. It’s never been possible to the extent that it is now with the internet.¬†Why not find people you admire, people who know what you’d like to know, and connect with them online?¬†
  • Post regularly. There’s nothing that will enhance your success online¬†more than providing a regular stream of valuable content.
  • To get more readers, to grow your audience, follow the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • Small Town Rules. (It’s the title of a book written by my friend Becky McCray.) Being on social media is much like living in a small town. Those of¬†us who grew up in small towns have an advantage because similar rules apply in that setting. When people join social media they put themselves into an environment where everybody knows your business, just like in a small town .
  • Refer¬†your own work for reflection. You can look back six months, five years, 10 years from now and see where your thinking was and how much you’ve grown as a person.
  • Establish yourself as an expert. How do you become an expert? Malcolm Gladwell famously suggested in the book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. So how much are you practicing whatever it is you wish to become an expert in? 40 hrs * 52 weeks * 5 years is just over 10000 hrs.
  • Avoid arguments. Discussions are ok. Once¬†you sense you are talking past one another and no one is listening to the other point of view, it is best to bow out. I’m not sure anyone has ever changed their mind simply by reading a stranger’s opinion on the Internet. Most people are seeking information that confirms opinions they already hold.
  • Work on your character. Before you do anything, particularly if it is online, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable with this action being blasted around the world on various media outlets. Because if it is outrageous enough, it will be.
  • Be authentic. Show us who you are. Show your face and use your real name. The online world has enough anonymous garbage. If you know what you are talking about and believe what you are saying, there’s no reason you shouldn’t back it up with the real person behind those sayings and beliefs.

Rifftrax and Birdemic

A number of years ago, I heard about the so-awful-it’s-good movie Birdemic. It has been on my watch list ever since, and over the Christmas break I finally got a chance to watch it. The movie has been billed as “The worst movie ever made” and justly so. It is truly bad.The screenplay is bad. The acting is bad. The directing is bad. The editing is bad. The special effects are bad.

Here is an excerpt to give you a taste of how deliciously awful Birdemic is:

Now why would I want to see such a disaster? Well, for one thing, I teach digital media technology. In our¬†program, we learn about film editing, digital storytelling and special effects. With Birdemic, I was thinking we could analyze a film¬†that someone spent time and money to produce, discussing the things that went¬†wrong, and how¬†could things be improved. After seeing it, I’m imagining there won’t be enough class time for a comprehensive analysis unless we devote an entire semester to it. However, we can look at some excerpts and explore the possibilities¬†presented to digital film makers.

One recurring theme in the courses that I teach is that of “working digitally” or doing digital work professionally. Because it is an emerging field, the possibilities are endless. I want students to begin to imagine the kinds of work that can be done using digital media technologies.

Birdemic was created by James Nguyen, a silicon valley software engineer with a dream. Through persistence and audaciousness, his film became a reality. Using social media and publicity stunts at the Sundance film festival, the¬†film was picked up by a distributor, screened in several cities, released on DVD, and by all accounts became¬†far more successful than what should¬†normally be expected. So¬†count Mr. Nguyen as a visionary of what “working digitally” looks like.

I also have a second example of how “working digitally” is associated with the Birdemic film. I’ve been aware of the Rifftrax comedy website for several years. The business model for Rifftrax is to create comedy sound tracks to play along with commercially released DVDs. If you are familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, aka MST3K, you know how this works – basically it is a group of wise-crackers joking around about movies they are watching. After the MST3K television show ended, the Rifftrax website was launched.¬†Below is a sample of how Rifftrax works with the Birdemic film. We see scenes from Birdemic together with the¬†jokes by Rifftrax.

Normally, one buys, borrows or rents a dvd to watch, and downloads an MP3 joke soundtrack to play along with the movie. Over the break, I got the Birdemic film, downloaded the Rifftrax mp3, and had a great time watching this awful movie. But I think it is a perfect example of people doing digital work, creating a product that no one could ever even imagine before computers and the internet.