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Back in Business, Kinda Sorta

Well, Ty returned to work today and was able to effect a partial salvage of my computer disaster.

First he hunted down and killed the malware. Took half the day. And it turns out that this particular virus had nothing to do with the loss of my saved emails. (Just as some of you commenters had suggested). The timing of it all was just a coincidence. Still, it's nice to have a clean machine again.

Then he was able to restore my lost emails. Well, some of them, anyway. Turns out that AOL can only restore to the last time it did an auto backup, and it only does those every four weeks. In my case the last backup was March 24. So I lost all the emails that I received from that date to this one... but I did get thousands back. (Of course, I also got back all the emails that I had responded to and deleted from March 24 until now, so now I have to find them and delete them again). Restoration took the other half of the day.

I still hate computers.

To all of you worried about my backing up my fiction. I write on a DOS machine that is physically separate from my Windows machine and has no connection to the internet. It cannot get a virus. Assuming someone was writing viruses for WordStar 4.0, which I think unlikely. It also has a built in mirrored drive, so everything I write is automatically copied to two hard drives. I back up frequently to floppy disks, less frequently to CD/ROM, every blue moon to a Zip drive. So I think I am pretty well backed up. The one vulnerability I have is that all these backups share the same physical location, so if my house burned down, I'd be screwed. I have looked into offsite backup systems, yes, but unfortunately none of them will work with DOS/ WordStar. (And no, don't ask, I'm not going to send any of you a disk for "safekeeping," I'm on to that trick).

I am going to look into new email systems. I need to do it, I know, but changing over is such a bloody pain, and I do not adapt quickly to such changes. This old dog likes his old tricks.

Anyway, bottom line -- if any of you has sent me an important email in the last three weeks, it's likely gone. If I haven't responded yet, I won't. So resend if it was important. But PLEASE, do NOT resend if the content wasn't crucial. This has left me with enough to clean up already.

Thanks for your understanding. And thanks for all the comments and suggestions in reply to my last message. A lot of good info there, and it was much appreciated.


( 84 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 17th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
I could be trusted with a disk for safekeeping! My computer came with a DVD-ROM, four memory card slots of varying sizes, six USB ports and two FireWire ports, but absolutely NOTHING resembling a floppy disk drive. (Where do you even get floppy disks these days?)

But yay for no more malware and restored e-mails. :-)
Apr. 18th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
With the rise of the USB mass storage devices, or thumb drives, floppies are now virtually extinct. You can still use floppies by purchasing an external floppy drive with a USB interface. They are pretty cheap.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 17th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Fireproof safes aren't enough protection for computer media. Offsite is better.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
And no, don't ask, I'm not going to send any of you a disk for "safekeeping," I'm on to that trick.


In any case, a safe-deposit box wouldn't be a bad idea here, nor for that matter someone like, say, a literary agent could serve just as well. You don't need to get fancy.

For that matter, Yahoo and Google have unlimited storage. You could create an innocuous email address, mail yourself the chapters, and then, if need be, just download them at your leisure.
Apr. 17th, 2009 06:54 am (UTC)
Yeah, but then the computer he writes it on would have to be online, which would open it up to viruses. Or he'd have to save it onto a disk, transfer it to the computer that does go online, etc etc...which means less likely to get done regularly.

And he'd run the risk of some hacker getting into his email account and stealing his writing and then you'd see bootleg copies for sale on street corners in China, ala "Wolverine."

I recommend that Ty the assistant takes home a disk with the week's writing once a week and keeps the backups at his place. If both their places burn down at the same time...well, chances are there's a war with bombs going on and then nobody is going to be having time to read anyway. ;)
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
If you ever decided to indulge in "email bankruptcy" (the practice of emptying your inbox and starting over), this would make an excellent cover. :)
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
A classic "offsite" storage trick is to email a file to yourself and then just leave it sitting in the online storage of the email system. I know several writers who backup their work this way.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
I was just about to post the same suggestion.
(no subject) - booksforfood - Apr. 17th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
Glad to hear your computer issues are (as much as possible) taken care of!

My adviser in college always suggested keeping a backup of important work in a bank deposit box, to address the single physical location issue... the mantra was save early, save often, distribute widely :)
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
I recommend Gmail over AOL. Lots of storage, decent back-up of email messages and good filtering options and spam protection.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
You might want to look into something that doesn't store the email on your local machine. There are a bunch of email hosts out there that support IMAP, which is a way to store all of your email on a server, while being able to use a desktop application to read and manipulate it. If you use an email program like Outlook, Thunderbird, etc, IMAP will look just like your standard email, but there will always be an offsite copy. And if you're paying for the service, they'll be doing regular backups of their servers (Or at least they should be.)

And most of the time, if you don't want to change your email address, your current provider can be configured to automatically resend emails from your current address to your new one.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
Honest George, if ya sent me a floppy or a Zip drive...I wouldn't share it...I wouldn't even look at it...promise!

Glad that you got that cleared up...
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)


I'm glad you got your emails and other important stuff back. ♥

(Er, perhaps it would be a good idea to do back-ups in an external drive every now and then in case these things happen again?)
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
easy off site backup
Take your disk from your DOS machine to your windows machine and email the document to yourself. Tada...now when your email is backed so is the precious bounty...
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
WordStar, George?

That's actually kind of awesome!

I'm glad you're up and running again. As much as I love my computer, the things really can be a righteous pain when something goes awry. Even so...no whamming 'em with the hammer, OK?
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
re: offsite backups
Once x weeks, make a full backup to a CD or floppy or clay tablet. Then put the CD, floppy or clay tablet in a safe deposit box. Hope the bank doesn't burn down.
Apr. 17th, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
Re: offsite backups
CDs are cheap. Box rental is cheap. Have more than one deposit box.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
E-Mail suggestion
Have you tried GMail? It's always worked well for me, and they store your email server-side forever. It also comes with plenty of storage space (over 7 gigabytes now, I think) and allows very large attachments.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're working everything out. Ty sounds like a fantastic person, and a tech wiz.......when will he be in CA next? do you know? does he do house calls? jk.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
Good to hear!

Maybe you should get one of those fireproof boxes/safes to put your backups in just in case.

Is your writing machine a recent computer running DOS or is it like 20 years old?
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
That's awesome that you have someone to help you out :D

Congrats on getting [most] everything fixed.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
>.I write on a DOS machine that is physically separate from my Windows machine and has no connection to the internet.<<

I can appreciate this--my writing computer hasn't had an Internet connection since 2003. (I also realized I got twice as much work done that way, because I wasn't web-surfing first.)
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
I know you're probably more worried about leaks than anything, but we had a copyright lawyer come to one of my library classes recently and I asked him if sending emails to yourself counted as safely copyrighting materials as in mailing something to yourself for the postmark used to.He had to consider it for a while, but he agreed. So if that's an issue, I would assume emailing something to yourself on a web-based email server is a safe way of backing things up.

The laws are probably similar in the US to as they are here in Canada, but ours are a bit stricter and favour the creating body a bit more I think. Might want to look into that if you want a quick and easy off-site backup.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)

The safe deposit box seems ideal, if you didn't have anyone at the publishing house you could trust to hold onto it, or perhaps your editor. Our work software (we're a home-based property management and consultancy agency) is backed up to our IT guy's physical storage, as well as copies maintained at the home office (my in-law's house), and here at our house. So unless a meteor hit or something, we're well-covered.. thank the light. Not that that helps with the 10-20+ years of paper documents hiding out in the garage...

Apr. 17th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
There are good options
A service such as IronMountain or some other digital storage company. These are high end corporate services, so your data is secure, private, fireproof, bombproof, etc. They have services all across the country where they will send someone once a week to collect a digital copy, floppy, cd-rom, tape, etc. It isn't cheap, but it could save you.
As far as viruses, there are viruses that affect DOS machines. Some floppy disks out of china were known to be shipped with a boot sector virus. Not saying you have one, but you can never be too careful with your work.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
I have a small keydrive on my keychain where I keep all of my files. I have to take my keys with me wherever I'm going, so I always have my stuff with me in case something awful happened.

The fire safe is a great idea, though.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
The online storage isn't a bad idea. I sometimes upload an important file to an email, send it to myself, and I can then retrieve it from any Internet-connected computer in the world.

A solid-state solution is also good (USB pen, flash drive, memory stick), although you'd presumably need to move the file over to your more modern and up-to-date PC first.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
By the way, pretty please don't store all your backups at your home! A safe deposit box would give protect you from fire/burglary/etc. and give your readership some peace of mind. We'll even take up a collection and pay the monthly storage fee.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
We keep an external drive in our safe deposit box at the bank and have one at home and we switch them out once a month or so. It's not always the most recent back up obviously (since we only flip it monthly) but we won't lose all our photos or my husband's work stuff if the house burns down. I imagine you could keep a CD back up in a safe deposit as well.

I'm not crazy about AOL.
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( 84 comments — Leave a comment )


George R.R. Martin
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