We’ll Be Back Soon…

Date October 21, 2010

“Why has all been quiet on the Wilsons’ blog?” you’ve been asking yourself. “Every morning, I jump out of bed and race over to check for another update…and it’s been nothing for almost two weeks!”

We hit something of a perfect storm. For starters, I was out of town Monday-Wednesday for two weeks in a row for work (Cincinnati and then Washington, D.C.). That loaded me up with a handy backlog of work, both in the office and at home.

Then, just as I got back, Benton and a friend spent last Friday evening Googling for ways to jailbreak an iPhone. On Saturday morning, I found that our home laptop had lost all access to its USB ports, was no longer able to connect to our wireless network, AND no longer could connect to our network via hardwire. Suspiciously, the mouse from our desktop computer was sitting next to the laptop (a different room in the house).

Me: “Benton, what were you doing on the computer last night?”

Benton: “[Neighborhood-friend-whose-name-shall-remain-blank-but-we're-going-to-see-John-Prine-this-weekend-with-his-parents-you-know-who-you-are-thank-you-very-much] and I were searching for how to jailbreak an iPhone. It’s weird. None of the USB ports work any more, and we can’t connect to the internet.”

<pause for momentary paternal pride in his diagnosis of the issue>

Me: “As you guys were clicking around, did you have any dialog boxes pop up asking for permission to execute anything, by any chance?”

Benton: “Ummmm… Maybe.” [translation: "Yes"]

Me: “Do you think sites that have information on jailbreaking iPhones might also tend to be sites that have malware on them?”

<silence>

Okay, so our laptop was pretty much toast OS-wise. I have an external hard drive I occasionally back everything up to, but I hadn’t done that in a few months.

The reason I hadn’t backed up to that drive, though, was because I signed up for Carbonite a few months ago. (Spoiler alert: this story has a happy ending.)

Carbonite is a pretty simple tool — it backs your files up to “the cloud” automatically (automagically, really) on an on-going basis. It’s imminently reasonably priced: $55/year (and, if you use the offer code “SLATE”, you get 3 months free when you sign up, lowering the effective monthly cost for the first 15 months to $3.67/month).

I sent Julie off to find the system recovery DVDs for the laptop (it’s over two years old), took a deep breath, and totally wiped the machine and restored it to it’s out-of-the-box configuration. I then got to watch it cycle through 120 Windows updates to bring it into October 2010 software-wise, and then reinstalled MS Office, Picasa, and iTunes (I haven’t tracked down Quicken yet, but we have the data file safely backed up). But, everything worked! It took ~4 days for the data files to then get restored from Carbonite, and I’m almost back in business!

So far, the only thing I’ve identified that we lost were the Picasa .ini files (and I’ve now made the necessary configuration changes so that won’t happen again). That means I’ve got a few months of occasional face recognition re-work to do, but that’s really just metadata for the pictures that I can replace.

Benton felt pretty bad about the whole situation, but I assured him that he and his brother had downloaded and installed so much junk over the past few years that the machine was starting to get flaky, anyway. The fact that the hard drive has ~50 GB more space on it now than it did before it crashed is an indication of just how much such junk had been added! I did go ahead and set up various passwords and parental controls to make it a little harder for reckless installations to happen.

All that is to say that, in the midst of a very busy week work-wise, I’ve spent what spare time I’ve had monitoring the recovery of the laptop. It’s almost back, and I hope to get some updated pictures posted soon!

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