TITLE: Different Perspective on Loss AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 19, 2010 10:40 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A house burned in my neighborhood tonight. I do not know yet the extent of the damage, but the fight was protracted. My first hope is that no one was hurt, neither residents of the house nor the men and women who battled the blaze. Such a tragedy puts my family's recent loss into perspective. No matter how valuable our data, when a hard drive fails, no one dies. Even without a backup, life goes. Even without a backup, there is a chance of recovery. We can run utilities that come with our OS. We can run wonderful programs that cost little money. Specialists can pull the platters from the drive and attempt to read data raw. Things lost in a fire are lost forever. If we follow a few simple and well-known rules, we can have a backup: a bit-for-bit copy of our data, all our digital stuff, indistinguishable from the original. In principle and in practice, we can encounter failures and lose nothing. In the material world, we cannot make a copy of everything we own. Yes, we can make copies of important documents, and we can store some of our stuff somewhere else. But we don't live in a bizarro Steven Wright world where we possess an identical copy of every book, every piece of clothing, every memento. In the digital world, we can make copies that preserve our world. So, I type this with a different outlook. The world reminds me that there are things worse than a lost disk drive. I hope that my daughters -- who lost the most in our failure -- can feel this way, too. We are well on the way to resuming our digital lives, buoyed by technology that will help us not to suffer such a loss again. That said, it's worth keeping in mind Jamie Zawinski's cautionary words, "the universe tends toward maximum irony", and stay alert. -----