Tag Archives: Servers

The Blessings and Curses of Technology

For a number of years now, we’ve enjoyed a home computer network cobbled together by yours truly from pieces and parts, many of them bought used. At its heart sits a server, a refurbished office PC that I bought for a song and upgraded with a pair of high capacity hard drives (one for the OS, one for data), and which runs on Linux. Yes, I had to teach myself many things, including Linux, and become my own system administrator.

This server holds all of our data, be it my manuscripts and cover art, our personal documents, gigabytes of photos, movies, tv shows, etc. Naturally, I rigged the system to run a nightly data backup to an external hard drive, in case the server’s internal drives fail, as they have once already, requiring replacement, and a server rebuild from almost scratch. Sadly, being a lazy sort of sysadmin, I don’t think about checking the nightly backup log to ensure that it’s running properly. The last time the external drive failed (it needed replacement, having turned into an expensive paperweight overnight), it took me over four weeks to notice, four weeks during which none of our precious files had any sort of backup. You’d think the lesson would have sunk in. But no.

Several days ago, I decided that it might be time to check the backup log and wouldn’t you know it, the last clean backup dated from April 1st. We’d been running for seven weeks without a safety net, meaning none of the pictures from our last dive trip had been backed up, nor had the final files for the last Siobhan Dunmoore adventure. Needless to say, I immediately made a copy of the most important folders onto a usb drive, just in case.

Since then, I’ve been trying to get a full and clean backup of the server, but without success. The process aborts part-way through, leaving me with a list of error messages, which differ in some way or other each time I make an attempt. I finally decided that the external backup drive is at the root of the issue, so off I went to Canada Computers and plunked down my credit card for a replacement. And wouldn’t you know it, with the new drive I finally got a clean, error-free backup. Moral number one of the story – hard drives may be getting larger and cheaper, but they still don’t last more than 2-4 years and will begin to fail without warning. Moral number two – check the darn log regularly to make sure all is well. A home client-server setup is a fine thing and allows us to store and share terabytes of data, what with Mrs Thomson and I working off our own PCs, each in our own home office. But it does need more care and feeding that I’ve been providing.

On the writing front, progress on Decker’s War #5 is almost at the 40%, while I’ve begun plotting Siobhan Dunmoore #5, still untitled as of this blog post.

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