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Posted: 12/22/2005 8:25:35 PM EDT
And no, the answer is not "all of them".

But there is this one. I'll get to her in a minute.

I have an almost-complete master's thesis. Since I put the first word into Word, I have been paranoid about the possibility of losing it. What if my laptop gets stolen? What if my house burns down? What if there's a lightning strike that kills my computers?

You're talking about years of ongoing work. Painstaking research. Derivations, writing formulae in Equation Editor. Writing simulation software, exporting graphics, creating figure plates. Keeping track of excerpts and references.

At first, I simply kept periodic copies of the thesis work on ZIP disks. Then I moved to CD-RW. Then, since I was emailing copies to my advisor, I archived my sent mail for historical snapshots of various important files.

Finally, I decided that wasn't enough. I wasn't willing to take the risk that a direct nuclear strike against the midwest could destroy my thesis. No way, I didn't spend two years in class and more than that working part time on research and writing just to see it slip away in the blinding flash of canned sun.

So, I finally settled on a system that I felt confident in. A jumpdrive on a lanyard around my neck, containing all of my important and irreplacable thesis documents in a briefcase file. Synchronized copies of the briefcase on my laptop, my home computer, a research computer, and my thesis advisor's computer. Regular full backups of my laptop hard drive. Backups of the jumpdrive on CD-R. Zipped files periodically sent via email to another account so that I can use the Google and Yahoo email servers as off-site archives. Periodic storage on a server in Europe.

I've considered seeing if there is a server at an Antarctic research station, or perhaps on the space station, that is on-line with some room to spare, but I haven't gone that far yet. Currently, at any given moment, to destroy my thesis would require annihilating me, the university science hall, my home (1.5 miles away) including all of my backup CD-Rs, plus the Google and Yahoo server farms, plus servers in Canada and Germany.

In other words, short of a fully-nuclear World War III, there is virtually no way I can lose more than a few days worth of work on my thesis. And, in the event of a fully nuclear World War III, I doubt that I'd have much use for a thesis or a master's degree anyway.

Considering my significant precautions, I am baffled by people who do something as insanely stupid as keeping only one copy of their thesis. To me, this is equivalent to coating one's self in honey and poking a hibernating bear with a stick. Bearing that in mind, I read the following...and I actually feel a little pissed at the outcome. She deserved worse, and I wouldn't hire her to flip burgers on the night shift. If she treats her own work that carelessly, how does she treat the work she's paid to do?

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10551825/

Link Posted: 12/22/2005 8:43:36 PM EDT
i can appreciate your point, but she kept herself together and recovered the data. i thought it rather impressive. many others would have been in a bar, drunk out their minds, or home under the covers bawling. but id really like to hear her thoughts on how she did a job the police couldn't/wouldn't do.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 8:49:46 PM EDT
Yeah, stupid. You have to wonder about someone who needs to go to a university to study dancing. They have so many useless programs these days.

I don't have any formal backup procedures, but I keep my stuff on the 5 different computers that I use plus a jump drive and email for transfers and a current hard copy for editing. This stuff gets rotated through completely about once a week. Given the amount of work I actually do in any given week, I'm never running the risk of losing any more than 5% of the writing and never any of the experimental stuff. And that would be after an unprecidented burst of productivity.

I've never bothered to set up a real network at home because the thought of even touching a computer at the end of the day makes me physically ill. It's not a big issue at work either, since the three different accounts that I use are on three separate networks that don't interoperate all that well either.

I hate writing too...
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 8:50:09 PM EDT
What's your field of study?
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:04:48 PM EDT
When I was doing my Master's, I teamed up with a young lady in the class and we e-mailed each other everything we did. We used a new disc for EVERY paper. This was after we both suffered burnt discs early on in the program. We lived in a low-value Nuke area, so I wasn't worried about that!!
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:05:08 PM EDT
i learned early on that things can go wrong. During one of my first papers my computer turned itself off and i lost 1.5 hrs of work which i had forgotten to save. Fortunately I was able to reconstruct my efforts in about 20 mins, but the lesson was learned. Any further papers and projects were meticulously saved on multiple discs.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:11:46 PM EDT
Wow...imagine the nightmares people must have had when their thesis was on lined legal paper and/or typed up on a typrewriter back before the 80's and influx of PCs.

It's amazing anyone ever completed a thesis without going completely insane... I mean the cold war and all.



No Expert.

<­BR>

just jerking your chain
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:12:45 PM EDT
I just saved my thesis on two different computers and occasionally on an external backup drive while I was working on it. I guess I am a lightweight.

I have suffered through multiple hard drive failures, so I know stuff can happen. My backup hard drive even failed once.

As for periodic saving, remember to do what Jesus would do. Jesus saves.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:19:47 PM EDT
It took me 7 years to do my doctoral thesis ... I had copies on different computers in the lab, on our central server, on my school's user storage space, on CD, on DVD, on optical disk, mailed to at least three different accounts, on a memory stick, on a compact flash card, hardcopies of works in progress..... I was not going to risk flushing all that work down the toilet because I was too lazy to make backups.

Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:21:40 PM EDT

Originally Posted By No_Expert:
Wow...imagine the nightmares people must have had when their thesis was on lined legal paper and/or typed up on a typrewriter back before the 80's and influx of PCs.

It's amazing anyone ever completed a thesis without going completely insane.



You mean the days when you were typing up the final version and had to leave blank spaces in, hand-draw diagrams on separate peices of paper, then cut them out and paste them into the paper?

Ever tried to deal with non-linear PDEs using only chalk and a chalkboard?

No kidding. Imagine losing that in a fire.

Say what you will about computers. A lot of people just don't understand.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:36:02 PM EDT
I used to work at a company where they kept their most recent backups in a safe with walls almost a foot thick.
Many companies are so compulsive about keeping backup files secure that they would send the most recent Backups Off Site, the second most recent in a secure safe.
This can add up to hundreds of tape cartridges very easily.

I hope she learned her lesson about backing up her hard drives.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:45:14 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/22/2005 9:45:54 PM EDT by LonePathfinder]
Damn you must not trust yourself enough not to fuck up your computers. Quit school now, you will not be a success in your any field.



Come on now. I've never lost data on a computer. Your computer fu is weak if you computer dies and you can't simply yank out the hard drive and plug it in another machine. If the hard drive has problems, well thats what the (kept up to date) back up disk is for. Between your home PC, disk and labtop that is plenty of levels of redunancy.

How many guns do you have? Is that really less important? Be reasonable. At most two disks and copies on two computers.

Try keeping some hard copies of major drafts as well. Not hard.

Yes you are paranoid. Relax, school is stressful enough as it is.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 9:46:48 PM EDT
I've forgotten the names involved.

You've heard of the financial company headquartered in the WTC that contracted off-site backups to a company specializing in this service. This contractor also happened to be headquartered in the WTC, a few floors down. No one seemed to notice this.

Come September 11, 2001, well, you can guess at what happened to both the on-site and off-site backups.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 10:19:11 PM EDT

Originally Posted By LonePathfinder:
Damn you must not trust yourself enough not to fuck up your computers. Quit school now, you will not be a success in your any field.



Come on now. I've never lost data on a computer. Your computer fu is weak if you computer dies and you can't simply yank out the hard drive and plug it in another machine. If the hard drive has problems, well thats what the (kept up to date) back up disk is for. Between your home PC, disk and labtop that is plenty of levels of redunancy.

How many guns do you have? Is that really less important? Be reasonable. At most two disks and copies on two computers.

Try keeping some hard copies of major drafts as well. Not hard.

Yes you are paranoid. Relax, school is stressful enough as it is.



I know it's overboard, but you know what? If my house burns down and I forgot to take my USB key with me that day, that's two working copies out of three that are updated every day, plus all but one set of backups gone.

The minimum redundancy I'm comfortable with is three copies, because then even if two die while synching, I have a third. The other copies are for peace of mind. Early on, when I was mainly using a ZIP disk, I had a click of death failure and had to rebuild from emailed documents. I realized during the time I was searching for backups among my computers and emails just how much time and effort I would go through to reproduce my work from the ground up. This was the genesis for my level of precaution--which to some is paranoia, and to others is just good sense.

My computer-fu is not weak, but we aren't talking about something of little value. The value of this one document and associated data, to me personally, exceeds $50,000. Counting the opportunity cost of going to grad school and the fact that I would leave empty-handed without the thesis, it's well into the six figures. If I had $100,000 in cash sitting around, you can bet I'd have more than one layer of security protecting it.

I sleep without worrying if my thesis work is safe. A little over-redundancy is acceptable in achieving that sound sleep.

Jim
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 10:19:44 PM EDT

Originally Posted By torstin:

i can appreciate your point, but she kept herself together and recovered the data.



I attribute that to 99% luck and 1% perseverance.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 10:57:40 PM EDT
I hope you keep a backup in a fireproof safe

Seriously, a small 20 dollar one from wally world should be keeping one.

Fires you know. Their a bitch.

I still think you are paranoid.

You talk of the time that you put into the thesis, well yes, but the time to formulate and come up with/modify your ideas can not be counted. Even if you loose it all, you know what you've *learned* which is the whole point of the process anyway. So you are only out actualy typing time, and re-looking up references, which you should have a damned good idea what they are since you've used the once already.

So you time-cost calculations are off IMO. Yes it will be extensive, but not that much.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 11:21:22 PM EDT
My wild ass guess is that she will revert to her no-backup dimwit mode once she's out of grad school.
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 11:22:55 PM EDT
Jump drive? CDR? Uber Gigabyte Hard Drive? Zip Drive? I did my first one on an Apple IIe. By the time I got around to the second one I had a 486 and felt like I was in hog heaven. I still have my dot matrix backups and 5 1/2 floppies...
Link Posted: 12/22/2005 11:39:09 PM EDT
When in grad school I pursued an MS in math. The prof began each day with a conjecture on the board. It would be a contest among us to see who would be first with the proof, or could give a counter example. If it could be proven, you had to be first with the proof, it had to be error free, and you had to find the errors in the proofs of others.

Link Posted: 12/22/2005 11:45:21 PM EDT
at my old job I was responsible for back-ups. All users data was synced with the server in addition to being saved on their local machine, every night an incremental back-up was done every night, and the tape put into a fire-proof safe, with a full back-up done every friday night and taken to a safe-deposit box at the bank.
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