Category Archives: Rants

Not merely ramblings, these are flat-out rants.

Mozy Backup Failure – Day 5

No update yesterday since I had other things going on in the evening and couldn’t spend more than a few minutes working on getting the restore to work. Mozy does seem to be taking my problem quite seriously though – during the day yesterday I received phone calls from both a product manager and one of their Enterprise support technicians. (My subscription level is Home, I assume this level of attention was due to the nature of the problem – application failure – as opposed to the more common “How do I use the program?” issues which plague most product software support teams.)
The Web Restore I started on Tuesday evening finished sometime in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. I started the download around 10:30 or 11:00 Wednesday evening and when I woke up Thursday morning, the download had failed. I restarted it before leaving for work and when I came home this evening, discovered that this time around, rather than finish the download, my computer had decided to go into sleep mode (the download continued immediately when I woke the PC).
This evening around 8:00, I finished downloading the three self-extracting archive files, this time from the Sunday 4pm backup. I extracted the archives and

I have all my photos back!!!

So where does that leave things?
The most important thing for me is that I have my photos back. I’m grateful that Mozy’s service worked well enough that I was able to restore them. But Mozy’s not out of the dog house: restoring data shouldn’t be this much of a chore, particularly with a service targeted at home users. The initial restore attempt failed, but the message it displayed simply said, “Restore Completed.” The error message was in smaller text, accompanied by a message saying when my next backup would take place. If I hadn’t paid attention, I might have thought all was well and then, 30 days later, my photos would have been gone forever.
To my way of thinking, a “Restore Completed” message should only be displayed if the restoration was successful. And if it fails, it would be nice if the software made the next restoration attempt automatically rather than reverting to “business-as-usual.”
As for the failure itself, I understand that with any online service, failures do happen from time to time. With something as critical as online backup and restore, I’d prefer to see them a lot less often. For that reason, I’ll be dropping a line to Mozy to let them know I’m willing to work with them to reproduce the failure so they can learn from it and make the product better.
Some takeaways:

  • Backup is important. I’ve lost data in the past when I didn’t have a backup regimen in place. (I’m not alone in this, I don’t consider myself to be one, but even a Geek Rock Star can lose data.)
  • There is value in online backup – anything which could damage your computer could also damage an external drive. This experience does however demonstrate that online isn’t a good place for the primary/only backup.
  • My previous backup scheme was a copy of Norton Ghost and an external drive with backups automatically taking place every night. If I’d still been using an automated solution (in addition to Mozy), I probably would have had everything back almost immediately.

Mozy Backup Failure – Day 3

I’m making progress. Sort of.
I’ve pretty much given up on getting the Mozy backup/restore program to restore my entire photos directory. Every time I try, it runs for a bit and then displays a message saying it ran into some sort of problem communicating with Mozy’s servers — where all my files are hopefully stored.
As mentioned on Day 1, in early to mid January I copied all my data files (including the photos) to an external hard drive before installing Windows 7. As a matter of fact, I actually did this twice.
So I definitely have my files up through mid-January, and I’ve copied them back to the main drive. But my photos since then are still AWOL. Some of those have been copied to Google’s Picasa service and some to Facebook, but none of them are all in one place except on Mozy.
One thought is to try using the Mozy client program to download a smaller set of photos. Instead of the entire 10 years worth, just download the past six weeks worth of photos. For the most part, I do store my photos chronologically, and a chunk of what’s missing is C:\photos\2010\02. That’s easy to restore.
But not all my photos are stored that way. Two weeks ago, I went to the Farpoint convention. Those photos were in c:\photos\conventions\farpoint\2010. Other photos were stored in other locations.
The problem with restoring the photos piecemeal is that I have to remember all the various locations where they restored. It’s much easier to simply restore c:\photos.
In addition to the software which runs on your computer, Mozy also allows you to download your files from their web site. You log into their web site, go to the “Web Restore” section, and select the files you’d like to restore.
The first thing I tried on Sunday was restoring files via the program installed on my computer. It failed. The second thing I tried on Sunday was the web restore, it wouldn’t let me get as far as the screen where you select the files.
I tried letting the restore program run during the day Monday and when I came home, discovered that it had failed again. So I tried the Web Restore again, this time it worked and about 90 minutes later I received a notification that my files were ready for download. I started the download (3 files, totaling about 7 GB).
When I woke up Tuesday morning, the file downloads had failed. Ugh.
Before leaving for work on Tuesday, I managed to download two of the files and had started the third download running. When I came home, the final download had somehow became paused, but I was able to finish it.
So now I had all my photos in one place, right?
That would have been nice. After unpacking the archived files, I discovered that all the files since mid-January were missing from the restored file set! The client program was able to show the past six weeks worth of photos, but the web restore didn’t download them!
It appears that the Mozy application is backing up the files I’ve managed to restore from my local backup and that’s what the web restore gave me.
Taking a look at the Web Restore’s user-interface, I’ve discovered that you can tell it to restore the files to whatever condition they were in as of a certain date. I’ve also discovered that the last backup for which my photos were present was on Sunday, around 4pm.
I’ve started the Web Restore process running again. This time based on the backup from 4pm on Sunday.
Wish me luck.

Mozy Backup Failure – Day 2

Good news and bad news. The good news is that when I switched to Windows 7 in early January, I thought the “custom installation” would reformat my hard drive, so I copied all my files to an external drive. And not quite trusting Mozy after the last round of problems, I never deleted the backup.
So most of my photos have been recovered.
Of course, I didn’t have a local backup of anything since early January – so for starters, all my Snowmaggedon photos are gone, including the only photos I’m ever likely to get of Wylie “swimming” through snow up to his ears. I’d been counting on Mozy to protect those.
Today’s developments:
I started another restoration attempt before heading to work this morning. When I came home this evening, it had failed with a message about not being able to connect to the network. From the message, it’s not clear whether this is a Comcast issue, or Mozy.
During the day, I received a reply from Mozy’s technical support, suggesting that I try restoring the files via their web interface. I tried that last night – the failure message was generic, and I didn’t write it down, but in essence it said, “There was a problem. Try again.”
More interestingly, around 1:15pm, I received an email from someone who as nearly as I can tell (via Google) works in Mozy’s PR department, asking for my contact information. I’ve sent it to him and I’ll be interested to see what this leads to.

Backup Failure

I’ve discovered that approximately 10 years of photos have been deleted from my system. Possibly something I did wrong, I’ll probably never know for sure.
Not to worry, I’ve been Mozy for most of the past year. Sure, there’ve been some glitches in that time (for example, not quite a month ago, I couldn’t complete a backup for over a week, and the time before that I had to start complaining in a public forum) but eventually everything got fixed. So, nothing to worry about.
So I attempted to restore my deleted photos. The initial estimate said it would take about 5 hours to restore. That’s to be expected, it’s a lot of files after all.
Half an hour later, Mozy says “Restore Completed — Cannot connect to server.”
HOW THE BLAZES IS THAT CONSIDERED “COMPLETE”? Complete failure maybe, but not a complete restore operation.
Based on this event, and my previous bad experiences with Mozy’s support system, I hereby retract my previous endorsement of this product.

Falling Through the Safety Net

Back in March, I dropped Sprint and became a T-Mobile customer. It wasn’t that I’d heard anything wonderful about T-Mobile, but I’d heard plenty of people talking up the new Android-powered G-1 phone and unfortunately, in the U.S., a cell phone is generally tied to a single carrier. (It is possible to go between T-Mobile and AT&T, but I’m not sure that’s really saying much.)
The G-1 phone is actually pretty cool. It’s not so much a phone as a handheld computer which coincidentally allows voice communications. Just a couple days ago, at no cost to me, I was able to turn my “phone” into a GPS with turn-by-turn voice prompts. I tried it out on the route to work and it’s pretty good, when you make an unexpected turn, it recalculates the route pretty quickly. (So if you were planning to give me a GPS for Christmas, sorry, you should cross that item off the list. Definitely not the kind of thing the CEO at Garmin wants me to say.)
But although the phone is wonderful, T-Mobile kind of sucks. I used Sprint for eight years and aside from an occasional dropped call, never had a problem with voice coverage. With T-Mobile, even sitting at my house which supposedly has “good” coverage, dropped calls are a fairly common experience; and a few months back, I discovered a stretch of interstate up in Pennsylvania which had no voice coverage whatsoever. (If you look at a mobile carrier’s coverage map, the coverage is generally most intensive along the interstates.)
What really bothered me though was that T-Mobile didn’t work with emergency services.

Botched Emergency Calls

On April 23, I was driving home from North of Baltimore and spotted a car broken down in the center lane of I-695. Fortunately traffic was fairly light at that hour, or else someone could have hit this thing at high speeds. In Maryland, they ask you to dial #77 for emergencies on the Interstate, so I did. The phone rang and the voice at the other end answered, “Hello, Virginia State Police.”
If you don’t have a map handy, it’s more than 50 miles from Baltimore to Virginia. Depending on traffic, likely more than an hour’s drive. And while I’m sure the Virginia State Police would be willing to pitch in, it really would have been a lot closer for the police up in Pennsylvania. The Virginia State Police connected me to their counterparts at the Maryland State Police barracks in Rockville. Since that’s still nowhere near Baltimore, they attempted to connect me to a different barracks in the Baltimore area at which point the call got dropped. (To be fair, I’m not sure whether that was due to T-Mobile, a switching issue, or a fumble-fingered police dispatcher.)
When I called T-Mobile customer service the next day, they were happy that I was OK and agreed that this was absolutely unacceptable. But they denied responsibility for the misrouted call and said I would have to take it up with whoever runs the cellular network. What?! T-Mobile doesn’t operate the T-Mobile cellular network? They couldn’t explain that one.
On June 1, I was on I-270 near Rockville and came across a recent accident with no police on the scene. Not trusting T-Mobile, I called 9-1-1. It’s supposed to be a universal emergency number, right? Yeah…apparently not. The operator said she’d transfer me to the state police, but if we got cut off, I should either call #77, or else a 10-digit phone number that there was no way I was going to remember. Before I could explain this, the call was transferred and sure enough, the call got dropped.
Not a very good pattern so far, is it?
On June 21, I was on I-270 near Urbana and came across debris in the roadway. Not an emergency so much as a potential for an accident as people tried to dodge it. Hoping that the previous call had been a fluke, I dialed #77 to report the problem. Just like before, the phone rang and the voice at the other end answered, “Hello, Virginia State Police.” Same story. Transferred to the Rockville barracks, transferred to one in Frederick County and then, as usual, the call got dropped.

Customer Service

Unlike the call to 9-1-1, this was clearly a problem with T-Mobile, so I called customer service the same day. This time around I was told that not only was it not T-Mobile’s problem, but because it was with the #77 number, I would have to discuss it with the Maryland Transportation Authority.
Aha! So according to T-Mobile, the Maryland Transportation Authority runs their cellular network! (Silly me, I thought all they did was to make E-Z Pass too expensive to be worth the bother.)
Living in the DC area, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d develop a degree of cynicism. No matter how much they claim to value you as a customer, big corporations really don’t care. They just see you a convenient source of money. Unless, of course, the media happens to glance at them.

Going to the Media

For the past several years, I’ve been following Rob Pegoraro’s Fast Forward column and Faster Forward blog on the Washington Post’s web site. Rob covers consumer-oriented technology trends ranging from Facebook, to the latest services from Google, to the various cell phone companies.
Rob agreed that one would think emergency services might be kind of important and he contacted T-Mobile’s PR department about the issue. They brought an engineer into the loop, but in the end, they assured him that it must be a one-time isolated incident.
Now I could certainly believe that explanation if the problem had only occurred once, or if I’d been somewhere near a state line. I’d even be willing to bet that misdirected emergency calls are a common occurrence along the Clara Barton Parkway — it runs right beside the Potomac river, the boundary between Maryland and Virginia. But neither of the fouled up #77 calls took place anywhere near the state line.

A Breakthrough

On July 29, I finally had a bit of a breakthrough on the subject.
I had to call T-Mobile that morning for something completely unrelated (and by the way, voice prompt systems without numeric options are an absolute abomination when you have laryngitis) and after we got that issue resolved, the representative asked me how the G-1 phone was working out for me.
I was still feeling a bit surly after wracking my voice against the voice prompt system, so I replied “The phone is wonderful, it’s T-Mobile I could do without.” Which led to an explanation of the problem with #77.
Instead of the usual song and dance, this rep actually went and looked up T-Mobile’s list of short-codes for Maryland:

#301 — Police non-emergency, Baltimore only.
#701 — Text link for the hearing impaired.
#811 — Call before you dig.

And that’s it. They didn’t have one for the state police! Not in Maryland anyhow. They do have #77 set up in Virginia, but seriously, routing me there from the Baltimore beltway still seems a bit less than optimal.
I’ve spent the last several months trying to figure out what my next step is. Take it up with the state Public Utility Commission? Write a letter to my representative in the state legislature? Pass it along to the local paper to see if they want to chase after it? (As nearly as I can tell, someone at the Washington Post must have decided that the problems with T-Mobile as a cell provider aren’t really newsworthy.)

A Successful Call

On November 10, I was traveling on I-270 when I encountered a car which had broken down in rush hour traffic. The driver had managed to pull over to the side, but there was no shoulder in that area. Opening the door would have resulted in it being knocked off. Stepping out of the car would have been fatal.
With very little hope, I reached for my phone and dialed #77. The phone rang, and for the first time ever, the voice on the other end said, “Hello, Maryland State Police.”
At long last, T-Mobile was finally able to connect an emergency call to the proper authorities. How long will this last? Your guess is as good as mine.
As for me, I still have 16 months left on my contract with T-Mobile. If I cancel the contract, I’ll be saddled with a $200 early termination feet. If I switch to either Verizon or Sprint, I’ll have to buy a new phone – their networks aren’t compatible with the GSM technology T-Mobile uses. If I want to keep using the same phone, my only other option is to use AT&T, but AT&T also suffers from severe suckage.

Seems Backwards

Installing a piece of software at work on Friday, I at long last arrived at the final screen of the product’s install process. It displayed a list of installation notes with these helpful words:

Always read the Installation Instructions
Section below before any install.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like that might have been a useful thing to display on the first screen.

Executive Order

THE WHITE HOUSE
From the Office of the President
September 15, 2009
EXECUTIVE ORDER
WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS COMMUNICATIONS POLICY

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, effective immediately, there is to be no use of Twitter in the Press Briefing Room.
BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE
September 15, 2009


OK, seriously, I don’t believe for a moment that President Obama will ever issue an executive order like that one. I likewise hope there won’t be an unofficial equivalent, but… Wowsers. You just know there’s gotta be a temptation….
If you’ve somehow missed the uproar, sometime on Monday, during an “off the record” moment before a television interview, President Obama called Kanye West “a jackass.”
It’s been a bad couple of months for civility and politeness in this country. A summer full of “town hall meetings” being disrupted by people who instead of answers only wanted to cause a scene. Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouting at the President of the United States during a formal address. Rapper Kanye West grabbing the microphone away from Taylor Swift to protest BeyoncĂ© not winning the award that went to Taylor (Yay to BeyoncĂ© for putting Taylor back in the spotlight). And now the President of the United States referring to someone as a Jackass.
There is one important distinction though. The first three took place in public settings where the people involved should have been mature enough to realize in advance that their actions were wildly inappropriate. They should have restrained themselves and made their protests in a more appropriate manner.
In the case of President Obama, I’m a bit less certain. There are undoubtedly parents and teachers out there who now have to explain to the kids that just because President Obama used a word doesn’t mean it’s OK for them to use it too.
But although President Obama’s choice of words was unfortunate (it certainly could have been worse), was he wrong to say it? That’s where I’m not sure. Somebody made an audio recording of the President’s remarks, and from the context, it’s clear that the remarks were “off the record.” It was a private, informal conversation. (And hey, what’s up with recording a private conversation?)
The reporter, Terry Moran of ABC News, posted the report on Twitter and then realized it wasn’t something he should have been reporting. He then removed the Twitter post. Both Moran and ABC seem to believe that this was something which shouldn’t have been reported on, but with more than 1,000,000 followers, by the time Moran moved to delete it, the post had already been forwarded on.
Whatever else this may be, it’s most certainly a vivid reminder that when you’re talking to the media, you’re never completely off the record and you need to watch what you say (particularly with “instant news” as with Twitter). In general, the reporter has no way of separating personal musings from an official statement and may very well report the parts of the conversation that you least wanted. (This is a lesson I learned the hard way a few years back.)
And maybe now would be a good time for everyone, whether they’re in the limelight or out, to take a deep breath, look up the definitions of “civility” and “politeness”, and use them to start making the world a better place.
(Updated 9-16-2009, 8pm — Corrected Terry Moran’s News Organization.)

Mr. Right.

I had a doctor’s appointment this past Thursday. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a routine checkup. During the course of things, the doctor asked me when I’d last had a tetanus shot.
I don’t like getting shots. They hurt, and things that hurt become things you avoid. This is why I didn’t play with the cigarette lighter in my parents’ car a second time.
So I briefly considered answering with a vagary about knowing I’d had a tetanus shot, but not being certain of the exact date. And since even if it has been a while, a doctor can’t compel you to take an injection, I also momentarily considered declining.
Tetanus is a infection of the central nervous system caused by bacteria entering through an open wound. The mechanism of infection which people most commonly talk about seems to be “stepping on a rusty nail,” but really, any injury resulting in an open wound will suffice.
Tetanus can lead to lockjaw, a condition which just sounds nasty. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never run across a formal definition of the condition, but I’ve always imagined it to mean that you can’t open your mouth to eat, drink, or speak. And although my friends might appreciate a respite from my wisecracks, being unable to communicate always leaves me frustrated.
Of course I consented to the tetanus shot.


If you were to ask me what the most likely injection site would be for a given treatment, I’d almost certainly get it wrong.
About 16 years ago, I spent six months dating a girl who owned a cat. I’m allergic to cats. Or rather, I’m very allergic to cats. But I liked this girl, so I went to the doctor to see about getting my allergies treated. After a short consultation, the doctor said he would send a nurse in to give me an allergy shot and that would take care of the problem.
A few minutes later, the nurse came in. As I’ve said before, I’m not wild about shots, but I liked that girl. Plus, the nurse was a woman about my age, and not at all unattractive. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? So I rolled up my sleeve.
That’s when she explained that allergy shots don’t go in your arm. They go elsewhere and yes, I would have to lower my pants in the back.
I looked the nurse right in the eye and asked, “Does your mother know you do this?” Turns out her mother was also a nurse.
The girl with the cat broke up with me a month later.


I was a bit apprehensive about the tetanus shot. I was pretty sure the discomfort of the injection would be short-lived, but what I’ve failed to mention until now is that the doctor in question was not just a doctor, she was also a woman.
Luckily, before I could learn whether her mother was also a doctor, much less begin to lower anything, she explained that the tetanus shot would be injected into my upper arm (Whew!) and then asked if I had a preference which one.
I’m right-handed. I write with my right hand, pick up the phone with my right hand (and move it to the left in case I need to write something), and just generally use my right hand for quite a number of tasks. I’ve been known to go through an entire meal holding the fork with my left hand, but I mainly do that just to see who notices. (Did you know that most Americans repeatedly switch the fork between their two hands during a meal? This is an almost uniquely American trait.)
So the decision was to get the injection in the upper part of my left arm. The doctor warned me that it would be sore the next day, but the injection itself was about as painless as it could be.


When I woke on Friday morning, my upper left arm was a little sore. It wasn’t too bad though and really only bothered me when I reached for things. Getting ready to take Wylie out for his morning walk, I quickly realized I should use my right hand to get the leash out of the closet and that would be the end of my discomfort for the day.
Right.
Taking a shower before leaving for work, I reflexively reached for the shampoo using my left hand. Getting in the car, I used my left hand to put my lunch bag in the passenger seat. And over the course of the workday, I was frankly astonished by how often I was reaching up to get things out of the desk’s overhead compartment. A compartment which, as you’ve doubtless guessed, was to my left.
Z. and I were planning to go kayaking this morning, or as I call it, “Falling out of boats.” Z. says it’s pretty hard to fall out of a kayak and promised that if I did somehow manage to fall out, she wouldn’t laugh. Not much anyhow. (With all the styrofoam they pack into the bow and stern, it’s also supposed to be pretty hard to sink a canoe. But I’ve done it.)
We ended up canceling those plans because the weather forecast was calling for rain due to Hurricane Bill spinning Northward. If we hadn’t, the authorities would have needed to evacuate the area due to record rains causing even the high grounds to flood. Instead, it’s quite bright out.
It’s just as well though, my left arm is still sore and anytime I use it to reach for anything, I’m promptly reminded about the tetanus shot.
As a consequence of the tetanus shot, now more than ever, I don’t qualify to use “Lefty” as a nickname. So gather up your unattached female friends and let know: I’m Mr. Right.

Happy New Year!

Today is August 21. According to Weatherbug, today’s high temperature was 87 degrees. (That’s because it was overcast. The day the air conditioner broke, the high was around 98.)
By my reckoning, there are 132 days left in the year (slightly more than 1/3 of it). Going by the calendar, there are another 30 days remaining until the official end of summer, and you still have 126 shopping days left before Christmas.
In short, we are nowhere near the end of the year.
And yet, today’s mail included a 2010 calendar.
Good grief!