Drive Challenged

A little of a shock to my system this morning when I suddenly got a message that one of the external hard drives connected to my system, a pretty full 3.63Tb (that’s 4 TB to the manufacturer) Samsung D3 Station, needed to be formatted to be used by the system.

I looked at the drive and tried unplugging the USB3 connector from it and replugging, then rebooted the system, and the drive was still missing. I traced the cable back to the system box, unplugged it and then put it back in, and fortunately that did the trick. Thinking back, it had gone AWOL just after I’d taken a memory card from my card reader close by, and I think I’d perhaps caught my had on the cable from the hard disk and pulled it out slightly, enough to cause the error, but not enough to be noticeable at a glance.

Back when I taught a little networking as a part of a Cisco Academy program, the mantra for error solving went ‘cables, cables, cables’ and it has often proved true. One old friend of mine spent 9 months trying to connect a new scanner to his Mac, and I told him I couldn’t help him as I knew nothing about Macs – and it took several Mac repair services before one of them simply tried it with a new cable, and it worked.

I’ve been having a problem with a little external power bank I carry around in my camera bag for when my smartphone runs out of juice; small light and very cheap it used to do the trick, but not the last time I needed it. I tried recharging it again and it still didn’t seem to work, so bought another slightly larger model on E-bay – for around twice the cost, at a fiver it was still cheap. I charged it, and tested it and it was working fine. Then I remembered ‘cables’. The new model had a rather nicer looking cable – and when I tested the old power bank using the new cable, guess what? Well, I now have a choice of two usable power banks, and the larger one I’ve just bought will be handy for longer trips.

But the hard disk problem made me think and worry. Did I know exactly what was on that Hard drive? And was all of it backed up elsewhere?

For this particular drive the answers were mainly positive, though perhaps I do need to think more about where I back up my Lightroom catalogue. Though I do have xmp files saved for all of the images just in case something goes wrong. But I should really spend the time to check that everything is backed up, and not just on my Drobo 5N. If you are an active photographer, then the size of RAW files does make this something of a challenge.

The problem for me has really been that storage capacities of cheap media storage haven’t kept up with the increase in RAW file sizes. The RAW files from the Fuji XP2 are around 33Mb, though those from the Nikons are a bit smaller- and with good compression options.

Until some time in 2013 I kept every usable image, copying them all to DVD (I’d moved up from CD a few years earlier) but it just became an impossible burden to keep up. The D700 RAW files are around 11Mb (12 bit, lossy compression) a time.

Hard drive sizes have increased a little – I recently added an 8TB drive to my Drobo array – and 4GB USB3 drives have become relatively affordable. I’m slowly copying files to one as I write simply for backup – and when it is full I’ll take it off the computer and store it in a plastic bag to keep dust out on the shelf. Maybe give it a spin every now and again to check it is still working should my other copy become unreadable.

It isn’t a perfect solution, but nor is anything else. If my house burns down I’ll lose all those images that aren’t stored online. But online storage can’t be relied on either – as some friends have found when companies go out of business.

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