Jacob Mulquin

The Blog That Almost Wasn't

How I learnt to always verify backups and drink whiskey

✍️ Jacob Mulquin
📅 25/10/2021

This blog almost didn't happen because of bad cable management and a series of unfortunate events.

It was a warm Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in my office with the air conditioning unit straining against the relentless Australian heat. Throughout the day I had noticed that the odd movement of my foot here and there would cut out my monitor's signal. Me, being a lazy idiot, thought nothing of it.

Until the foot movement was too fierce, too severe, too furious. Mistake one.

Not only did the monitor in question cut out, the monitor beside it, and the audio, which previously was blasting some psytrance, was now cycling through some experimental breakcore.

Oh shit. Reboot time.

Things were a mess, it looked like my installation of Xubuntu was fried. After wrestling with the annoying "left-shift on boot" method of making GRUB appear, I loaded a live USB and set that shit to menu. Luckily, downgrading the kernel appeared to remedy the issue.

Oh but how I simply just had to have the latest kernel which had patches that didn't affect me. Mistake two.

Some quick forum searching and mindless copy-pasting had me update my kernel to latest version.

But one of my monitors didn't work, neither did wifi, hmmm... The drives aren't mounting properly... The previous kernel versions have disappeared in GRUB.

Oh shit. Reformat time.

I copied my home folder onto an NTFS formatted external drive. There were no issues, no errors, nothing out of the ordinary. It was a suspiciously smooth process. So with some naive trust, I popped the live usb back in and did a fresh install on the internal drive.

But I didn't verify the backups. Mistake three.

After inserting the external drive back into the now fresh, default Xubuntu, it wouldn't mount correctly. It was recommending I run chkdsk /f on a Windows machine. To appease machine gods, I gladly oblige. I popped it into a Windows PC and ran chkdsk /f before even checking if the backups had worked.

After chkdsk was completed, I checked my backups. Or more accurately, the folder that should have contained my backups.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.

Fuck, shit, fuck, fuck, shit, fuck.

The files were simply not there. I'm not much of a drinker but I had a shot of whiskey that had been gifted to me 2 birthdays ago right then and there. It was rough.

In a panic, I ran PhotoRec on both the external drive and the internal drive. Many files were found on both, but none belonging to that particular backup. The files were gone. 3-4 weeks of programming projects, photos and writings were gone.

Code that was missing included the original implementation of this website and a few solid draft blog entries. I almost didn't recreate this blog but I hate quitting something that I've started.

This incident has pushed me to remedy these mistakes:

  1. Do better cable management
  2. Backup where possible when the computer is in a stable state
  3. Always verify backups

I have a NAS on order and have taken steps to improve my backup strategy. I will post these improvements in later posts.