Tag Archives: damage

Why You Really Should Have a Backup

I had a bit of a crazy day today with this website, so this is going to be my slightly unconventional post for the week. As you could tell from the title, it’s about why you should really have a backup. From personal experience. (And next week, perhaps I’ll talk about how you can make a backup if you don’t have one.)

I worked on my website a bit this morning; I wanted to post a couple of new things and make some updates to my homepage. As part of this process, I needed to upload a couple of files, which required that I open a terminal window to access the server. No big deal, I do it all the time.

Another thing I needed to do today was pick up in my room/office area. When I took a break from working on my website, I was picking up. I needed to move a desk; the path of the leg was right in the way of the computer, so I needed to turn off the computer to move it out of the way. So I flipped on the monitor, noticed there were two terminal windows open ready for a command, and typed sudo halt in one of them—the command to power down the system.

Then I noticed I’d run it on the server.

You see, Amazon EC2 has this thing where some of your data isn’t guaranteed to stay on the server when it powers off.

I rebooted the server from the management console, but the damage was done—all my posts since May 5th were gone. I panicked, of course, and then I had to go eat lunch. When I got back, I fumbled around in my backups folder and found one from June 9th. Which should have been good, because I’d written all the following blog posts before I left to go camping on the 12th. But after I restored it, there were still five posts missing. Apparently the backup software doesn’t back up posts that are not yet published publicly.

Amazingly, I was able to recover every word of my posts from Google’s cache of my website. (The pictures are missing from the cache, but the links and filenames aren’t, and I still had them on my hard drive.) But searching the internet for your lost data isn’t a very good backup plan. The whole thing wasted me half an afternoon.

And I got very, very lucky.

Only a week ago I overwrote three hours of work by accidentally typing “>” instead of “>>” in a script. It’s amazing how the stupidest user errors can make the worst crashes.

I could have been up and running again in roughly five minutes had I kept a backup that covered everything. Which is why I now have a weekly backup that runs right after I update my website every week. You should too.

How to Touch Up Your LCD Monitor

Is your monitor starting to get a bit old? Does it have some scratches and spots on it? Yeah, so did mine. In fact, I was about ready to get rid of it. And then I read something that provided the following novel method for fixing up scratches in your screen: a pencil eraser.

Yes, you read that right. If your monitor’s more than a couple of years old and it has any kind of spots or scratches on it, you owe it to yourself to give this method a shot.
You only need four things:
  • a clean cloth (preferably microfiber, the kind they sell for cleaning glasses or monitors)
  • a few cotton balls (if you don’t have any, a second cloth will do in a pinch)
  • rubbing alcohol (pour a little out into a bowl so you don’t contaminate the rest of the bottle)
  • a clean pencil eraser
Here’s how:
  1. Clean off the pencil eraser if it’s been used to erase anything. Just rub the outer layer of it off until you don’t see any smudges on it anymore. Smashing graphite particles into your monitor isn’t going to help anything.
  2. Open up your web browser and type “about:blank” (without the quotes) in the address bar, then press F11 to display the page full-screen. This will give you a blank white screen. (You do this so you can see all the spots easily.)
  3. Dip a cotton ball into the rubbing alcohol and clean off the monitor with it. Reportedly, this is the method that manufacturers use to clean the displays as they reach the end of the assembly line; regardless of whether that’s true or not, it works well.
  4. Wipe the monitor dry with the cloth.
  5. Take the eraser and carefully rub it onto all the scratches and spots, and watch as they magically disappear, or at least get better. It’s fine to use some pressure as long as you work deliberately and don’t smash the monitor.
  6. Blow off the eraser dust if there’s any left, and clean the monitor again. You can repeat steps 2-6 as many times as you want, until you’re satisfied with the result. It may take a couple of runs to completely get rid of the problems.
  7. When you’re done, press F11 or Escape, depending on your browser, to get out of the full-screen mode.
Of course, this method isn’t going to work for horrible gashes down the center of your monitor, but for relatively minor blemishes, it works like a charm. I had a damaged spot that was about an inch square, and after doing this I can’t even see it anymore.
Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.
Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.