Your business and productive life is not something you want to trust to the indulgence of strangers.
Unfortunately that is the situation that many of us find ourselves in. This came to me in sharp, unavoidable clarity after my iMac hard drive was toasted this past week.
I purchased my iMac because I needed a system that would provide a hospitable environment for both OS X and for WinXP. The iMac as advertised as doing this. That is not quite true. Sorta true, but not really true.
The iMac is very hospitable to the OS X, but it only tolerates (marginally) the WinXP. Windows is treated like an unwelcome but tolerated guest on the machine. Some Mac users will take exemption to this statements. Most Mac users will wonder what kind of idiot would bother putting WinXP on a Mac when they have a perfectly (and superior) operating system already installed OS X.
Actually I agree that OS X is a superior operating system. I like it. But alas, several key programs that I require for my work are not available in any flavor on the Mac side of bootcamp. Bootcamp is the program that allows me to switch back and forth between the two operating systems. I think of them as two sides of the computer — the mac side and the windows side. But really there is not windows side.
Near as I can figure it, bootcamp works with a huge file area that is set aside for use by the Windows OS and software. So Windows is a guest of the OS X.
Now that my WinXP install is toasted as a result of a hard drive crash I have zero access to my files. If the system was a PC desktop, it would have been easy to remove the hard drive and put it into an external drive case and salvage parts of the file system using any number of software tools.
But since the file system is not really a hard drive file system (it is a pseudo file system) these third-party programs are not capable of accessing the information. Thus I am unable to salvage even bits and pieces of my previous data.
Fortunately most of my data was backed up. I think I may have lost a week of work. Some of which can be redone, some of which is beyond reclamation.
But this got me to thinking about guest systems, or systems that rely upon layers upon layers of drivers and interface.
There was a time when a word document was only readable in the Word program. Many years ago a client sent me a proposal that was in word format — rather than the request rtf interchangeable format. It took me quite some time to find a means to read that file. I finally had to write a program of my own to dump the text data so that I could at least read the ascii portion of the letter. This may sound strange, now that we have so many programs that are capable of importing Word documents. But at the time there was not a competing program that could import the new word format I was sent.
Yes, that is ancient news. But, today there are many examples of similar situations. Try to get access to a 3DS Max model if you do not have the program. Deep Exploration can import and export dozens and dozens of model formats — no problem. But, they are not allowed to import and export Maya or 3DS Max models. Not because they are incapable of writing the plugins. They are not allowed by the manufacturer.
This means that any model saved in a maya or max format requires access to a working copy of the program. If the program stops working — or they upgrade program without allowing for compatibility with older versions — you are sunk. But, they would not do that. That is true. But, they could.
I really like Maya. It is a great program. I would continue to use my copy of Maya forever — even if the company went out of business. But, I can’t use Maya if the company goes out of business. If they go out of business how am I going to get an activation code when it comes time to re-install Maya because yet another hard drive was toasted.
Any program you have that requires internet or phone activation also requires that the mother company continue to do business. We saw recently major financial institutions go belly up. How is it impossible to consider the folks supporting Maya to not go under? Admittedly, they are big enough I don’t worry about them. But what about the folks in Finale that put out PrintMusic. They are not so huge. They could easily call it a day. Then my software, for which I purchased a perpetual license, would not install because there would be no on available to activate it.
Something the hardware and software manufacturers are discovering (much to their chagrin) is the fact that some of us like to keep our working (and expensive) software.
All of this is beside the point. It is germane, but not on direct target. The issue is, we are functioning at the indulgence of strangers. I suggest making audits to make sure you have data backed up on ways that will allow access — should anything go wrong.
The easier it is for me to get my grubby little fingers on the data the better I feel about it. Take this blog for example, if one uses the export feature of blogger the data can be saved in an open xml format. I can totally access to my words. Meaning that if google had a hiccup and wiped my blog clean, I have a backup. AND, that backup can be accessed directly by me — not just by an import filter proprietary to google.
Unfortunately, that is not true of everything. So I am auditing my involvements to see where I am at most risk and see what I can do about minimizing those risks.