Friday, February 23, 2007

Computer: RIP(ieces)

Well, as of last night I can confirm my computer is officially dead. The data has been irrecoverably lost from all four hard drives (although my music collection is safely backed up on my iPod), and the drives still in working order have been formatted. I felt it was very important to format them once I realized there was truly no hope, otherwise I would spend the next month trying to think up increasingly creative ways to get the data back.

For the technically minded, here's how it went. I have (had) four hard drives set up in a pair of RAID 0 arrays, two 120GB disks, two 250GB disks. A RAID 0 array allows disks to work together to improve speed, but if you lose one of the drives in the pair, you lose the data from the other. Given that all four disks had come loose from their brackets and flown around the case during transit (I would scream obscenities about Qantas, but it's too early in the morning), this was already a recipe for disaster, but there was another factor I hadn't considered before. RAID controllers are not standardized. You can't just take a RAID array from one computer and put it into another computer which also supports RAID. The two computers would need to have the exact same RAID controller chip, right down to the version number in most cases, otherwise the array won't be recognized. Sometimes not even then. To even get into my data, I needed my old motherboard.

Unfortunately my old motherboard is screwed. I managed to get it working very briefly, and for one glorious moment I even booted into Windows and saw Geoff looking miserably at me from a police car (see Another Geoff Adventure). Then one of the disks died, with a very disheartening noise that made it quite clear it wasn't going to be coming back for one last epic battle with the protagonist. So that was one pair of disks down, but it mostly contained program files and a few movies, so I wasn't too concerned. However, as I tried to get the other pair of drives working, the motherboard continued to get increasingly unstable until eventually it refused to turn on at all. It was only then that I realized the entire quarter of the board containing the CPU and all the plugs and sockets was so hot I could barely touch it. Even the power supply cord going into the area was dangerously warm. I let it cool down but it still hasn't booted since, and without that board the other RAID array is unfortunately useless. Before you ask, that particular board isn't on the market anymore and a quick search on eBay/trademe revealed nothing.

So let us recount that which has been lost:
  • 1 case, crippled and deformed in a brave attempt to save the rest of the computer.
  • 1 Motherboard which, after a valiant struggle, finally succumbed to its wounds (i.e. hard disks being repeatedly thrown into it).
  • 1 hard disk (possibly more)
  • 2 RAID arrays, 500GB of data.
    • Many gigabytes of pictures, most of which Tina luckily had copies of
    • Every essay and assignment I prepared during four years of university and my last two years of high school. Luckily, many of these (such as my Honours project) survive in other places, such as in my email and in hard copy.
    • Ridiculous numbers of movies and applications (which were of course not pirated).
    • My music collection, thank god it's all on my iPod.
    • Countless other bits and pieces which I don't remember now but will go looking for one day only to find they aren't there. "Ohh bugger, that was on the old hard drive..." will be a common refrain for the next few months.
There are a couple of components I'm not sure about:
  • 1 CPU. I have no way of testing it because it will not fit in either of our computers.
  • 1 Soundcard. Haven't got around to testing it yet, but it certainly doesn't look too healthy.
And of course, the brave survivors:
  • 3 out of 4 hard drives (so far as I know... this may change later), which is astonishing considering the beating they received.
  • 1 video card, which I didn't hold out much hope for. It had accompanied the hard drives in their in-case flying lessons. Well see how it holds up under stress.
  • 2 DVD drives.
  • 1 GB of RAM, which is now in Tinas computer (taking her from 512MB to 1.5 GB).
So all and all I've had to replace about 75% of my computer. I choose to look on the bright side and see this as a "forced upgrade". At least now I'll be able to play Supreme Commander at a decent frame-rate. And this time when I set up the computer, I will still be using a RAID array, but it will be RAID 1, which creates an exact backup copy of everything on a drive.

1 comment:

fia said...