There are two types of people...
Those that make backups.
And those that have never lost irreplaceable data.
I mean, really! What kind of numpty leaves their only copy of important data on a highly nickable computer, without making any backups?
Medical researchers in Oklahoma are offering a no-questions-asked $1,000 reward for the return of a stolen laptop that contains years of research on prostate cancer. Sook Shin lost the 13-inch white MacBook last Sunday after thieves smashed the window of the car she shares with husband, Ralf Jankecht, and made off with the …
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This is obviously a bright person who just doesn't consider IT stuff to be important. I know bugger all about flower arranging and very little about plumbing, 'cos I don't think they are important to me. If I get in a jam, I pay someone else to fix these things.
We work in IT, we can do the sucking breath through teeth thing when people do stupid things with computers, just like the grease-monkey down the local garage when your big-end-over-arching-oopja-wotnot blows in your fan-groove-thingy-doohickey!
she's not, conversely, a flower arranger; she's a scientist and the computer is a tool of her trade. Now, I don't want to be too hard on her individually - It's easy enough to treat backups as "not a priority" - but I seriously wonder at the institutional culture that allows this sort of thing to happen.
...is wondering how we got here. This is not a numpty, but a highly intelligent person. Nevertheless, she hasn't protected herself from theft, disk crashes, software errors, or even the simple "Oops, didn't mean to press delete." What are we doing wrong?
Talked this over with a colleague, who mentioned losing a paper to a failed floppy disk in her freshman year. Similarly, when I was student, floppy disks and NFS mounts were very much hit-and-miss propositions, so you learned to save early, save often and save in multiple places as a student.
Modern equipment is much more reliable in that regard --which is great--, but apparently nobody has thought about the resulting need to teach students data management in some other way.
Upshot is, I'm not sure to what extent you can blame her. If you had never seen a car crash and seat belts were things you had to re-install in the car every morning, would you use them?
I am not that amazed. Being incredibly capable in your field does not automatically bleed across to other areas. The number of conversations I had about how the university's managed (RAIDed, mirrored across two geographically separate campuses, backed up nightly to two distant off-site secure repositories) was too expensive compared to buying a USB hard drive from OfficeWorks! Keep in mind the data to be backed up could have real-world values measured in tens of thousands (usually) or even millions (not uncommon) of dollars (not to mention several years of the complainant's working life) and you will understand why the VC tended to side with IT on this matter.
I use Dropbox for a lot of my important info as well as important stuff like datasheets and any other info I need replicated. Dropbox stores data in offsite servers and replicates it over all your machines. If I had a PhD going then it would be there.
I don't know about US universities, but my son's university here in NZ provides a drop-box like service for students.
There are such simple backup systems out there that there really are no excuses.
Before anyone starts shouting I have one at home so this is a first hand observation.
However, a number of incidents where my servers and the email on them ended up the only place to pull the "rabit out of the hat" have taught her the value of backups. Oh and the proverbial MacBook episode of Sex And The City went a long way towards that too...
I just finished a long overdue round of backups at work yesterday (they don't pay me enough to work harder at fitting it in) so feel ok about myself.
THEN I realised I left all the USB drives sat next to the server, and won't be able to get to them until Monday. Bugger. Let's hope no-one sets fire to the premises before then :/
"Sook Shin lost the 13-inch white MacBook last Sunday after thieves smashed the window of the car she shares with husband, Ralf Jankecht, and made off with the laptop. Data on the machine was not backed up."
El Reg really, really needs a facepalm icon.
Pais icon because it's the only one with a face and a palm.
thinks about that sort of thing unfortunately. I know quite a few people who I regard as academically intelligent in most respects but they seem to have reached that point by either trading a fair chunk of their common sense to get there or are so wrapped up in whatever their specialist field is that they've made some very big (and sometimes quite amusing) errors in the 'real world'.
Backups and general IT contingency are always on our minds as we're computer-literate people but maybe she thought that it was one of those things that just magically happened in the background or that her assistant did it for her. Not saying that's a valid reason but rather than just labelling her as incompetent I feel sorry for her having to learn the realities of disaster recovery in such a serious way.
There's plenty talk about the numptiness of not making backups, so I won't add anything on that score
In addition to that though, by the sounds of it the machine was in plain view and the miscreant ne'er-do-well only had to break a window to get at it. If it had been locked away securely then maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.
She's not a cynical IT professional. She / He ( i cant tell from the name) is researching cancer as well, so cut her some slack.
Einstein for example was known to have 7 sets of identical clothing, his brain could not cope with such mundane matters as dressing himself.
It's not her fault but the IT dept where she works, although i would lay odds that becuase she insisted in using a mac, their IT did not have a group policy they could use on it, so she just went without backup's and they let her.
If your not going to educate your users then make sure your backing their data up for them. Dont blame them though when their laptops get nicked and they turn to you. It's your job to make sure they are backed up
Why assume it's failure of group policy?
I work for an IT consultancy, and I don't back up either. It's not that I don't know the importance of backups -- it's just that my company doesn't provide the infrastructure. I'd love to back up, truly I would, but I'd have to use personal kit to do so, and that would breach our data security policies.
"It's not her fault but the IT dept where she works"
Not sure I'd apportion blame in any one place as it's a collective failure; a great loss to her, but also a great loss to everyone.
People are crap, we all are, all fallible and I bet many here discovered the cold truth about backup the hard way. Backup devices are so cheap these days that there's no real excuse for not having some sort of backup and there's always CD/DVD, so it really is a matter of educating people.
But even then the message isn't really taken on-board until disaster strikes and it's then too late.
what I thought... a usb disc or a time capsule would have seen all that work saved in a second location... all without her actually having to dao anything!
This sort of thing beggars belief! its not hard to back stuff up nowadays...
and leaving a laptop in plain view in her car? or, if her laptop was 'hidden' then there was still another reason that made a thief want to open the thing...
One stupid mistake is bad enough, but 2 of them???
.. no but what difference does that make?
Had she backed it up with a removable USB drive (as simple on a Mac as plugging it in and clicking on "yes" to the prompt) she could have recovered from fire, theft, flood, coffee, mechanical failure or abduction (of the laptop) by aliens.
Its so dumb on so many levels ( here's my laptop with 4 years unprotected work on it lets put it on the parcel shelf whilst we leave the car) , you've got to wonder if instead she actually had done no work and this was a way of covering that up.
For those where such easy to use things are not the norm, on a Mac you can use any external hard drive, or a drive on another Mac (or server), or space on a disk attached to an AirPort Extreme (Apple's wireless base station/router), or the disk in Apple's Time Capsule (a sort of NAS style backup appliance with integrated dual-band wireless access point) - for backups with Time Machine.
It's a complete doddle to set up for most common situations, and once set up is completely automatic. It just copies your data to the other disk, keeping multiple versions until the disk is full - at which point it starts deleting the very oldest.
The neat thing is that the UI for retrieving files is also easy to use.
OK, it's not a substitute for multiple rotated media kept offsite, but it's far better than the non-backup most people don't use at all. Seeing as the facility is built into Airport And Time Capsule, many people could use them as their network router and not have to have an extra box. So, whenever at home (or work if you want to put it there), your Mac will silently do your backups - every hour - all the time you have the backup drive connected (USB) or are on the network (network storage).
OK, so it's not really cheap, but it's not really expensive either - and a LOT less that the $1000 this loon is having to offer in the hope of getting years worth of priceless data back.
Backup (particularly with Time Machine) also allows you to re\cover from those nasty evens where you inadvertently delete a file or a paragraph and want to retrieve it.
Anyone using a computer for their research should be using backup. Products like Time Machine make it trivial.
Well, keep in mind this happened in the US. Over here, we hate research scientists and academics so much that a researcher working on a cancer cure probably makes less money than the register person at a burger joint. So that thousand dollar reward might be nearly an entire month's income for her.
Less of an exaggeration than you might think, actually.
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Nah. It's 5 types - those who understand XS3 code, and those who dont.
The latter includes the numpty at college who never showed up half the time & missed that small nugget of info & loudly asked WTF it was during one the final exams for logic (& the tutor actually announced for "everyones" benefit - (99% of the class banged their heads collectively at the muppets gall & that the tutor actually gave him the answer).
I was actually 1% away from a distinction on that particular unit due to the phrasing of one question & worked out the vast majority in my head & only produced the truth table.
Am I bitter? - Yes!
Beer it's Friday.
It's not just the numpty that's a numpty.
You have to wonder about any user who does not back up important work (and this sounds pretty important), but don't just blame the user. Any organisation that doesn't have hard and fast rules on backups is probably even dumber than the user. Not only should there be strict policies but there should be automated scripts in place too.
Er, hang on.
This is surely research she's not doing in her garden shed.
As such, I'd have a guess the facility is somewhat higher than your local kindergarten.
Let me have a stab at it. University hospital would be a nice place to do prostrate cancer research.
Given that, it's likely this researcher might just be connected to the facility's infrastructure. Y'know, e-mails, Outlook, Internet (always useful for research...).
In EVERY company I've either worked for, or visited in the last decade or so, the data is ALWAYS stored on the facility's server. Without exception, even (and especially) GCHQ.
No educational site on God's Green and Pleasant is going to pay some muppet shedloads of money without seeing the results occasionally.
Nah. I suggest the police go to her house, see the bottom of the garden where the fairies are pointing. Think they may find a recently buried cat, who is taking a lovely Mac across the river Styx.
>Let me have a stab at it. University hospital would be a nice place to do prostrate cancer research.
>Given that, it's likely this researcher might just be connected to the facility's infrastructure. Y'know, e-mails, Outlook, Internet (always useful for research...).
That's not a given. Research institutions turn over staff too rapidly for it to make sense setting up that kind of infrastructure. Increasingly US universities leave Google to provide email/calendaring services.
> In EVERY company I've either worked for, or visited in the last decade or so, the data is ALWAYS stored on the facility's server. Without exception, even (and especially) GCHQ.
Yes, but you clearly haven't worked in research. I don't think you quite grasp the ad-hoc nature of the beast. Further, researchers are largely left to their own devices (no pun).
> No educational site on God's Green and Pleasant is going to pay some muppet shedloads of money without seeing the results occasionally.
Huh? Firstly most US medical research money comes from clinical trials, or government grants. Secondly, the results are published papers. That's all the research institution cares about. The problem is that for a researcher to lose their data, they no longer have the ability to defend their published work, or build new work off of it.
Yes she should have used Time Machine, but clearly IT is not her area. When you can do the kind of research she can do, then feel free to be smug and superior. Until such time, maybe instead remember that a lot of bright people out there can benefit from your skills and experience, but not necessarily the attitude.
In the occasions I worked from home when I was at Nokia (restricting myself to correcting my tarining course's spelling mistakes, or tidying up a powerpoint piccie) the loss of data would have been "Oh, shit. Another ½ hour wasted".
When I plugged the lappie into the Nokia network in the office, it synchronised as its first priority. Automatically. First thing, which was annoying, as I couldn't do much while the lappe was flailing its disk.
Annoying, I mean, for the coffee machine....
As to your last comment...<<When you can do the kind of research she can do, then feel free to be smug and superior. Until such time, maybe instead remember that a lot of bright people out there can benefit from your skills and experience, but not necessarily the attitude.>>
I wasn't being "smug and superior". Point I was trying to make, is backing this stuff up isn't a job for a researcher.
I.T. is NOT her area, agreed, but neither is research into prostrate cancer in I.T.'s domain.
Backup is a job for the IT department of whichever research organisation she happens to be working for. Unless, as I started my comment with, she was doing this in the garden shed, as a hobby. Which I doubt.
We used to call it 'teamwork', or some knobby-no-neck name like 'synergy'.
At a former workplace, the accounts dept insisted it had to maintain its own IT. One day they lost a stack of data and called on me when they had trouble recovering it from their backup tapes. No problem. Until it emerged that for the previous 18 months they had been backing up the shortcut to the database and not the database itself.
For some people backups are really too difficult. Those people do not deserve to keep their data.
I've always regretted not inflating my expenses bofh style immediately prior to that incident.
All they had to do was plug in an external hard disk, say "Yes" when asked about using it for backups and hourly incremental backups would have started immediately. Just leave the disk locked in a drawer at work or home.
What a clueless clown.
That's on top of whatever the IT department were doing to ensure all users data is backed up...
University science departments are notorious for terrible IT policy.
The computers science people usually have a group that handle their computers.
The humanities people just use what they are given, which is backed up and kept reasonably clean by policy.
The science departments are full of people who insist on reimaging their PCs with unsupported OS's, 'fixing' problems with issued systems by fresh installing windows on them, and generally putting themselves in a position where no one who is paid to care about backups is looking after them. They get quite angry when you try to - it seems a matter of pride for them to be using a Mac, linux box, etc, usually bought out of a research project budget, and some of them are quite senior.
I've actually seen research groups with one or two 'technical people' in them go and buy a rack of blades and put it in a basement to hold data worth many thousands of pounds. No one knows that the server is there, and honestly it's no ones job to look after it because it belongs to them, but there is no offsite backup in place. The data is being collected constantly, and costs about 30 thousand a day to generate. It's been going for 4 years now. Those are life sciences people actually...
Why are doctors so clever, but unable to work a laptop computer. And to not even backup the important work on there.. FAIL upon FAIL upon fail.
You'll never get it back for $1,000 so either add a zero or book a quiet room in a motel and get starting on your research again
They should have backed it up regardless of the OS / applications installed.
A simple cron job to rsync the data to an archive / server would have done fine.
Users do not know about such things as backups, why should they have to back up anything other then their own personal data. I work from home for a multinational, and I don't NEED to backup my company laptop - it is done automagically.
Now I STILL back up the data - but only for the convenience of not having to wait a few hours in case of epic failure.
In this case, IT department fail.
And rightfully so! Years or research? With no backup? Left on a valuable laptop? In an unattended car? HELLO!
Now I heard people saying that Einstein had 7 sets of clothes... and I don't see the correlation. Maybe the point should have been "Einstein never backed up electronic data", as a joke.
I also heard someone saying "give her some slack, she's an academic". I've been an academic for 10 years and never came across someone stupid enough NOT to make a backup in years. Even the most lunatic PhD students did.
The good news for everyone is that by extrapolating her display of intelligence, "years of data" probably consisted in the following results: "Wow, it looks like cancer can kill!".
In fact, prostate cancer affects all men, provided that they live long enough; however, because it's age-related, they don't usually die of it. (Cancerous cells run out of steam later in life.)
Most research reveals that testing men for prostate cancer is far more likely to injure or even kill them than prostate cancer. (Look at the results of the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer for further information.) However, in the USA especially, looking for prostate cancer provides customers for drugs companies. Naturally, they fund the kind of research that is likely to help their sales (of testosterone, to men who have had a prostatectomy - most of them for no good reason).
The real world being what it is, the results of research can undermine the case for testing for prostate cancer, and so the availability of customers for the drugs companies. A cynic might suggest that the researcher involved would find it advantageous to 'lose' the data: it might even pay better than publishing the results. The profit motive ensures that drugs companies have a financial interest in funding research in this field (to make them look like concerned corporate entities), while also wishing the results of such research to disappear. There will be backups somewhere, but surely they will have been 'lost' too.
...but SEVEN YEARS worth of data? Is this machine seven years old? If not, then presumably the data must have been copied from somewhere else - so does that somewhere else no longer exist?
And also - a 13in netbook - and it's someone's main machine?
I dunno - I suspect this isn't the full story here....
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