A journey to the cloud and back

My puffy little cloud of almost 40,000 computer files is located in the netherworld of Carbonite.  Because none of those thousands of files was backed up inside my stolen computer, an actual piece of hardware, they now only live out there in Carbonite’s digital la-la land.  Invisible yet retrievable. The process is known as cloud-computing. And it saved my ass.

After a burglar slit a screen and entered the house through a bedroom window on May 25, I knew only one thing.  I would never see that 15-inch Acer laptop again.  That meant the files were gone too.

Some of those files were invaluable to me.  None more than the 162 text pages of the index to my research notebooks going back to about 1987.

Worse, I was apprehensive. I did not know for sure that I would ever get my files back.  This was the first time I would try to restore them with Carbonite, the Boston-based company to which I pay $60 a year to do the automatic backup.  I type and file.  Carbonite copies, transmits and holds the info on a server — the cloud. And in case of computer crash or theft, it returns that cache of files.  In theory.

Make no mistake.  Restoration is long and tedious.  At least it was for me.

At some point early on, I had to transfer the licenses of my Carbonite account to the new computer.  Ditto Norton Security.  The new computer came with a temporary McAfee security program which I believe is not as good as Norton.  Once the Carbonite license was switched, I suspended backup.  It’s called freezing.  I read you should do this before restoring files.

Another obstacle loomed. The Dell, like many new computers, lacks a DVD drive.  Without the drive I can not use the installation discs.

I reviewed several external drives on the Internet.  I learned how the pricing goes.  If you want to use Blu-Ray expect to pay out the nose for a drive. I had a general idea now of what I wanted.  Something cheap, no  Blu-Ray.  So out I went to Best Buy and picked up a LG Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer, price $40.   Back home, I hooked it into the new computer and, bingo, everything started to look halfway sunny.

And so I began.

It took 3 1/2 days, DAYS, just to restore my 40,000 files into a large folder on the desktop of my new 15-inch Dell.  But I could not write to or read any of them.  Since Carbonite does not backup program and system files, missing were Microsoft Office, the software that runs text editing, and PhotoShop Elements 12 that tends to my photos.  My restored documents folder showed “empty” files.

I didn’t want to deal with the text files immediately.  I was worried I couldn’t resuscitate them.  So to the back burner Office went.  Less critical were the photo files.  I chose to experiment with them first first.

Task No. 1.  Find the Elements 12 installation disc.  I had only the vaguest idea where it might be located.  I hadn’t seen it in several years.  It wasn’t at the first and most logical place I looked, a carton of installation discs. But then, not yet in a panic, I spied the Elements 12 box on the top shelf of Nebra’s desk in the study.  And to my great glee, the box with the Office installation disc lay right beside it.  The discoveries saved about $300, the cost of acquiring new programs.

I stuck the Elements disc in the external drive, and went through some preliminaries.  Then, oh, no.  To install, the disc required a serial number to verify, I suppose, that I am the software’s owner.  Eventually, I stumbled across the number inside the disc’s container. Hadn’t thought to search the most obvious spot.  Never dreamed I would need it again.  I typed in the 24 numbers. Success.

Believing that the almost four-day Carbonite restore was largely due to the “jpeg” photographs, I hesitated to transfer those 1,835 photos to Elements 12 via Carbonite.  Instead I used the camera’s chip card.  Swish. In about 30 minutes all photos were returned to Elements but, just like the Carbonite resstores, they were unformatted.  None of the cropping and color tweaks I’d made survived.  I’d have to live with that, no other choice could I see.

Believe it or not, I waited a couple of days to install Office.  It would be painful if it didn’t bring the text files to life. I now had the new computer on my desk for six days and had not been able to really use it.  I was feeling antsy.

Cautiously I slipped in the Office installation disc into the external drive, typed in the Product Key of 25 characters. And off we went.  I just sat there in front of the computer watching a green bar slowly make its journey to 100% installed.  At any moment, I expected the install to stop and state it could for some reason no long proceed.  But all went well.  The install took 1 hour, 20 minutes — most of it for updates.

Files and folders were not quite in the places I left them on the old computer.  But, it appeared, I had everything restored.  Appeared, yes.  But me being me, I wonder if all this was for naught, that the new computer world I’ve made will  soon blow up.

New files are being backed up as I write.  Little green circles on the text files tell me so.  Yellow circles for those in wait.

For all practical purposes, I’m in the cloud again.



Ali’s attraction

No single post on Long Row has ever drawn more interest in one day than “Muhammad Ali and the real draft dodgers — our fathers.”  Hundreds responded on June 4, the day after Ali’s death.  No other post is even close.

The post, published five years ago (June 23,   2011), also generated more comments than any other.  All of those comments were critical of the post and painted Ali as a coward and a draft dodger.  One comment called the author an “idiot.”

Few other people in the world could draw that kind of visceral interest.  Ali was special.  He was controversial.  He was hated and loved. There seemed no middle ground.

The gist of Long Row‘s post was a defense of Ali as a military-draft dodger.  Ali was one of a few black men to stood up to a white-dominated society and, I wrote, much of the antagonism against Ali was due to white-hot racism.

To many young Americans, Ali’s plight is ancient history.  They have little interest in the long-ago.  Or even yesterday, it seems. Here, for some who may years from now stumble onto these pages, is brief history of those times.

Already the world heavyweight boxing champion at a time in the 1960s when social issues and racism were at a peak, Ali refused to be drafted into the military on April 28, 1967, as the unpopular Vietnam war heightened. He had recently joined the Muslim religion, changed his name from Cassius Clay and claimed he was a “conscientious objector.”

Some Ali quotes at the time infuriated whites and scared blacks.

“I ain’t got nothing against them Vietcong,” he was quoted as saying about America’s enemy. “No Vietcong ever called me ‘nigger.'”

“Why me? I buy a lot of bullets, at least three jet bombers a year and pay the salary of 50,000 fighting men with the money they take from me after my fights.”

In no time, Ali was stripped of his championship and convicted of draft evasion.  He waited in limbo for 3 1/2 years — losing the prime years of his boxing career, ages 26-29 — until on appeal the Supreme Court court reversed the lower court on June 28, 1971. Ali was granted draft status as a conscientious objector.

An uproar followed.  Even now almost 50 years later, the seething hatred of Ali is palpable. And misplaced.

I grew up during that era and remember many draft-eligible young men, most of them white and middle class, finding a more “acceptable” way to avoid the draft and the fight in Vietnam.  They got college deferments.  To me, they are the real draft dodgers.  No one mentions them today as racism again sweeps the land. These guys were our fathers,siblings, friends and acquaintances.

Ali all his life stayed true to his religion.  He proved a devout Muslim.

As long as there is racism in America, Ali will receive an undeserved black eye. That means a very long time indeed.