TLDR: Dealing with a Dead Drobo

TLDR: Dealing with a Dead Drobo

I’m spoiled. I buy some piece of tech, I expect it to work, no muss, no fuss. I’ve been doing this long enough to remember how hard it used to be to get anything done to the point where I’m now often unprepared for what to do when tech things don’t work.

I posted in my social media feed that my Drobo died and was met with mostly “meh” and some confusion. Like I wrote, I’ve been doing this long enough that I wasn’t too surprise that these were things only a technology geek would even care about. I mean I’m talking about an expensive multi-hard disk external digital storage system when most of my friends do all of their “technology” on their smart phones and more than a few have no computer at all in their lives. Whereas I’ve been storing my life on digital media for decades and the reliability and longevity of my storage system is pretty damn important. Thus, I’ve been rocking some version of the Drobo since I bought a version one in 2007. Having a local backup system where I can store my image and video libraries in one place had previously been a real challenge as I filled up CDRs, then writeable-DVDs and then external hard disks.

Purchasing this fourth Drobo (Drobo 5C) was the first time I purchased a Drobo because it’s predecessor had died. All previous purchases were in pursuit of upgrades in the tech and, until this Drobo died, the next step was going to be to upgrade my network-connected Drobo FS (circa 2010) to better serve my aspiration to have all of my movies and TV series available on the network. Damn. As much as I wanted the network version, I learned that I couldn’t just pop my old disks from the old drive to the new (networked) one that I wanted. So I picked the “5C” model that, at least, could be directly connected to my new(ish) MacBook Pro. Alas, at first the migration didn’t seem to work. The new 5C didn’t seem to boot-up and the blue capacity LEDs just flashed off and on and didn’t seem to access the old disks. Damn. I sent a message to tech support and began to prepare myself to bid whatever unique data/media might be on the old disks adios.

The next day tech support sent a procedure to follow to determine what the problem might be. The procedure did more than track down the problem, it seemed to fix it. One bump in the road was that I was using a USB-C dock that had problems maintaining its connections and status whenever the MacBook went to sleep, resulting in a “didn’t properly disconnect disk” warning, and the Drobo 5C didn’t seem to work when connected using the dock (using the USB3-to-USB-C cable that came with the Drobo). It did seem to work fine when directly connected using a USB-C-to-USB-C Apple cable. Yay. But then when I attempted to reconnect the sleeping Drobo this evening it didn’t seem to wake up without rebooting the computer and Drobo several times and making sure to connect using the white-Apple USB-C cables and not the shorter cables that came with the USB-C dock. Weird. It should not require reboots, etc., for the Drobo to wake from sleep. I guess we’re not out of the woods yet. I’ll give it another 24-hours to see if there are any other anomalies before deciding on whether to keep or return the Drobo 5C. I can see why most of my friends and family don’t even with any of this external drive stuff and usually don’t have any backup plan. Yikes. It’s a pain in the ass but I can’t imagine losing all my data/images because of a dead drive.

For example, this past summer I spent 39-days driving from Las Vegas to San Antonio TX to Orlando FL to Washington DC to NYC to Chicago IL to Minneapolis to Oklahoma City and back to Las Vegas. I’ve yet to edit all (or any) of the images and videos from that trip, but I let Apple Photos.app create the following slideshow/video… this was just from one 39-day stretch of time and I’ve been seriously documenting things for decades… I’d hate to lose it all because of some hard disk failure…

Photos Everywhere & A Tad Expensive

photos-app-imac-press_1024-imore photos-app-imac-press_1024-imore

When Apple recently released the new Photo.app on OS X, as a long time believer in iPhoto, I was hopeful that they’d addressed shortcomings I’d wrestled with. I think they’ve mostly hit the mark with a small number of concerns. Thus, I begin this discussion by recognizing that the biggest problem related to modern mobile-photography is one of both volume, we’re taking a hell of a lot more photos than ever, and that, beyond an occasional upload to FaceBook, none of us bother to back up or organize this avalanche of photos, that are only one “oops” away from oblivion. If you live in the Apple eco-system, have an iMac or Macbook and one or more iOS devices (iPhone, iPad or Watch), then, by all means, please, please, please set up the Photos.app on your devices and make sure that your images and videos are synced up so if the phone goes boom, the photos are backed up (you are backup up your mac using TimeMachine, right?).

A huge plus is, because of how they’ve connected online syncing, you are no longer limited to the storage size of your device in order to have access to all of your photos. Regardless of the size of your collection, you can view any photo on your 16GB iPhone or 64GB MacBook Air. I can’t tell you how wonderful that seemed to me, because previously I had too many photos for iPhoto and had to break up my collection by years, stored on external hard drives and only the current year/collection was accessible to my iOS devices. Having everything available on any connected device is a big win.

Alas, the biggest real downside with this plan is if you have a large collection of photos, online iCloud storage is expensive. The first 5GBs are free but it quickly goes up from there. The monthly US fees are:

  • 20 GB: $0.99
  • 200 GB: $3.99
  • 500 GB: $9.99
  • 1 TB: $19.99

My current photo collection is over 200GB, so, allowing for future expansion, I’d have to go for the 500GB plan that would require an investment of $119.88 a year. That’s a touch steep when 1TB of personal DropBox storage is $99 a year and 1TB on Flickr.com is free. Damn. But, having everything in the Apple/Photos.app ecosystem is so easy, for most users.

2015-05-27 photos.app on iOS-edit_view

2015-05-27 photos.app on iOS-edit_view

One of the things that they definitely got right was any edits or deletions done on any device would sync across all devices, which may not mean anything to the typical user. But for me, given the number of photos I was taking, having to wait until I was on my mac to do basic editing or to get rid of unusable photos was a huge bottleneck that really slowed down whether some photos ever saw the light of day. I still have images from a great trip to Key West that are still waiting to be edited and posted (and I’m really embarrassed that my Orion Launch photos have yet to be worked on). So, thumbs up on the edit and organize anywhere part of the new photos.app.

Alas, one should note that edits done in the photos.app are only viewable in the photos.app. That means that applications that use the “camera roll” to automatically sync, such as dropbox or google drive or flickr, will only show the raw, unedited version of the image. This makes sense because Photos.app is using non-destructive editing, so that the user can always go back to previous unedited versions, so the “camera roll” version is the original with the edits stored in the application database. The work around for those wanting to save the edited versions separately is when editing in photos.app there is an option to manually save the edited image to dropbox, for example. This is way better than the convoluted way syncing edited images was done with iPhoto, but it’s still an extra step.

2015-05-27 photos.app on OSX-album_view

2015-05-27 photos.app on OSX-album_view

My final concern with Photos.app is one that I have to confess comes from the fact that I’ve been doing this a long time and am used to organizing my collections using files and folders and also that I use my DSLR and other non-iOS devices when I’m taking a lot of images. I don’t think that I’m in the norm and that most users won’t care that organizing images in Photos.app is limited to manually created albums or the “image saved” date. I’m working on a collection of images that goes back to the 1930s, my parents’ early history, and all of the event from then to now and the combination of “image saved” date and manual albums isn’t quite enough for what I’m trying to do. The “Faces” and tags options are nice but still a bit too locked in for my needs. I’m also not sure if image EXIF metadata is preserved when moving images from application to application. But I imagine most users are only dealing with images that they’ve collected since they first bought their device and the biggest concern is having copies of their images stored somewhere else, so if and when the device dies the images won’t die with it.

Photos.app on OSX years view

Photos.app on OSX years view

So, the pluses are that one can have every image in one’s collection available on any connected device and any edits done on any device will be reflected on all devices. making it possible to manage one’s collection on any device. I imagine that those features will be more than enough for those interested to invest in iCloud storage, if that’s needed. The minuses are, if one’s collection is larger than 5GB, as noted, iCloud storage is expensive, edits done in Photos.app required added steps to be accessible outside of the app and one is limited on how one can organize one’s collection/access to image metadata.

For excellent walk-throughs and step-by-step reviews of Photos.app please check out the following iMore and TidBits articles:

Listed below are my previous musings about iPhoto and Apple’s attempts at addressing our mobile photography needs. Enjoy.

 

Saving History: Rescued Film Project & 31-WWII Rolls of Film

I was just writing an article about something that happened eight-years ago like it was ancient history and decided to pull up and post images from that event. Then I stumbled into this article by Michael Zhang on the PetaPixel Facebook page about someone who was using his old-school photo developing skills and digital technology to rescue 31-rolls of undeveloped film that dates back to World War II.

What I love so much about this story is that each roll had to be hand-developed and taken care of in a way that wasn’t really doable with mass-processing. But at the same time without a digital scanner what image was there wouldn’t be rescuable. It’s a story about how analog and digital can work together. And without the curator doing the work, we’d never have these images to tell this story that’s been lost for almost 70-years.

Resources: