Disaster Recovery Kit

Disaster recovery kit

This week I’ve been sorting out a pile of CDs that have been been slowly working its way up skywards, like a compact tower of Babel.

They’ve been mostly music CDs from the covers of Metal Hammer, Rock Sound and Terrorizer magazines, but there were also a couple of guitar tuition CDs and the odd DVD from a PC magazine.

Amongst them was this DVD from PC Plus, from May 2008 (Issue 268) advertising on the cover:

Disaster recovery kit

  • Free-up locked systems
  • Revive corrupt drives
  • Restore deleted files
  • Recover lost passwords

… and much more with this exhaustive PC first aid kit.

Which is great, but I just know that I’m not even going to think about checking out its contents until it’s much too late.

For example

Like the time that I manually (and foolishly) rebooted a PC in the middle of resizing a hard drive partition (see The Prodigal Hard Drive for details). I thought that partitioning software had hung … it hadn’t, it was doing its stuff, albeit with very little user-feedback.

I vowed then that I’d read up on how to repair file allocation tables (FAT) and master boot records (MBR) so that if it ever happened again I’d know what to do, rather than inviting an expert come in, remove my drive, have him scrape the final unusable remnants of data off it and charge me over a hundred quid for the privilege.

Of course I never have.

It just works

These days we seem to assume, perhaps too much, that things will just work. Apple make a big thing of this with the Mac (Get a Mac: it just works).

And we only reach for the instruction manual when things go awry. Or we swear a bit. Hit it with things. And then switch it off and switch it back on again.

Be prepared

For most of my adolescence and early adulthood I tried to be prepared for everything, every eventuality. I read everything: every manual that arrived with a product, DIY books, everything that struck me as useful for a just in case eventuality.

That behaviour came from having a father that was well one day and the following day collapsed miles from home in Nottingham with a brain haemorrhage. Well … I certainly didn’t expect that. No warning, no time to prepare or rehearse my responses.

And from that point on (I was 11 years old) I began my preparations. The Scouts got it right in my opinion: be prepared.

Being hit by a car

By my early-teens I had my behaviour planned out for just about every major disaster that I could imagine. By my mid-teens I’d tested one of them out: being hit by a car.

I’d reckoned that if I couldn’t get out of the path of the oncoming vehicle I should jump moments before impact. My reasoning was that it seemed to me safer to go over the car than under it. It stood to reason, up until that point I’d had more experience jumping up and over things than supporting tonnes of moving steel on my delicate Scottish frame.


The main problem, however, with living like that is that it’s exhausting. It’s like being your own paranoid health and safety department. Invariably things happen that you’ve never anticipated, and you waste so much time planning how to behave in the most unlikely of situations that will never (hopefully) happen.

But if you do ever find yourself shackled and emprisoned in an iron ore mine on the moon you can only hope that I’m in the cell next door. And the guards haven’t confiscated my notebook. And my oxyacetylene torch.

Life happens

Thankfully I’m much more laid back these days.

Life happens. Things go wrong. You deal with it. And you grow in the dealing with it.

But I didn’t understand that as a kid. I saw problems as unwelcome interruptions distracting me from the real purpose of my life, like when you’re trying to get on with a piece of work and the phone keeps ringing. But they’re really just a natural part of life, and in the grand scheme of things I’ve lived such a sheltered and privileged life. Life is so much more exciting now (I’ve chilled out).

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the Disaster recovery kit DVD. I’ll probably file it away with my other PC cover discs. And bin it in a year’s time when I’m clearing stuff out.

I’ll probably promise to learn how to repair a master boot record then too. But I probably won’t. I’ll be too busy trying to unshackle my friend and escape from the moon.



Today I got the following email message from a viewer:


Can you please confirm something for me. I have recently finished reading ‘Join me’ by the legend that is Mr. Wallace, after reading it I mentioned to a work colleague that I myself was going to start doing random acts of kindness each and every Friday, her reply to this was a negative one, and she insisted that Danny himself would no longer act in this way as it has been a long time since he wrote the book. I defended Danny in every way I could and told her I was going to e mail him to confirm he is indeed still ‘the leader’.

That evening I went onto the join me web site and clicked on the contact link, I sent an email explaining what had happened and asked for confirmation that random acts of kindness were still being carried out each and every Friday, and when I had received this confirmation I would then send my passport photo off to become a joinee.

This was over two weeks ago, and I very sadly have to announce that I have received no reply from the email, therefore I write to you in the hope that you can confirm to me that the karma army is still going strong and that Mr. Danny Wallace is alive and well and still doing his bit as the leader.


I had an answer for him. Oh yes indeed.

Dear Rich (or Richard),

Thank you for contacting us regarding our premium Join Me Validation Service.

Our records show that your trial membership for the premium service has recently expired. However, you will see from the terms and conditions that since you have raised a support call with 30 days of your trial membership expiring you still qualify for the enhanced standard service. My word, aren’t you a lucky man!

I can answer your question in just one word: hemispheres.

Of course, as an answer to your particular questions it’s utterly meaningless, and for that I can only apologise.


p.s. Yes. Join Me is still going. People, kind people like you and me, are still doing random acts of kindness. Sometimes on a Friday. Other times at … well, other times. Not everyone synchronizes their watches with the time signal from Rugby as do you and I. Tut.

I’m sorry that King Danny of Lovely was unable to reply to your email. I suppose he was probably eating crisps at the time or something.

I think that about answers it.


I was obviously in a weird mood when I wrote that yesterday.