Revisiting TV

For a number of years now, I’ve been collecting videos.  This is hardly unusual, most people do.  Over time, however, I had collected nearly three terabytes of movies, tv shows, and home movies, nicely converted and organized as an iTunes library.  As the library grew, my media database grew out of a single hard drive, on to a raid, and then to a Drobo array.  In the back of my mind, I worried about backing this all up.  That’s part of the reason it was hosted on the Drobo, so that a single hard drive failure wouldn’t wipe it all out.  It was much too large for a duplicate drive, and although some of it was backed up to DVDs, my iTunes library was continually growing and changing, and enough DVD’s had failed on me that I didn’t have confidence in them anymore.  Certainly I wasn’t about to go back to tape.

Now, I have extensive backups on everything else.  My photos are duplicated on different drives, my writing files are duplicated so many different ways it’d make your head spin.  I have a large TimeMachine backup of my laptop, and some things (like the writing files) are being daily copied off to the cloud backup services.  But I never quite took the extra step to backup the video library.  Too expensive, too time consuming, too lazy.

So, of course, (you saw it coming), an obscure glitch trashed the data on my Drobo.  The directory structure was damaged some how, probably by the common power failures that happen out here in the country.  I didn’t notice it immediately, but I was running out of space on the Drobo, so I swapped in a bigger drive and waited the week or so for it to reorganize the data.  Superficially, it looked good, so I swapped in a second bigger drive.

Then it was time to head off for a six week vacation/book-tour.  I would occasionally log back in to my home system to see how things were going.  Half-way through the trip, something looked very wrong, but I had to just shut it down until I returned home.  A week or so of debugging, once I had hands-on time to work with it gave me the bad news.  Drobo wasn’t going to recover itself.  Even bringing it up in raw mode so that Disk Utility and Diskwarror could work on it wouldn’t work.  Within a minute of booting it up, the unit was caught in a loop and slowed to nothing.

I had a choice, turn it over to one of those pricy disk recovery firms and cross my fingers, or format the drives and start all over with an empty library.  It was a painful decision.  My video library was mostly items purchased from iTunes, so with the new rules, I could re-download all of that for free.  The rest consisted of Beta and VHS tapes digitized, a number of things pulled from DVDs, and a few TV shows captured from my Directv via Eyetv.  I still have the home movie tapes, and I can recapture those, but there would be quite a few things I would have to do without.

I formatted the drives.  There was never any hardware problem with the Drobo, so it came back up.  I wrote a custom Perl program to scan through my TimeMachine archive and pull all the videos.  I loaded those and started the process of running iTunes re-downloads.  I figure it will take about a year to get everything back — I have slow DSL.  What with my backups and a month or so of downloading, I have 1.1TB recovered.  I also have a 3TB drive connected with nightly CCC backups running.  Backup drives have gotten cheap.  Or at least it feels like it now.

One interesting benefit of this process is that I’m re-visiting a lot of shows I saw once and then forgot.  Of course there was Firefly, Angel and Buffy, but I’m also enjoying some of the one-season wonders that came and vanished, like Haven, Cupid, Fallen, Raines, MiddleMan, etc.  I’m sure I’ll need to purchase some of the things that I had captured before, but with today’s better quality, and with the built-in cloud backup, it’s a nice upgrade.

But… I’m going to keep that backup drive spinning!


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