The first time I experienced someone accidentally wiped out a full set of data was on an IBM PC with a Tallgrass Hard Drive and Tape Backup. I was at PetCom Systems, my first real job. It was a Friday evening and I was the only person around. The phone rang and I answered it, “PetCom Systems, how can I help you?” It was a user from somewhere who was trying to back up for the weekend and didn’t know what to do next. I asked her what she had done. She walked me through what was on her screen, which basically said “Are you sure you want to delete all the files on your disk.” She had already pressed Enter in a panic, it had finished whatever it was trying to do, and her PetCom software (and nothing else) worked anymore. She had somehow, from within Tallgrass, wiped out all the files (except for DOS) on her drive when she was trying to make a backup.
I told her what I thought had happened. I was 17. She cried. She told me her boss was going to fire her when he found out. She cried some more. I tried to say something soothing but I didn’t really know what to say. She eventually stopped crying, told me thanks for trying to help (I think she knew I was 17) and we said goodbye.
I went into the bathroom and threw up.
Since that time, I’ve typed some version of del *.* and answered Y more times than I’d like to think. I became good friends with Norton Unerase. After deleting the wrong directory a few times in the mid 1980s, I started always typing the full path name when I wanted to delete a directory. After doing this wrong a few more times and having MS-DOS eat files I wanted, I started making a backup before I deleted a directory. At some point I became pretty paranoid about backups.
And then I got casual again. About five years ago I decided I didn’t really care about any of the data that I had and if it all went away, I’d be fine with that. Fortunately, I’m not responsible for any data at work so I can’t really do any harm there. The only data that really matters to Amy are her photos so I’m extra careful with them (and have plenty of backups).
As I started down the Great Photo Organization of 2016, I made a backup. Yay. As I fell in love with Mylio, I gave myself the illusion that it was backing things up correctly because of its “Protection” approach.
Early yesterday morning, I set up Mylio on Amy’s computer, feeling ready to get her rolling with it now that I had organized 22k+ photos and was very happy with them. I installed Mylio, set it up, pointed it at the photo directory, and hit Enter. It did something different than I thought it would (and that it had done when I added on my second computer – or at least I think it was different.)
I then tried to set it up correctly again, the way I wanted. It created a second photos folder in Amy’s instance of Mylio and started adding all the photos to the library again, doubling the photo count. I highlighted the first folder in Mylio that I had set up and hit delete. I told it to only delete from this local computer. However, I’d pointed it at the Dropbox file share of our photos.
Two minutes later as one folder was counting up and the other was counting down, I realized I’d fucked myself. My heart rate and blood pressure went up and a giant “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” emerged from my lips.
It took me about ten minutes figure out what state things were really in and how bad it was. I knew I had a backup pre-organizing folders, so my worst case was that I lost four hours of moving files around from folder to folder. Mylio grinded away for about 30 minutes synchronizing all machines to the same state, which was one where there were no photos anywhere.
Amy said soothing words to me during this stretch of time. She had only asked me 351 times the previous few days if all her photos would be ok, so I put her behavior in the heroic category. Heroic calmness. “I feel bad for Brad” was soothing said by her, instead of “You fucking asshole – you deleted all our photos!” which would have been appropriate for her to say.
After everything settled down, I went into Dropbox, clicked on Deleted Files, and clicked on Restore next to the folder that said “Photos.” Dropbox is happily doing its thing, giving me back the four hours I might have lost.
Dropbox wins today. You get huge karma points for saving my bacon without me really deserving it. Thank you.
Mylio – you need to clean up a little of the UX around Dropbox.
Brad, ok, you’ve blown it once – be more careful now.
I’m three days into trying to figure out the best way to deal with our large collection of digital photos that have accumulated since 2000.
When I started (on Christmas Day – I figured it was a one day project) Picasa said we had around 35,000 photos. After several different clean up approaches, we now have about 15,000. That’s the power of Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro which has been probably the cleanest and most straightforward part of this whole exercise.
But – let’s start from the beginning. Several years ago I created a shared Dropbox folder for me and Amy and moved all of our many folders of photos into one folder in Dropbox. I didn’t try to organize anything then – just get them all in one place. I then installed Picasa on each computer, spent a little while with Amy figuring it out, and let time pass from there.
Amy spent a lot of time over the past few years cleaning up photos, arranging them in folders, and copying things from place to place from within Picasa. We had various applications, like Dropbox and iTunes, set up iPhone sync directories. We avoided iPhoto, but every now and then it opened up somewhere and did something. Amy would sync her digital SLR photos with Picasa and then move them around. A bunch of other stuff probably happened in the background as we connected Picasa to the web, installed various Google apps on our machines, and I had a brief foray into using an Android phone.
However, I mostly ignored the problem. Every few months Amy would get frustrated looking for a photo and ask if I was ever going to clean everything up. We constantly talked about getting our iPhones set up to share stuff in a useful way. I bought Amy a new camera (the Sony A7) and decided as part of it I was going to clean up the mess that I’d help create over the years.
I vaguely remembered installing a Google Photo uploader thing on my desktop at work several months ago and letting it run for a few days while it uploaded the mess of photos we had. I looked at https://photos.google.com/ and scrolled through a huge photo collection. Yup – it uploaded them, although preserved none of the folder hierarchy Amy had painstakingly created. And then I started noticing lots and lots of duplicates. That’s weird – I wonder how that happened. After poking around for a way to have Google just automatically eliminate them, I discovered no such feature existed. Ok – I can delete a bunch of duplicates – let’s just share all with Amy. Oops – no way to do that.
Well, that would have been too easy. So, I spent most of Christmas Day afternoon using Picasa to clean up all the folder hierarchies, move photos from the hundreds of randomly named (usually with a date) folders, or the folders named “Move These Later 7.” I started as a Picasa novice and now have mastered it, with all of its quirks.
And then I realized there we had nested folders of duplicates spread out all over the place. Aha – now I knew why Google had duplicates everywhere. After a few searches, I found Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro and, after making a backup of the gigantic photo folder (via the web – so there was no web to desktop to web traffic), I quickly reduced our photo collection by over 50%.
I went to bed and let Dropbox and Picasa do their thing as everything synchronized on my painfully slow home Internet connection (there’s nothing like seeing a “10 hours left” message to decide to call it quits for the night.)
When I woke up yesterday, Dropbox looked fine but Picasa wasn’t synchronized. After messing around with Picasa for a while, I decided to just unlink the scanned folder (which was just the high level photos folder) and let it reindex. That worked. I messed around with the Dropbox hierarchy some more to try to clean things up. I noticed that Picasa again got out of sync. After doing this a few times, I started reading about Picasa on the web and my soul was crushed. I had a fantasy that the long term solution for everything could be something that lived on top of Dropbox, but as I realized that Picasa was getting old and stale (it shows in the UI) and there was a pretty clear path for Google toward everything being entirely web, Android, and Google+ (or – well – Google Photos) based. In other words, Picasa isn’t likely a long term solution.
Deep breath. At this point I checked with my partner Ryan who has 10 zillion photos and he quickly responded Apple Photo plus iCloud Photo Library (iPL) with a backup on Google Photos.
So I spent the rest of yesterday getting my mind around Apple Photos including a multi-machine and user struggle to understand the implications of what Apple thinks a family is and what can be shared between family members. Of course, the relic of the Apple iPhoto library didn’t help, as it introduced a new wave of duplicates which Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro figured out. Eventually I realized I had about 20 remnant Picasa temp files, each which were getting indexed in Apple Photos, so I hunted down and expunged them all. I started a bunch of folders uploading (I was trying to create some semblance of an Album structure). I was getting the hang out it, but it was dinner time so I was done until the morning.
When I woke up this morning, iPL told me that it has 11,781 files left to upload. Amy and I went out to breakfast. When I got back 90 minutes later, iPL now only had 11,721 files left to upload. Well – that’s not going to work.
I gave up, deleted all the photos from my instance of Apple Photos that was uploading, and read a draft of Eliot Peper‘s newest book Cumulus, which was awesome. I did a few other things, had dinner, and am still waiting for Photos/iCloud to figure out what it’s doing several hours later.
For now, I’m taking a break as I ponder my next move. Suggestions welcome.