Gains And Losses

We used to be almost embarrassed by our digital riches, which included numerous computing devices and digital displays acquired in part out of hobbyist enthusiasm as much as from professional need. However, we were burglarized recently (Sep 2011), which besides being traumatic brought an opportunity to rethink and reassess our digital priorities and habits. In a weird life-imitating-Beatles, the robbers came in through the bathroom window, and apparently needed little more than a “silver spoon” to do it despite the locks being engaged, neighbors out and about, and the sun shining bright. They were fast, too: In an estimated 20 minutes they managed to steal our 2 iMacs, an additional 24-inch Apple Cinema display, multiple laptops, iPads, TVs and game systems (with all their accessories) along with usual robbery targets of jewellery, cash, etc. In the process, they completely tossed the place – emptying drawers, opening cabinets and closets, and just generally making a mess of the place.

Did I mention traumatic? Being a generally neat and organized couple of people, the mess was nearly as disturbing as the burglary. More than a week later, we are still cleaning up and cataloguing missing items as well as digging up receipts, proof of ownership, and the usual documentation needed for filing an insurance claim. The losses are pretty obvious, including a potential for identity theft given the information stored so conveniently on our various Macs.

There were gains, though: The burglary reinforced the importance of backups, version control, and state-of-the-art security. We scored about a B- on the backups side, got an A+ on version control, and pretty much flunked the security test (duh). Howard’s backups were completely up to date – Hooray for Time Machine. Mine, on the other hand, had been inadvertently “paused” and hadn’t updated since last December. (Boo! Boo Joan!). It was interfering with some compiling I was doing in the wee hours, and I thought I paused the backup but in fact had stopped it. One of the consequences of 3 a.m. work hours. But, thanks to a compulsive version-controlled approach to much of what I do, remote repositories had nearly everything up to date. I also replicate things across the web and various machines, so it looks like little was lost. Even so, it has taken most of the week to piece together my system whereas Howard just initiated a recovery from Time Machine and was up and running in a relatively short period of time. (Yay! Yay Howard!).

Since the robbery, we’ve become super-focused on security, of course. We’ve implemented hardware, software, and physical security, and we’re working on a neighborhood video-surveillance system. We’ve got even better backups in place now, and have a cool image-capture tool in place on our (new) Macs which sends info to our iPhones. We’re working on the house alarm system, which was malfunctioning prior to the burglary, and we’ll incorporate motion-sensitive video cams in the house. We use backup power, so cutting off electricity will not disable security – at least, not for a good long while. With the new security system sending us pics of motion events in the house, maybe we can shorten the time between robbery and arrest. That would be a gain for everyone (except the robbers).