In which I lose the originals of the last three months of comics and the laptop I create them with.

I draw all my comics on paper, but I scan and process them on my lovely Fujitsu Lifebook P1510, a tiny hybrid tablet computer (it’s the size of a hardback book). I have high-resolution versions of all the comics, which I use for print versions and shirts and such. I used to save them to my Linux desktop, but recently I’ve been moving around a lot and I got in the habit of saving the comic files on my laptop. I’d gotten lazy about backing them up as I drew them, as evidenced by this exchange with the xkcd sysadmin last night:

18:02 <davean> Also, is [the high-res backup collection] up to date?

18:02 <xkcd> nope [Editor's note: here I was recognizing how guilty I should feel about this. I was answering casually because I knew both of us knew this was stupid and we didn't need to go over it again.]

18:02 <xkcd> I’m now sending in computer for repair

18:02 <xkcd> I’ll update the files when I back up the laptop later today

My laptop has had some hardware problems, so I was backing it up before I sent it in to Fujitsu to get it fixed. I was repartitioning my Linux desktop’s drive to make room for the files, and since that was taking a while I decided to go to sleep and finish the (months-overdue) backup when I woke up. Then, files nice and safe, I could send it to Fujitsu.

I slept in until about 1:25 PM. I’m a heavy sleeper, which explains why I didn’t wake up when, at 12:55 PM, someone forced opened a window to my apartment, came into my room, and stole my laptop off my desk within arm’s reach of where I was sleeping.

So, I have no laptop now. I think I can still manage to do comics on schedule (sans tablet screen or any sort of speed) via the cheap old XP machine I set up for that purpose during the repair. And I still have the pencil-and-ink copies of everything. But I do all the editing, arranging, coloring, etc. on the computer. The full versions of, for example, the recent kite comic, the Lisp comic, the Richard Stallman comic, and everything else since around New Year’s? Gone.

Nothing else was stolen except a little cash from my wallet. The police came and filed reports. There were a couple other burglaries in the complex on the same day. If it’s picked up they’ll call me, but I’m not holding my breath. If anyone sees it for sale on eBay, it’s a Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D with an extended battery pack, off-brand charger, and all the little logos removed. Sigh.

For the folks suggesting ways of tracking it online: my cryptography-geek security paranoia was canceled out by my laziness. I set up all sorts of ideas for dealing with stolen laptops, but never actually maintained them (after all, they were just paranoia). A year ago I bought wherethehellismylaptop.com, with the idea that every time it got online it could (securely) update the site with information about where it was and who was using it. But I never set that up. I have it automatically log in to a VPN, and I should be able to see it that way. But the VPN had stopped connecting a few weeks ago and I didn’t fix it. I’ll keep an eye out in case it phones home. I had also planned to make stickers that says “CONTAINS GPS, WILL BE TRACKED IF STOLEN,” (bluffing) but that’s part of my xkcd stickers plan that’s on a back burner right now.

Other than the comics, there’s not much that’s irreplaceable. But the laptop did contain assorted xkcd shipping records from last year (before I moved to the online system). Fortunately, there is no financial information about anyone (except me), but it did have the addresses I’ve shipped shirts to. And I had just removed the system passwords so the Fujitsu guys would be able to work on it. But I expect it’s just gonna be wiped and sold anyway. It was a mess — I’d be surprised if anyone else can use it.

And lastly, my roommates got me a RoboRaptor for Christmas, some sort of mini version of the popular toy you see everywhere. And I can’t help but notice that during the burglary it sat on the shelf and did nothing but watch. Fucking raptors. I guess it should have at least served as a reminder to never let ground-level windows go unsecured.

Fortunately, the place is a huge mess, so the thief didn’t spot my digital camera on the floor. It contains the results of a physics experiment involving 50 gallons of water and a parking deck that I’ll blag about later.

Edit: I know the lost data is my own damn fault, and it’s not so bad. I’m a lot more upset about the break-in while I was here and the loss of the laptop than the — rarely used — high-res comic files. I just want to share the awful irony that it was just when I was about to get back on track with backups that it happened.

I have also, in the past, been that obnoxious backup guy — the one who insists we back things up both here and here every six hours in case there’s a terrorist attack AND a tornado at the same time. So I feel even dumber about this.

Regarding offers of donations — thank you, I appreciate the support. But I should be able to replace the laptop. I feel like if this is the worst problem you have, you’re doing okay, you know?

Edit #2:

(Thanks to Matthew.)

169 thoughts on “In which I lose the originals of the last three months of comics and the laptop I create them with.

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  3. Just reminded folks on my current conference call to backup their home systems. Yes, this is a dull call otherwise.

  4. “Backing up is hard to do”, sounds like a title for a song but doing the routine mundane things in computers is actually hard – it is not exciting. Over the weekend I finished backing up all my photos / videos that I took last year – using three dual layer DVDs on the slow burn to ensure that it writes correctly. And they were already indivudally on DVDs too (one per roll/photo session) and then one set off to the copyright office and the other into storage. These true stories are the best for the rest of to remind us to ensure that we back-up our files – but a real loss to those that experieince it. I also just renewed my PC insurance.

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