Falling down the data hoarding k-hole

I am becoming a data hoarder.

I think I’m genetically predisposed to hoarding, or maybe it was just where I grew up, but every time I saw the show Hoarders on TV, I always thought that like every other person I knew in Indiana had a house that looked like that.  I’m not saying that all of my relatives kept boxes of dead kittens and uneaten food stacked from floor to ceiling.  But I never knew anyone in Elkhart that had one of those minimalist zen apartments with white walls and floors and no furniture like you’d see in Dwell magazine.  (Well, except for Larry’s place in Bloomington.  He did have a cannon, though.)

I’ve mentioned this a million times before elsewhere, but I think if I never would have left Indiana, I feel like I’d have the basement of a ranch house filled with some collectible obsession, like action figures or toy trains or something like that.  The year I returned to IUSB and was living at home, I had no money, but somehow locked into a comic book habit, and got this crazy idea that I’d someday own every single Spiderman comic. I probably got about 10% toward that goal before I gave up. Since then, there have been an endless line of reboots and relaunches and reprints, and if I would have knocked up that girlfriend and gotten stuck in Elkhart, I’d be able to tell you all about them.  But, that obsession passed, and I moved on to albums, then books, and now… data.

I have been obsessed with keeping all of my digital life archived. I think part of that is because there are a few big gaps that I can’t get back. For example, I never saved that much email. I save everything now, but when I was working on Summer Rain, which fictionally took place in 1992, I had about 500 emails from all of 1992 saved, probably about a tenth of how many I actually received.  And a lot of my conversation back then was on bitnet or VAXPhone, which was not archived.  And I have almost no photos from then, maybe a dozen.  I’ve probably taken a dozen photos of my cats this week.  And although I started keeping most of my incoming mail and all of my outgoing mail in 1996 when I started at Speakeasy, I lost all of my mail from 2000.

A constant wish of mine is that I’d somehow stumble upon an archive of old material that I didn’t know existed. When DejaNews first came on the scene, it suddenly uncovered a ton of old usenet posts I made in college, going all the way back to 1990.  I spent a lot of time on usenet, especially in 1991 and 1992, and it’s fun (and cringe-worthy) to look back at the stupid computer questions I was asking back then, or the lists of CDs I was trying to sell on the alt.thrash newsgroup. But more than the actual content, I simply enjoyed that rush of suddenly uncovering this hidden archaeology of the recent past, and finding all of these old bits of my past.  I’ve often said that it will be amazing if they every invent a search engine to find yourself in the background of others’ photos, because when I worked in Times Square, I must have photobombed thousands of tourists.

Anyway, I have been paranoid about backing up my machines since the 2000 incident. I use an external drive to clone my laptop drive, plus I use CrashPlan to back everything up to the cloud. But lately, I’ve had the issue that I’ve been accumulating too much stuff.  My new computer has a 500GB drive, but now I’ve got an 18MP camera that shoots video, and I’m scanning pictures and documents, and I keep downloading stuff and buying more music.  So, I decided I need an external data library, too.  And I started adding more storage.

This is the current data hoarding situation, as of this week:

  • A 4-bay USB3/SATA drive enclosure.  It’s basically a case with a power supply, hot-swappable drive bays, and a backplane that makes all four drives appear when you plug in the single connection.
  • 2x2TB Western Digital Red drives. I have those set up as a software RAID-1 in OSX, so when they are plugged into the Mac, they appear as a single 2TB drive that has roughly twice as fast read speed, and if one drive dies, I am not screwed.
  • A 3TB external that I use to back up the RAID.
  • A 2TB external that I use to back up the laptop.
  • A 500GB SSD external I use as a scratch drive for video editing.
  • A 1TB Western Digital NAS that I don’t use for much, but it’s there.
  • A 1.5TB external that’s connected to the NAS.

I also have an endless number of old, small, and/or obsolete IDE and SATA drives from dead computers, at least three semi-functioning computers with drives in them, two work computers, whatever is in my PlayStation, and an ever-increasing number of thumb drives and SD cards. And every time my life feels incomplete, I’m usually buying more USB thumb drives and stashing them in camera bags so I’ll have them on vacation, because there was one time in Germany when I wanted to watch a movie on my laptop but play it on the hotel TV, and I couldn’t find a big enough USB drive.

As the RAID fills, I have two bays open.  I’d eventually like to add 2x4TB to that and RAID it, too.  And I keep thinking about building a real NAS to use instead of the crappy one, so I can do stuff like run an iTunes library from it, but it’s not a big deal right now.

A k-hole I’ve fallen down now is hoarding sites. There’s a whole reddit on it, but there’s a lot of people who torrent and search and download stuff like crazy. Most of the people doing it are looking for stuff like recent movies, anime, e-books, music, and porn. I’m more interested in weird stuff, though: impossible-to-find movies, PDFs of oddball things, old zines, that kind of stuff.  For example, I’ve been collecting a ton of UFO-related PDFs. Most are things like FOIA request documents, Project Blue Book things and the like.  Or I found a site that was a very complete collection of internal documents from a certain church started by a science fiction writer, which I will not name so they don’t firebomb me.

There’s some strange stuff out there.  And there are a few people looking for it, searching corners of the web for open directories, folders of stuff left unlocked on servers, dumps of data.  It’s usually pictures, sometimes loose MP3 files or porn, but sometimes it’s pure craziness.  The whole thing reminds me of how ham radio people search the airwaves for stray signals, transmissions of automated numbers stations or radio checks. It’s the same, but downloadable.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this.  Go search google for this and get started:

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