Power Surge – Lessons Learned the Hard Way

When one hears the words “power surge” the first thing that might come to mind is a lightning strike, and that’s just what happened in the wee hours one Monday morning. A strike so close it sounded like it hit the transformer just outside our bedroom window and knocked out the street lights. No surprise, we woke the next morning to find our power out – easily restored with a quick resetting of the breaker switch. Our computers were fine. Although plugged in during the storm fortuitously they were not on.

The phone line which also provides the internet connection was the real issue. Both the phone and the router box were signaling that they could not find a connection.  A call from my cell to the local phone service, Orange, confirmed what we suspected; there was a problem in the area. (If, by the way, you are not feeling so confident with your telecommunications vocabulary, Orange has an English speaking help desk – 09 69 36 39 00.) Unfortunately, they gave us an expected repair date of Friday leaving us with five long days of no internet.

In these situations you realize just how dependent on the internet you’ve become. We were in the process of making the final preparation for an upcoming trip to Tuscany. How would I find the perfect hotel without access to Trip Advisor? Surely it wouldn’t take until Friday to get the lines restored. By Wednesday we were getting a little anxious and called our friendly English speaking Orange agent. “Oh that problem has been resolved,” he informs us. “There must be a problem with your interior line. The first available appointment for a technician is tomorrow afternoon.”  And so, another day without internet.

Directing a technician to where you live in these small villages without any street numbers in an ordeal in itself. He calls my cell to tell me where he is, rattling off names of streets I’ve never heard of having not lived the town that long. I run around the narrow village streets looking for his van. Finally we do connect; the village just isn’t that big.

The technician tests the lines and voila the lines are fine – it’s the phone and Livebox (Orange’s name for the wireless router) that are both fried. He gives us a paper to take to the Orange office where we can exchange the router and tells us to throw the phone in the trash. After an easy exchange at the Orange office and a purchase of a new phone we’re back up and running.

The second incident occurred less than a week later in the old stone house we were renting in Tuscany. It was a stupid accident, one I could have easily avoided if I had thought about it for 30 seconds. I’ve plugged my computer into those rickety adapters a thousand times and nothing bad has ever happened. This time, however, not being able to see exactly where the outlet was I had my finger in front of the prong searching like a blind person for the adapter and ZAP, I got a jolt that made me jump and fried my hard drive.

Don spent days trying to restore the operating system without having to erase the data, but in the end the hard drive was wiped clean and the data restored from backup files. A good reminder that you should back up your files frequently.

And the third lesson concerns Lightroom, a brilliant photo organizer by the folks at Adobe. The software has a handy feature that lets you backup your photos to a second location at the same time you are down loading them from you camera. But, watch out! This second storage option is great for saving original photo files, but since the second copy of the files are not organized using the same folder names as used in the principal file location they are virtually impossible to use when restoring Lightroom.

The Lightroom backup only backs up the catalog and changes made to individual photo files, not the photo files themselves. Therefore, to restore Lightroom you need a Lightroom backup plus the corresponding picture files organized using the same file folder names that were used on your computer. This will enable Lightroom to find the photo files and apply the changes. If Lightroom can’t find the photo file you will get a missing file message. You can manually relink Lightroom changes to corresponding folders and/or photo files, but this could be an incredibly time consuming process if you have tons of photos or a complicated folder structure.  Best to periodically make a copy of your picture files that corresponds to a Lightroom backup.

For links to all the posts in this series see the South of France page.