Even though I left the IT department nearly a year ago, I am still at least unofficially a member of the family. My regulars still call me for help when they need it, and often things will come up that I had dealt with in the past so I spring into action. Tonight I was finishing up for the day and talking (arguing) with Elizabeth in the Newsroom when one of the reporters approached me, asking if I could help her with her computer. I followed her back to her desk to find her Mac totally frozen. As in, the Finder was hosed. The clock wasn't moving, there was no way to switch to another program - it was cooked (In retrospect, I can't recall ever seeing the clock frozen in OS X - used to happen all the time in OS 9, but even when the Finder is toast the clock is still ticking). She started to panic somewhat, as she said she wasn't sure she had saved the document she was working on. I told her not to worry, that most likely the automatic backup would have saved most of her file. I power-cycled her computer (a Mini) and was immediately greeted with the dreaded "blinking question mark of death" - another regularity in the old days, but not so much anymore. For the uninitiated, this means that the computer cannot find a disk to start up from.
As soon as I saw the question mark, I knew I was in trouble. The disk had probably just failed completely. I (stupidly) said something to that effect to the reporter, and she just got an absolutely terrified look on her face. I went and grabbed some diagnostic tools and booted from a OS X system disc, which showed me something I'd never seen before - I was fully expecting the hard drive to be gone, but it was still there. Sadly, where it should have said "Macintosh HD" for the volume, it was instead totally blank. "Oh crap" I muttered and she said "WHAT??!" - I told her that wasn't good at all. At that point she started to tear up, and I began to fill like absolute crap. I booted next from DiskWarrior, and it said the same thing - a drive was there, but no volume could be seen to be repaired. At this point, she explained (in between holding back the tears) that the files she needed where stories for tomorrow, so I needed to get her up and running. Matt brought over a computer that was being used for presentations in the conference room and I quickly set up a new account for her on it. Afterwards, I took the Mini home and put in the freezer (the hope was that cooling the drive would somehow bring it back long enough to get the data off of it) for a while, then hooked it up. Nothing. I tried booting from an external drive and in firewire target disk mode. Nothing. I took the Mini apart (which is freakin' difficult by the way) and re-seated the drive. Nothing. Hell, I even zapped the PRAM just like in the old days. Nothing worked. I sent an e-mail to the reporter and the editors telling them that I couldn't bring it back to life and they'd have to go to plan B. Whatever that was.
So here it is 5 hours from when this sleigh ride started, and I have nothing to show for it. I can't even find a mention of this problem online - lots of hard drive failures, but nothing about the volume disappearing (If any of you loyal readers has any other ideas, send them my way!). While there have been problems in the past that I couldn't fix, I was always at the very least able to find a suitable work-around. This time however, she is completely screwed and who knows how it will affect the paper. Even though I'm pretty sure that it's just one of those freak-things that sometimes occur with electronic equipment and there was nothing that can be done, not being able to save the day like I normally do really sucks.