Cruising with Computers


Torture-Testing Backups

Off Pulau Tenggol, Malaysia, October 20, 2000
Dear Fred: Thanks a lot for great Newsletter, which I highly appreciate while sailing around the world. In your October 16 edition, you say that "CD-based backups are best-of-breed". []

Well, let me tell you that I am backing up my data on board every day on a CD-RW. This CD is placed near the grab bag in the event we should one day abandon ship. Knowing that this CD would inevitably get wet and salty in a survival situation, I tested it by keeping it during two weeks in a bucket of saltwater, exposed to sun. After this, I just rinsed the CD with clear water and a little bit of vinegar (to remove the salt), dried it and put it in my laptop. Would you believe it? All the data were perfectly readable and usable. You are right when you say that CD-based backups are best-of-breed!

Jean-Claude Racine (Switzerland) Yacht Na-Maka-o-Kaha'i

Jean-Claude cruises the world and downloads his LangaList issues via direct satellite Internet link.

Washing Electronics

Computer repair shops report that they've used dishwashers to clean floppy drives, printer parts, keyboards, etc. Basically, many flat-surfaced parts (such as a circuit board) can be washed with pure water (distilled best) and dried thoroughly without damage. Enclosed devices such as power supplies cannot be cleaned in this way. This should only be attempted with parts that are facing some serious problem caused by surface contamination.
A few sensible rules:

  1. Wash or immersed in pure water for just a few minutes.
  2. Make sure no water can be trapped inside.
  3. Air dry quickly or force dry at temperatures below what the electronics are designed to withstand
  4. Do not plug device back in until you're certain all water has evaporated.