Wine is a tricky thing. The output between two years is never quite alike because no two growing and harvesting cycles are quite the same. Some days see rain, others not. Some days are stifling and others are perfect. It’s just always different, day to day, year to year. That’s part of what makes it fun – the unknown… and the hunt for a product cultivated under “optimal” conditions (whatever that is). But the wine hobby can also be a frustrating one. That part comes from finding a go-to favorite and realizing how elusive it becomes once new stock is released and the stores stop carrying your favorite year.

My interest in wine tasting really stems from a singular event. It was Thanksgiving in 2007 or so, and the holidays are always a time when my family keeps the wine flowing. One bottle in the mix was a 2005 Turning Leaf Pinot Noir, and it stood out like a sore thumb… but a good sore thumb… a really good sore thumb! That bottle of Pinot Noir was a cheap, $6-7 bottle (in Ohio), and it really made me say, for the first time, “Woah, this is really good!” Years after first trying it, it’s taste is still pretty distinct in my mind – it had strong strawberry notes and a buttery kind of feel/flavor. And now I can’t find it anywhere. By the way, Christmas is coming up in a couple months, in case your sleuth skills are better than mine. Just sayin’.

Back to the real focus of this post… It’s really interesting considering how broad the wine “bouquet” can be. Not only do growing conditions affect the flavor, so do the storage methods. Stainless steel often gives wines a more crisp taste, which can be complementary for light, fruity wines. On the other hand, red wines stored in oak sometimes enhance wines with lovely vanilla notes.

The list below is of notes I have either used or heard others use to describe wine characteristics:

anise
apple
asparagus (as a joke, from the movie “Sideways”)
banana
berry
blackberry
blueberry
butter
butterscotch
cat piss (seriously, I’ve heard this one!)
cedar
cherry
chocolate
coffee
cola
copper
floral
fruit punch
grapefruit
grass (freshly cut, of course)
hay
honey suckle
iron
jam
lemon zest
licorice
melon
metal
minerals
nails
oak
orange blossom
orange zest
peach
pear
pepper
pineapple
plum
raisin
raspberry
rose
smoke
steel
straw
strawberry
tannin
toast
tobacco
vanilla
watermelon
zoo (the first Gewürztraminer I ever had tasted like the smell of a zoo… yuck!)

As for an actual wine wheel, feel free to print/check this one out:

Wine wheel courtesy of:
Public Domain Pictures

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If you value your photos, videos, and documents – and I know you do – you may occasionally back up your digital files, without any real consideration for long-term storage. But we all know hard drives (even external ones you rarely use) will fail on occasion, and plastic storage media like DVDs and CDs degrade over time. So what’s one to do?

First and foremost, the best practice to battle the digital reaper is to copy/back up the same data to various types of media. I am currently in the process of backing up everything on my two computers to an external hard drive and to a pair of DVDs. When a project or a set of files is finished copying to the backup hard drive, I also burn that project to a primary DVD and then make a backup DVD.

In 2007, Google wrote a rather long-winded report on the typical failure rate for hard disk drives (linked at bottom). In summary, the biggest killers of hard drives are heat and shock. Time usage can also certainly be a contributing factor, though Google’s results came from hard drives that “remain powered on for most of their life time.” Such drives, on average, had the biggest jump in failure rate between years 1 and 2. Additionally, it’s been noted in the tech world that traditional, magnetic hard drives (aka Hard Disk Drives or HDD) lose their magnetism, and thus their ability to store information, over time.

On the other hand, solid state hard drives (SSD) are quickly gaining favor because they have no moving parts that might fail, and they can retrieve data much quicker than magnetic drives. Browsing through various forums and articles, however, it seems there is consensus that long-term storage on a SSD is inadvisable. Such drives can begin losing information within a matter of months without frequent use.

The positive, though, is that the previously mentioned Google study proclaims the SSD failure rate to be lower than that of those HDDs with all the moving parts.

 

Drobo storage:

To help solve that problem of disk failure and subsequent data loss, some companies have developed technologies that copy data to multiple locations. Here in the office, we use the Drobo S hard drive storage system, to back up video that continually costs millions of dollars to produce. The unit is an external box capable of holding a total of five hard drives, for maximum storage space of 15 TB. The drives in the Drobo all work in unison, essentially making the whole unit one big-azz external hard drive. When you use the “dual disk redundancy” setting, though, the 15 TB storage then drops down to around 7 TB total. In that mode, the information on the drives is duplicated and spread around on all the drives in the Drobo unit. Our tech consultant purports that all the data would be safe even if two of the five drives in the Drobo were to crash simultaneously. Woah!

 

G-RAID Storage:

A lot of tech types in the entertainment business gravitate towards G-Technology’s G-RAID drives. They look sleek and cool and seem super durable. I worked on a TV show a couple years ago, wrangling and backing up all the footage shot everyday. Prepping for the show, the Producers came to me to find out what we should be storing all the footage on. I suggested G-RAIDs. “Nooo, noo, nooooooo! We can’t afford that,” they responded. So they bought a bunch of regular G-DRIVES instead. If you aren’t familiar with the conventions, I will briefly describe them in the short paragraph below. Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead.

– G-RAID drives are actually comprised of two hard drives, connected together inside an nice, aluminum, external hard drive housing. In the standard operating mode, when you connect the drive to the computer and drag files onto it, it copies the information to both drives inside the unit. If one of the drives were to become corrupt, your data should be retrievable from the mirrored, non-corrupt drive contained in the housing. As opposed to G-RAID drives, regular ol’ G-Drives are made by the same company and only have one drive inside the similar-looking housing. –

Backing up all the data for the aforementioned show onto the regular G-Drives ended up working great. I replicated the “dual disk redundancy” of a G-RAID by connecting the two G-Drives together and copying all the files to the main drive I designated, and then copying the same information to the backup drive.

Fast forwarding to the show I work on now, the Drobo unit was purchased as a replacement for those G-RAID drives that I had always previously thought were so indestructible…. it turns out they aren’t quite so reliable after all. Remember, I said before that the footage we back up costs millions of dollars to produce? Well, that means we also have to be able to access that footage at any time for flashback sequences and such. Over the years, we amassed eight G-RAIDS, and two of them ended up failing. Two of eight – that’s 25%! Our computer guy had to send them in for data retrieval, which meant they were out of service for a couple months. That’s right, when we plugged in drives to get the data we needed off them, two of the G-RAIDS failed. Done. Kaput. Stemming from actual experience, my preference these days is to backup files to two separate drives, rather than using a single “raided” enclosure that shares one circuit board.

 

Summary so Far:

G-RAID drives aren’t as safe as they might seem. If possible, backup your data to multiple hard drives and then to other storage media, like DVDs. The up-and-coming solid state hard drives have a limited life span, just as magnetic drives do, and it’s also worth noting that those SSD drives don’t hold information so well without having frequent use.  ( –> http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-reliability-failure-rate,2923-9.html).


Obsolescence:

Aside from the question of which storage media to use for long-term backup, another consideration for the future is file format compatibility. Codecs change and many programs eventually lose backward-compatibility with previous versions of the software. Unless you plan on keeping old computers around, consider archiving your most important documents as basic files.

For DOCUMENTS, consider saving in Real Text File (RTF) or basic Text (TXT). These formats lack in the ability to save things like flashy banners, text boxes, and other things that make your document look more like a fancy webpage or magazine cover, but they will continue to save your basic text for the long-term.

For PHOTOS, JPEG files will probably be the best bet for the future. The majority of cameras these days save in that standard format, and JPEG is the predominant format to display images on the internet.

For MUSIC backup, consider MP3 files. The proliferation of that file format really came about with online file sharing in the late ’90s and the subsequent development of MP3 players that so many people take to the gym, hook up in the car, and pack on vacations. The MP3 format will likely continue to be around for a long time. For audio enthusiasts, WAV is another great format to use. It’s the format encoded on standard music CDs and provides a higher fidelity sound than that of the MP3 format. For many people, the difference in sound in negligible.

 

Off-site Data Storage:

Off-site data storage is an important consideration if, God forbid, disaster strikes your area. Here in California, a sizable earthquake could break down this infrastructure for a long while, and such destruction could destroy those hard drives and other storage media. Aside from earthquakes, some parts of the world have to contend with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and tsunamis. Sometimes houses and apartment buildings burn down. These aren’t pleasant thoughts, but it’s true. For these reasons, it’s wise to keep a backup copy of your data off-site. When finished with my current project of backing up ALL my photos, music, and documents, I plan on keeping a small book of DVDs at a relative’s house, which is in a different town. You could also keep your backups with a friend, at the office, in a safe deposit box, etc. Also, when keeping such things in the possession of others, be sure to use your best judgment, based on what the content of your backups is. If some of the information is sensitive and potentially embarrassing, take the safe deposit approach or just leave it off your off-site backups.

 

Photo Prints:

For photos that are really important to you, print ’em out! My family has some tintype photos from the 1800s, portrait paintings from the early 1900s, and a collection of film negatives and slides. In other words, physical portraits can last an extremely long time, especially under proper care. For long-term storage, again, the best bet is to keep a copy at home and another off-site. Be sure your printer paper is acid-free, as well as any envelopes you may be storing them. If at all possible, keep the photos stored away so exposure to air is minimal, and don’t touch the photos if you don’t have to. That way you will keep oils from your skin off the photos.


Second (and Final) Summary

Ultimately, there is no single, bullet-proof data storage solution. Your best best to ward off data loss is to back up files to two or more storage mediums, which can include a combination of hard drives, DVDs, online/cloud storage, tape drive, and even CDs. Periodic backup is also crucial, since hard drives will inevitable fail and plastic storage media will degrade. Even online storage shouldn’t be used as a single source of data backup.

If possible, transfer your backup files to new media every 3-5 years to keep your storage devices fresh. Keep copies of your data off-site and, lastly, put your most important files in a physical medium (like photos) when applicable. Happy data preservation!

One of my relatives gave me this big, beautiful behemoth of an armoire about a year back. I had never really used it for its intended purpose and stored a bunch of random junk in it, rather than a nice, large TV. While sitting around twiddling my thumbs last week, I had an epiphany (thanks for the time to think, unemployment!). Furniture has slowly been accumulating in my apartment, and this place sure isn’t getting any bigger. I realized there there are some opportunities to consolidate around here, and it seemed like a really cool idea would be to make a wine rack in the bottom half of that big armoire. Then we could at least get rid of the wine cabinet already in here.

The armoire

 

Setting the wheels in motion, my lady and I sat down to make a lot more decisions than I had initially anticipated. “Do we make the storage more vertical or horizontal? How many bottles would fit each way? Do we set the shelves at a slight angle so the wine keeps the corks moist? How many rows do we need for the stemware?” You get the idea. And then there was the math. Man, was the math hard. We argued about dimensions, and I won, although that’s not usually the case… especially when it comes to math.

After heading to the hardware store, we borrowed a table saw, and we were able to make a pretty crude Torsion box. That style is basically interconnected pieces of vertical and horizontal wood that come together to create a grid. And the cool thing is that it doesn’t require any nails or adhesive to hold the basic pattern together. Nails are only needed when you’re creating a frame around the box. And that’s a pretty good idea in this case so some of the wine bottles don’t just roll right off.

Torsion Box Being Built

 

Unfortunately, I went a little overboard with the table saw and cut more slots on two of the Torsion board pieces than needed. Those two pieces should have been intended to be the outside/frame. By that time we had given the table saw back, so I hand sawed some spare wood to fix my mistake. That took FOREVER! Next time I will try to not be so giddy about using power tools.

Torsion Box / Wine Storage Assembly

This shows the extra cuts I shouldn’t have made…

 

Some of the shelves fit together a little too tight, so I busted out the handy-dandy Dremel and sanded down the gaps we had cut in the boards. It was getting to be about midnight at that point, so I did that work in the kitchen, since it’s the room furthest away from the wall we share with the neighbor. Using a low rotation speed for sanding still kicked quite a bit of sawdust around. Next time I will just sand wherever I please. After all, such consideration for noise around here isn’t mutual, by any means.

Routing a Torsion Box with a Dremel

 

Once the shelves fit together better, the preliminary assembly was looking pretty good:

Wine Storage Built into an Armoire

 

It was then time to take the shelves apart (yet again!) and stain everything to match the armoire. Like the math earlier, another source of contention between my lady and I was the color of the stain. I ended up being wrong this time, though, as the “espresso” color she picked ended up being almost a dead-on match with the armoire.

Wine Storage Grid Nearing Completion

Still waiting on the stain to fully dry…

 

The whole staining process took an entire day, as I used two full coats. During that process, I also built and stained what was to become two rows for hanging stemware. Just like everything else, this process consisted of a lot of trial and error. I screwed the stemware racks to the middle of the shelf, only to then discover that the base for champagne flutes is a lot smaller than it is for wine glasses. At this point, the champagne glasses could just slip right through the cracks, so I had to disassemble the stemware racks and recalculate the distance between them.

Completed Wine Cabinet Built into an Armoire

 

Breaking down the process into a short(ish) synopsis seems kinda like Noah building the ark, then you read a few more sentences and 40 days have passed. Never having built anything like this, it was a fun experiment that really worked out great. The only unfortunate thing about this design is that the single wine rack holds three fewer bottles than the old wine rack. We knew that when designing the new one, but we are going to be building shelving for the right half of the armoire soon…. that won’t be so bad going from the single, old wine rack that holds 18 bottles to building storage for 30 bottles! It’s time to clear out some space… anyone need our old wine rack???

The old wine cabinet… any takers?

6/17/2014 update – the old cabinet is no longer available!

Before you begin, be sure to unplug all cables going to the hard drive and to discharge all potential static built up on you/your clothing by touching a grounded, metal object that is not the hard drive…. seems like simple stuff, but it’s really important.

The drive – this set of instructions applies to any of the LaCie Rugged series drive:

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 

Remove the rubber bumper.

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 

With care, pry the overlapping aluminum tabs on the side of the drive up to about a 45 degree angle. These tabs are fragile – four of them broke off in this disassembly process – so only pry them up far enough to clear the underlying tab. Warning! Warning! Warning! Breaking the sticker will void your warranty (if you still have one).

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 

Again, the tabs need not be pried as far apart as shown.

 

At this point, the top and bottom of the case will come right off.

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 

The plastic around the drive is very flexible, so pull the sides far enough apart and the drive will swing out.

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 

The small, black rubber bumpers that act as a shock mount for the drive may come off… if so, no big deal, as they slide right back on when you are ready to reassemble the drive in the case.

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

 
This drive uses an IDE connection:

Lacie Rugged Hard Drive Teardown

 

Lacie Hard Drive Repair

 

The tabs broken off from prying them further than needed… If the same happens to you during disassembly, bend the rest of the tabs back into place when ready, and the outer bumper should hold everything in place just fine.

Disassembly of a LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it below!

Also, see my LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive Disassembly post here.

Tools needed:
-thin flat-head screwdriver
-Phillips screwdriver

Before you begin, be sure to unplug the external power going to the hard drive and to discharge all potential static built up on you/your clothing by touching a grounded, metal object that is not the hard drive…. seems like simple stuff, but it’s really important.

Steps:
1) Turn the hard drive over. Gently wedge the flat-head screwdriver between the hard drive enclosure’s base plate and the main body of the enclosure. Begin to slowly pry so that the side of the enclosure begins to bow outward. Continue until the base plate pops out. Keep the popped out side close to seam (so the still-attached side of the base plate doesn’t get bent). Perform the same pry technique on the other side of the base to fully remove the plate. [click on any of the photos to enlarge]

Disassembly of a LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive

 

2) Now that the hard drive is exposed, you will notice three, small aluminum brackets on both sides of the drive. Bend those upward – this can be done by hand.

Disassembly of a LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive

 

3) Use the Phillips screwdriver to remove the four screws binding the hard drive to the enclosure. Once removed, bend the aluminum screw brackets upward.

Disassembly of a LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive

 

4) With the exception of the power and data cables, the drive is free at this point. Carefully turn the enclosure over so that the drive slips out of the case. Gently pull the slack out the cables that are still plugged into the drive and begin wiggling the power cable out (the transparent connector with four wires).

Disassembly of a LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive

 

5) Once the power connector is unplugged, do the same for the data cable. Do not be forceful with the ribbon cable. Through trial and error, I have broken these cables before, and they aren’t fun to try to fix. Additionally, you don’t want to end up with bent pins on the hard drive itself. If the ribbon connector doesn’t come off easily, unplug the other end from the board attached to the enclosure. Since the drive will then be free, you will have plenty of leverage to remove the cable from the drive.

Disassembly of a LaCie Porsche External Hard Drive

 

At this point, the drive is completely free from the enclosure. Congratulations!

If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment or sharing below!

Also, see my LaCie Rugged Hard Drive Disassembly post here.