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Computer Crashed New Orleans Real Estate Market 234

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-can-go-nothing-can-go-nothing dept.
sustik writes "For a month now the New Orleans real estate market has been crippled by a computer crash that caused the loss of online data from the late 1980s that should be researched prior to the closing of any real estate transactions. 'The clerk of Orleans Parish Civil District Court said Tuesday that her office continues to make progress in resolving the computer problems that have been holding up real estate transactions in New Orleans for the past month, but there still was no indication of how soon the crisis might end.'"
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Computer Crashed New Orleans Real Estate Market

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  • by rishistar (662278) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:09PM (#34333646) Homepage

    Did someone let them know that the Apple Computer they'd been using from the era had sold?

  • They probably requested a backup and some vendor simply partitioned the hard disk into two and made the backup save to the second partition, meanwhile telling them that the machine has two drive letters.

    Meanwhile, they likely paid the vendor millions to maintain the system...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Actually, even lazier than that. I just made the C drive a shared folder called "Backup Stock Market PC" - and then tell them that the backup is located on our server, at IP address 127.0.0.1.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I've been dealing with this issue for the last 30 days as I sell properties across the county and a few in New Orleans. It's been a nightmare. But apparently, the back up procedure wouldn't work for some reason. They've got it mostly up now though and or only missing the last year's transactions. Still a pain in the ass but real estate is slowly moving again.

  • A computer "crash" can not erase data. So either something else happened, or the data is simply offline.
    • I was gonna say, that's a heck of a long time for "data" to be in RAM...

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Maybe someone literally "crashed" into the computer. With their Hummer, through the wall.

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      Might just be calling it a "crash" so that almost anyone can understand that the computer is borked and you can't get the data out. It's a lot like how most people will say they have a computer "virus" when it could be a trojan or a worm. It's a catch-all term that everyone, even non-technical people, can understand fairly easily. Even if you've never used a computer, you can at least associate it with a car crash and come away with the conclusion that something bad has happened.

      Based on TFA, it sounds l
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by alvinrod (889928)
        Hate to reply to myself, but here's an earlier article from when the incident occurred. [nola.com] The article states: "The problem, which has been traced to a failure in the hard drive—" and "'The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST,' Atkins said Thursday in a written statement." which suggests that it probably was a disk failure that wiped out at least the directory structure for the files or the index of the database in which the records were stored. So a "read-head crash" could be the actual culp
        • by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:56PM (#34334398)

          When I see the phrase "The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," I interpret that to mean that they still have the deeds, surveys, sale contracts, liens, covenants and easements on file, on paper, in a cabinet.

          Which is good. It just means they'll have about 30 years of data entry to do...

          • When I see the phrase "The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," I interpret that to mean that they still have the deeds, surveys, sale contracts, liens, covenants and easements on file, on paper, in a cabinet.

            Which is good. It just means they'll have about 30 years of data entry to do...

            No, it means that the records haven't been LOST.

            They've just been, er, 'misplaced'. Somebody put them in the round bins near their desk one day and they were taken away for storage. We'll find them soon. Not Lost, not at all.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        I'll remember that when I crash a party, get drunk and crash on the couch.

    • Most likely it all got deleted, but was originally copied over from paperwork (I doubt they were storing records in a computer back then) So they're all probably furiously re-entering the data by hand, not realizing a scanner and a little help from google could get it done in a few hours.
    • by Albanach (527650)

      A MySQL crash can certainly corrupt INNODB files, leaving you needing to restore from backup.

      I've seen a power failure corrupt a ReiserFS partition leaving it unrecoverable. I'd imagine a hardware fault, or driver problem could cause such a crash.

      Plenty of us have seen hard drives fail, and most would describe that as a crash.

      So, there are plenty of crashes that can result in data loss. It's for that reason that they need to explain why there's no backup.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851)
      You do realize that the term "crash" isn't a particularly technical term, right? A computer crash could be anything from a hard disk head crash to massive data corruption leading to the box not booting to a literal "the computer just fell out a window and crashed on the sidewalk scenario." As for that last one as dumb as it is, I bet somebody here knows of a place where that happened.

      It's been the term used for a generic catastrophic computer failure for as long as I can recall, and that goes back decade
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Of course it can.

      If my hard drive fails catastrophically what I see is my computer crashing.

      If some idiot wipes the hard dive, what I see is my computer has crashed.

      If my computer crashes when my poorly written database program is making updates to the disk it can erase my data.

      If my computer crashed because it caught fire, chances are I may have lost some data.

      If the database file was corrupted some how and hence the database application fails at startup, what I see is that my computer has crashed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yes it can, you dolt.

  • . . . while you were all swimming around in your da'd's balls, I told my grandmother that computers did not make errors, but that the folks who program them do. And she gave me a lot of shit for that.

    I think the track record today proves who was right.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:32PM (#34334024) Homepage

    Their problem is that they've lost indexing data, not the underlying documents. So just make the documents, which are public records, visible to Google. Google will index them and anyone can then search.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Doesn't work so well if the underlying documents are scans of paper documents - I don't know if Google's PDF searching deals with OCR'ing text. And even if it does that assumes the scans are actually stored in a reasonably well-known format like PDF.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:34PM (#34334058)
    So, when did your data become important to you? Before or After you lost it...

    You wouldn't believe how many people don't properly backup critical data. If it's important, really important, here are a few tips:
    - Have current backups
    - Test the backups to ensure they work
    - Keep multiple backups
    - Keep the backups in separate locations, preferably separate sites if possible, and if really critical, separate cities (Disasters happen)
    - Keep backups in a fireproof safe or equivalent, it should be waterproof as well, and probably airtight
    - Even though you need to keep the backups secure, you need multiple people that can access it when necessary (Accidents happen, people die, people lose keys and forget combos)

    Those steps are simple, and a business can easily do all of them. Individuals may have less capability to implement everything. If you choose to do less, you are balancing the value of your data against the probability of losing it. I dealt with many many people who didn't follow those rules and lost their data. It happens, a lot. Business records, bank statements, novels, doctoral thesis, family photos, source code, chat logs, porn, contact lists, and more. Too may people blow off the importance of preserving their data until after it's gone, and when that happens, there are only two things that you can do. First, hope that a data recover place can recover some of it (all is a really long shot) but they'll charge you through the nose. Or two, deal with the lose and suffer the consequences. There are no miracles or magic pixie dust in data recovery.

    Tip for data recovery. If something happens and you need the data back, I wish you luck, but here's some things to do that may improve your odds. TURN OFF THAT MACHINE AND REMOVE THE DRIVE THAT THE LOST DATA WAS ON! Your computer is doing things even when you don't tell it to. If it writes to the drive, it may very well write over where your precious data was. If that happens, it's gone, period, for-ever. No data recovery place on the planet gets back data that's been written over. They may be willing to try, and charge you an outrageous fee even if they fail, but the will fail. Usually only part of the data is written over, so something can be recovered, but it may be useless. After all, half an exe is pretty useless, but half that novel might help you out. Sorry about ranting, but seen way too many bad ones, and I know you don't want to go through that.
    • You wouldn't believe how many people don't properly backup critical data.

      Hell, I get calls from "friends of friends of friends" . . . apply recursion as required. And, no, no one has a backup, and no, no one even knows the administrator password for their machine .. . .

      When a hard drive goes bad .. .. folks start to think about backups . . . not before then . . .

    • It constantly amazes me how hard it is to convince people to backup their data.

      At my previous job I did outsourced IT support for local businesses. We'd have a hell of a time selling them any kind of a backup solution. They'd rather just trust that things were going to keep working than spend a couple thousand on software and a tape drive. Or they'd never, ever change the tapes. Or they'd keep using the same tapes for years. Or they'd store the tape right on top of the server, so that any disaster that

      • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:30PM (#34334838) Homepage
        Uh, dude, if they had a backup, they wouldn't be coming to the computer shop for data recovery. But good on you for treating people like shit and assuming they know as much as you do about computers. Administering a backup system is a non-trivial task for novices. I'm sure people enjoyed hearing it was their own damn fault though. The little human touches are what makes being a computer technician all worthwhile.
        • Uh, dude, if they had a backup, they wouldn't be coming to the computer shop for data recovery. But good on you for treating people like shit and assuming they know as much as you do about computers. Administering a backup system is a non-trivial task for novices. I'm sure people enjoyed hearing it was their own damn fault though. The little human touches are what makes being a computer technician all worthwhile.

          Perhaps I wasn't clear...

          Basically any time we got a call for data recovery, from a home user or a business, the first question is "do you have a backup".

          It actually does make sense. Why waste hours trying to recover data from a hosed HDD only to find out that there's a tape in the closet nobody mentioned? It has happened.

          For business customers that we may never have worked with before, this is a very reasonable question. They may have a tape drive ticking away doing backups, but no idea how to actually

        • a snarky, snide, sarcastic comment such as this just fills my face with grin. Thanks!

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Thousands for software for backups?
        Stop scamming small businesses, amanda or bacula are free and a very good fit for such places.

        • Thousands for software for backups?
          Stop scamming small businesses, amanda or bacula are free and a very good fit for such places.

          Ummm... What I actually said was:

          They'd rather just trust that things were going to keep working than spend a couple thousand on software and a tape drive.

          Emphasis added for the comprehension-impaired.

          I never handled the pricing or billing, I just fixed stuff... So I really have no idea how much we may have gouged our customers...

          But we'd generally sell them some flavor of Symantec Backup Exec, or maybe Acronis True Image - both of which retail for a few hundred dollars. Throw in an LTO tape drive of some sort for another few hundred dollars. Maybe a SCSI/SAS/whatever controller for the server itself, another hundred or tw

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I spend 5 digits on that stuff just recently, and should have spent 6, so I am not faulting that.

            I misunderstood you I parsed that as:
            Couple thousand on software and ( another couple thousand) a tape drive.

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          amanda or bacula are free and a very good fit for such places.

          The cost of hard drives is so low today, that tape backups rarely make sense. A hard drive in a USB enclosure that can easily be taken offsite makes much more sense. It is far easier to see if the backup is successful (files don't need to be compressed) and restoring is also much easier (since you don't have to deal with multiple tapes, compressed files, etc.)

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Please show me the drive that can take 100MB/s 100% of the time and is ~1TB in size. It must also last years unpowered and be rated for such use. Max cost should be $30, the cost of an LTO4 tape.

            Hard drives are not for backups, they are not designed for that use nor should anyone trust them for such use. Nor are they available as WORM devices. Hard drives have a use, storing your backup data is not it.

    • by jav1231 (539129)
      "So, when did your data become important to you? Before or After you lost it..."

      Exactly! I've seen so many servers with hardware that dies. You manage to find a way to bring it back online and warn them that they need to replace the old equipment but they often don't. Generally, people think if it's running today it will be running tomorrow.
  • In some county in Florida the courthouse burned down about 50-60 years ago.

    Since then sellers have paid for title insurance instead of the buyer.

    Perhaps the Parish should foot the bill for title insurance. Just saying.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I am amazed that title insurance still exists. Well, not amazed - the answer is simple - lots of people make money selling it.

      This is a problem that has a VERY simple solution. It was solved for cars ages ago.

      The local government keeps a registry of all local properties (gee, they have to do that for taxes anyway). When property is bought or sold the registry is updated. When leins are placed on properties, or removed, the registry is updated.

      Then, if you want to know if a house has clear title you just

  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:41PM (#34334164)
    From a November 4 story [nola.com]:

    Because of the havoc that the storm [Hurricane Katrina] caused, Atkins' office had hoped to prevent future snafus by hiring a company called i365 to back up the data regularly. But, Atkins said, all that information wasn't being backed up.

    When the problem was first detected, "we were told it was a system failure, and they could get us up and running," Atkins said. "I don't think the court was made aware of the severity of the problem until late last week."

    What would have been due diligence on the part of the court clerk to verify that i365 was doing their job? And why hasn't this problem been resolved three weeks later? I can see why realtors have asked the governor of Louisiana to get involved.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:04PM (#34334514)

      What would have been due diligence on the part of the court clerk to verify that i365 was doing their job?

      Q: How does a non-techie manager determine when something isn't working?
      A: They don't. They wait until it breaks.

      i365 signed a contract. That was the due diligence.

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        i365 signed a contract. That was the due diligence.

        So if you don't get your data back, you sue them and they go bankrupt. Some protection. Sounds just as good as cloud computing to me.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          So if you don't get your data back, you sue them and they go bankrupt. Some protection. Sounds just as good as cloud computing to me.

          The company is ultimately beholden to its investors by law, not its customers... given who is satisfied first in a bankruptcy.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I dunno. The problem with this attitude is that it leads to one big race for the bottom.

        Whose fault is it that wood glue ended up in infant's formula in China? I'm sure the guy who bought the formula signed a contract. Never mind that he bought it for 1/10th the going rate, I'm sure that on paper it was called formula and not glue.

        Due diligence isn't about reading the paperwork - it is about doing your job.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ben4jammin (1233084)
      Can't say that I fault a non-techie for hiring someone they think is reputable and from that assuming they are covered. That said, nothing wrong with carefully shutting down the system, hiding it, and calling said provider and saying "it got stolen how fast can you have me back up and running?" That would have uncovered any flaws in the backup process.

      From my perspective, if it is located in the same building as the source data, it is a copy, not a backup. If it is offsite, but has never had a test re
  • ...through the seas of hyperbole and ill informed journalists who in turn try to dumb down articles for the masses. For starters article in question is talking about them working through the backlog created by the original crash. The system went down, most of it is back, but the office is swamped trying to catch up.

    "loss of online data from the late 1980s"

    The data wasn't lost. From T original FA:

    "The original real estate records HAVE NOT BEEN LOST," Atkins said Thursday in a written statement." (emphasis th

  • A computer glitch can shut down your entire economic system, and some spilt talcum powder can shut down the airlines... You people are paralyzed... The drama is priceless

  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:48PM (#34334312)
    Only Captain Hindsight can save them now!
  • Given the precipitous drop in home sales in October [nytimes.com], they can probably take their time.

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