Thursday, January 31, 2008

On the coattails of a dead man

This doesn't happen to me often. I worked on a machine today that belonged to a dead man.

A new guy is due to receive this box. I'm tasked with blowing it away and prepping a nice and fresh new machine for the new user. It's an odd feeling to look at someone's machine, seeing a list of "to do" items that will never get done, to look over the quirks of the system that they put up with, to wonder at why they organized things they did, to contemplate unread emails and incomplete letters. How deeply can one investigate at a system while still respecting a stranger?

It's eerie, and somehow very personal.

A roommate of a friend of mine once asked me about recovering data. After a few questions, it came out that her brother killed himself, and she wanted to look at his past doings in an effort to understand.

A story a few years back covered a family trying to convince Yahoo! to release the email password of a dead vet, before they deleted the account and the years of personal history that it contained.

Lifehacker has a few things to say about handling your online life after you die.

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