Well, my desktop is finally back up and running, courtesy of a new 160Gb Seagate drive and it's wonderful 5-year warranty. After struggling for the past few weeks to get all of my data organized and some of the digital photos I lost recovered, here's a couple of thoughts I have for moving forward.
1. I'll take Jeremy's advice from now on by not reformatting my drive unless it's absolutely necessary. I probably could have pulled some more images off my dying drive if I hadn't done that. But a bigger lesson here is probably to recognize the sounds of drive failure sooner so I never get to this point again.
2. Do a better job of backing data up. Simply copying from one machine to another obviously doesn't suffice, since that's what I did this time, only to find my iPhoto library corrupted in the process. Copy, but then check that the data is still okay by actually opening some files. And maybe use disk images, etc. instead of plain vanilla copies.
3. I had a tremendous amount of luck with Data Rescue II for recovering deleted files. Most of what I got back was from the Powerbook, not the dead G4 twoer. Regardless, I was able to use this to get back half of my Hawaii pics and pretty much all of my last Yosemite pics. And if I could have gotten my old drive to spin long enough, I'm sure I could pull more off. But with no luck in today's test, I'm ready to call it quits and move on.
4. iPhoto backup: All of my new photos are going to be backed up more regularly to DVD. I'm thinking maybe every 6 months or something should suffice. And I plan on grabbing another fire-proof safe. No point in having a backup if it burns away in a fire with your computer. In addition, I'm using Apple's Backup utility (.Mac subscription required) to archive my iPhoto library to my iPod. I'm not sure if I'll continue to do this, as opposed to simply generating new disk images to store on the iPod or simply using the option to store the full resolution images from within iTunes/iPhoto. The Apple Backup software is nice, but the archives it makes appear to balloon in size easily. I'm not a huge fan of just letting iTunes store the full res shots, since you lose the album info this way. Although this is a backup, and worst case I can always spend the time making new albums. The important thing is that I have the images. And it's really nice to let iTunes syncing do the backup for you. Saves an additional step by using a backup utility.
5. In addition to the steps taken in #4, all of my new photos are being backed up to my Kodak Gallery site. I had some pics there from a year or so ago, which is the only reason I still have some of my best CA images. But now I'm using their Premier service for a measly $2.50 per month to hold all of my albums. I'll probably only post random photo albums on .Mac with RapidWeaver now. Note that it's completely free to host an unlimited number of images (for now) on Kodak. My fee is simply to make it easier to share the albums with a few more bells and whistles. But the free option is a great way for anyone to back up their images. I'm uploading them there as soon as I import into iPhoto.
6. Home videos: All of my important Quicktime files (QTVR and home videos) will go to .Mac for web purposes, also serving as a backup. With almost a gig of storage, I should be able to put quite a few videos here for a while. Most of the quick vids I shoot on my S400 aren't too amazing and I wouldn't lose sleep if I lost them. But the important ones I now am taking better care of. And of course, these will get backed up to DVD regularly, along with my pics and music.
7. iTunes library: To DVD, of course, with the pictures and music. The iPod, by default, is serving as a backup of these files. Unlike my pictures and important movies, I don't have any off-site backups for this. I don't even have most of my CDs here at my apartment since I don't use them (they are at my parents' house), so I could snag those again and re-rip if needed. But backing up the iTunes Music Store purchases is important.
So, I've obviously gone mad in my backup efforts. But hopefully I've learned my lesson to make this process a little easier going forward.