January 27, 2009

Data Backup Addendum

In answer to the backup problem, I ended up buying two Maxtor 500GB external hard drives for A$100 each. The backup of the Time Capsule seems to be working, although I’ve only done a cursory check so far as to the data integrity. I’ll need to figure out the best way of double checking the backups are fine - they’re no use if they are corrupted.

All goes to plan, then I’ll have more than enough copies of my work - my iMac hard drive, the Time Capsule archive, two backups of the archive on external hard drives, and the occasional DVD-ROM I burn of my workspace directory. Even in the case of a major disaster I should have a working backup from which to pick up the pieces.

I’ll make a post later or tomorrow about what I’ll be working on next. The weather might become an issue. The room I work in is a giant heat trap, and Melbourne is currently scheduled for the hottest week in a century, apparently. I’m only one stupidly hot day in to the heatwave and its hot and stuffy - if it doesn’t cool down overnight, by Thursday it’ll be like an oven in here

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January 23, 2009

Data Backup, Time Capsule

One thing I’ve never been that great about is my data backup procedures. For the last few years my backup procedure was to burn a CD-ROM or two every week of certain directories on my hard disk. Really important files would get put on a USB stick or copied to a USB drive daily to be carried around with me as a method for porting to other computers. All good in theory, but it had the teensy flaw that I’d often forget to burn the discs and the USB sticks and drives tend to get beat around a bit when I carry them with me. I’m also a bit wary that I’ve never had to test my backup CD-ROMs to find something old.

This year, I’m ramping up a notch in my efforts for proper backup. Today I set up a 500GB Apple Time Capsule (an Xmas gift) to work with Time Machine. It’s pretty straightforward to set up, which I like: less chance of me screwing things up. Example why this is important: I ruined the first two attempts to do the first full backup due to me curiously poking around with the settings while it was running.

The Time Capsule seems to run pretty well. It’s nice and quiet, although it does put off a lot of heat. For a little while today I was storing it in the foot space under a chest of drawers, but I was worried about the ventilation in such an enclosed space and on carpet. While it did have at least five centimetres of space on every side save the bottom, I moved it to a spare bookcase shelf instead. I’m not sure if I’m being a bit paranoid there, but it’s no good having a backup solution if it goes up and dies on you prematurely.

Time Machine seems to be good as a just-run-and-let-it-go backup service. I really should have been using it earlier, but my USB HD was a bit small and conked out on me around the same time I got the iMac and I never got a replacement. Now I’ve got backups of the entire hard disk every hour. I’ve still got to figure out which directories I need to exclude from the backups - there’s no point backing up temporary directories that change all the time - but that’s not urgent.

Now I’ve got an external hard disk and a regular backup system, I’m not sure what to supplement this with. The Time Capsule on its own isn’t sufficient, as in the case of damage or theft in my office both the computer and the Capsule are likely to be damaged. The Capsule is great for on-site backup, but I’m going to need an off-site backup too.

I could pay for one of those internet backup services, but I’m not sure that’s best for me. My internet connection is pretty darn slow and expensive by world standards.

Alternatively, I could get a couple of USB HDs and either regularly mirror the Time Capsule or do manual backups. Then I can keep one in an off-site location and swap it every now and again. That’s not too bad an approach, although it does mean buying at least two 500GB USB HDs, manually doing the backups and storing them somewhere that isn’t here. There’s also the possibility that Time Machine might mangle the backups without detecting the problem; it’s not much use having multiple copies of corrupted backups. Manual backups instead of mirroring could fix this.

Or I could stick to burning CD-ROMs. It’s not that expensive to burn a CD or two every week, and it’s easier to store them off-site nearly anywhere. Plus I’ll have a different method of backup in case one method goes awry. The downside is that I have to remember to do it, the directory structure needs to be set up in such a way that important files are all together, and there’s a limited amount of data that can fit on one disk (although I can go to DVD to help fix that issue).

And of course, I could do multiple of these. However there’s a downside to tying up the backup procedure with too much bureaucracy; I could end up just avoiding doing any of it. That’s why I wanted the Time Capsule in the first place.

I’m still mulling this one over. The logical part of my brain says the USB HD thing makes sense, as if the Time Capsule conks out then I’ll have a perfect mirror image with which to create it. And my gut feeling is to at least burn a CD-ROM every month or so in case something horrible goes wrong with the whole system.

I’d like to read what techniques you use for backing up your important data. Is there some nice techniques I’ve overlooked?

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May 10, 2008

Trialling MacJournal

Sorry for the lack of posts here. I haven?t had a lot to post lately. However since I should be using this journal more I?ll make an effort to do more post-worthy things.

I?m currently trialling out a piece of Mac software called ?MacJournal? to see how it goes. It?s basically a word processor for journals, with organisational abilities like folders and tags. It?s pretty lean but it?s the sort of thing I need for organising small articles and other documents. I also have a paid copy of VoodooPad, a personal wiki software, but that?s more useful for my own reference notes and less so for complete documents.

MacJournal also has the capability to interface with WordPress blogs, or at least it claims to - this post is my first test to see how well the system works. If this seems to go smoothly, I?ll start typing up more of these things off-line rather than in the WordPress editor. And I?ll strongly consider buying a licence to MacJournal in a few days time.

Edit: Additional

Well, looking at the entry above it seems like it gets through smoothly enough, but something is eating up my apostrophes. I’ll have to see what I can do to fix that next time…

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February 5, 2008

The new iMac in its natural habitat

My Computer Desk

My new iMac on the right, collection of USB devices on the left. I’ve got a fair number collected by now, although to be honest none of them are particularly flash. I’ve felt it was better to upgrade with more functionality than with higher spec computer hardware. Now the only thing keeping me from making the game of my dreams is my chronic shortage of time, lack of organisation and general laziness.

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Totally Mac

I’ve now got a shiny new iMac computer on my desk. I bought it a few days ago but have been busy setting up both the computer and the desk to fit in with the new computer. Not having a beige box under the desk means it opened up a better option for aligning things on the desk, which basically meant shifting everything I had on the left to the right and vice versa. I’ve now got enough room to start storing the assorted selection of widgets I’ve built up over the years on the desk itself, which is a time saver whenever I need to get to my Wacom tablet in a hurry. I’ll post the obligatory picture later as I’m typing this up at the lab during lunch.

Loading in all the software has been a real chore. The Mac software I have on CD was fine, but downloading patches from the internet has been a hassle. I’m on a wireless connection to the university, and speeds are slow. This makes downloading a 100MB patch something you need to dedicate an afternoon to, and while you can always multitask with the stuff you’ve already got working you can only really download one of those things at a time.

The other big hassle is open source software under Leopard. Mac OS X is built around a Unix backend which should in theory make Linux based open source apps easier to run, but unfortunately and paradoxically that isn’t the case. Nearly all open source apps use X11 a X server equivalent to run on Mac OS X, and the default version that comes with Leopard is severely borked. There are work arounds, but it took me the better part of a day to get them running.

Then there’s the whole issue with X11 and Spaces, the multi-windowing system in Leopard; they do not like each other. My current work around is to force X11 to run in all windows simultaneously; not the best of fixes, but at least it stops Spaces switching to the screen where I set up X11 all the time.

I’ve finally got it up to the point where Inkscape at least is usable. It’s crashed a few times more than I’d like, but I can get things done as evidenced by the new avatar I’ve loaded up on various forums. As a side effect for my efforts I’m going through some bug fixing for the Inkscape team, or rather I would if I could just get the code to compile (firewalls can put a crimp on auto-installers like MacPorts).

Overall I’m pretty pleased with the new computer, but I’ve got to stop futzing around with the internals and start using it to do things.

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