Autumn Equinox

September 22nd, 2008 by Potato

It’s Monday, September 22 — the Autumn Equinox. Have you done a quarterly* backup of your hard drive yet? No? What else are you going to do on a Monday?

* – I mean to do it monthly, but somehow the planet and sun only line up right for me every 3 months or so…

Every time I do a backup, I swear I’m going to go out and get some kind of incremental backup software, rather than hunting through my hard drive and doing everything the hard way, yet every year I find that I haven’t even installed the trial version of the software that came with my hard drive. At least with my external drive it’s a little easier than it was to back up to DVD — just drag ‘n drop and walk away for an hour. The drive is big enough for a dozen full backups of my important data (if that was all I used it for), so I tend to keep 3 on the go; once it’s a year old it can be deleted in favour of a new backup — an important thing to keep in mind in case you need to restore a backup due to a virus or corruption — if you only have one backup (e.g.: by syncing to a USB stick) and sync the corrupted file, you’ll have nothing to go back to… The one thing I am negligent on is redundant off-site backups. Despite having a close call with the house being broken into but the computer, thankfully, not being taken, I still haven’t gotten around to keeping a second backup somewhere else; I’m more concerned with the drive failing than I am with it being stolen, since I have much more experience with the former.

A neat little tool my paranoid work colleagues turned me on to is TrueCrypt, which lets you create encrypted virtual partitions on what is otherwise an unsecured external hard drive so that your data remains secure in the event some thief hopped up on goofballs breaks into your house and steals your backup. For the truly paranoid, it even lets you create two levels of encryption with two passwords: just in case someone knows you have an encrypted file but not what’s in it, and forces you to give up the password. Then, you can give up the surface password, they can look at some random pirated software or pr0n or whatever you want them to think you’re hiding, while your mind control laser plans remain safely encrypted behind the second password.

In an effort to prepare a few pictures for a powerpoint presentation (and back them up), I’ve pulled my ancient flatbed scanner out of storage to scan some of these pre-digital photographs. This is a slow process… I don’t really have enough pictures to justify it, but I think there could be an opportunity for a semi-automatic scanner that would back up hard copies of pictures and documents to digital. It would have to either be a hell of a lot faster than my old scanner (which won’t even run under Windows XP, I had to connect it to my server box and boot ME), or be fairly autonomous and run through a large stack fed to it without you having to touch it. A scanner we have a work can come close to this — it’ll scan as much as you can fit into the feeder tray (about 25 pages) and put them all in a PDF or other single file for you, but isn’t quite invisible — you really can’t use the computer for anything else at the time, and you can’t quite set it up to automatically create a new file for each page/picture with incrementing file names if you were so inclined.

MGL recently shared a story about his laptop catching on fire which is another great backup reminder.

Any other tips or stories on backups out there?

PS: The Money Gardener has asked me to do a series of posts as a guest column over on his blog. You can go over there and read more about Potato Wedges.

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