Sunday, February 21, 2010

Annual Maintenance

I've been attempting to do my annual offsite backup for the last 24 hours. Every year it becomes a bigger pain in the posterior; every year I swear I'm going to do something different; every year finds me spending a couple days feeding a stack of DVD's into whatever PC I'm using at the time, trying to save the 60GB of data I consider critical into 4.38GB chunks (there is another terabyte of videos that can be recreated at some cost of my time; it would be nice to be able to back those up as well). Part of the problem is that I'm a bit of a digital pack rat. I have every file I have ever created regardless of its usefulness; accounting files from a program I used in 1984 through all the years I used Quicken up to the program I now use (AceMoney). I have every bit of MicroFocus COBOL code I wrote in my VW days (ya know, just in case MS-DOS makes a sudden reappearance). All the code and text from the original before I got lazy and transmogrified it into a blog. With 1.5TB of attached storage, what's the problem? Well, the "problem" is that backing up that much data onto stable media is a challenge. The easy way would be to go snag an appropriately-sized hard drive, stuff it into the MX1 enclosure I have sitting in the drawer in front of me, copy everything over to it, rebox it, label it and store it someplace secure. Fast and easy, but hard drives degrade a lot faster than DVD's and are far more sensitive to environmental damage. For large amounts of data, there just aren't that many good options. I would think that with the popularity of digital cameras and MP3's (54GB of the 60GB I'm trying to back up) someone would have come up with a sensible backup strategy for home PC's. There are services that allow you to backup data to The Cloud, but they are expensive (Amazon's S3), limited (gee, it's cool that you let me store a whole gigabyte, sire. Now what about the other 59?), or brain dead in some way like Mozey that doesn't allow you to backup files from anything but your PC's internal hard drive.

And all that assumes that you should trust The Cloud with data you care about, which is a huge assumption in my book given the recent spate of world-wide hacking attempts by the Chinese government and the Russian mafia. While I'm sure that what little we have would be uninteresting to these people, there is no way I'm going to put my entire life history at their disposal just in case they decide to swipe the $5.03 in our checking account.

Meanwhile, our government continues to pour resources into the on-going Kabuki Theater called airport security by constantly harassing people least likely to be a terrorist in the name of political correctness, and performing Keystone Kops routines resulting in shut-downs at the nation's busiest airports. And never forget that you pay out 1/4 of your income so these bumbling idiots can make more money than you do.

More signs that economic prosperity is not just around the corner: the number of jobless and underemployed stubbornly refuses to listen to the talking heads elsewhere on CNBC and their "green shoots everywhere" talk. And even the mighty Walmart has struck out (with apologies to Ernest Thayer).

Now here is an interesting case (as in the Chinese Curse): a Philadelphia school gives away laptops to their students, then uses the built-in video camera to spy on them. As usual, the school officials think that everyone is as retarded as they are:
The Lower Merion School District, in response to a suit filed by a student, has acknowledged that webcams were remotely activated 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to find missing, lost or stolen laptops....

Which is why a spy photo from the web cam was used to confront a student regarding his behavior in his own bedroom:
The suit, which seeks class-action status, alleges that Harriton vice principal Lindy Matsko on Nov. 11 cited a laptop photo in telling Blake that the school thought he was engaging in improper behavior. He and his family have told reporters that an official mistook a piece of candy for a pill and thought he was selling drugs.

Because any person with normal brain function would assume that a kid eating an Altoid was a drug dealer and that taking a photo remotely with a web cam of a kid in his bedroom is somehow not spying on him. Because, ya know, it might have been drugs and anyway it's for the children, and I meant well, and fuzzy bunnies! I call fuzzy bunnies!

Remind me again why we let these morons anywhere near our children? Has anyone bothered to look through this perv's other photos of children engaged in improper behavior that were obtained while not spying on them?

Enough of that; back to burning DVD's. I'd be curious to know what other people do for backups. Or do you simply hope and pray?

[Footnote: for years I've been referring to the Chinese Curse without realizing that a) it is very unlikely that they are in any way Chinese and b) that there are actually three of them:

May you live in interesting times
May you come to the attention of those in authority
May you find what you are looking for

Which, as curses go, are some pretty scary ones.]

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