Rethinking Backups

Since we moved back to Minnesota, the technology in our house has changed pretty dramatically. From a Mac mini tied to a single desk we now have two Apple portables around the house. The 2.26Ghz MacBook my wife uses stays in the house and moves around quite often while the 2.7Ghz Core i7 13″ MacBook Pro I have goes from home to work every day.

Because of the extreme mobility we now have, I now need to rethink my backup solutions to something a little more flexible and more regular. Portables inherently are more prone to failure due to the portability of the device (moving around is never good for a computer).

Right now here is what I am thinking.

USB External HDDs

The MacBook carries a 250GB hard disk and the MacBook Pro carries a 500GB disk. The idea is to get an external drive for each matching the size that can be used for a bootable clone. That clone would be updated weekly (hopefully) and there just in case the whole drive would die and I would need to get something off easily.

I’m not going to get tricky with it, just pick up some generic external disks from Western Digital so that I have a relatively decent warranty that I can use if things go “belly up”.

Time Capsule

This is the big change for me. I didn’t think I would ever think about using a Time Capsule, but with Laura now having a laptop upstairs and the rest of the technology in the house being in the basement, I think it is time to finally put one in place to fix two issues:

  1. wireless backups through Time Machine
  2. wireless coverage in the house

That sounds like a good deal to me. The 2TB version should be more than enough to act as the main “always there” backup device for the house along with any extra storage I might need for larger files.

Between the two of them I’m fairly confident that stuff will be “safe”. Of course, those are the words of a dead man right there, but that’s what it looks like I am going to go with soon.

First, though, is that I need to actually get the money for this stuff. Until then I continue my Time Machine backups every week.


The Hubbub Around Google+

I really hope that every person who is praising Google right now and clamoring to get invited to join Google’s latest project has never fallen into any of these camps:

  • berates Facebook for knowing too much about us
  • laments the power Apple exerts on the web and technology companies
  • laments the size of Apple and other large companies
  • stresses privacy and ownership of content

If you have ever fallen into any of those camps you should be looking at Google’s latest offering, Google+, with increasing suspicion. This has nothing to do with how good the service will be, but more about how many people are fawning over the latest offering from Google.

I think it is safe to say that Google has taken the place of the “good guy” for many people, and maybe deservedly so. However, never lose site of the fact that Google makes money doing pretty much one thing … selling advertising. I think it is a fairly safe bet that all of the information Google will be gathering through its new Google+ service will also be to gain just that, more information on users so that their advertising can be both more effective and more lucrative. They have to make money after all, otherwise they can’t continue to offer their services.

Apple and Microsoft are both pretty straight forward, they want your money any way they can get it. That’s pretty transparent, and they say as much. Google has never been that transparent with their motivations (and neither has Facebook or Twitter or many other tech companies for that matter). A lot of time is spent on “don’t be evil”, but that’s a corporate slogan, not entirely the company’s motivation.

I hope that Google+ brings to light some good ideas, I don’t know what they could be because I haven’t used it at all, even though I probably will. However, with Google again trying to bring more of the web under its umbrella, I can’t help but fear that this could be another step toward the siloing of the web into larger and larger companies. I hope not, because losing the truly distributed web would be a damn shame.

Life Technology

An Opening for Rural Communities

Rural communities are dying, or at least that is the accepted wisdom within the mainstream media and those who live in larger cities. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest between what is better, rural or urban, but to deny that there are unique challenges facing rural communities today that they have not had to deal with in the past would be both incorrect and extremely shortsighted.

The questions should be what can we do to change things? The demographics are not going to change drastically for many reasons, but what can rural communities do to both keep those people who are currently there and maybe even grab a few from outside to bolster their ranks?

I’m going to focus on one opening where rural communities are in a unique position (I think) to take a huge step forward and encourage innovation in the technology realm: symmetrical, high-speed broadband.

I understand that there is a capital expenditure that is needed in such endeavors, but in the USA, asymmetrical broadband is the norm and is borderline criminal. People speak of the web as a publishing platform, but the current infrastructure leans HEAVILY toward only consuming. The paltry upload speeds keep people from doing two things: uploading large files and hosting their own stuff in-house.

Rural communities could turn this problem on its head by investing in networking infrastructures and then opening them up for people to use as they would like. Not only would it benefit schools, libraries, law enforcement agencies, government offices, health services and any other public services, but it would also open it up for the citizens to try to build companies in these areas because bandwidth is plentiful and affordable.

It’s time for rural communities to band together and start to think outside of agriculture and natural resources as the only viable economic activities and invest in something that can benefit everyone. Their small size would allow for cheaper roll outs, so less capital is needed to get going. Being smaller also would keep larger telcos off of your back (hopefully).

The future is quickly coming, so let’s get on board!


Final Cut Pro X Reactions … Reaction

First off, the disclaimer: I have not used prior versions of Final Cut and I probably won’t be using the newest version for a while either. iMovie has fulfilled my needs for a long time and will probably continue to do so.

This short post has more to do with the reactions coming out right now to the release of Final Cut Pro X.

I tend to get a good laugh out of people when something new, rewritten or different is released. The backlash is predictable and funny to read.

Yes, a complete rewrite of a program is not going to have all of the features of the last version. If they wanted all of the features of the last version, they would have kept the old codebase and just added more features. That’s not what happened here.

No, your specific needs did not probably come up in a discussion about how this rewrite should go and what features should make the first release. Will they in the future? Maybe. However, just be aware that your specific needs might not be met by this particular piece of software … and that is just fine.

Yup, Apple might be giving up your little segment of the market and moving the goal posts again. I think they’ve been pretty clear that an entirely digital distribution system is where they see things going, and new versions of their software are probably going to represent that philosophy.

However, let’s step back for a second and just imagine that Apple is doing exactly what they said they were going to do: rewrite Final Cut Pro. Looking at what is there, it looks like a solid foundation to build on top of, and one that is far more modern than the old version.

I expect that some major additions are in store for Final Cut Pro X from this point forward. The reactions have been over-the-top and reek of people who jumped when they should have waited.

I for one, look forward to using it in the future … like most new products from Apple.


Mini Host

Since around 2005 I have been paying for some sort of web hosting, every month, to pay for at least one WordPress site and some other, smaller, websites. It has been as low as $4/month and as high as $21/month (as it currently is, but they are not at all comparable). I’ve also tried my hand at hosting sites from my own home on a small server running with Intel’s Atom processor. That also worked well.

However, I’ve always wanted to take that last idea to the next level … to really set up my house as a mini host. Set aside a small part of the basement that I now own (WHOHOO!), get myself a server rack, purchase some rackmount hardware and then go at it! I would move everything over to those “new” servers (read: used) and run all of my business from my basement.

Yes, I currently use Rackspace Cloud Servers and have been very VERY happy with how they have worked. It has been great and made moving really simple because I just kept everything there and I could move wherever I wanted with no problems.

However, I want more power and the fun of doing this myself. There is also a need for a “large-ish” file server for backups here at home along with general file storage. A rack would mitigate the later need as well.

Right now I’m looking for a rack, talking with Comcast about what it would cost to get some static IP addresses to my home, and then searching out some used hardware to get started. I don’t need server-grade hardware, but I do want to get some rackmount cases and then get started.

Am I going to do it perfectly? Oh heck no, but I’m going to learn a lot and get to drill some holes and run some cable. I’m looking forward to it.