Category: Computers and Internet

Backup Adventures

After reading Scott’s personal backup post a while ago, I finally got around to revisiting my backup situation a couple of months ago.

I’ve written about my awesome Home Server before. It’s been faithfully backing up my computers for me for many, many years, and at some point I have to start worrying about what will happen when it dies. A year or so ago I bought a new disk that I’m using to share content between computers, mostly my Zune music collection that just keeps growing, thanks to the old ’10 DRM-free downloads a month’ plan.

About a month ago I got a Western Digital My Passport drive and decided to use the backup software that came with it. The drivers and software installed some updates, and a few reboots (and many hours) later, I had a happily backed up drive. Awesome stuff.

However, I found that every time I restarted my computer, the backup service program would crank up CPU usage for minutes and minutes, and would scan and re-scan files that had presumably been backed up already. This kept happening and made the computer unusable for a good while. Online searches revealed that others have also had this problem.

So instead I’m trying a mixture of TrueCrypt and SyncToy, to protected the contents and to make it easy to keep things backed up.

TrueCrypt seems pretty great so far – I’ll be donating next week if all goes well. It takes a few minutes to set things up, and the support and online docs are pretty great. It’s also open source, which never hurts.

SyncToy is an old classic. While Microsoft has been focusing more on SkyDrive integration lately, the tool works just fine. Ultimately there are two things I want to do with SyncToy: keep a backup of things I work with regularly, and archive things I no longer care about. Because there is always a time-sensitivity aspect to this, I’ve lately come to organize my folders more by time (or sub-folders of important things by time), typically by year. From an old article, I can see what my options are for subscribing.

  • Sync. Copies new and updated files in both directions. If you rename or delete a file in one folder, that action is replicated in the other. This doesn’t work for me, because I don’t want any accidental changes in my hard drive to replicate back to my working disk.
  • Echo. Copies new and updated files, and performs deletes and renames only from the left folder to the right. This is a bit better, but when I want to archive content, I don’t want my local deletion to delete the archived copy.
  • Subscribe. Copies updated files from right to left, and only if the file already exists on the left. Changes made on the left will not be replicated to the right. Almost, but not quite…
  • Contribute. Copies new and updated files on the left to the right, while ignoring deletions. Bingo!
  • Combine. Keeps multiple machines in lockstep by copying files that exist on one side but not the other. Files that are deleted or renamed on either side are not affected or replicated. Again, changes in my backup drive shouldn’t propagate back to my working machine.

Let’s see how this goes. If it seems manageable, I’ll probably get another passport for robustness, and if things grow too crazily over time, I might get another one for media content (although with the ability to buy movies that I can then stream from whenever, that starts getting less and less compelling).

The other day, I got a recommendation for a book and I thought I’d go ahead and buy it. My preferred vehicle for reading these days is my Kindle, which I love dearly for the clean typography and ridiculously long battery life, but I was shocked to see that the Kindle edition was considerably more expensive than the paperback.

Curious, I bing’ed a bit, and it seems that there are two candidate explanations.

1. The new pricing model, where the publisher sets a price and Amazon gets a cut, means that Amazon can’t lower the price as aggressively. This doesn’t explain why publishers would start up so high to begin with though.

2. Because folks are willing to pay for it anyway.

Now, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to pay more for the Kindle edition, or just get the paperback which isn’t so bad after all (I still need to find somewhere to keep the book I suppose, or donate it when I’m done). In the end, I ended up just not buying the book altogether – I have other stuff to read in any case.

I thought I’d leave Amazon some feedback about the “freezing effect” this price structure had, but after spending about 5-10 minutes (an eternity in Internet time), I couldn’t find a way to leave feedback.

Amazon, your customer spends time trying to contact you, but cannot find any way to get in touch with you directly.

Your engagement strategy is disappointing.

There’s nothing on the banner, or the rest of the home page. Searching for ‘feedback’ yields only products. Looking under ‘help’, it seems I can only send feedback about vendors. The “Community” section seems to be mostly about rating products as well, so that doesn’t look very promising. Searching on search engines yields vendor feedback as well.

And so I have a blog post, no book, and more questions than answers on how book pricing works these days.

Por ahora todos los posts vinieron del iPhone, ahora que estoy en casa finalmente configuré el Windows Live Writer, así que de ahora en más puedo subir cosas desde acá.

No hay mucho para actualizar más allá de las fotos de Europa que subí por ahora, y el fin de semana se viene movido, pero bueno, está abierta la puerta.

Just saw it now – a bit late, I guess, but still mighty awesome.

One of the things that I’ve notices about my home server is that is has a lot of little touches here and there that make it a pleasure to use.

For example, the server can be set up so you can access your files over a web interface. Now if you want to download a bunch of files all at once, typically this is a pain using a browser. The server, however, allows you to choose multiple files (including folders) using a single page with check boxes, and then you can hit a ‘Download’ button to have the server pack everything into a .zip file and send you that over the wire.

Very, very nice.

Ya hay más de una persona interesada en saber, así que armo una pequeña guía para que quede online.

Empecemos con la forma más sencilla de hacerlo, sin retocar el video ni nada.

Lo primero que hay que hacer es instalarse las herramientas de Windows Live, que están disponibles en Es todo gratis, así que no hay problema con bajar e instalar.

Esto se hace una única vez y ya queda.

Lo segundo es traer el video de una camarita a la computadora. Para hacer eso, simplemente enchufen la camarita, y cuando Windows les pregunte qué quieren hacer, eligan la opción de importar a Windows Live Photo Gallery.

El Windows Live Photo Gallery es un programa para organizar fotos y videos. Si ya tenían videos de antes, pueden agregarlos, pero no quiero irme demasiado de tema ahora, así que simplemente voy a asumir que le dieron bola al programa y lograron importar las fotos y videos de su camarita. Eventualmente van a encontrarse con algo como esto, donde tienen que elegir la opción de alguna de las carpetas con fotos o la de "My Videos" (si no recuerdo mal, aparecen con las fotos en realidad).

Lo que viene es bastante fácil, y ya les va a dejar ver el video en Internet. Hagan click derecho en el video que quieran subir a Internet, y elijan la opción de "Publish on MSN Soapbox…".

Ahí va a aparecer una ventana con opciones sobre el video, y tienen que llenar todas (sí, todas, incluso las que son fáciles de olvidarse).

Después un clic en Publish, y aparece una ventana avisando que el video se está subiendo, normalmente esto va a estar un buen rato porque los videos tienen un tamaño relativamente grande. Cuando termine, una ventana les va a dar la opción de elegir "View Video", con lo cual van a ver que su video ya está en Internet! (bueno, a veces hay que esperar unos minutos hasta que lo terminen de procesar, pero a Lau ya le pasó de subir algo y que esté disponible de inmediato).

Una vez que tienen esto, ya  están lisos para usar el Windows Live Writer, que también vino con las herramientas de Windows Live. Éste le van a tener que encontrar desde Start, Windows Live, Windows Live Writer, y la primer vez que lo corran van a tener que incluir la misma información que usan para el Spaces y el Messenger. El programa baja el "look" del sitio, y ya están listos para escribir algo.

Para escribir un artículo con el Live Writer que incluya video, simplemente escriban el título, y para el cuerpo, hagan click en "Insert Video…"

Cuando aparezca la ventana para subir el video, simplemente hagan click en "Insert from Soapbox" en la parte de arriba, y después "Uploaded Videos" en la parte de la izquierda. Ahí les va a aparecer todos los videos que hayan elegido, y con eso pueden agregarlo al artículo.

Finalmente para subir el artículo (pueden escribir lo que se les ocurra, por supuesto), hagan click en el botón de "Publish" (arriba a la izquierda), y ya está!

Si tienen alguna pregunta, háganla acá y la respondo y/o retoco este artículo para contestarla.


A little something to work around limitations on laptop keyboards (I’m sure there are probably other uses as well, but this has worked quite well for me).
I guess these become less important the more the OS comes with built-in functionality, but of course someone dedicated solely to image viewers has a good chance of coming up with something specialized and mucho better…
FastStone Image Viewer was just referred to me… Perhaps I should give it a spin
Great, great stuff to keep things synchronized across different computers. Sure, it’s also meant to share things, but so far all I’m using is the "share across computers" feature, which keeps my music collection synchronized across the home laptops and the desktop computer. And having multiple copies of everything is, of course, most welcome.

Nuevo celular

Sí, terminé de perder el anterior, y el fin de semana me compré uno nuevo. Más chiquito, igual de funcional, con un teclado "slide" que funciona muy bien – en fin, muy bueno. T-Mobile MDA, para los que quieran más precisión.
He aquí mi primer foto.