PSA: backups

Dear Lazyweb, and also a certain you-know-who-you-are who should certainly know better by now,

I am here to tell you about backups. It's very simple.

Option 1: Learn not to care about your data. Don't save any old email, use a film camera, and only listen to physical CDs and not MP3s. If you have no posessions, you have nothing to lose.

Option 2 goes like this:

  • You have a computer. It came with a hard drive in it. Go buy two more drives of the same size or larger. If the drive in your computer is SATA2, get SATA2. If it's a 2.5" laptop drive, get two of those. Brand doesn't matter, but physical measurements and connectors should match.

  • Get external enclosures for both of them. The enclosures are under $30.

  • Put one of these drives in its enclosure on your desk. Name it something clever like "Backup". If you are using a Mac, the command you use to back up is this:

    sudo rsync -vax --delete --ignore-errors / /Volumes/Backup/

    If you're using Linux, it's something a lot like that. If you're using Windows, go fuck yourself.

  • If your version of rsync supports the --xattrs and --acls options (it probably does), use those too.

  • If you have a desktop computer, have this happen every morning at 5AM by creating a temporary text file containing this line:

    0 5 * * * rsync -vax --delete --ignore-errors / /Volumes/Backup/

    and then doing sudo crontab -u root that-file

    If you have a laptop, do that before you go to bed. Really. Every night when you plug your laptop in to charge.

  • If you're on a Mac, that backup drive will be bootable. That means that when (WHEN) your internal drive scorches itself, you can just take your backup drive and put it in your computer and go. This is nice.

  • When (WHEN) your backup drive goes bad, which you will notice because your last backup failed, replace it immediately. This is your number one priority. Don't wait until the weekend when you have time, do it now, before you so much as touch your computer again. Do it before goddamned breakfast. The universe tends toward maximum irony. Don't push it.

  • That third drive? Do a backup onto it the same way, then take that to your office and lock it in a desk. Every few months, bring it home, do a backup, and immediately take it away again. This is your "my house burned down" backup.

"OMG, three drives is so expensive! That sounds like a hassle!" Shut up. I know things. You will listen to me. Do it anyway.

Addendum A:

    Mac users: for the backup drive to be bootable, you need to do two things:

    • When you first format the drive, set the partition type to "GUID", not "Apple Partition Map";

    • Before doing your first backup, Get Info on the drive and un-check "Ignore ownership on this drive" under "Ownership and permissions."

    You can test whether it's bootable by holding down Option while booting and selecting the external drive.

Addendum B:

    RAID is a waste of your goddamned time and money. Is your personal computer a high-availability server with hot-swappable drives? No? Then you don't need RAID. RAID is not a backup solution. Even if you use RAID, you still need backups.

Addendum C:

    Hi, it's 12 years later and the above advice is all still valid! However, in the intervening years two things have changed for Mac users:

    1. Apple has made it damned near impossible for you to replace the hard drive inside your computer, even if you are relatively good at such things; and
    2. Time Machine exists and is pretty good. It uses rsync underneath.

    So if you have a Mac, just use Time Machine on both your dedicated external backup drive, and on your off-site backup drive.

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OSX Intel verbose boot

Dear Lazyweb, how do I turn on verbose boot permanently on an Intel iMac? (No, I don't want to hold down Cmd-V every time.)

On PPC Macs, the incantation was nvram boot-args="-v" but the Intel Macs don't have the same NVRAM variables.

Update: Hey, what do you know, it's the same command on Intel Macs, even though "boot-args" isn't there by default.

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PSA: Beware upgrading to Missing Sync 6.0.1

Dear Lazyweb, think twice before upgrading to Missing Sync 6.0.1.

I upgraded from 5.1.2 to 6.0.1 primarily because I wanted the new "SMS Log" app that archives the SMSes on your phone in a readable, searchable way.

However, they also replaced the "MemoPad" application with a new "Notes" application. Unfortunately, the new one is <LJ-CUT TEXT="full of bugs."> full of bugs:

  • If you have (say) 5 "notes" pages on your Palm, and you've edited a single character in one of them, then when you sync, you get a warning dialog about how "more than 5% of your data has changed". Because 1 note is more than 5% of 5 notes, you see. The only way around this is to change the sync settings globally to never give that warning for anything. Which is, you know, bad.
  • It re-orders your notes pages randomly every time you sync.

  • If you change a note on the Palm, sync, then launch the "Notes" app, your change isn't there. You have to quit and restart "Notes" a second time for it to show up. Their support goons had the audacity to call this intended behavior.

So, don't buy that upgrade. But if you do, it's possible to continue using the "MemoPad" application from version 5 with the rest of version 6: <LJ-CUT TEXT="Like so.">

  1. Run the Missing Sync 6 uninstaller.
  2. Run the Missing Sync 5 installer.
  3. Just force-quit the installer instead of rebooting.
  4. copy /Library/Application Support/Palm HotSync/Conduits/ MarkSpaceMemoPadConduit.plugin to your Desktop.
  5. copy /Applications/Missing Sync for Palm OS/Mark:Space to your Desktop.
  6. Run the Missing Sync 5 uninstaller.
  7. Run the Missing Sync 6 installer (don't reboot yet).
  8. Move "Mark:Space" back to /Applications/
  9. Move "MarkSpaceMemoPadConduit.plugin" back to /Library/Application Support/Palm HotSync/Conduits/
  10. Now let the installer reboot (maybe you don't need to do this, I'm not sure).
  11. Launch MissingSync and check the "MemoPad" conduit and un-check the "Notes" conduit.

Ok, but now you might find that the "Photos" conduit doesn't work any more. <LJ-CUT TEXT="So then..."> Apparently the MemoPad conduit from v5 interferes with it somehow. You can work around that by forcing the "MemoPad" conduit to run last. Edit /Library/Application Support/Palm HotSync/Conduits/MarkSpaceMemoPadConduit.plugin/ Contents/Resources/English.lproj/ConduitInfo.plist and change "Priority" from "3" to "2".

There, wasn't that simple?

Let that be a lesson to you: never upgrade.

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How often do you get to welcome your new Brain-Eating Amoeba Overlords? Srsly.

Best. Infographic. Evar.

Brain-Eating Amoeba Kills Arizona Boy

PHOENIX -- A 14-year-old Lake Havasu boy has become the sixth victim to die nationwide this year of a microscopic organism that attacks the body through the nasal cavity, quickly eating its way to the brain.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

The amoeba typically live in lake bottoms, grazing off algae and bacteria in the sediment. Beach said people become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose -- say, by doing a cannonball off a cliff -- the amoeba can latch onto the person's olfactory nerve.

The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up to the brain.

People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers, Beach said. In the later stages, they'll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes.

Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have been effective stopping the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said. "Usually, from initial exposure it's fatal within two weeks," Beach said.

In addition to the Arizona case, health officials reported two cases in Texas and three more in central Florida this year. In response, central Florida authorities started an amoeba telephone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water, or any areas with obvious algae blooms.

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Steve Albini Talks of Food

He is the curmudgeonliest.

Compare the advent of digital recording to an event in the history of food or agriculture.

Mayonnaise is as it is now known a bastardization of the Sauce Mayonnaise every saucier learns to make his first season as an apprentice. Pre-packaged mayonnaise sold in jars is almost nothing but tasteless vegetable oil and water, emulsified by gum and gelatin. I think this product is analogous in many ways to the CD, and it's introduction has degraded the standard of eating in much the same way digital recording has degraded the standard of music.

Current Music: Ruby -- Tiny Meat ♬

Daily Show hijinks

"I Am So Funny: My brief and wondrous career at The Daily Show consisted of making jokes about the Amish and trying to get Jon Stewart to love me."

DNA Lounge: Wherein you find evidence of fat men and rabbits.

Photos are up of Hubba Hubba Revue and of Gram Rabbit.

This week: The Birthday Massacre, Meat, and the return of dirty, dirty clowns.



Pulp Fiction Fucking Short Version

Pulp Fiction Jedi Version

Pulp Muppets

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metadata and wires

Dear Lazyweb, here are two unrelated questions:

  1. What's a command-line MacOS way to extract iTunes metadata from a MOV file (e.g., "Title", "Artist", "Year")? The Perl modules MP4::Info and Audio::M4P::QuickTime and AtomicParsley will extract such metadata from MP4 files, but none of them work on the QuickTime container.

      Update: 'mdls' seems to be the simplest answer to this for MOV files (but not MP4 files, for which MP4::Info works ok.)
  2. I put an extension on the cable of my cellphone booster, because a better spot for the antenna was a bit farther away than the 100' piece of coax that it came with. However, this seems to have made matters worse instead of better. In my experience in the past, all coax is more-or-less created equal, but maybe that's not the case when it comes to the frequencies involved here. What kind of cable should I be using for this?

      Update: I replaced it with a single run of RG-6/U quad shield ("Belden 7916A"), and it works a lot better. So either I had a crappy cable in there, or connecting two cables together was a bad idea.
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I think you forgot a parenthesis

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