Dept of Redundancy Dept

by Kieran Healy on December 6, 2005

I’ve been moving house, so my apologies for the lack of content (as we used to say in those late-90s, Venture Capital days when CT was set to become a major portal/ bookseller/ search-engine/ content-provider … Ah, “content”—fungible like money, homogenous like lard, extrudable like sausage. A marvelous substance.) The other day our own John and Belle suffered a nasty double-meltdown of their computers. This prompted me to do something I should have done ages ago, which is set up an off-site backup system. Like John and Belle I’d previously relied on synchronizing my laptop and desktop machines (using Unison). Properly backing-up your data can be a pain, but then so can losing everything. Thankfully, though, the Interwebs nowadays provide some useful and easy-to-use services in addition to all that content (consistency somewhere between Hellman’s Mayonnaise and Cool-Whip; can be used as spackle if needed). So I’ve also signed up for a basic account with Strongspace, part of Dean Allen et al’s Textdrive outfit. With the assistance of a helpful tutorial from MagpieBrain (Part One, Part Two, Part Three), I now have secure, automated, passwordless, incremental, daily remote backups of the important stuff on my Mac. Strongspace starts at eight bucks a month for just over 4GB of space (and unlimited bandwidth). I recommend it. (And they’re not even paying me to endorse them.)

{ 12 comments }

1

Ben 12.06.05 at 12:37 pm

Probably worth noting that TextDrive was just acquired by Joyent, the company that John Gruber works at.

2

neil 12.06.05 at 1:02 pm

By the way, have you seen that Guinness ad?

(ow! ow! ok, i’ll stop!)

3

dave heasman 12.06.05 at 1:05 pm

It should be possible to backup to your Ipod, or to a few linked Gmail accounts, but I’m currently too lazy to work out how.
Has anyone done it?

4

jacob 12.06.05 at 2:15 pm

As I understand it, once you upload your data to a third-party site, it’s no longer covered by your fourth amendment right to privacy, at least in the United States. That is, you can refuse to show authorities the content of your hard drive unless they have a warrant, but should the government come asking at Strongspace, they can (and probably will) show it just for the asking, and without asking or even telling you.

Call me paranoid, but that’s why I’ve always been afraid of using such a service. (It’s also why I don’t really like storing my email on a server I don’t control.)

Of course, I could be wrong, or the law may have changed since I kept up with such things seven or eight years ago. Anyone know for certain?

5

grant 12.06.05 at 4:09 pm

Call me paranoid, but that’s why I’ve always been afraid of using such a service. (It’s also why I don’t really like storing my email on a server I don’t control.)

I hope you encrypt your email too, otherwise having the server under your control affords virtually no protection.

6

a 12.06.05 at 5:15 pm

The service also seems damn expensive. I’d need 160 Gb – that costs 290 Usd a month. Better to buy a hard drive every month and mail it to a relative.

7

ben wolfson 12.06.05 at 5:40 pm

It should be possible to backup to your Ipod, or to a few linked Gmail accounts, but I’m currently too lazy to work out how.

Some guy made a gmailfs for Linux, that lets you access your gmail account’s space as if it were just another part of your filesystem. You could maybe extend it to work on multiple accounts (actually I suggested that to him not long after it came out, but he said he didn’t want to take advantage of Google).

8

Kieran Healy 12.06.05 at 5:44 pm

The service also seems damn expensive. I’d need 160 Gb – that costs 290 Usd a month. Better to buy a hard drive every month and mail it to a relative.

Yeah, well I was pretty selective about what I backed up, and pretty much all of my data and papers, etc, are in plain-text format. So it only came to 3GB or so.

9

jacob 12.06.05 at 7:11 pm

I hope you encrypt your email too, otherwise having the server under your control affords virtually no protection.

I’m scared of the government legally looking at my emails. I’m less scared of a renegade looking at my unencrypted emails. The point is not what someone can do in terms of technological feasibility, but what legal protections there are.

10

nnyhav 12.07.05 at 9:14 am

Re: post title: In the computer context, the pairing of the Department of Redundancy Department with the Small Animal Administration (cf ‘phthisozoics’, a Benthamism denoting the elimination of noxious critters i.e. bugs, with a corrupt e[n]tymology to match) indicates the technicological savvy of those 4 or 5 crazee guys (aka Firesign Theatre), perhaps extending to the chronobackup capabilities of Nick Danger, Third Eye (how can you be in two places as once when you’re not anywhere at all?)

11

James Wimberley 12.07.05 at 10:08 am

I decided instead to get a second internal 120GB hard drive, which I have set up for automatic daily incremental backups of my “documents and settings” and a weekly full backup of the entire main partition on the working hard drive. Cost about €70. So it’s a lot cheaper, assuming the HD lasts more than a year. Plus I get much more capacity, can get the computer up and running in a day if the first HD crashes, and am not dependent on a working Internet connection. Not so good against earthquake, fire and theft. (The backup partition is a second one; I’ve left 10GB for a boot partition on which I would reinstall Windows from CD, as I can’t figure out how to dual boot Windows clones).

A wonderful free recovery tool for non-geeks is Knoppix – a self-booting Linux distro with applications on a CD. I managed to salvage key data files onto a USB stick with Knoppix when my old (actually brand new) Windows HD died.

12

John Quiggin 12.08.05 at 12:18 am

It’s easy to set your iPod up as a hard disk, and you can then use a standard sync package for backups.

My backup procedure is a twice-daily sync, first Home-iPod-Work, then Work-Ipod,Home. So, apart from the current day’s work, I always have three copies of my work files in two locations.

Mind you, it appears that John and Belle used much the same setup, and it didn’t save them from trouble.

I also have an external HD, but I’m very slack about backing up to it.

Comments on this entry are closed.