• 18 days until I can fully rest

    I’m now down to 18 work days before I get 2 weeks off work over Christmas/New Year.

    It’s important that I relax and look after myself.

    It’s tempting to think of all the:

    • Books I can read
    • TV I can watch
    • Movies I can watch
    • Video games I can play
    • Kilometres I can walk
    • Places I can visit
    • Miniatures I can paint
    • Photos I can categorise

    but the risk is I spend my holiday busy.

    More than anything I need to still my mind, That’s where the true relaxation and recuperation will come from.

  • The perfect mail merge

    We have a state election on Saturday. One local candidate sent a letter to our household today. We have four that will be voting.

    They could have sent a letter each.

    They could have sent it to “Dear voter”

    Instead, they sent one letter to all four of us, by name and the address had “The Buchan Family”.

    That is the best mail merge I have ever seen.

  • 3-2-1 Backup!

    I want to talk about backups. They are important, and always have been. Unlike grabbing photo albums on the way of of the house during a fire, the right backup system means we can focus on saving the most important thing in the house – ourselves.

    Today everyone will tell you to follow a 3-2-1 backup strategy.

    • 3 copies
    • using at least 2 physical media
    • and 1 offsite.

    For example, my family’s photos are stored on an SSD within the main home PC. 1 copy, 1 physical media, not offsite. I use SyncBack Pro to copy them to a NAS daily. Now I have 2 copies, 2 physical media and none offsite. I then use SyncBack Pro again to copy them to Amazon-compatible cloud storage. 3 copies, 2 physical media, 1 offsite. I’ve hit the 3-2-1 rule.

    In reality, the backup of my photos is a little more complex as it considers a couple of other factors. Let me take you on the same journey my photos take. You don’t need to do this yourself. Backup is always about “enough”.

    PC to NAS #1

    My photo management tool of choice is IMatch. They are stored on an internal-SSD in year/month/day folders. IMatch provides metadata management across the folders. I need to “back up” two items. The folders and the database. For this I use SyncBack Pro, set to mirror nightly to a Synology NAS. 

    Mirroring means all changes made each day are copies to the NAS. The result is an exact copy. Modify the source file and the destination is modified as well. New files are added and deleted files are deleted.

    For reasons that will become apparent, it’s better to call this a “copy” rather than a “backup”.

    NAS #1 to NAS #2

    An important backup concept you’ll hear in business is Recovery Point Objective (RPO). This is “how far back in time do I need to recover from?”.

    In my system, at this point, my RPO is zero. Once that mirror process runs, I can’t go back.

    Therefore, I need a backup of the content. Something that allows me to go back and recover from a previous point in time. The “backup” keeps multiple versions. Lots to learn here about retention periods and pruning, but the main differences is, “I can get an earlier version if I need to, even recover a file that was deleted.”

    For this, I run Hyper Backup on the Synology NAS and am fortunate enough to have a second NAS to back up to. Now my RPO is 1 year.

    NAS 02 copied to the cloud

    The files that make up the backup bear no resemblance to the original photo jpeg files. Most backup software will build a database of what it has stored, and create a large number of fixed size bucket files. Hyper Backup files are about 50mb. Either they are a mix of multiple photos, or if a photo is larger (video is), then it will span multiple 50mb files. This is a good thing.

    To get my files offsite I need to copy them to a cloud location. One 450gb file won’t ever get upload. 1000’s of 50mb files will. I think my first backup to the cloud was 30,000 files. It’s taken 8.5 days! Could you imagine being at the end of a 450gb file and having a connection drop!

    There is another benefit of backup software. Encryption. Until now, my files are unencrypted. That’s ok at home but not at all allowed (by me) if I’m to store them offsite.

    Hyper Backup (and most other backup software) allows me to specify an encryption key. The 30,000 files I uploaded were all encrypted. Only I hold the key and that’s safely stored in my password manager. If I lose that, my backups are useless.

    SyncBack Pro once again comes to my aid. It mirrors the Hyper Backup files to my Amazon compatible S3 storage. I don’t need another backup program. Creating backups of backups is probably inviting disaster.

    Recovery Time Objective

    The other consideration weaving it’s way through all this is the time to recovery.

    NAS 01 to PC – as fast as a file copy

    NAS 02 backup to PC – pretty much as fast as a file copy

    Cloud to PC – slow = days, but it is a last resort backup. At that point I’ve lost at least 3 pieces of hardware so my attention is probably elsewhere anyway.

    For God’s sake, test

    There is some complexity here. And I tested as I built it. I’ll also periodically monitor backups are occurring and test a restore. No matter what you personally decide to do, test you are backing up what you think and know how to recover it

    I hope this has helped you understand backups a little more than before. There are lots of resources out there, usually provided by the backup software providers themselves.

    Review

    1. Know what you need to back up, and how long you may need to recover backwards in time
    2. Work towards 3-2-1 backups. I’m backing up to the cloud. Copying files to a USB drive and storing a copy at your office is just as good. If you’ve encrypted the backup files themselves before copying to the USB drive, you’re good. Otherwise employ some type of encryption such as BitLocker on the drive itself.
    3. Test, test, test. 
    4. Ask your family and friends what they do to backup files.

    Addendum – OneDrive, iCloud etc.

    Microsoft and Apple spruik the backup benefits of their cloud solutions. They are better than nothing, but are not the same as a backup solution like I’ve described here.

    Firstly, they have limited retention periods. Let’s say you accidentally delete a file from OneDrive and remember 100 days later that you need it. Too bad. It’s gone. Microsoft and iCloud retention periods are not as long as you think. Refer their docs for more information.

    Secondly, there is versioning for OneDrive at least. That’s good, but still limited in time.

    If you have an iPhone, ensure you’re syncing photos to the cloud. Pay the AUD$1.50/$4.99 for an extra 50GB/200GB to make sure you have enough space. Check your Settings for the status of your backups. 

  • Half way to go

    Each time I hear the Sun is 50% through its life and only has 5 billion years to go, I feel sad.

    If we’re not off Earth and into the Milky Way Galaxy by then it’s all over. Colonising the Solar System is not enough.

    For humanity it’s less time than 5 billion years. The Future of Earth, gives us a billion years to get the job done at best before the Sun has expanded its influence and engulfs us. Weirdly, that doesn’t feel like it’s long enough. I’ll never see it but I can wonder.

  • What’s the real concern?

    I once heard the suggestion that a gravestone is more reflective of the people that commission it than the person who has died.

    It’s similar to you buying a present for someone that you’d really like to receive yourself.

    And that’s similar to pet owners more concerned with discussing the breed of their pet rather than how their pet is part of their life.

    Makes me wonder what’s most important.

  • Balance restored

    My Apple AirPods failed this morning. When I inserted them into my ears, nothing. They weren’t connecting to the phone either.

    I had to wonder if they had somehow died. For several months now the left ear has been at a lower volume than the right. It’s possible to shift the balance but that impacted my other headphones. So, if today was their death, so be it.

    Did the only thing possible, unpair and repair them.

    Worked perfectly and the left ear is back to normal. Weird.


    Ah ha! My daughter had left her AirPods where I normally leave mine and I picked up the wrong ones at breakfast. Sadly no miracle recovery of balance. Still leaning to the right.

  • A week of distraction with a change in tech

    This week I replaced my Drobo 5C multiple-drive unit with a Synology Ds920+ NAS. It’s been a week of learning, waiting, and very tiring as I juggled hard drives, file locations, backups, new software and more. 

    Now, everything is running as I like it. Backups have have been tested and are now running so I can relax a little more.

  • Observe the music

    Observe the music

    Changing how we observe our world by becoming a different observer is powerful. A power that gives us more choice.

    If you ever need reminding that observing differently can make a difference to how you feel in your soul you can:

    • Listen to a favourite piece of music in a different location, on better headphones, or in a dark room.

    • Listen to a remix or remaster – I recently closely listened to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 2003. I hadn’t realised it was a remix of the original music and not just a remaster.*

    • Listen to the Dolby Atmos mix of a favourite album, if available, on Apple Music (Spatial Audio). Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason (Remix 2019) is currently doing it for me and is the prompt for this post.

    A little change in how you observe the world can make all the difference. As they say, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”


    *For the record I didn’t like it that much. The original is wired into my nervous system after hundreds of listens over 35 years.

  • The last third?

    Board members are elected for three terms, on a rolling basis.

    The first term… to learn

    The second term… to be productive

    The third term… to mentor the new first years.

    My sense is I’m now beginning the third term of my career. I’m looking forward to it. 

  • Missing the big picture

    Today I recalled the tendency for my early career performance reviews to be positive, “but David, you need to learn to see the Big Picture.” I always left feeling a little stupid because I didn’t know what to do about it. I also felt frustrated because those telling me I needed to see the big picture couldn’t even explain what it was, let alone how I should get there.”You just need to learn how.”

    At every moment we are limited to observing only what our Way of Being allows us to observe – even if it is objectively there for another to see. To change how we are as an observer requires a perturbation in our nervous system. Telling someone they are not seeing the big picture is not enough. 

    For this change to occur there must be an observer of how we observe. Only then can we make a positive change.

    An episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares is on in the background as I write. Gordon is the coach helps failing restaurant owners observe what they are unable to observe themselves.

    When you’ve hit a wall and don’t seem to be going where you need to, get someone to help you observe what you can’t see yourself. That somebody can be a coach, words written in a book/article, or a podcast. It can, with practice, even be ourselves. The process is called second-order learning.