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. 

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.

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.

A list of unread book lists

A few days ago, I wrote briefly about the need to make a list of all the book series I’ve started and haven’t yet finished.

Inspiration struck and I worked out how to do it easily and with productive laziness. Each book in a series on Goodreads links to the list of all books in the series. And since it’s a list maintained by the Goodreads community, there is no need for me to keep individual track of which books are listed. All I need do is track the lists, and the next book that I want to read. If I ever miss a book, then coming back to the list will give me the next one. I will only remove the link to the list once the series is 100% complete (or I’ve given up on it).

Doing this also cleared up my “Want to Read” list because instead of the remaining books, I have only the next listed.

Here are the results of my first hour of work on this. It contains the lists of books that were already in my “Want to Read” list. Now I have to go through books read for those series I’ve forgotten about and want to revisit.

Interestingly, there was no series in Goodreads for Walid and the Mysteries of Phi so I went and created one. 

Books

Graphic novels

A single list to watch

This afternoon I’ve combined my watch lists from multiple streaming services into a single list with JustWatch. We are in a golden age of television and I have too much to keep track of. With each service having its own watch list, I never get the full picture of all that I am part way through, or would like to watch.

Instead I end up jumping from one to another, and not watching anything. Now everything is side-by-side and there are some other benefits as well.

  • I can launch a show directly from JustWatch and track episodes or movies
  • Shows that are between seasons, will activate again when that new first episode drops
  • I often watch the latest movie trailers and now I have somewhere integrated to keep track of them
  • JustWatch will indicate what platforms content is on. Sometimes, shows I’m watching are both available for purchase and available on my local free-to-air channels at the same time. Saves me $$$.
  • It also lists items which are on special. Again, saves me $$$.

How to enter dates quickly

I find myself entering dates all the time. In filenames, for tasks and in documents. As I’m Productively Lazy I use a text expander to save me time.

Read through to the bottom of the post for a link to download the text expansions I use daily.

Date formats

I use 2 date formats. YYYY-MM-DD and d MMMM YYYY. For today these are 2022-06-09 and 9 June 2022. To create these I use PhraseExpress with the following keystrokes. All are set to run immediately upon keying in.

All calculations are smart enough to wrap over month and year boundaries.

Standard day text, used anywhere

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
d==Today as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-09
d++Tomorrow as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-10
d–Yesterday as YYYY-MM-DD2022-06-08
dd=Today as d MMMM YYYY9 June 2022
dd+Tomorrow as d MMMM YYYY10 June 2022
dd-Yesterday as d MMMM YYYY8 June 2022
d2w2 weeks from today23 June 2022

Getting Things Done

Within Obsidian I use the Dataview plugin‘s features to help me manage tasks. The way I work, I only need created and due dates. All are in YYYY-MM-DD format and is prefixed with a “| ” to help split dates on a row eg “| 📆2022-06-09”.

The “Next” abbreviations are smart enough to know that if today is Thursday, you mean Thursday next week, but Saturday this week.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
#==Due today| 📆2022-06-09
#++Due tomorrow| 📆2022-06-10
#1wDue 1 week from today| 📆2022-06-16
#2wDue 2 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-23
#3wDue 3 weeks from today| 📆2022-06-30
#4wDue 4 weeks from today| 📆2022-07-07
#–Due yesterday| 📆2022-06-08
#monNext Monday| 📆2022-06-13
#tueNext Tuesday| 📆2022-06-14
#wedNext Wednesday| 📆2022-06-15
#thuNext Thursday| 📆2022-06-16
#friNext Friday| 📆2022-06-17
#satNext Saturday| 📆2022-06-19
#sunNext Sunday| 📆2022-06-19

I use !!! and a the Dataview plugin to filter out the must do today items.

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
!!!Important| 🏆
!==Imporant today| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-09
!++Important tomorrow| 🏆 | 📆2022-06-10

Whenver I have a “@waiting for” task, I put in the date I started waiting using:

Autotext abbreviationPurposeExample
+==Started waiting today➕2022-06-09
+–Started waiting yesterday➕2022-06-08

Download my abbreviations

You can download a file containing my abbreviations for import into PhraseExpress. Expand the .zip file and the import. They will all work on Windows. The day based Getting Things Done abbreviations (Mon-Sun) may not work so well on a Mac.

https://quantumgardenerdotblog.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/dates.zip

Font Frustration

I really like using FontAwesome icons to help add context to text. A small warning sign or other suitable logo draws attention.

Tonight I’ve spent close to 2 hours trying to get the new Font Awesome 6 icons to work with Obsidian Publish on The Quantum Garden. I thought I had it beat when I worked out how to link my “kit” to a page. The kit means one line of code is all that should be needed for the fonts to display.

Nope. Not a chance.

And because of the way it’s obsfucating everyting, I am unable to fnd out what’s going on.

The only icon I do have working is the [[missing link]] icon and that’s because it is a special case. Even then, only the older FontAwesome 5 icon version is working and not the newly release FontAwesome 6.

Time to stop and allow inspiration to strike.

Pros and Cons of using Obsidian Publish to blog

This evening I’ve been experimenting with Obsidian Publish to publish a few blog entries to see if I can get a workable solution. Here’s what I know so far.

Pros

  • As all the writing occurs in Obsidian, everything I write is contained in the one environment. I don’t have to write here, copy there.
  • It is super-fast to link content.
  • I can link to content I’ve not yet written or published and as that content is developed, links will fill in automatically. I use indicators for pages that don’t exist.
  • Should I move a page from one “folder” to another, any URLs that have been shared with the old folder name will still work. Obsidian Publish takes care of all that. This means create flexibility as the site expands.
  • In conjuction with Obsidian Sync I can write and publish from multiple devices with ease.!
  • Page tagging is easy and because of the way Obsidian prompts for existing tags, means I’m less likely to have tag explosion.
  • Backlinks i.e., where on entry references another are automatically displayed without me needing to do anything.

Cons

An observational blogger

I’m primarily an observational blogger. Throughout the day I’ll notice something and think, “I wonder if that’s an example of…” and I’ll use it as the prompt to share what I’ve observed.

There are three reasons for this.

  1. Writing helps my solidify my observations
  2. Observing helps be become better at understanding what’s working for me and what isn’t
  3. It prompts thinking in other readers such as yourself.