Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Backup vs Murphy’s Law – My Take

This blog post has been inspired by events, not to me, but to a colleague of mine. Our discussion, was interesting, funny and insightful, but I thought hey why not share my experiences and what I use to teach others how to live a safer, “backup” driven life.

I live on Murphy’s law, for those of you who do not know what it is, “If anything can go wrong, it will” and with extensions “At the most inopportune time” and my favorite “it will be all your fault, and everyone will know it”. Basically it means that whatever you do, the closer you get to success the greater the chance of failing terribly, at the last moment. Therefore successful people are those who plan for the inevitable or develop habits which reduce this possibility.

My first experience with disaster came as part of my first job, an internship with an IT company many years ago. I was given the task of entering 2 years worth of petty cash transactions into an Excel spreadsheet, which I was saving on a floppy drive (yes we used them at that time). Anyway I worked on the file for 3 weeks, and then just as I was done (at the most inopportune moment), the floppy drive crashed, yes beyond repair, it was a mechanical fault. Since then I have never lost another file again, and I would like to share what I do, it may be a little extreme, but hey I am paranoid.

Maintain Multiple File Versions

Seems simple, but when do you decide to make a new version. My rules for creating versions are simple:
– At each major change in structure or layout or content
– Each day

So many files, oh yes, I create an “Archive” directory in each folder I work in so that I move the older files in there, till I next need them. At times never. Also I name all my files the same way FileNameDDMMMYY for example BackupBlogPost11Jul12.txt (that I am working in now). Tomorrow I will create a new version of the file BackupBlogPost12Jul12.txt.

Email – Copy Yourself

Strange, why not keep it in Sent Items, no way, I always copy myself on each and every communication. Some people would argue that “Sent Items” in MS Outlook or web mail is good enough, but I think not.

The advantages are:
– Since I apply rules to file my emails and Labels in Gmail, I only focus on the Incoming mail and can empty Sent Items and Drafts as often as I need to.
– I can find all threads and timestamps for when I sent the communications (I had to retrieve a contract ammendment sent 3 years before in one case)
– Thanks to Gmail I do not have to delete any emails so its a permanent record

Backup

Yeap the same old story, its like washing my hands, nope really, but backups are over-rated and always forgotten because they are somewhat of a dark art. They have to be simple, reliable and automated. For personal use my backup options are:
– Dropbox seems like I have over 4GB now
– Google Docs becoming more interesting since I can edit the files using Docs and Spreadsheets
– Online Tools that suit the type of file at hand

File Storage – Magnetic vs Flash

I do not trust flash drives, and I believe Magnetic drives (HDDs) are more resilient but I am yet to have my mind corrected.

What do you do in your case? Please share your thoughts in comments.

Mapping Adventures Day 1 – Introduction and Open Street Map

Mapping has grown by leaps and bounds, from the introduction of Google Maps, what was once the ode of cartographers and GIS experts is now available to the common folk like me 🙂

So wanting to learn how to map is one thing, getting the chance to do it is another, until well Fruits of Thought (http://www.fruitsofthought.org/) organized an exercise to update the information in Kabalagala, a local suburb of Kampala the capital city of Uganda.

The agenda was really simple, an introduction to mapping (and what we were going to do), the we were going to go out and collect the data, return for lunch after which we would upload the data we have collected to Open Street Map (OSM – http://www.openstreetmap.org).

The introduction to mapping was a simple affair, the concepts introduced where:

  •  Trace – GPS coordinates for a place, when entering these into OSM the type of feature found would also need to be described
  •  Track – the route taken to a point. The value of this was adding information on tracks, and side roads.

The GPS data collection devices were eTrex Venture HC Garminand GPS Receivers (https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=8707&ra=true) and android smart phones with Open Streetmap Tracker  a simplified app that captures the GPS coordinates of a single location at a time.

Well then off we were down to the dirty collecting trace points and grabbing data for a few routes. The team I was in was on a mission and within 90 minutes we had a 4km route and 40 points of data. That was the easy part; next step was lunch then uploading to OSM.

First we had to create accounts which was pretty straight forward since it also supports OpenID so I used my Google Account, yes I am a fanboy. OSM requires a GPS Exchange format (gpx) file which was easily downloaded from the GPS receiver unit we were using.

An initial challenge we had was with Internet connectivity as for some reason it was very slow that evening so the upload of a 600K file took forever and failed later, but finally we got it in. Once the file was uploaded we could access the traces at http://bit.ly/KK15ql to start adding more information. This turned out as easy as drag a building and facility type and place it over the trace point, give it a name and details … A baby could do it in their sleep, isn’t that what we all say when we learn something?

Well after all is said and done we need to praise Google Maps for leading the charge, and so did this blogger “In Praise of Google Maps” (http://oleb.net/blog/2012/06/in-praise-of-google-maps/)

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