That's a Spicy Meatball!
telnet spaceclaw.net

telnet spaceclaw.net

My last ten years according to my passport
Recollect is entering public beta today with this great article from Wired

Recollect is entering public beta today with this great article from Wired

After a successful launch of a new Maps app, Apple quickly follows with an update to their Notes app for iOS 6

After a successful launch of a new Maps app, Apple quickly follows with an update to their Notes app for iOS 6

Pros and Cons of driving up to Portland for XOXO from SF instead of flying like everyone else

Pros

  1. Finished the Game of Thrones audiobook
  2. Got +16 points on Foursquare for checking into a Taco Bell in Oregon
  3. I can fill up my trunk with donuts when I leave
  4. Brought more board games than clothes
  5. Saw a lot of trees

Cons

  1. Gas probably cost as much as a plane ticket
  2. Inevitable regret of eating Taco Bell
  3. My butt is numb
Backups and the lifecycle of sandwich photos

I spend a lot of time thinking about a data preservation and backup redundancy. It’s my job. I recently read Mat Honan’s data recovery post mortem to his well publicized hacking and it scared me into taking a few hours tonight and re-evaluating my personal backup strategy.

I have a Macbook Pro with a 256 GB SSD drive as my main drive and a 750 GB ATA drive in the DVD slot.

Partitions

The partitions are laid out like this:

Partitions

The 256 GB SSD is divided into main (200 GB) and bootcamp (50 GB). The 750 GB ATA is divided into delorean (375 GB) and media (375 GB).

Partition Use
main My livelihood
bootcamp Windows 7 with Steam for playing games
delorean Time Machine backup of main
media Music, Movies, Archived Photos, Virtual Machines

Original strategy

My initial thinking when I first got this laptop was “How do I mitigate against the SSD dying?”, so I split the 750 GB drive in half and dedicated a whopping 375 GB of it (delorean) to being a backup of main. The other half is my music collection and whatever movies and TV shows I’m watching at the time.

I’m pretty paranoid about my music collection because of the ridiculous amount of time I’ve spent acquiring and curating it, so it’s been replicated on a NAS and three other hard drives, including one at my parent’s house. I have an old image of bootcamp on media and since the only thing that changes in that partition is me installing or removing games from Steam, that one is pretty covered.

Assuming that the backup strategy of media is “roll the dice” and we’re okay with losing the data on it, what’s the most glaring problem here?

If the laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged, then I lose everything.

This scenario has already happened to me before. I had my laptop bag stolen which had both my laptop and the external hard drive that I backed it up to.

"The cloud" mostly saved me that time. My photos were on Flickr, my code was on Github, and my important documents were on Dropbox. Even the code that I hadn’t checked in yet was on our dev server.

Revised strategy

I formatted an external hard drive I had lying around and made partitions of the same size as main and media. Then I cloned both of them to it using SuperDuper and configured it to automatically sync when I connect my laptop to the hard drive. Since the hard drive is hooked up to my USB hub that has my keyboard and mouse, it syncs every time I dock my laptop.

I originally wanted to have Time Machine back up to it but Time Machine doesn’t natively support multiple drives, so you have to change the preferences to switch which drive it’s backing up to. In case it’s not obvious, a backup solution that has a manual component to it is not a real backup solution. Some people have gotten around this by changing the UUID of the drives to match so it thinks its the same drive, but I can’t do that because one of those drives is always in my machine.

But…

The revised strategy is definite improvement, but it’s far from being complete. If my apartment is broken into and someone steals both my laptop and the hard drive, I’m screwed. If there’s a fire, I’m screwed. I should probably have two external hard drives and alternate them weekly and maybe even a third that I bring over to a friend’s house occasionally (although I guess you would really need four because when you go over there you would be swapping drives). This isn’t really a problem if you have an office because you can have an external drive there and one at home and you can configure SuperDuper to sync with both, but I’m currently working out of coffee shops.

I don’t use any cloud based backup systems for my hard drive like Backblaze, Mozy, or S3 (Jungle Disk, ARQ) because it seems like the restore option would take longer than just a normal rebuild, including Backblaze mailing you a disk.

An amusing thought about the lifecycle of a photo I take of a sandwich

If I’m sitting in a restaurant and I take a photo of a sandwich, this is what happens:

I unlock my iPhone, open up Instagram, take a photo, and post it.

Since I have Instagram linked to Foursquare, it creates a checkin on Foursquare and attaches the photo to the checkin.

Since I have Instagram linked to Flickr, it also posts it to Flickr.

I have IFTTT set up to copy all Flickr photos to Facebook, so it will also be posted to Facebook.

Meanwhile, I have Instagram set up to save both filtered and original photos to my Camera Roll. Dropbox monitors my camera roll and automatically sends a copy up to Dropbox.

My computer syncs with Dropbox so it pulls down a copy onto it’s hard drive. Because of my outlined revised backup strategy, Time Machine copies this to the secondary hard drive, and when I come home and dock my computer, SuperDuper syncs this to my external hard drive.

Meanwhile, back in the cloud, Recollect pulls a copy of the photo from Instagram, Flickr, and Foursquare, including the metadata. Eventually I will download my Recollect archive, which goes on my hard drive, which propagates to my secondary hard drive and external drive.

Confused? Here’s a diagram:

Sandwich photo diagram

I think that sandwich photo is going to be okay.

Further reading on backups

We built this tool to help people quickly download an archive of their Instagram photos.

We built this tool to help people quickly download an archive of their Instagram photos.

My Twitter social graph visualized by Recollect

My Twitter social graph visualized by Recollect

Introducing Hipster

Ever since I moved to Santiago, Chile in July, I’ve asked myself “What time is it in San Francisco?” multiple times a day. Sometimes it’s for something practical (knowing whether or not I should be on a conference call) and sometimes it’s for something stupid (figuring out whether or not it would be a good time to tweet because the majority of my followers won’t even see it). Either way, I need to know.

I tried to find an application that runs in the OS X Menubar and displays the time for a different time zone and I did find a few programs that sort of did that:

World Clock Deluxe ($19)

iStat Menus 3 ($16)

Unfortunately, they didn’t do just that. I couldn’t figure out how to prevent World Clock Deluxe from opening up a floating clock in addition to the menubar and iStat Menus wanted me to click the clock every time I wanted to see the alternate time.

Today I decided to just write it myself. Armed with a vague recollection of iOS development experience and the power of Google, I took the shell of a menubar demo and extracted some code from Menubar Countdown and tweaked it until it worked. Then I slapped an icon from Glypish onto it and called it a day.

Hipster looks like this in your menubar:

screenshot

Get it

You can download it here.

Installation

Unzip the file and drag Hipster into your Applications folder. Run it.

If you want it to run on startup, go to:

System Preferences -> Users and Groups -> Login Items

and hit the [+] and select Hipster from your Applications.

Customization

You may notice that there is no Preferences option. In fact, the only option is Quit Hipster. I realize the ridiculousness in a menubar application that only displays the time for San Francisco and my only defense is that this is my first Cocoa Mac Application and I have no idea how to create a Preferences pane.

Source code is available on github - if you are able to create a basic Preferences pane that lets you specify a time zone, I will happily accept a pull request.

You can change the time zone by opening up StatusBarAppAppDelegate.m and looking at line 41. Change America/Los_Angeles to whatever you need it to be and hit Build in Xcode.

sushi-motd

The other night I logged into our dev server to check something and got tired of seeing our standard banner, so I wrote a small bash script called sushi-motd.

sushi-motd displays a random piece of sushi ASCII-art whenever you SSH into your server.

screenshot

You can download it here.