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Sunday, 18 February 2018


There used to be a few good options for offsite/cloud backup, but these days almost no one recommends anyone but Backblaze. Some of its earlier competitors have either exited home backup services (CrashPlan) charge a lot more (ElephantDrive).

I've been using Backblaze for about a year to back up my internal 1TB SSD and an external hard drive -- works perfectly, recovering a file is easy, and it's essentially invisible. And it's only $50 per year.

For a year or more before I signed up for BackBlaze, I kept saying that it would take too many months for my hard drives to finish uploading to the cloud. Finally after I made the same excuse one more time, my son pointed out that I would at that point have been completely backed up if I had just signed up the first time I complained. I signed up that day and I was finished being completely backed up within a couple months.

I sleep better knowing my house can burn down and I won't lose 15 years' worth of digital images.

This sounds excellent, well done.
I’d join, only I’m not sure I have a fitting project.

Dropbox is free and excellent.

One can also have a friend keep an external hard disk for extra backup.

I'll make just one comment about backup, things like house fires, and thefts happen. They are relatively rare, but they happen.
There are many ways to backup your stuff off site.
But while you are deciding, get a 256GB USB3 Thumb drive ($68 bucks at B&H), put your most important stuff on it and mail it to your brother. Do it now.

There are many forms of backup, but unless you have an off site component you are not backed up. It can be cloud or physical.
I also bought a small fire safe and keep copies there.
Storage is way cheap, trying to replace your lost stuff is a nightmare.

My current top priority project is to lose weight and get in shape. I am a hiker/mountain climber in the Adirondacks and I completed climbing the 46 High Peaks 25 years ago this coming July. I want to be in shape to repeat my last climb (Whiteface Mt) on the 25th anniversary of finishing. I want to lose at least 20-25# by then. I'm down some but it is slow, slower than I planned so I need to work harder at it. I am improving my cardiovascular fitness in the process. I just today got my BP down to the border between normal and high BP. :-) I am very pleased and encouraged by that.

RE: Your book project. Never give up. The old saw "if at first, you don't succeed... does not end with "quit". My late eldest brother taught me his life motto when I was young which was "there is no such thing as can't." If you really want to do something, you can find a way.

You might try mindfulness. I find it is a great discipline for identifying what is truly important to you and directing your efforts toward that while clearing away diversions and distractions. You obviously can write, and you write well. You need to identify what are the roadblocks to your project and clear them away but don't surrender to them if the book is really important to you. You can write it.

Sounds like a good idea. Like many people I have multiple unfinished and unstarted projects. My favorite recent project was quite simple, mostly for me and whoever comes in the house that I feel should look at it. It's what I call a hobby book, in this case a selection of black and white photos taken on my walks around Duluth, MN. The hardest part was selecting the images. After that the hardest was pairing them up. I did not bother with captions or end notes, mostly out of laziness.

You can sort of see it online: http://www.blurb.com/books/8197557-duluth (expand to see it at a viewable size)

So I want to do another one of those, maybe better, perhaps in color this time. I'd like to take my time a have more of a focus rather than just a collection of photos I like. I'm considering tourist photos by the lake, which sounds weird, but I've been having some luck. Just need to take a lot more. Only place in Duluth I don't feel awkward photographing close.

One suggestion for your backups with your offline computer. Set a calendar reminder to make a thumb drive copy of all your recent writing, then use another computer to upload it somewhere like google drive, maybe with the date and working title in the filename. Once a week should do it.


I've had a pretty good experience with Carbonite as an off-site backup plan. Not too expensive, very good support and it saved me once when both my internal hard drive and external hard drive failed within hours of each other.

I wish you luck with your book Mike. I have followed your blog for ten years now perhaps, and you really know how to write well.

Actually, I have a project too. I thought I should photograph my geraniums, and perhaps other flowers, with a vanitas theme. It sounds silly, perhaps. but there is a corner in my apartment that works well and a couple of photos turned out quite good so far.

Also, I have learned how to do lumen prints, but now I need to find better motives than flowers which can be a bit banal.

On a more general level, I wish to start making photos again. I did an exhibition a few years ago that worked out well, but haven't had a good theme for my photos for a while.

Thanks for this opportunity Mike, and I will try to encourage you if I can.

I think the Sunday checkin is a great idea! And for backup, BackBlaze is great, has a solid, real Mac OS client(they have former Apple developers on their team and it shows), and can even send you a USB drive with your data if you ever need to recover it, In case downloading everything would take too long.

As far as Project, I'm not so certain. I have many projects, but I should look at finding a common thread to help keep myself on track.

I'm building a robot that'll draw with light (for time exposure photography). Although the learning curve is steep, I'm having fun.

All of this requires writing code and building circuits to modulate light, control stepper motors, and utilize sensors--Arduinos are super cool.

Fortunately, I'm patient and understand learning involves one step forward then two steps back.

I was inspired by the November 15th post "Digitizing 35mm Slides and Negatives" by Henning Wulff to begin digitizing my father's slide collection. When he died, he left approximately a thousand Kodachrome slides dating from 1947 until he quit photography in 1964.

I intend to digitize them, and to provide flash drives containing the photos to relatives. I'm using a Nikon D610 and Nikon 60mm macro lens coupled together with a Nikon PB-5 focusing bellows and a Nikon PS-5 film holder. Using Lightroom, I shoot tethered via USB. Cleaning fungus from the old slides is the time-consuming aspect of this project and is where I need extra motivation.

I was having a little trouble reliably controlling a strobe, so I bought a small Dracast LED light source from B&H to provide continuous, color-correct illumination. It's working great now. Here's the rig...

Through this process, I'm learning more about my father even though he's been gone for a number of years. For example, in this photo of me from 1950, it's evident that he had a wicked sense of humor.

The Lightroom catalog for this project indicates that I have already digitized 588 slides. I'm over halfway done.

I agree with Mike. Do it now.
And if you have a text in progress, it can't take much space. Email it to yourself, put it on a old SD card, use a free dropbox. Anything!!

An added benefit of something like Dropbox is version control. Everytime you save you create a recoverable file. So if you edited the morning version too far you could roll back. This has saved me many times.

I've just switched from CrashPlan to BackBlaze because CrashPlan discontinued the excellent backup service they had previously been offering. BackBlaze is affordable, much faster at backing up than Carbonite, which I also tried, and so far I'm happy. The real test comes when I need to restore from backup. I recommend trying a restore of some small number of files as a check, prior to having an actual emergency. BTW, I also like Google Drive, not as backup, but as something that lets me sync important or current files across all my devices.

Mike -
Can I add to the comments that say the best off site back up is another SSD left at a friend's house, a friend who lives outside of your earthquake, forest fire and flood zones. Friends are cheaper and more reliable than the cloud.

Gosh, multiple projects! But I could use a support group, sure! My former best friends have all fallen away, and on of the 3 last ones left, my wife---she just hears it all the time. The others can't relate to this, really. Sign me up. I have studio projects, photo projects, health projects.

Well I just semi-retired last month and plan to find the time to shoot more. Now one would think that working 1/2 the hours you did previously would allow this time for shooting but house projects and taking care of 2 folks with struggles just take up the extra time. But still I have hope. Oh like the previous poster? That 20 pound thing? Count me in. I just started a Keto eating regime a few days ago with hopes of getting leaner.

In addition to your digital backups, also be sure to make a paper backup every now and again, just in case and as a backup of the last resort.

I recently discovered I had a handful of corrupted files on one of my hard drives and realized this meant the hard drive was in the early throes of dying, so I immediately replaced it.

Unfortunately, I didn't discover the corrupted files soon enough, because they had propagated through all my backups and I can't find uncorrupted copies of them anywhere. 8^(

Fortunately, I do still have the prints I'd made, so even though I can't make any more, I haven't lost the photos. 8^)

While it will be a major PITA to retype your manuscript, it'll be a lot easier than rewriting your book!

From Walter Isaacson's excellent "Leonardo da Vinci" ...

Verrocchio's collegial nature did have one downside: he was not a tough taskmaster and his workshop was not renowned for delivering commissions on time. Vasari noted that Verrocchio once made preparatory drawings for a battle scene of nude figures and other narrative works of art, "but for some reason, whatever it may have been, they remained unfinished." Verrocchio held on to some paintings for years before completing them. Leonardo [da Vinci] would far exceed his master in all things, including in his propensity to get distracted, walk away from projects, and linger over paintings for years.

I have to take issue with Bill Pierce’s comment that friends are more reliable than the cloud. I’ve worked as an engineer in cloud storage, and I know firsthand how seriously providers take reliability. One drive at a friend’s house is fine, but drives fail. Cloud storage typically has at least triple redundancy, so when a drive does fail, there’s no data loss. And drives do fail, all the time. A drive just sitting in a box at a friend’s house will fail silently at some point. A drive in a cloud storage provider’s data center is monitored nearly continuously. Sending drives drives to your friends is better than nothing, but I strongly recommend also using a cloud backup.

Off-site backup should be done right away and it's best to keep it simple, before you go through sorting out which cloud service to use. How about asking your B&B friends to keep a copy for you? Every time you go down there for one of their fabulous breakfasts, you bring a replacement. And you can offer to do the same for them. Or someone in your your billiards group. Or a safe-deposit box at your bank. Just get it out of the house, and the sooner the better.

Great idea!

As an aside, I use Google Drive for all my documents. The price is right: free. And it's easy, the Google Drive folder (where your writing folders would be nested) syncs with Google Drive in the cloud. Done. What's nice is you can then access your files from any device that has the Google Drive App (i.e. iPhone, iPad). I also use Time Machine and external drives as well, but for documents/files Google Drive is great. I'm kind of strange, I use Apple hardware and Google software.**

**You sure get a lot of "free advice" haha.

Maybe someday...I'll look for support for an OCOLOY project on Sundays.

Leaving a drive with a friend works pretty well, but is usually a few days or a week behind. You don't have a day job, or leaving the drive in a drawer at work is a good choice; one goes there often enough! Having it automatically backed up offsite without having to do anything, and within minutes, is better, though.

I've done remote backup to our own server, but never used one of the commercial services. I do enjoy reading Backblaze's blog articles on disk drives, though (like lensrentals.com and okcupid.com, the Backblaze people are using the large sample size they have to learn interesting things).

I live in a swamp of writers :-), fiction, non-fiction, ranging in a lot of directions. While no short, pithy set of rules is actually correct, Heinlein's rules for writers are as good as anybody has gotten at such short length:

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you start.

3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.

4. You must put it on the market

5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

#3 is somewhat controversial. There are people whose failure mode is tweaking things forever to get them absolutely perfect, thus never actually submitting them anywhere. J. R. R. Tolkien came fairly close to that, and if he hadn't overcome it a couple of times we never would have heard of him :-) . But not even Heinlein actually submitted his first drafts, as the evidence left in his files shows (I think "rewrite" meant, to him, a much bigger sort of change, not just making corrections and fixing typos).

Another vote here for Backblaze, but if it's just the documents you need backed up, Dropbox is probably easier.

I like the 'touch it every day' mantra. I've heard a number of great writers and editors talk about pushing through the discomfort of working when it's hard, just to get raw material down. One editor talked about a 'vomit draft' — just vomit everything out onto the page, and then start cutting, reworking and redrafting, no matter how disgusted you are with it. Another guy, who taught creative writing at Princeton, I think, talked about still being wracked with anxiety about the whether he could do it again, and the pain of pushing through those tangled weeds, even after writing multiple prize-winning, strong selling books.

They all come back to the idea that the answers are found in the doing.

@John Krumm: Your book looks really nice.

Re backups
Every month, I head to my bank lock box and swap portable hard drives from our computers. That's our off site backup. As a Mac user, I use Carbon Copy that creates a bootable backup. At home, we have dual Time Machine backups on eacH computer since they are used for work. BTW, I have lost several backup drives over the last decade, so be sure to check them regularly.
I suppose you could also use iCloud.

I have a ton (literally) of stuff to finish mailing, but this is such an excellent idea.
See you next week

I'm far more boring then I'd guess all your commenters, and probably most readers.
All I want to,do is clean my garage, and hopefully, keep.it clean!
In the past, I've gotten to certain point, and said to myself, "I'll finish tomorrow", and of course, that never happens.

[Tell you what, Fred, do seven minutes every day. I'll bet most days you'll stay a few extra minutes and do a few extra things. You know how the days go by. Before you know it your garage will be as clean as it can get. And then, keep going out there for seven minutes every day. It will stay clean. I'm betting on you! All best, Mike]

Many novelists write longhand on yellow pads—what do they do for back-up? What did Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler do for back-up?

I've lost many files to corruption. I've never lost a file to natural disaster. Keeping hard-drives in a Safe Deposit Box make no sense to me.

As iDevices take over the world, everything will be backed-up to the cloud, and your phone, and your tablet, and your primary computer, and your secondary compute, and your work computer, as well as your employers server, Drop Box, etc, etc. If you have Amazon Prime, it comes with some free cloud storage.

I just bought an iMac also and am backing up my photos to CrashPlan as I type this. It's a pretty good service (you have to call yourself a "small business," but it's a good deal). It's like insurance, it feels like a money suck until shit happens.

Lots of good suggestions for off site backup. Here's mine:

iCloud drive is built in to any Mac with an up to date operating system. If you have also have mac.com, icloud.com, or me.com email, iCloud drive is ready to use. You should see iCloud Drive in the sidebar on any Finder window, or in the Go menu in the Finder.

Drag stuff in there and it will be stored off site. It's not big enough for all of your photos, but will easily hold your books.

The only gotcha is that things are not copied to your iCloud drive, they are moved there. For your book: make a copy of the folder containing your book files, add the date to the name of the copy, and move the copy to the iCloud drive. Done.

I followed a similar rule when writing my Ph.D. thesis, Mike. Minimum of a page a day, which was about 250 words in the accepted format. It takes discipline, but after a couple of weeks the progress you see reinforces the behavior.

I love your support group idea, and plan to participate. I had already resolved to print more of my work in 2018. I've received proofs back from two of my favorite shots from last year, and plan to submit files for final prints next weekend.

On backup, I use whatever the max TB capacity USB drives come on the market for about $100, buying one about every 18 months. I keep two of them active at any time, as duplicates, one in the office and one at home. Currently they are 4TB each.

The cloud may be infinitely redundant against technical failures, but not against commercial failure. It appears that some of the best solutions from previous years are no longer with us.

Just email the document to yourself at the end of every day. It will be on the server if there is a physical catastrophe that night...

I recommend that you install Dropbox today and put your working book files into the Dropbox folder once installed.

Then, work only on the book files that are within the Dropbox folder. You'll enjoy an effortless offline backup for free (up to 2GB last time I checked) while you mull over other needs/solutions.

If you work on different machines you can install Dropbox on those too and feel free to work on the latest files without concern - well, as long as you are online. But you're the online photographer so.. : )

I pay the extra ten clams a month for which they now offer 1TB of storage and have uploaded all of my most important images as well as some other bits to the cloud. It's not a full system backup like some other services but a Time Machine backup (or better yet, alternating between two of them) does just fine if your primary drive crashes.

No consciously chosen project at first, but one has emerged ever since my daughter rescued an abused little puppy on 6 April 2017, a stray with one leg broken but healed, and part of its tail amputated (how cruel can people get).
I've taking pictures of Lucky (as we christened him the very next day) almost daily, a few by natural light and the rest by bounced flash, using my Sony RX100, Nikon Coolpix P7700, Olympus E-Pl5 and Panasonic GX1, and the resulting challenge of managing four different RAW converters and all sorts of white balance and other issues has proved to be a blessing in disguise, helping me to get to know my equipment better and, in the process, generating a priceless record of this dear individual growing from an emaciated little waif into a handsome and very healthy canine.
HE sure does work in mysterious ways HIS wonders to perform ...

[A long comment but a good one. Thanks Peggy! I read it to the end. :-) --Mike]

What a great idea Mike. I have so many projects on my lists, both photography and crafting and organizing, I may never finish. Sometimes we all need someone to encourage us to get started or to finish what we’ve started.

However, for now, as to your backup dilemma, everyone’s mileage may vary but here is what I do.

In May 2012 I bought a new computer. I belong to a computer tech group and the owner is always harping on making backups. His motto, “It’s not IF your hard drive will fail, it’s WHEN.” I knew all of this, but I still wasn’t backing up as I should.

Well, one afternoon, five months after I’d bought the computer, I ran an errand that took only 5 minutes. In that time the hard drive developed the “click-of-death”. There had been little ticks in the week before it happened, but I chalked them up to my imagination. Big mistake.

I have a rather large collection of music. I had spent several years digitalizing all of my albums, cassettes and 45’s and putting it all on the computer along with my CD’s. Gained several bookcases to use for other things this way.

Took me 3 months of work to organize them into a system I was happy with and could find any song I wanted in less than 20 seconds. Three months of organizational work. Not to mention all the time it took to actually get the music onto the computer.

And then the HD failed. My last backup was 4 months before. I was devastated. I didn’t complain to the tech group as I did not want to hear “We told you so”. But, I set out to make sure it never happened again.

After I got my new replacement drive, I installed all software, redid all settings and copied the music from copies I kept on data DVD’s. I reorganized the music files again. Took me only 2 months the second time around, while keeping it all copied to another HD.

I bought a backup program, Macrium Reflect, four 2TB internal hard drives and two 2TB portable drives and two hard drive docking stations.

Here is how I set them up. On the first of every month, two of the external drives are in their docking stations with their own drive letters and they each do a complete HD image one after another, overnight. Then every night for a month, they each do an incremental backup of whatever files were added or changed that day.

One of the portable drives makes a backup of a folder I set as my ‘Temporary Files’ folder. I place all work and files done that day into that folder and a backup is made each night. Once a week the files in there are then moved to the folders they need to live in. This gives me 4 copies of all of my documents. One on the primary HD, one on each external drive and one on the portable drive.

This goes on for a whole month. On the last night of the month, after the nightly backups have finished, I swap out those drives for the second set and the process begins again on the 1st of the month.
I use 2TB drives because the backup program allows me to set it so that I keep 2 full backups, compressed, on each drive. The oldest backup is deleted after the newest backup is made. All of this happens on a schedule that can be set in my backup program.

This has saved my butt several times. Once when my tinkering with the OS caused more problems than I cared to try and fix, so I just re-installed the full image and all incrementals and I was back to where I was before the tinkering. And several other times when I’ve accidently deleted a file I wanted to keep.

I also keep a 1TB drive with a full clone of my HD. This I remake every time I install software or new hardware. With this clone, if my drive fails again, I can take out the failed drive and install the drive with the clone and then install any files and documents made since the clone was completed and am back up and running in a short time. No reinstalling all my favorite software and settings.

All backups are tested every so often to make sure they will work should I need them.

I keep the set of hard drives not being used off site which for me is a climate-controlled storage shed that also serves as my crafting room and is well away from my house. All hard drives are stored in a hard Pelican case with foam that should protect them as I do live in California only a short distance from the San Andreas fault. And the shed is kept locked when I am not in there.

Is this all considered anal retentive? My family thinks so. But if it saves the heartache of losing photos, music and any other work, it’s well worth it to me.

My apologies at the length of this comment. I tried making it shorter but was unable to explain my backup process without the detail. Thank you if you’ve read this far and I hope I’ve convinced anyone that felt it unnecessary to make a backup plan, to do it anyway. You WILL need it someday.

I don't trust any on-line backup service. You never know when the provider will go out of business, or decide to hold your images hostage for more money. Plus, in my rural location, Internet access is glacially slow. It would take days to weeks to backup all my images to 'the cloud'.
I dragged my feet on using Lightroom for organizing my images, preferring to set up my own file hierarchy, and now that Adobe is putting the financial screws to its customers for cloud storage, I'm glad I did.
Every photo I've ever taken is contained on a single tiny 2 terabyte Samsung SSD drive I can conceal in one hand. A second one provides home backup, and a third is in my office off-site. They back up so quickly, it's painless, takes about 5 hours for a terabyte of images. I also have (as a 'backup backup') a pair of traditional hard discs. Slower, but different storage method, no single point of failure. I back up to one of them maybe every 4 months, because it takes more than 24 hours.

I’ve used mozy, carbonite, and backblaze for offsite backup. I strongly recommend backblaze. It’s been faster to back up, much faster to restore, and I like their philosophy. Also, pricing is fair and reasonable.

I find Dropbox very useful. Just save all your documents to the dropbox folder (well, nested folders in there is even better). You get version control per file, and you can have them syncd on both computers so you can get to them in either place. Makes having two computers seamless. Setup is very simple. You could also consider iCloud since you use all Macs.

I store my images separately on an external NAS (network attached storage) which runs a backup job to put them on Amazon's Drive cloud servers (free unlimited image file storage with a prime membership).

As far as projects, I need to find one. Feeling stagnant as far as creative work goes. But lacking time due to work and other commitments (which will soon be winding down).

My present project is to review every photo I have ever taken (since 1947) and pick out the cream of the crop. Every B&W negative I have ever taken has already been digitized. Ditto color slides. Digital images begin in 2004. Total image count: about 50,000.

I am dividing the images in the following categories:


I spend one hour per day on this. (It takes discipline to stop.) One thing that I have learned so far is that I can not rely on the ratings that I previously applied to the images. My idea of what constitutes a good image is different than it was ten years or more ago. So some "sleepers" have jumped out although the spectacularly good ones are still obvious.

Changing the subject: What ever happened to the color images you collected from us?

BackBlaze. Saved my bacon a few months ago, when one of my external USB hard drives containing over 500 GB of photos died. I had a recovery drive in hand in 3-4 days, and all it cost me (beside the $50/yr per computer and all non-network attached storage) was the cost to ship the drive back when I was finished with it.

And while we're at it, use LastPass to clean up your (likely) poor online password habits. A LastPass account is free, unless you wish to use certain advanced multi-factor authentication, like the Yubico Yubikeys, then it's only $2/month. $4/month gets you a family account, for up to 5 accounts, and you can share certain passwords, like joint bank accounts, etc

Lastpass also features a 'dead man' switch. You can grant one or more other individuals emergency access to your account. If something happens to you, they can ask for access to your account, with a 'cooling off' period that you specify. If you somehow aren't deceased, and you respond within the time period you specify, you can block them taking over your account.

Both Backblaze and LastPass are highly recommended.

I'll chime in shortly about my own personal project (improving my chops as a musician after a lifetime of having fun and being proficient, but not really studying and practicing with intent.) But I did want to second the mentions of BackBlaze for offsite backup. Easy to setup, seamless and invisible to use, and cheap to boot!

Well Mike ... now you have me thinking about what i'm doing with my time - which is a good thing! So...i am taking on moving all my photos from being organized by year , month, etc.. to categories of birds, snow, water, etc.. I don't think this'll be an easy task as there is 5TB of photo files and i'll have to make many decisions about this and that along the way. Other then dragging and dropping i've no idea how to go about this task. I just moved 90GB to the new empty HD to discover that system of moving doesn't move LR's adjustments as i use dngs. Sigh, i know there is a way to do this but i don't know that way. An interesting task lies ahead. And also this year, i want to tackle scanning/copying all my negs into digital form - there was a good posting by William S above (thank you Bill) which i hope to use for my neg files. More then enough work for this year which isn't including any photographing.

For backups, the cloud provider going out of business is less of an issue than for most things. You do have to notice in time to switch to another service, but other than that, it's just an inconvenience, and one that essentially always comes with some warning.

For small things, on the Dropbox scale, it's also very easy to use multiple services, reducing still further the odds of "something" happening to all of them at once.

(Every time I check prices on cloud backup, they look unaffordable to me, or else impossible to estimate in some cases; and my fileserver is the smallest of the four or so I'm involved with.)

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