Backup Types


When your hard drive fails, the drive can be replaced, but the data cannot. That’s where backups come in. There are different ways of backing up depending on the amount of data you are backing up.

Online Backup

This method is becoming increasingly popular way of  backing up data over the internet. An article I wrote shows how to be your own online backup provider.
Full backup

A full backup, which Microsoft calls a normal backup, backs up every selected file, regardless of the status of the archive bit. When the backup completes, the backup software turns off the archive bit for every file that was backed up. Note that “full” is a misnomer because a full backup backs up only the files you have selected, which may be as little as one directory or even a single file, so in that sense Microsoft’s terminology is actually more accurate. Given the choice, full backup is the method to use because all files are on one tape, which makes it much easier to retrieve files from tape when necessary. Relative to partial backups, full backups also increase redundancy because all files are on all tapes. That means that if one tape fails, you may still be able to retrieve a given file from another tape.
Differential backup

A differential backup is a partial backup that copies a selected file to tape only if the archive bit for that file is turned on, indicating that it has changed since the last full backup. A differential backup leaves the archive bits unchanged on the files it copies. Accordingly, any differential backup set contains all files that have changed since the last full backup. A differential backup set run soon after a full backup will contain relatively few files. One run soon before the next full backup is due will contain many files, including those contained on all previous differential backup sets since the last full backup. When you use differential backup, a complete backup set comprises only two tapes or tape sets: the tape that contains the last full backup and the tape that contains the most recent differential backup.
Incremental backup

An incremental backup is another form of partial backup. Like differential backups, Incremental Backups copy a selected file to tape only if the archive bit for that file is turned on. Unlike the differential backup, however, the incremental backup clears the archive bits for the files it backs up. An incremental backup set therefore contains only files that have changed since the last full backup or the last incremental backup. If you run an incremental backup daily, files changed on Monday are on the Monday tape, files changed on Tuesday are on the Tuesday tape, and so forth. When you use an incremental backup scheme, a complete backup set comprises the tape that contains the last full backup and all of the tapes that contain every incremental backup done since the last normal backup. The only advantages of incremental backups are that they minimize backup time and keep multiple versions of files that change frequently. The disadvantages are that backed-up files are scattered across multiple tapes, making it difficult to locate any particular file you need to restore, and that there is no redundancy. That is, each file is stored only on one tape.

Backup Media

Another consideration is which media to save you data on. The popular media formats are:

Tape
Optical Drive (DVD, BluRay)
Hard Disk

Hard disk backup seem to becoming more popular because the price of disk is falling and it is the fastest method. Tape has been around for a while and is a durable media and can store a large amount of data. The problem I see with both disk and tape is that they are both subject to magnetic fields. Optical drives such as DVD and BluRay writers don’t store as much data on a single media but in my opinion is the most durable for long term storage. Although the argument can be made that all you need is the last backup to restore the data, but I like to keep a few versions just in case.

Whichever method of backup or whichever media you use, backup often to save yourself a headache.

Mandatory Touch Typing in Schools

typwritter
Today’s generation is immersed in computer technology and will almost undoubtedly need to use a keyboard. So why not make touch typing a mandatory subject in school right up there with reading, writing, and arithmetic. That is being suggested in an article in the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/debates/6139246/Why-arent-children-taught-to-touch-type-at-school.html. There arguments for both for and against this idea. It can be argued that touch typing is as essential in the digital age as reading and writing. On the other hand, you can still get around a keyboard without knowing touch typing. I myself am more of a hunt-and-pecker than a touch typer and I am able to do my system admin job just fine. How essential is touch typing for living? It can be argued that it is a skill as necessary as being able to dress oneself or eat with utensils. Schools do not have mandatory subject in how to eat with a fork and a knife or getting dressed but somehow children learn how to do this. Grade school teachers may assist in some of these essential skills, such as tying shoes and zipping zippers, but skills that are essential for daily life may not need to be mandatory subject.

It is my opinion however that touch typing is inefficient. The QWERTY keyboard that we have become accustomed to was created when old fashioned typewriters were used. all been using for decades was developed to actually slow you down.

“The QWERTY keyboard layout was devised and created in the early 1870s by Christopher Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer who lived in Milwaukee.

With the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule he built an early writing machine for which a patent application was filed in October 1867. His “Type Writer” had its printing point located beneath the paper carriage, invisible to the operator. Consequently, the tendency of the typebars to clash and jam if struck in rapid succession was especially serious, because the typist could only discover the mishap by raising the carriage to inspect what he had typed.
Sholes struggled for the next six years to perfect his invention, making many trial-and-error rearrangements of the original machine’s alphabetical key arrangement in an effort to reduce the frequency of typebar clashes. Eventually he arrived at a four-row, upper case keyboard approaching the modern QWERTY standard.” (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY)

I’m waiting for someone to come up with a better layout that won’t cause carpal tunnel syndrome and will allow for even more words per minute than with the QWERTY keyboard layout.
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Worst McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy EVER

Worst Happy Meal Toy EVERI found this McDonald’s Happy Meal toy when I was clean up my son’s room and I was like WTF! I think it is supposed to be the jellyfish from the Finding Nemo movie but something is very very wrong about this toy. I can’t decide which is worse the face or the very falic shape. Didn’t someone at McDonald’s have to approve this?

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Be Your Own Online Backup Service

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Many people already know the importance of backup. Your data can become corrupted; your hard drive could crash; you could have accidentally deleted a file. If you’re not, start doing it before it’s too late.   There are many ways to backup your data such as burning to DVD or copying files to a USB external drive.  These methods are fine but they have a few disadvantages. First of all these methods rely on  physical hardware, which typically reside near the computer being backed up. This hardware can fail as well.  If for instance your house were to catch fire then your data and the backups are in jeopardy. You could leave a copy of your backups at a friend’s house or a safety deposit box and at least you would have secured the backup media in case of a disaster. But that still requires you to physically bring the media to another location.

Enter the online backups. Companies like Mozy and Carbonite provide online backups over the internet. The tutorial here will help you setup your own online backup to another server over the internet so your data will be easily recoverable in the event of a disaster.

You need a:

  • FTP Server ( Filezilla Server for Windows Users)
  • Server or workstation with internet access
  • Enough storage to hold your data
  • Areca Backup ( Open Source backup software)
  • Domain or DynDNS address
  • Reasonably fast Internet Connection (Cable / DSL / FiOS)

Set up:

Install the FTP server:
FTP is a cross platform application that is easy to setup and manage and is a standard protocol used heavily on the internet for transferring data.
Create directory where you want to backup your data to on a large enough hard drive on a server or workstation.

  • Run the Filezilla Server setup
  • Create an FTP user account / Password

ftp1

Set a password for the user

ftp2

Add a home directory. This will be where the data backup are stored.

ftp3

Verify FTP works by using an FTP client to connect to the FTP server using the account that was just setup to confirm that FTP and the user account is working properly.

Setup Port forwarding:

  • DynDNS
  • Router Port forward 21
  • Test Connectivity from remote
  • Verify FTP works

Get a dynamic DNS Name if you don’t have a static IP.

  1. Now to get to your computer you can use the IP the ISP has assigned you. Problem: Your ISP will more than likely use DHCP to assign you an IP so at any given time you may not know your current IP. Solution: Dynamic DNS! Go to http://dyndns.org or http://tzo.com or http://deerfield.com or any other dynamic DNS site. In this example, I use DynDNS.org.
  2. Sign up for an account (free) and create a host name that you will use to reference you computer. Ex. homepc.homeip.net (one of the several subnets available).Create a new host entry under Host Services. The site will automatically detect the IP that you are currently accessing the site from so sign in from the place you want to connect to. I.e. your house.

DynDNS

This will maintain your current IP info as a global internet address. When every your IP changes you will need to login into DynDNS and update the IP registed. Newer routers have a Dynamic DNS feature which will let you automatically update DynDNS whenever your IP changes. The other option is to use a DNS Update client that automatically updates your register IP from your PC. These clients are available on the DynDNS site.

EXTERN_0001

Set up your firewall

For this example I am using a Linksys router. If you are using a software firewall like Zone Alarm or anther hardware firewall / router please consult your user manual.

  1. Login to your router (usually http://192.168.1.1). Click on Applications & Gaming under the Port Range Forward.

On older an older Linksys it would be under Advanced tab then the Forwarding tab. You will see a similar page.

Router_setup

  1. In the application box put FTP. Put 21 in both the Start and End box. Choose Both for the protocol. For the IP address enter the IP of the computer that you will be using for the FTP Server.
  2. To check if the port is now open go to go to http://www.grc.com and click on the Shields Up link or click https://grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2 . This will let you scan your router/firewall port from an external source.
  3. When you get to the Shields Up page, enter 21 in the box and click “User Specified Custom Port Probe. You will also see some other options such as Scan Common Ports and All Service Ports feel free to experiment.

GRC

If the ports show up as Stealth then either you mis-configured your router or your ISP is blocking these ports. In most cases, you will see the ports listed as Closed.

If you see ports listed as OPEN this means some service / application responded to the port probe request! You will see how this work later.

grc2

Areca Backup Setup

Areca is an open source backup program for windows and linux that allows to easily backup and restore your data. The reason I choose Areca is because it provides the ability to not only backup to local networks but over FTP. Install this software on the computer you want to backup.

  • Install Areca Backup

1. Edit – New Group

arc1

2. Edit.. New Target…

In the Main section, enter a target name. Choose FTP / FTPS Repository. Leave all other options default. Then click the Select button next to the FTP / FTPS Repository

arc2

3. Enter the DynDSN name you choose earlier in this article and enter it in the Remote Host field. Leave the port 21. Enter a backlash (/) for the Remote directory, unless you want the backups to be stored in another directory.
Note: If your ISP blocks incoming port 21 you may need to change the port.

arc3

4. Under the Source tab, choose the Directory button

arc4

Test Backup

arc6

Final Notes:

The reason I used Areca is because it can be configured to use FTP.  FTP is well known, and you can setup a folder structure to organize different backups.  It can also be setup to use FTPS for secure connection. Using the concepts outlined, you could setup another software to backup over the internet.
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Windows 7 Upgrade Release Date Moved Up



Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, is scheduled to be released on October 22, 2009. However there are rumors that the product will begin shipping before that date. It’s not often that Microsoft releases a product early. Then again, in my opinion, Windows 7 is Vista with a face lift and a few service packs installed. If you are like many of us that hate don’t care for Vista, you can pre-order your copy now at a discount.

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Game Streaming and Subscription Model

gamestream

If you have purchased a graphic intensive PC game recently, such as Cryisis, you realize that  your computer runs the game like a choppy YouTube video. In order to get a better gaming experience you need to get the latest hardware, so a $60 game may end up costing you hundreds in hardware upgrades.

Years ago when computing power was extraordinarily expensive, you had a server like a mainframe do all the number crunching serve out results to “dumb” terminals.  What if the graphics and physics calculations of today’s games were subcontracted to servers that did the heavy lifting. As computer power reaches pennies per Ghz and unlimited internet bandwidth increases steadily, the next evolution in gaming is in game streaming and subscription.

Imagine subscribing to  the latest graphically intensive game that just came out over the internet. With the streaming model, video is streamed to your desktop while the game is running on a remote server at high resolution and with high game details on. That means your PC doesn’t have to run the latest hardware to play the game the way it was meant to be played. A recent article has revealed the OnLive will attempt do just that.

Of course this would only work if you have the bandwidth to support it. The internet backbones are currently being upgraded, but higher internet speeds will likely cost you more as well. Another road block would be the ISP’s proposed cap on your monthly bandwitdh. If the unlimited internet bandwitdh model changes, entire business built on internet communcations will suffer, including the upcoming game streaming.

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Mozilla Labs Chromatabs

I was on the Mozilla Labs site and I found the Chomatabs project that I thought was interesting. The Firefox extension ColorfulTabs allows you to color your Firefox tabs to more easily identify the sites you are visiting. If you are like me and have at least 10 tabs open at any given time, you can see where this would be handy. There is actually a theory behind this that I found the most interesting.
In the graphic below, first find all the red letters. That was easy right!? Now find all the M’s. No so easy.
The way our visual system processes the colors versus the shapes makes finding the colors easier. The Chomatabs project was trying to take this idea further by automatically coloring tabs based on the site you visited. For instance, websites of a technical nature may be assigned a shade of green, while a commercial business site might show up as a blue tab. The concept is interesting though and one day may be use to make the organization of information a little easier. Unfortunately the project has been discontinued and is no longer under development.

https://labs.mozilla.com/projects/chromatabs/

chromotab

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Step Workout with Wii Fit

I likes exercising with the Wii Fit but it’s not really a work out. We went out looking for the EA Active, but we found the Everlast 3″ Aerobic Step on the shelf in the Wii section instead.  This Wii Fit board accessory turns the Fit board into … well  a 3 inch aerobic step. With the attachment, the regular Wii Fit step exercises is intensified. It’s a great way to have a fun workout and actually feel like you actually worked your muscles. I highly recommend this accessory if you are using the Wii Fit to try to get in shape.  Note: Do not do the body test with the step accessory attached. The Wii Fit will miscalculate your weight by 50 to 70 pounds!

If you’re wondering about the design on the board, it is a cover or skin for the board made out of neoprene. It feels very nice under your feet and softens your steps. The one we got was the React Board sleeve found at BestBuy.

We like the Everlast 3″ Aerobic Step so much that we were thinking about getting the Everlast 2lb dumbbell Wii remote attachment for the next level.

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Help with CAPTCHAS

Have you noticed one of those impossible to read word-in-a-box prompts when signing up for a service to logging into a web site like Facebook or Digg. These are called captchas, and they are used to prevent spammers from automating the login process and creating thousands of accounts in minutes. The scripts the spammers use are not smart enough (yet) to solve the CAPTCHAS. However, a number of research projects have been able to beat the visual CAPTCHAs by using following methods

  1. Pre-processing: Removal of background clutter and noise.
  2. Segmentation: Splitting the image into regions which each contain a single character.
  3. Classification: Identifying the character in each region.

The captchas are being  made increasing more difficult for a human to read.  In the very near future, a program will have an easier time solving the puzzle than humans will and the point of this additional security measure would be nullified.

google_captcha

Google has realized this and is trying a different and much needed approach. The new captcha method will require users to choose the correct orientation of a picture or which picture is a cat, rather than decipher a word. This method effective as it is difficult for a program to determine what should be right side up or the difference between a cat and a dog. Other methods make you solve a math problem or answer a common knowledge question.

This makes much more sense to me than trying to figure out what the letters in the box are. The issue with these methods is the inability for visually impaired people to use these systems.  Such CAPTCHAs may make a site incompatible with Section 508 in the United States.  In order to comply with this regulation the site  should allow blind users to get around the captcha, for example, by permitting users to opt for an audio or sound CAPTCHA. It will be only a matter of time before the hackers try finding vulnerabilities in the audio captcha. Perhaps answering a question that a human would know and that can be provided in audio format is a way of providing security and accessibility.


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Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death Wins

I might have won a few battles with my xbox but I’m afraid I have lost the war. Aftter I thought i had fixed the rrod problem, it came back and I don’t think there is anything else I can do at this point but to buy a new xbox. I was thinking of getting an Xbox Arcade system. It is cheaper since it doesn’t come with a hard drive, but I can use the drive from the old system. The Xbox Arcade also has a HDMI connection which is a plus. I would also swap the DVD since it is flashed with the iXtreme 1.51 firmware. I am probably buy it from BestBuy since they have a good protection program. I am missing Halo Wars.

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