Backup revisited

Last year I wrote about my backup strategy. Here are some new developments.

I'm still using rsnapshot for local backups, and duplicity for encrypted remote backups. I switched to the S3 backend for duplicity. (My meager data costs less than $0.10 per month to upload and store there.)

Things got a little more complicated when Sarah and I each got our own laptops. (Before that we shared a desktop computer.) I still use a git repository for my own home directory, but I wanted something simpler for files we share. And I want those files backed up even when we're away from our home network and storage server. Dropbox is the perfect solution. It syncs folders over the network, integrates perfectly into the Mac/Windows/Gnome desktop, and can share files publicly over the web or privately between Dropbox users. Most importantly, it has a simple way to view and restore previous versions of files that change. And (for my meager needs again) it's free!

The one part of my system that wasn't automated before was backing up data from various online apps. I wrote, "There's a business opportunity here for someone who can make this easier." In fact, I was seriously thinking about creating that business myself, but Backupify did it for me. They back up my data from Flickr, Twitter, Google Docs, Delicious, and GMail to my own S3 account. (They'll handle the S3 stuff if you don't have an account, but you can save money by registering your own.)

The reason I'm writing this now is that it's the last day of their blogging contest, so I can get some free stuff for telling them the feature or service I wish they'd support. Well, my number one service is LiveJournal (where I'm publishing this post). But more importantly, my number one feature would potentially allow them to support many services, even ones they've never seen.

Right now, each major web app has a different custom API for getting access to data. This means that Backupify doesn't support brand new or obscure services, because they need to write different code for each one. What I'd like to see is a standard for how services can use standard protocols like OAuth and the Atom Publishing Protocol to support export and backup of users' data. Then, as a web developer, I could support that spec and know that my users could employ existing software like Backupify to keep their data safe. There's an obvious chicken-and-egg problem here, but if Backupify could partner with a group like Google's Data Liberation Front to champion a new standard, then they could get some real momentum. (Google is a good candidate since they already support OAuth, and their GData API is based on APP.)



Being a parent is like having an unrequited, unsuspected crush. All she has to do is smile, and my heart stops and my world goes from black and white to color. And she has no idea that this happens. Is it always like this? Does this explain all the cute, pathetic, embarrassing things parents do?

Co-founder wanted

I want to start my own software company whenever I finish at Kiha, whether it succeeds and I'm rich, fails and I'm laid off, or just gets big and I get bored.*

Specifically, I want to work on a very small and focused project with one or two partners, fund myself for 3–4 months, launch a product by the end of that period, then decide whether to put in more time/money, seek outside funding, or what. Anyone want to join me—not this week or this month, but maybe this year or next? Let's talk. See my profile for contact info, or add a comment below.

*Don't worry, bellwethr, I'm not suggesting anything is imminent! I'm very happy at Kiha. This is a longer-term dream, but I figure it needs some advance planning if I want it to be real someday.


ORCA privacy options

I just got an ORCA card, the new stored-value card for our local transit agencies. Now instead of getting a new card each month, I can just go online to renew my ORCA pass. I can also check the current status and transaction history online, and set up a monthly auto-payment plan. But that also means that there's an electronic record of all my trips, associated with my name and address.

ORCA offers both "registered" and "unregistered" cards. Unregistered cards (they claim) are not associated with any identifying information. This means they are potentially more private, but they also have fewer features. If you lose a registered card, you can deactivate it online and get a new card for the same account. Unregistered cards are like cash; if you lose one then you lose any balance associated with it. And registration is required for monthly payment plans and other online account management.

I got a registered card, since the balance protection seemed worthwhile. I don't value my privacy that much, and anyway I'm not confident that the unregistered cards are really that much more private. (Several of ACLU-WA's privacy concerns apply to unregistered cards too.) Mostly I thought it was interesting that they make the trade-offs explicit, and offer customers a choice. Also, I think that just knowing that I could get an anonymous card made me feel better about ordering a registered one. Another version of the see salad order fries effect?

West Wing thoughts

Via Netflix, Sarah and I are catching up on the past decade of television. Here are some of my impressions while watching The West Wing seasons one and two:

  • Oh, so this is what fueled my more political friends' Obama fantasies.
  • So many things seem bittersweet in hindsight:
    1. An administration that considers it catastrophic to have an approval rating of only 42% (in early 2000, cf. all of 2006–2009)
    2. Space Shuttle Columbia having problems that endanger its landing (in May 2000, cf. February 2003).
    3. Saying they "still don't know where bin Laden is" (in October 2000, cf. 2001–present).
  • Hopefully not bittersweet in hindsight: worries throughout season one about racially-motivated assasination attempts.
  • For a show that's really quite shockingly well done in almost every way, they sure do make some clumsy use of thunder and lightning when people are supposed to feel gloomy.

Phones win

If you ride the bus every day, you don't need an analyst to tell you about mobile technology trends. I remember the point in early 2007 when suddenly everyone on my bus had an iPod. Seriously, I'd look at the ten people sitting near me and all ten would have white earbuds. Then in 2008 people started using more different gadgets for a wider variety of purposes: playing games on a PDA, watching movies on a PSP, listening to music on a GPS unit, reading books on a Blackberry. I also saw a number of Kindle owners, though I suspect that many of them were fellow Amazon employees.

In 2009, all of the electronics have vanished except for the phones. I guess once you have a reasonably capable phone—the one gadget you never leave at home—there's no more desire to haul around anything else. I see as many old-fashioned paper books as ever, though.


Level 1

For the last couple months I've felt like I'm back at Mudd taking about six credits of algorithms and combinatory logic. My mom bought me Algorithms in a Nutshell, Statistics in a Nutshell, and Real World Haskell (highly recommended!) for Christmas and I've been working through them on the bus to and from work. Then my copy of To Mock a Mockingbird arrived at the library and I started working through the exercises in Part III. Then last week I started working obsessively on Project Euler and quickly reached level 1 (25 problems solved).

I'd glanced at Project Euler years ago, but was never motivated enough to sign up and record any solutions. Getting familiar with Haskell was a perfect excuse to try it out. Reading other people's solutions in the forums is interesting. I have three conclusions so far:

  1. You can sometimes beat my Haskell code in performance, but usually the only ones to beat it in conciseness are the APL/J/K programmers.
  2. Now I really want to learn J or K.
  3. For time-critical numerical algorithms, C and its kin are still important tools. I should do more of my solutions in D.


My new hobby: competing to be the least hip person in the room.

"Dude, I didn't even know who Sleater-Kinney was until after they broke up. I was more into, like, Metallica back then."
"Metallica? They were so much better after they sold out..."

The next generation

Congratulations to photon0912 & cubetime on their new baby! Also, belated congratulations to patrissimo & choiceful, kuddliphish & maxemulien, olstad, chanusa, kimdons, anahas & mr_minconbop, and 2gouda4u & thegreatgonz; and early congratulations to aardvark428 & omega697 and katiemouse & schempp. Not to mention any others I've forgotten or who aren't on my LiveJournal friends page.

With a dozen or so young'uns by my count, is it too early to start planning for our do-it-yourself Mudd Gen.2 summer camp? Maybe modeled after demolition camp? (We could give it a clever name like "Baby Boom" or "Population Explosion" or "Let's Blow Some Stuff Up, Wooo!")



Oh, yeah! I work at Kiha with bellwethr now. It's nice.

I had a month off between jobs. I spent some time interviewing at several companies, served on a jury (criminal trial; drug possession, crack cocaine; guilty), and spent a lot of time playing with Eleanor and doing work around the house.

Eleanor is talking more every day. She chooses to wear pink almost all the time (despite our best efforts to give her clothes in lots of different colors). She plays make-believe games with her toys. She still wants to spend about half of each day reading books. Her favorite place to go is the grocery store.