Tech, Technology

Backup Strategy 2010

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve been cleaning up my digital clutter and revisiting my backup strategy. Since I last wrote about the subject, my storage requirements have grown. My 1.5TB Photos partition has turned into a 2TB partition, while my video projects span 1.5TB and 1TB drives.

Here’s what’s changed over the past two years.

  • SSD
  • Separate Data Partition
  • Time Machine
  • Dropbox
  • Hard Drive Consolidation


I purchased an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD to function as my boot drive in my desktop and laptop computers. I’ve long known about the benefits of SSD, but was waiting for the exorbitant prices to come down before making the plunge. The prices are still high, but I figured the extra productivity I’d get would help offset things (famous last words of mine).

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Decluttering, Journal, Tech, Travel

Lightweight Travel to Maine

Rae and I are at SFO right now, awaiting our red-eye flight to Boston. We are headed to Maine for a Labor Day weekend wedding at which we will be the photographers. For the past several years, I have endeavored to lighten our luggage on all our our travels. While I didn’t think it was a problem at the time, I seriously overpacked when I was studying in France during college. I brought way too many clothes packed into two suitcases and a garment bag. In addition, I had a backpack and a laptop with me in the City of Lights.

Since then, I have flipped to the other side of the equation. I am constantly looking for better ways to pare down my luggage load. This trip is a little different in that we are bringing a lot of photophores gear to Maine. Still,we are not checking in any luggage on our flights. Some of my photo gear and laptop are stored in a LowePro CompuTrekker AW backpack. The tripod, camera bodies, some lenses, and accessories are in a Pelican 1510 hard case. Rae is carrying all of the clothing in a soft bag that’s backpack sized.

Why travel so light is a question I have been asked before. While I get to save a few dollars avoiding the airline check-in baggage fees, the main reason is that I enjoy having everything with me at all times. There’s a certain sense of freedom and liberty when you don’t have to lug and drag tons of stuff with you everywhere. Rae and I still remember all the steps we ascended and descended in the Paris metro stations; it’s not a good memory to have! From that point forward, both of us have followed a minimalist approach to travel. Furthermore, I enjoy the challenge of reducing what I bring to the bare essentials.

We are about to board the airplane, so I’ll be signing off now. We have some new gear to test on this trip, which I will describe in a future post on this site or on the Autumn Gem site. Stay tuned!

Rants, Tech

Verizon MiFi Disconnects Constantly in WiFi Mode

Update November 23, 2010: Updating the MiFi to firmware 7.3.11 appears to resolve these problems for me. The updater is currently available only for PCs, so Mac users will need to borrow a friend’s computer or use Fusion or Parallels to install the firmware onto their MiFi. Daniel Odio has additional details on his blog.

The following post was written using the MiFi with firmware 7.1.6. The problems listed below manifested itself for me and several other people. Read the update above on how to upgrade your MiFi to the latest firmware which has resolved the problem thus far for me.

I love the idea of the Verizon MiFi — which I bought several months ago to replace the mobile Internet solution I cobbled together a year ago — but it’s very annoying to use in practice.

I’m speaking of the constant stream of disconnects and reconnects whenever the device is being used as a 3G WiFi hotspot. This has been discussed on several threads and forums, but I have yet to see any permanent remedy to this problem.

Check out the diagram below:

Verizon MiFi Disconnect Problem

This happens on a regular basis with my Verizon MiFi 2200 running firmware 1.3.5. I have seen this problem on a MiFi 2200 running 1.2.5 firmware as well.

I’ve talked to several people who say they haven’t experienced this problem first-hand, but I suspect that it is happening; they just don’t realize it. Here are steps to verify and reproduce:

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Journal, Tech

Potential Seagate 1TB Hard Drive Failures

Weeks after I updated the firmware on my Seagate 1.5TB hard drives, I learn that the previous model, the 1TB 7200.11 Barracudas might also have a firmware bug in them.

Great. Just great.

I have several of these drives, most of them being used as my main drives or as backup/offsite backup drives. Four more drives will be used in a RAID 1 array by a client at an upcoming conference. Having any of them fail would not be a good thing to happen.

Here’s the brief explanation from Seagate:

Welcome, Seagate hard drive owners. A number of Seagate hard drives from the following families may fail when the host system is powered on:

Barracuda 7200.11
DiamondMax 22
Barracuda ES.2 SATA

Once a drive has failed, the data is inaccessible to users. Seagate has isolated this issue to a firmware bug affecting drives from these families manufactured through December 2008. Please use the following tools and instructions to determine if you have one of the affected products. If you do, we recommend that you update the firmware on the disk drive.

If you have one of the models listed above, Customers can expedite assistance by contacting Seagate via email. Please include the following disk drive information: model number, serial number and current firmware revision. We will respond, promptly, to your email request with appropriate instructions.

Or you can call Seagate Support at 1-800-SEAGATE. Please be prepared to give the serial number of your drive as the solution depends on knowing the exact serial number.

Since some of my drives are stored offsite, I’m going to have to grab them before sending Seagate the email. I hope that the firmware update doesn’t affect that data already stored on the drives.

For the past several years, I’ve purchased Seagate drives exclusively, due to hard drive crash experiences with other drive manufacturers such as Maxtor, IBM, and Quantum. Maybe it’s time to switch companies again. Readers, any recommendations?


Updating Seagate 1.5TB Drive Firmware

I recently bought three Seagate 1.5TB drives from NewEgg. Before I bought them, I had read the reports of drives freezing under certain operating systems and conditions, but I was crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t experience any such issues. Well, count me wrong on this one. This morning, I started a SuperDuper Smart Update backup on one of the 1.5TB drives before leaving the house. Four hours later when I returned home, I saw that SuperDuper had not progressed past the 20% mark in the progress bar. Was this an example of the freezing issue that other people were experiencing?

[smugmug url=”″ start=”1″ imagecount=”100″ thumbsize=”Th” link=”lightbox” captions=”true” sort=”true” window=”false” smugmug=”false” size=”M”]

I pulled my drives out and noted the serial number and firmware version. Sure enough, the drives had the dreaded SD17 firmware on them. I called up Seagate Support, and a few hours later, they sent me a link to a website where I could download the SD1A firmware update. The process to do this on Mac OS X involved the following steps:

  1. Burn a CD-ROM that will boot up the Mac Pro.
  2. Insert only one drive at a time to update
  3. Boot up the computer holding down the Option key
  4. Following the on-screen instructions that resembled the old DOS computers from the 80s
  5. Power cycle the computer and repeat steps 1-4 for the remaining drives

Right now, I’m putting SuperDuper through its paces on PhotosOne. My fingers are crossed again that this will resolve any freezing issues with the drives!

Update December 21, 2008: So far, I’ve had no problems with the 1.5TB drives freezing
after nine days of daily use. It also looks like Seagate is shipping versions of the drive with a different firmware version.

Apple, ReadyNAS, Tech

Backup Strategy

2010-12-29: I’ve updated my backup strategy post here.

Adam with one of his first computers, an Apple ][

I’ve been making backups since I started using computers back in the early 1980s. Software at the time came on cassette tape and 5 1/4-inch floppy disks before transitioning to 3 1/2 inch floppies and CD-ROMs. When my love affair with the Mac began in 1989, I knew what it was like to have a cavernous storage system. I recall thinking to myself, “I’ll never run out of 40MB of hard drive space!” I still have old issues of MacUser magazine advertising 20MB hard drives for thousands of dollars. Now, you can get a hard drive with 50,000 times the storage capacity for a $100!

My current camera generates files that are 14MB in size. Two photos alone would almost fill up my poor Mac SE/30’s hard drive were it still spinning today. My current data set is topping 4TB these days, so my need to keep my data safe and sound is critical. I’ve personally experienced hard drive crashes before, and they are not fun to recover from without backups.

Over the years, I’ve gone through many types of backup strategies: multiple hard drives, NAS boxes, storage robots, online, and off-site storage. I’ve finally developed a comprehensive multi-pronged approach for keeping my data safe and available.

This article will be useful for those who have massive amounts of data to be backed up. If you just have a single hard drive to worry about, get a couple of external hard disks or a Time Capsule. Use Time Machine and be done with it. On the other hand, if you have to worry about backing up terabytes of data, read on!

  1. Goals
  2. Tools
  3. Methodology
  4. Future Plans

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Journal, Newton, Software, Tech, Technology

Newtons and iPhones at Stanford

News that Stanford will be conducting a class on iPhone Development, taught by my friend Adam Nash brings back good memories of my time on the Farm.

I smiled when I read the press release from Stanford announcing the Stanford iApps Project.

A suite of five software applications developed by students is now being tested on campus. Two of them, for managing course registration and bills, are intended for students. The other three will allow access to Stanford’s searchable campus map, get team scores and schedules, and check listings in the university’s online directory, StanfordWho.

One of my first apps for the Apple Newton MessagePad was Stanford Map, a scrolling map of the university. I remember riding around campus and getting stopped by someone who wanted to get directions to a particular building. With my Newton in hand, I was able to show exactly where he needed to go. Bear in mind, this was 14 years ago!