Backups – No more excuses

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I remember the first time I decided to re-install all the software on my computer. It was 1993, and I was 10 years old. There were some strange files on my filesystem, called $AMES, $ROGS and $EMP. I think it came from undelete being a bit broken. I couldn’t delete those files either, and I thought it might be a good idea to install things from scratch, mostly as an excuse for the educational value I could gain from it.

I quickly realised how much I had to backup, and went out to buy some floppies. I decided to get some decent floppies, I bought some bad ones before and knew what to avoid. A good brand floppy, cost about R7 (about US$2 back then) per 1.2MB floppy. To back up all my data and config, I needed to back up about 30MB, this was just about 25 floppies. I bought 3 packs of 10, costing me R150 (about US$43- had to work long for this back then!). Backing up files was tedious work. Some files were to big to fit on floppies, and I had to zip up everything to split the files and to make sure I didn’t waste space on some of the floppies.

12 years later, and things have changed quite a bit. Yesterday, I bought a pack of 5 DVD-R discs for R20 (about US$3). For that, I can back up a potential 23.5GB. In 1993, it cost me R4.16 per MB to back up. In 2005, it’s costing me R0.00085 per MB! It gets even cheaper, in some ways. My data travels with me on my laptop. It’s important that I have my data stored on at least one safe location. As another point of backup, I have bought a 200GB disk for my server at home for R800 (US$123). This translates to about R0.004/MB. Still very cheap.

It’s also not nearly as tedious as it used to be. At night, while I’m sleeping, my laptop runs an automated task (cron job) that copies all my important files to my backup location on my server. Then, the server will run another script, putting all the files in tarballs, compressing and splitting it into DVD sized files. This means I easily have at least one backup of the files on my laptop, when I feel the need, I can burn these files to DVD, and keep the copies safely stored away. At work, my files are also being backed up with Arkeia, but that’s just my work related files.

What it comes down to, is that there’s little excuse to not back up these days. It’s cheap, and almost effortless. All you need is a bit of hardware, a copy of GNU/Linux, and a few blank DVD discs, and you’re sorted.

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Software Freedom Day 2005

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Today is Software Freedom Day. Go-Open Source funded the event at Canal Walk in Cape Town. A whole bunch of freaks from CLUG, SLUG, the Shuttleworth Foundation, University Western Cape, City of Cape Town and a few faces from Obsidian and other open source companies came together to celebrate and promote free software.

Early in the morning, things just seemed to go wrong. The DVD players that we wanted to use to play the Go-open series and a message from Mark Shuttleworth weren’t delivered. The event manager then just bought another DVD player, and a laptop was used on the other plasma display. From there, the other problems seemed to just fade away, and things got very busy. We had many, many copies of the OpenCD, and just gave it out to anyone who would take it. The theory is that if they won’t use it, they’ll give it to someone who will. We didn’t have time to explain what the software about, there was stages where I literally gave out 30 CD’s in one minute. Some people did ask whether it was trial software or demo software, and I quickly explained that it’s fully functional unrestricted software, and that they can make as many copies as they want.

This event has exposed lots of people to, and I think those people will feel liberated with the idea that they won’t have to buy or pirate other office suites anymore. As word of mouth spreads about OpenOffice, people will open up to concepts such as free software, and will consider using more free software packages.

One lady came to me very excitedly and explained how she only uses the “motzerella” browser on her PC, and she refuses to use anything else. It’s amazing how many people get the “Mozilla” name wrong :)

All round a good day, although I expected it to be a bigger event, then again there’s always SFD 2006 for that ;)

Pictures available from: the Go-Open Source gallery

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