8 min read

Easy, back it up! [Jìdé ya ọ̀fụ́má]

Much practical advice on computer backups, at a time you may well have a chance to apply it. The usual other bits, too.
Easy, back it up! [Jìdé ya ọ̀fụ́má]
Forget yoga, backups are the path to peace of mind.
In the hush of the scriptorium
a black pearl kept gathering in them
like the old dry glut inside their quills.
In the margin of the text of praise
they scratched and clawed.
They snarled if the day was dark
or too much chalk had made their vellum bland
or too little left it oily.

—Seamus Heaney - The Scribes

Ayo but ah wait, back it up, hup! easy back it up
Please let the Abstract embellish on the cut
Back and forth just like a Cameo song
If you dig this joint then please come dance along
To the music 'cause it's done just for the rhyme
Now I gotta scat and get mine—underlined!

—Q-Tip [A Tribe Called Quest] - The Jazz

This post's tech section is the first bit that came to my mind, and with it the Q-Tip lyrics I quote above. The next part was figuring out the Ìgbò bit. Q-Tip's meaning would go something like "chèré jì sí íké!" but the triggering sense was of a computer data backup, so I bent that way with what you could more literally translate as "hold on to it securely". No news if you've been reading these posts that chasing nuance across languages is one of the things that most entertains me.

What would the poets have to say about computer backups? Perhaps an allusion to the monasteries, including in Seamus Heaney's Ireland during the dark ages, where monks dutifully copied sacred and classical texts over and over again in an effort which ensured a continuity of Levant and European culture into the renaissance, and so on to modern times. So many great periods of humanity are lost in antiquity for want of such a large-scale effort in preservation, especially in tropical regions (such as my own homelands) where the environment makes short work of most means of recording information. Oral history is a powerful thing, but even the likes of the great Manding djali (griots) were limited in their eidetic powers (or even desires). To unfurl the metaphor, Western Europe, India and China had sophisticated backup regimes, so they've hung around to be acknowledged the great cultures, and it becomes easy for chauvinistic types to pretend no other great cultures ever emerged anywhere else.

Don't be caught by that beastly bit rot!

If October-ish is always the time of year that has me thinking of sour times, November-ish is always the time I think of the tech refresh, and especially restocking my family's resources for computer backups.

I'll stop the philosophical lede-burying here, because this is too important: Please make sure you have a sound backup process for all your files: the photos and messages on your phone, e-mails, social media history, creative output and works in progress, general documents…all of it. At least once a year I'm at an Apple Store Genius Bar or Best Buy Geek Squad desk and witness some variation on:

Tech: Afraid the hard disk is damaged, and the data on it is lost. You have back-ups, right?

Customer, after a moment staring in blank horror: I don't think so.…So… everything is gone?

There are bad days, and there are lost-a-bunch-of-data bad days.

I'm almost shocked at how often I ask people about backups and they just have no idea. I think it was back around 1992 that I lost months worth of work from a failed hard drive, and I swore I'd never let that happen to me again.

🎶I've got modes in different area codes♬

So here's what you do. I recommend 3 modes of backup. That's not as hard as it sounds.

Mode 1: Either you use something like Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive and make sure you regularly copy important files to the cloud, or you subscribe to one of the many available automatic cloud backup solutions. I don't use the latter, so I'll defer to the Grey Lady's recommendations.

Mode 2: Local, external hard disk. Using software such as the built-in TimeMachine for Mac. I did a bit of research for Windows alternatives, because I only use Mac and Linux, but incredibly there don't seem to be any slam-dunks. Windows does have a somewhat more backup & restore option built in.

Mode 3: Off-site external disks. OK this is really just an extention to Mode 2, but so important that I think it deserves its own space. Use multiple external drives to back-up, and rotate some of them off-site from time to time, say monthly. Take them to the house of a friend who doesn't live in your neighborhood, or a suitably removed safe deposit box, or in a locked desk at work. Unless you really trust your off-site (I keep some are at my parents' and in-laws, thousands of miles away), you should ideally encrypt it the data as well, an option supported by most software.

At first glance this feels like a lot, but once you set up and get into the groove, it's less of a hassle than you think. Do you really need all three modes? Well, how many tears will you shed if you lose your computer as well as your backup drive in a house fire or other disaster because you only employed mode 2? Are you really willing to trust a mode 1 cloud company not to suffer disasters of their own? Here's a cautionary tale from the now-now. Twitter's rapid meltdown is not just about social networking. Some users use it to log in to other sites, but its own login infrastructure is already failing.

Some of these cloud companies straight up trifling!

Here's another reason. If you work in tech, the first thing you learn about backups is that they're useless unless you regularly test your ability to restore. However, testing restore is a really tricky thing to do, and not one I'd expect most non-technical people to be able to manage. Having multiple modes of backup is a hedge against that risk. If you find that one mode of restore doesn't work, say because media failed or you lost your account info, or just can't figure out the cloud tool, you have a different mode of the backup to fall back on.

And media does fail. Whether you're using an old school hard drive, flash drive, SSD, etc, it will fail at some point. Plan on it. Even the media you stored off-site, that's not in regular use, will fail, and maybe sooner than you think.

We used to call it DASD, now we Dads, Gee!*

This brings me to the reason for the season of thinking about backups—the cyber sales! From mid-November through December you can find some absolutely massive discounts on external storage, as vendors compete for the holiday coin. Now is the moment to keep an eye on opportunities to stock up, and a New Year break, whether solar or lunar, is a great time to carve out a few hours to set up your backup regime—and help your friends and family do the same. Make a new start with peace of mind.

Do a quick assessment of how much data you need to safeguard. Maybe you have a laptop with 500GB and a desktop with 1TB. Buy external storage in units at least double that amount, but no more than 3-4 times. So for this example buying 4TB drives would be great. The reason not to buy them in units that are too large is to reduce how much you lose in a medium failure. For the example scenario buying 4 4TB drives is much better than buying 2 8TB ones. SSD is the most robust type of medium available now, and if you can afford the (significant) extra cost, go for that, though note there are different grades of SSD that I won't go into in this post. I also won't cover something called network attached storage with RAID, though that's a topic I highly recommend exploring if I've convinced you to take backups seriously.

I know I've turned this Loomiverse post into a newsstand magazine column, but that's how important this stuff is. Whenever I visit my parents and in-laws, not only do I lug along my own off-site backup copies, but I also poke at their systems to make sure they're adhering to the backup regimes I've set up for them, buy them new media, etc. I spoke to my kids about safeguarding data long before the talks about sex, drugs, or the perils of having brown skin while dealing with authorities.

*Was a time you could tell that someone of my generation worked at one of the suit & tie computer companies such as IBM because they'd call hard drives by their early name Direct Attached Storage Drive—DASD, pronounced DAZ-dee.

I've got my beats to keep me warm

Ullr has begun his rounds near, my house, and it's meant to be a very chilly weekend. Winter has come. Of course, it's Colorado, where winter always includes many episodes of a surprisingly summery midwinter spring ("suspended in time, between pole and tropic.")

Falls in a whisper
No weight to each twinless flake
A slow, numbed whitening.

Look again. Well grounded things
Are there
                    Are there no longer

❧ Uche Ogbuji, 17 November, 2022, Broomfield

Nothing better to warm the bones than music. I contributed a track "Hemlock Tober" to the October release of The Beat Garden, an online music producer collective.

The Beat Garden October Tape (featuring a track by me)

I had my set at the Punketry! event I mentioned last post, deriving a great deal of fun by performing three poems, including "Who, Lumumba?" from Ńchéfù Road, to the backing of an improvised punk music band.

My set at Punketry! in Denver on Nov 9. The band is Black Market Translation.

For the African music recommendation I went with a sweet little number from Nigeria's Johnny Drille. Make sure you sing the gorgeous chorus to someone who's been there for you on a day that froze your bones.

Music video: Johnny Drille—How Are You My Friend

Few records were on greater rotation in my early 2000s household than Res's How I Do. I've no idea why that incredible album wasn't the hit it deserved to be. When Santigold released her first major release, I vibed hard with it, and wasn't surprised to learn she had a major creative hand in the Res classic. Santigold is out with another album, and it's just as live and left-field as I've come to expect. Here's a taste.

Music video: Santigold - High Priestess

As for the grown B-Boy selection, well Nas has a new album out, so that one's zippered up. It hits as hard as you'd hope.

Hey! We have a world cup right around the corner? This one is super weird, though, and I've never felt such a shallow slope of anticipation. That said, once the first ball gets kicked, I suspect I'll be fully snared, leading to generous inches of text on that topic in the next post.

Please do consider sharing this newsletter with others, and subscribing, if you haven't (button in the lower right). Always something new to listen to, some new play on words, a fresh take for tech's sake, with the side sauce of odd juxtapositions. Dá àlụ́-nu!

❧ Égwú 🪘 Ókwú ✍🏿 Ígwè 📡 Ńdụ̀ ❣️