Protecting content

* If you don’t know who or what this is, check the Glossary page.

Blogging is all about creating content. I’ve seen a few interesting blogs that are text only. The ones that I find most appealing, though, have some kind of graphics or video.

A life preserver, or toroidal throwable person...

They require a broad skill set: writing, photography, graphics manipulation, composition, sound and video editing. Those are big buckets.

Each encompasses many skills. For a one man or woman shop, it’s a steep climb to develop even basic skills in each of these areas. Whether it’s text, photographs, video, or all-of-the-above you end up with a lot of files. It’s important to keep them safe.

CRISIS avoided!

If you follow The Robotic Frog, you know that we recently reloaded the operating systems on our three main machines (Untouchable*, Whitestar*, Defiant*) not once, but three times. Each time, everything on the hard drive was lost. Thankfully, we had already given a lot of thought to backup. While we lost time, we didn’t lose a single file.

Backup hasn’t been very important here on the LilyPad. We’ve used a simplistic approach: Create a directory (folder) on each computer’s hard drive named Myfiles. EVERYTHING! created goes somewhere in that directory. We don’t worry about backing up the operating system or software. In the Linux world, that stuff can always be reloaded. Our concern is for our content. We simply renamed Myfiles to something like Myfiles-untouchable-2012-01-18, drag-and-droped it to a directory (folder) on our external USB drive, and then restored the name to Myfiles. Pretty simple, not very sophisticated…and only mostly effective.

PROTECT YOUR HARD WORK!

The content that we create eventually ends up on our computers in the form of files. Through a bit of alchemy, those files are transformed into our blog posts. Both before and after publication, there is a lot of valuable information that we don’t want to lose. Anyone who’s used a computer for more than about five minutes has been admonished to back up their data. The problem is that most of us either don’t get around to it or we begin with good intentions, but don’t keep it up. That’s where we were at TRF*.

The only time we copied our content folders was when we loaded a new version of Linux. Since that’s a frequent occurrence, our backups were fresher than they might otherwise have been. I can’t tell you, though, how many email addresses, browser favorites, and program files (programs that RoboFrog writes) we’ve lost using our simple backup scheme. You see HE* gets all excited about trying something new. It’s like HIS* brain short circuits and HE forgets about everything except the excitement of the moment. HE has usually blown away everything on a drive before giving any thought to backup. HE’s good at copying Myfiles to an external drive, but HE rarely thinks about email addresses, browser favorites, etc. Many times HE thinks that HE just copied Myfiles yesterday and is good to go. Invariably, something HE forgot about gets lost. We needed a more robust approach.

I searched through the various open-source backup utilities and settled on two: rsync and deja-dup. Rsync is a command-line utility (we like CLI* at TRF); deja-dup has a graphical front end and is surprisingly simple to use. Also, deja-dup (called Backup) came with Ubuntu 11.10 that we loaded onto Chatterbox*.

(You don’t know Chatterbox yet; he’s a new addition that we’ll introduce soon.)

deja-dup

Deja-dup is simple to use. The name of the menu item for this program is Backup (on Ubuntu: Sytem Settings->System->Backup). All you have to do is tell it which directories (folders) you want to back up and tell it where to put them. Click the Back Up Now button and it takes care of the rest. You can also set it to back up daily, weekly, monthly. Here’s a brief tutorial for Deja-dup.

** The following section is pretty geeky, so if you’re not into that feel free to skip it.

[GEEK MODE ON]

rsync

As I said, we like CLI at The Robotic Frog. We believe it’s more flexible and allows greater control over managing things. If you’re not used to CLI, though, it’s more complicated.

We use shell scripts to manage our backups. These are works-in-progress and are evolving. Here’s our backup script:

********************
#!/bin/bash
echo “”
echo “…backup rsto…”
rsync -az /home/bvines/rsto /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore
echo “…backup rbak…”
rsync -az /home/bvines/Myfiles/rbak /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore
echo “”
echo “…backup thunderbird…”
rsync -azr –stats /home/bvines/.thunderbird/ /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore/thunderbird
echo “”
echo “…backup Myfiles…”
echo “…this may take awhile…”
echo “”
rsync -arz –delete –stats /home/bvines/Myfiles/ /mnt/nfs/Media/Now/Myfiles_untouchable 2> /dev/null &
echo “”
echo “…backup complete…”
echo “”
 ********************

This saves all the things that we think we need to restore a machine. We’re using an NSF file server. The main backup drive is called Media. When we started thinking seriously about backup, Media worried us. What if Media failed? It stays on 24/7. We had another unused drive sitting around and decided to put it to work. It was added to the file server and a script written specifically for the server:

********************
#!/bin/bash
echo “”
echo “…backup rsto…”
rsync -az /home/bvines/rsto /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore
echo “…backup rbak…”
rsync -az /home/bvines/Myfiles/rbak /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore
echo “…backup thunderbird…”
rsync -azr /home/bvines/.thunderbird/ /home/bvines/Myfiles/Restore/thunderbird
echo “”
echo “…backup Myfiles…”
echo “…this may take awhile…”
echo “”
rsync -arz –delete –stats /home/bvines/Myfiles/ /media/Media/Now/Myfiles_chatterbox
echo “”
echo “…global backup…this may take awhile…”
echo “”
rsync -azvr –delete –stats /media/Media/Now/ /media/Backup
echo “…backup complete…”
echo “”

********************

This is the same as the script above with one line added to back up the content directory from Media. This scheme gives us three copies of our content files: one on the individual machine, all three machines backed up to Media, and Media backed up to Backup. Surely, that’s enough!

[GEEK MODE OFF]

There’s more to this story that I’ll finish next time. For now, though, consider this: Without backup, you’re one hard drive or computer failure away from disaster. Hard drives and computers can be replaced easily. Your content…probably not. Given the time and effort that you put into creating content, give backup some serious consideration. I’ve talked about this from a Linux perspective. Mac and Windows have similar backup utilities.

Next time I’ll show you how I keep HIM from forgetting to keep up with all of this. Backup is too important to leave it at the mercy HIS forgetfulness and procrastination.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s