No Really, Be Serious About Backups

So, remember when my stuff started falling apart in October, and when I exhorted you to be serious about backups?  I had some SSL problems, so I’m late in telling you this one, but backups saved my bacon on my MacBook Air.

He got them fixed, but right now I’m freaking out.  I have Repair Disk running on my Time Capsule right now, and after that finishes overnight, I’ll run it on the external HDD to which I’ve been cloning my Air.  I pretty much have to have the Air running right now, because it’s my only computer and finals start the 2nd.

So, about that worry on filesystems: it turns out that the filesystem on my Air’s internal storage was crap.  You’ll see in that quote above that I had problems with Time Capsule; I didn’t worry about those as much as I worried about my external clone.  That didn’t have damage, but my internal storage did.  I booted to the clone and ran Repair Disk, which you can’t run on your boot drive while it’s running.

It was unable to repair the disk.

I had to FORMAT MY INTERNAL STORAGE and then clone from my clone.

I still get anxious just thinking about it.  It worked, though.  I didn’t lose any files, and once I’d restarted the machine with the freshly-cloned internal storage, things were just fine.  I haven’t had a single problem with it since.  For those who may wonder, was I seeing problems with the un-repaired filesystem?  It’s hard to say, although it would do stupid things every once in a while.  But staying with the filesystem in a known-bad state was a risk that I was not willing to take.  Once I knew that there was a problem, I had to fix it.

Your filesystem’s job is to know where the data is on your disk.  Just as it is important to back up your data, it’s also important to know that your computer knows where it is, for two reasons: 1) you need to be able to access the data and 2) you need to be able to back up that data.  If your filesystem stops doing its job flawlessly, you are on the road to being screwed.

Here are my next steps with this Air:

  1. I’m still backing it up by cloning, Time Machine, CrashPlan, and Arq/Amazon Glacier.
  2. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency — I need to talk about my life-management solutions at some point — to make the clone every so often (3-5 days).
  3. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency to boot from the clone every so often (4-6 weeks).
  4. I have a reminder in Sciral Consistency to run Repair Disk on all volumes associated with this computer (6-8 weeks).

Remember: because my iMac was down, I was left with this as my only machine.  When it started having problems, I was in a panic.  But when you have backups, it’s not a panic that overwhelms you.

Be Serious About Backups

Remember when I wrote in 2011 about how I back up my Macs?  Remember how that was an update on my backup setup from 2009, which added off-site backup?  Remember how that was influenced by John Siracusa on Hypercritical?

Well, I started backing up to Amazon’s AWS Glacier a few months ago using Arq, which leaves me with a 4-2-2 setup: four copies, two local, two off-site.  I’ve been happy with it.  Now I may really need it, because:

  1. My nightly clone HDD failed.  I think this is because the drive died, but based on newer information, I think it’s the filesystem that’s shot.
  2. I was slow in getting my replacement clone in place.  [Note to self: you need a ready spare.]
  3. The HDD in my iMac started showing problems, given that it just cut off one day.
  4. Booting into Recovery mode got me to where I could run the computer, at which point I tried to copy files on over to one of my Drobo volumes.
  5. The boot died before that finished.
  6. Oh, by the way: the Time Machine drive won’t mount.  Yep, my primary and secondary backups (as much as Time Machine is a backup, which it only sorta is) appear to be dead.

None of the three suspect drives is making thrashing sounds, so I’m pretty sure that the filesystem is corrupted.  I get this from Accidental Tech Podcast #40, where John Siracusa — him again — mentions that his wife’s Mac had filesystem errors that he noted because he was proactive about running Repair Disk.  He got them fixed, but right now I’m freaking out.  I have Repair Disk running on my Time Capsule right now, and after that finishes overnight, I’ll run it on the external HDD to which I’ve been cloning my Air.  I pretty much have to have the Air running right now, because it’s my only computer and finals start the 2nd.

I’m headed to the Genius Bar on Sunday to check out my iMac and hopefully get it running.  I’ll then probably have to reinstall everything and erase that Time Machine drive, which is probably corrupted beyond repair.  How will I get the data back onto the iMac?  Online backup, y’all.  Thankfully there’s nothing mission-critical in ~/Documents that can’t wait for an online restoration.  I will selectively restore because, again, I think the filesystem is hosed.

Le sigh.  Off-site backups are going to end up saving my bacon.

Father’s Day, Pt. 34

Two Father’s Day things, since these are de rigueur:

I talked to Dad today about things that are going on at work.  He offered me advice.  At the end of it, he said, “You’ve probably thought of most of that already, but if you hadn’t, now you have.”  It wasn’t anything that he thrust upon me or would be angry if I didn’t accept it.  He was just thinking out loud, and they were good ideas.  I accept all of his advice save his politics.  ;)

Driving to the dorms just now, I was stopped at a light on the square in Fairfax and saw the car next to me doing that thing that stick-drivers do in edging up and rolling back in anticipation of the light turning green.  I used to do that, but I don’t anymore because it’s rough on the clutch, and since I’ve burned one out in the WRX already, I’m of no mind to do that again anytime in the next 60,000 miles.

But that brought back a memory from high school.  The first car I drove that was “my” car was a terrible 1982 Dodge Aries K car, tan with a white vinyl top that had cracked and mildewed, and with a bad seal around the rear windscreen, so the back seat was also mildewed.  It was not, as Steven Page put it, “a nice Reliant automobile”.  So my parents decided to get me something better, which put me into a blue 1986 Nissan hardbody pickup with a white camper shell on it.  That proved to be perfect for moving into and away from MSMS both years.

But to get to the point where I could drive it full-time — remember, the car that I got at 15 was an automatic — I had to learn how to drive a stick.  I ground gears and killed engines with the best of them, but eventually I figured it out.  EXCEPT FOR HILL STARTS.  Those took me some time to get the hang of.

The worst incident came when we were driving from Forest into Morton to do hunter’s safety courses so I could get licensed.  (I’ve never killed a thing.)  We’d driven in on US 80 — we lived right on it next to the Catholic church — and there was a light at the bottom of a hill.  Coming up to it, I was dreading getting stopped at the light, but it happened.  I was the front car in line.

I killed it maybe 15 times.

We went through the whole light cycle.

This was the main drag, and that was a long, long light.

Somehow I got it right very quickly on the second light cycle, but I have never forgotten that.  Why?  Well, for one, there’s a lot of shame in that, but also, Dad was so cool through it.  I know that he was frustrated.  He was almost as frustrated as I was.  But he kept it in check.

I inherited Dad’s temper.  [Cut to my mother nodding her head vigorously.]  But I see it from him only when necessary.  I think that he’s modeled that pretty well.  Back at TBE, I had a co-worker comment on my temperament in meetings — never too high, never too low, always rolling with the punches.  What she didn’t know is that I let all that pent up frustration free in my office, as closer co-workers of mine know well.  I’m sure that Dad has that steam valve, too.  That’s probably why I don’t get an earful nearly as often as I deserve.

So: advice, how to drive a stick, and keeping my anger in check.  Those are three good things.

My MITRE Internship

After a string of temp jobs, I actually have landed something in my field!  Be still my beating heart.

Come Monday, June 3rd, I will be an intern at MITRE‘s Center for Connected Government for eight weeks in McLean, Virginia.  So off I go to the land of the Beltway Bandits!

How did I land this?  I was looking at MITRE’s career site for jobs here in Huntsville, saw the internship tab, and decided to give it a shot.  In my best of minds, I was hoping that something would have opened up around here in the meantime, as this was November.  I’ve had a temp job in the interim, along with going to graduate school, but this was the first thing that was really great for a while.  So I’ll get two months up there, it’ll be fun, and it’ll be educational because of what I’ll be doing.  Here are the job descriptions that they threw at me:

  • As a member of MITRE’s Program Management team, you support the Project Management Framework (PMX) PM Architecture and Roadmap Validation initiative by conducting the project reviews which includes preparation of a survey instrument (supported by MITRE SMEs).  This includes defining criteria for identifying current projects for Project Reviews, supporting identification of the projects for review, conducting Current Project Reviews and assessment of results, compilation of the Current Project Review Report, and conduct Lessons Learned and revise PMX products based on Lessons Learned.   This information will be used for the PMX Pilot is the next step in the goal of providing a visual representation of the domains and concepts of management in a modern government organization and the minimum set of interacting processes needed to support it.
  • As a member of MITRE’s Program Management team, you will review commercially-available project leader training and identify the terminal learning objectives. You will work with a pilot group of aspiring project leaders, review their self-assessments against the organization’s competency model, and craft individual development plans at a learning objective level.  You will prepare and deliver a briefing to the Division leadership. The aggregate effect is to raise the project leadership maturity of an organization.

MITRE is very evidence-driven, and as an engineer, I really appreciate that.  I’m going to split my time between those two job descriptions as well as be run through some of their training.  This dovetails very well with my grad school curriculum and, for better, the things that I care about in our field.  It’s a chance to flex some muscles, have some fun, and get paid a little bit.

I’ll be living at George Mason University for the summer, so any of you who live in the area from MSMS, UAH, or other parts of my life have me at your disposal when I’m not working my rear end off, which I expect will be most of the time.

Dear Alisa

It’s been just under three months from that first oh-no-is-that? moment until today.  I don’t pretend to know what that feels like for you and Jason and all of the other people that love you, of which there are many, as I know that you know.  You’ve known that this was coming for a while, and I personally like the curly, I get why you’ll stick with the scarf.  So since today was the day, it’s time to follow through on my end of my assertion.

Photo on 5-4-13 at 9.00 PMPhoto on 5-4-13 at 9.09 PM

I’ll grow it back out when you’re growing back yours. If I could do more to support you in a helpful way, I totally would.


Alisa and I have been a part of the same community for over a decade now.  Anytime a group of people have been together for that long, there are underlying grumbles around, well, most everybody.  I just never hear that about Alisa.  I haven’t met anyone yet that has met her and doesn’t at least like her; most everyone that I know loves her, as I do.

So if you know someone struggling with cancer, just love them the best way that you know how: making dinner for them, taking out the trash, picking up their mail, bringing them a latté, reading in the same room with them for an hour, just whatever.  She’s two states away, but this is something that I can do from here other than send the late-night emails when I can’t sleep and send her crazy emails.

I’ll think of her every (third) morning when I am shaving at a minimum.


I love you, dear.  Keep kicking ass.


Six Years Later, LOLTrek Still Amuses Me

About this time six years ago, I got a matter-of-fact email from Stephen:

Ten minutes ago, I posted a lolcat version of The Trouble With
Just now, I got a link from boingboing.


My only response was: “I’m doubling your [hosting] fees.”  Four minutes later, Stephen told me that Misty might be in labor.  It was a bit of a day.

I was mainly excited that my friends would be bringing another awesome kid into the world (and Liza is indeed awesome), but I was also worried about my server going into massive heat death.  Single server, four CPUs, moderate amount of RAM, SCSI hard drives, Web and SQL stored on the same drives.  You can imagine how that went.

I only came across this anniversary the other day when one of my choir kids posted the following:


I responded with a link to LOLTrek, and when I did so, I noticed the date stamp.  I thought I’d bring it up, because it still makes me laugh.  The funniest thing for me are the commercials.

My friend Stephen is funny, smart, loving, and supporting.  But mostly funny.  I was happy to nod to LOLTrek with a Whiskerino shot that, disappointingly, no one seemed to care about.

Go enjoy LOLTrek if you’ve never seen it, and remember that, six years ago, lolcats were a new thing on the Internets.  [Note: I'm really glad that Stephen has held firm to never trying to take another bite at the apple.]


I consider Derek Webb to be a friend.  Back when you needed things like fan sites, Bryan and I ran to help him disseminate information.  Now in the Twitter era, musicians don’t need people like me to get the word out.  In a disintermediated world, I am the middle man that’s been cut out.

Twitter’s dangerous, though.  Sometimes you’ll say something and then … well, what happened, FV?

DW is exasperated by following Q.


Mr. Webb followed your humble correspondent for about a month, and as we’ve established that I’m a prolific tweeter myself, I understood his exasperation, but I was more than a bit surprised that Quest’s follow-up was a block.

So where has this gone since?  The Houston Chronicle has covered the matter fairly extensively, in light of possibly educating ? about why he should reconsider.  In fact, Jason Bellini appears to have tried to broker a truce to this little Internet rap feud, pointing Quest to the story.  His one answer: “Well”?

Then Derek took it the extra mile.

Will this work?  Is it shameless promotion on Derek’s part?  Is it something that Questlove will respond to?  Will he bring Webb on the show and unblock him publicly?  Will I drive to NYC if that happens?  We can only wait and see.

C’mon, Q.  What kind of taco did you have for lunch?  D, I had a bagel with egg, bacon, cheese, green pepper, onion, and roasted red peppers around 2:45 this afternoon.  I got a bit of a late start.

100,000: A Twitter Milestone

This post will generate a tweet that will be my 100,000th update with the service.  I joined Twitter on 23 Jan 2007, which means that I have 2,285 days of tweeting and a slightly disgusting 43.7 tweets a day.  Mind you, this includes conversations — a lot of conversations — and that has jacked up my tweet count pretty high.  If you don’t know, I’m @gfmorris.

What do I tweet about?

  • Whatever’s on my mind.  You know, like when I used to blog about being sick, except shorter.
  • I used to have this whole GEOFCON gag.  I get complain-y.  I do this to blow off steam.
  • Going back to whatever’s top of mind: if I am physically present with someone, my tweeting generally grinds to a halt, because the extrovert part of my personality gets all into having someone to engage.  I tweet when I’m alone.  Clearly I’m alone a lot.
  • I really do think out loud on Twitter.  Posts for here often come from Twitter.  Sometimes, that means that I’m letting half-formed thoughts out there in a brainstorming experiment that makes me look really stupid.  Occasionally, I delete things; most of the time, I don’t mind looking daft.
  • I tweet a lot about insomnia.  I created the #OIT tag for Obligatory Insomnia Tweet.  To wit: my 99,999th tweet was about how I didn’t sleep well last night.
  • I used tweet a lot about sports on that account.  Now I have an account specifically for that.  I’m sure that this makes the lives of people who follow me for non-sports-related tweets very, very happy, especially when I start getting angry.
  • I have a lot of accounts, but only three that are truly by-me.  The third is a private account that I probably won’t give you access to, and it’s the one where the really fun stuff happens, mostly late at night when I am distressed.  Anyway.
  • But a lot of my tweets show my love for people, I think.  I got a lot of that back on 20 Sep 2010 — it kept me going and out of a really bad place.

I’m very thankful for Twitter.  Now I can go back to tweeting without caring what post number it was.  I’ve been worried for the last month that I’d roll past 100k and not notice.

Driverless Cars and Routing Around Damage

Dan talks a lot about his technological assumptions.  I generally agree, but:

Take, for instance, a self-driving car. One of the assumptions we have is that allowing computers to drive cars will allow a lot more cars to be on the road, since computers are better drivers than humans (a fact I don’t want to dispute). But imagine we do fit 30% more cars on the road. Imagine a traffic disruption. There will surely be far fewer traffic disruptions because computers are better drivers than humans. But when they do occur, they will cause massively more congestion than now, because the system will have been optimised that much further.

A driverless car will be best implemented when it communicates with its peers in a networked way that mimics the old CB network band: “Get off at Exit 351 and take US 31 north; I-65 is a parking lot.”  But there’s fragility, of course: not all cars will have humans out of the loop, not everyone will have a car that communicates in the same way, there will be network outages, etc.  That’s why peer-to-peer on open technologies will make that work.

See, my technological bias is showing.  But I will also admit my own bias against driverless cars: I’d rather drive, and if not, I’d rather take mass transit to have it be worthwhile.


The market for paid iOS apps isn’t dead:

For these “Big Six” apps, price is almost irrelevant. If your app is useful enough for many of its customers to use it almost every day, they’ll pay a decent price for it. (Not allof them will — but you don’t need all of them.) The challenge is either making your appthat much better than the alternatives, or finding new app roles that are that useful to a lot of people.

Marco certainly knows of what he speaks.  Here’s my iOS main/home/first screen:

iOS Home Screen 2013-04-21Seven of those apps are iOS-bundled applications: Phone, Messages, Maps, Calendar, Clock, Mail, and Safari.  You can see that those last two are used enough that they’re in the omnipresent Dock; the other five are there out of convenience because I actually use them.  (Most of the rest of the bundled apps are on that fourth and final screen since they cannot be deleted.)

But everything else is third-party, and of the other 17 apps, seven are paid: Instapaper (articles saved for reading later); Letterpress (addictive game); ESV Bible (duh); 1Password (invaluable password storage — I know very few of my passwords because I don’t need to know); Flashometer (inexpensive weather forecast app that has a flashlight function embedded in it); OmniFocus (task management — I might let you chop off a finger before I let this go); and Twitterrific (manage multiple Twitter accounts from a fun interface; I’ve used it for years).

Of those seven, three — OmniFocus, Twitterrific, 1Password — are indispensable and get used multiple times per day, while the other four are opened at least once a day.  Marco has a Big Six; I have a Big Seven — and those dominate my home screen use, with the other nine + Folder getting more use than everything else.  (Of the 12 in my folder, only two — Federalist Papers and Terminology — were paid, and I’m pretty sure those two were $0.99 or $1.99 when I bought them.)

Marco’s point is quite valid: for the people who need a niche app, they’re going to really pay for it.  OF is $19.99, but I got it on an introductory/upgrade special; Twitterrific 5 is $2.99 and worth every penny; 1Password is $17.99 and worth every penny even if I did get it on an introductory price.  There is price elasticity for me in all three applications — far more than the other for four sure.

Your use cases are going to be different than mine, of course.  I use OmniFocus and 1Password on my iPhone because I’ve used the desktop applications for 2-1/2 and four years respectively.  I’ve used Twitterrifc on the Mac since it first came out for free — it was one of the first third-party Twitter applications.  I have brand loyalty because I have buy-in for these three, and this isn’t likely to be the case with you.

No matter your mobile OS, you’ll have must-have apps to fit how you handle things, and the chances are that you’ll be paying good money for those apps because you want them to live on.  For people that use their phone past free gaming and Facebook, you’re probably going to end up paying something north of $1.99 for at least a handful of apps.  This fact is what keeps the ecosystem running.