2016-04-24

Not Writing

Updates
Dragonverse Origins is now totally in the hands of my wife. My editing is done -- until she finishes doing her grammatical magic. The next project will be Peacekeeper 3 and I'm still not 100% sure as to how the story is going to progress. Sometimes, that's a good thing because the story will write itself and I will enjoy watching it unfold as it moves forward. Other times, that can be bad because I'll eventually write myself into a corner with no way out. But, I have a week before I start working on it.

In the meantime, waking up without needing to sit down in front of the computer is a strange feeling. Yesterday, I watched Agent Carter - the entire last season - because I watch so little television when I'm writing. This morning, after this post, I'm going to go find the movies I have that I've not yet watched and catch up on them.

Next weekend, several members of the writer's group I regularly go to in Mentor will be renting a space at the Odd Mall in Akron, Ohio. I've never been there before but I've seen pictures online. I guess it's sort of a cross between a flea market and a comicon. I have a surplus of books and I'm hoping to sell at least enough to make up for my share of the space rent. Unfortunately, it means I'll be away from home during most of the day next weekend and my wife is not planning on attending. Instead of just sitting there waiting for people to ask me questions, I plan on starting work on Peacekeeper 3.

Data
Today, I want to briefly revisit a topic I've covered in the past - keeping your data safe. We live in a digital world and many people count on having their lives managed digitally. But the use of digital assets comes at a cost and some risk. Let's focus on the risk.

The other day, I received a very official looking email from Chase informing me that due to an excessive number of log-in attempts, my account was now locked. As a convenience, the email provided a link to reset my account. First, I NEVER CLICK ON AN EMAIL LINK! I went directly to the Chase website and had no issues logging in. This simple rule, if not followed religiously, can result in the exposure of your account to thieves. Phishing scams like this are common but they remain common because many people still fall for them. Don't.

I am a fanatic when it comes to backing things up. I use CrashPlan to back up all of my data. The paid-for service runs in the background and keeps all of my data backed up to the cloud. One word of caution concerning CrashPlan, it will consume a fair amount of memory depending on how much data you're backing up. I have one computer with multi-Terrabytes of data and CrashPlan's memory footprint runs about 800 Meg. But, memory these days is cheap and modern operating systems can address huge amounts of it so this should not be an issue.

All of my writing-related files are also stored on DropBox. Because DropBox sits on my hard drive as a folder, it is also backed up to the cloud via CrashPlan. The beauty of DropBox is that it's free and I can easily use it on all of my devices. It integrates very well with every program I use and the synchronization feature is fast and efficient.

But DropBox and CrashPlan are designed to back up data. If you're computer savvy, you've split your hard drive into at least two partitions, one for data and one for the system. If your hard drive crashes and you're using CrashPlan your data will be safe. But what about your operating system? If you failed to create a recovery disk, you're pretty well hosed. Virtually all computers come with a backup partition on the hard drive but if the drive has failed that won't do you any good. If you've split your drive (or have multiple drives) you have a simple solution - Aomei Backupper. I use this free program to create an emergency restore memory stick for every one of my computers. I refresh it twice a year. Now, if I lose a hard drive, I just pop in the memory stick and do a reload. Be careful when installing this program though because the default installation will load programs you might not want on your system.

I also run a hard drive monitor program that will alert me to a failing hard drive. Most of the time, a hard drive will start generating errors before it fails. A small number of errors are normal and can by handled by today's discs without any loss of data. But there are times when a drive will suddenly fail. This happened to me a few weeks ago on the computer my wife has in her sewing room. The drive failed so bad that the machine refused to boot. I installed a new drive, restored the backup, and she was back in business in less than a day. It plans to plan ahead.

There are many other aspects of risk associated with our digital lives. A large EMP could wipe out everything stored anywhere in digital format. If that happened, all of your data everywhere (your books, movies, bank account records, credit history, perhaps most of everything anyone knows about you) could vanish. It would send our planet into the digital dark ages. If such a thing were to happen I think we would have more to worry about than the loss of a few movies and family pictures. Can it happen? Sure. Will it? I hope not!

Sounds like a great idea for a book.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a movie to watch.