The Importance of Backups

How many backups do you have of your important files? I have several backups of my photo archive:

* A local rsnapshot (incremental) backup made every six hours.
* A local copy of my photos directory, which is a straight copy, including deletions. Synced daily.
* A copy on another server synced daily.
* An online cloud backup on Backblaze.

And I still managed to lose a few days worth of photos.

Late last month I took delivery of a new 8TB external drive. I benchmarked it and it was just a bit better than any of my existing drives so I decided to make that the primary location for my photos. I called it “cats”.

Previously my photos lived on a drive imaginatively called “data”, but that would now become my secondary copy.

With my photo archive copied over (all 2.3TB of it), I edited my backup script so it would not accidentally erase my photos on cats, especially not any newly imported photos. I updated rsnapshot so it used cats rather than data, and made sure that Backblaze was backing up cats too. It all looked like it would work perfectly!

The next day I didn’t take any photos, or the next, I took a couple of photos with my phone but didn’t transfer them to my laptop immediately. Then one morning I took a photo of the sunrise, and the following day I did the same.
I edited a few of the images and uploaded one on the same day. Nothing wrong at all.
The next day I went into Cork to photograph Glow Cork and got some nice long exposure photos of the lights. I went in the next day on December 3rd and did the same.

I worked on a couple of shots, but I was busy, and didn’t have time to work on photos until this evening when my world fell apart as Lightroom reported it only had the smart previews for my latest photos. With a sinking feeling and forced calm I checked the 2017 folder. It all looked good, until 2017-11-19 that is. Nothing there after that.

I frantically checked my backup script again and again, poring over each line to make sure the right files were being copied to the right place but it looked ok.
I checked my rsnapshot folder. That should surely have the missing files. No. No, it didn’t.
I checked my other server and the files weren’t there either. They stopped at 2017-11-19.

I checked Backblaze, and the backup made today ended in 2017-11-19 too.

Dumbfounded and a little desperate I started clicking on the end date in Backblaze, going back a few hours, then a day, and another day when I found something weird. I found my December 1st and 2nd photos, but not in the cats drive, but in the data drive!

I’d forgotten to update my Lightroom import preset. Lightroom was still copying my images into the data drive, and then my backup script would delete them the next day. Rsnapshot wasn’t backing them up either because it was now looking at the cats drive.

I started a restore of my December photos off Backblaze. The 3.7GB of data is still downloading. Luckily I hadn’t formatted my camera SD card so my December 3rd photos were still there too, waiting to be copied over again. Once converted to DNG, copied into place, renamed and metadata data updated, Lightroom was happy with those files.

I learned a lot about Backblaze. Without it I would have completely lost my December photos, including this one and the photo at the top of this post.

However, I could not find backups of photos shot from November 20th to 30th. Most of those were sunrise photos, copied to the laptop after the daily backup script had run so Backblaze should have had a day to back those photos up. The restore process offers hourly backups over the last two days, then daily for the next 7 days, then weekly going back a month.

I suspect that Backblaze considered the daily backup done sometime around 7am UTC right after my backup script had deleted the files but that doesn’t explain how I was able to find my December shoot because that was past the hourly deadline. I need to contact Backblaze to find out why.

I still recommend using Backblaze. Last week several factors conspired to make my backup fail:
1. My DSL has a relatively slow 1Mbps upload.
2. I had my laptop unplugged from my external drives for several hours.
3. Backblaze doesn’t immediately back files up.

Then there’s the bad luck to find this problem after more than a week when Backblaze changes to weekly snapshots. It has it’s limitations but it still saved a bunch of my photos and I am very thankful to have it!

I’ve already changed my backup script so it won’t mirror deletions. If I’m going to delete files I’m going to do it soon after copying them onto my laptop and I remove files so rarely it’s not needed in the backup script.

The Egg

You were on your way home when you died.

You should read The Egg, a short story by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian.

Queen – We Will Rock You (Raw Sessions Version)

In 1977 Queen released “News of the World”, and this year a 40th Anniversary Edition has been released with outtakes, alternative versions of the whole album and more. Here’s the trailer:

I found a playlist on Youtube and it’s great to hear slightly different versions of tracks I know so well but it reminds me that 2 days from now is the anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death and that makes me sad.

svn: “local file delete, incoming file edit upon update”

Google knows all, most of the time. However, I know I’m in trouble when I the first link returned by a search for an error message in a widely used piece of software is a commit entry adding test scripts for that and related errors to the software.

So, just in case you run into this problem where Subversion thinks you have deleted a file locally and someone has updated the same file on the Subversion server you should use the following to fix it:

$ svn resolve
$ svn revert

Tell “svn resolve” to keep local changes (mc) which means the file will be deleted, and then “svn revert” will revert that delete. You’ll finally be back to a pristine work area.

How to catch my eye in the Newsagent

While in Eason newsagents today I glanced over at the gaming magazines and something caught my eye and brought me back almost 30 years to when my brother and I bought our first copy of Zzap! 64.

Future Publishing have a new retro gaming magazine on sale that has a very familiar front cover.

Zzap! 64 issue 50, May 1989.

Retro Volume 10, September 2017.

The RETRO title will be familiar to Speccy owners, as it looks very similar to the title graphic of Crash magazine, another Newsfield publication from long ago.

I had a quick look through the magazine. Not much in the way of C64 games. It did have a bit about the Amiga 500, but the paper felt cheap, and I knew it would only end up collecting dust if I bought it.

A Magic VIC 20 in John Wick 2

John Wick 2 is a movie like a violent shoot-em-up game with a body count approaching that of a typical Call of Duty game. But it’s also got a retro heritage, with old fashioned telephone exchanges, rotary dial telephones and even a venerable Commodore VIC 20.

It’s also a magic computer because it wasn’t even plugged in, and the power light was unlit. It was a hero prop so they should have noticed!

The Automattic Photo, 2017 Edition

Last September almost 600 employees of Automattic travelled to Whistler in Canada for our annual Grand Meetup. As is now a company tradition a photograph was taken of everyone who attended. It’s a challenge taking a photograph of that many people. Remember how hard it was taking that family photo? The difficulty of getting everyone to look at the camera at the moment the shutter closed, or even just getting everyone in one place is multiplied when you have this number of people.

The last company photo was also taken in Whistler and we took a photo in the that same location again but it wasn’t good enough. The camera wasn’t up high enough, so people in the back were all but invisible in the photo. This photo was taken around the corner, where the photo was taken from a first floor balcony. Plenty of height and a perfect vantage point.

Taking the photo was one challenge, but then came development of the image. The camera had to be handheld because of the location on the balcony but the photographer took plenty of shots so I had a lot of material to work with.
The first issue was lining up the photos and I tried using Affinity Photo. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite up to the job (at least with the knowledge I have, it’s an excellent tool otherwise) but I learned a lot about working with layers and layer masks as I swapped parts of different images around.

Eventually I used Photoshop, loaded 3 photos in a stack and the auto align did a great job of correcting for changes in each photo.

What turned out to be the biggest pain point in developing a photo like this was removing people from the background. Here’s a few of them:

Blond Guy
This guy stayed in the crowd for about ten images. I only realised he wasn’t part of the group when I saw him with his friends in an earlier photo.

Two guys showed off their bikes for the camera. It was easy to tell they weren’t part of Automattic!

This lady thought it would be fun to join us in the photo. Her friend was laughing in the background and can be seen in the photo below.

This man stood mostly still throughout the photos that were taken making it more difficult to remove him, but he’s gone from the final image. 🙂

I’m already planning for next year. We’ll get some shots of the background to make it easier to to clone bystanders out, and have more volunteers to help organise the shoot so we make best use of the available space.