It’s been almost a year now since I wrote my first post on data backup so I thought I’d do a follow-up and detail the backup scheme I ended up going with.
The original scheme was fundamentally flawed in that the off-site backup was still pretty susceptible to loss, damage, or theft and wasn’t truly off-site in the broad geographical sense. I was simply storing it at a house about three blocks away. Given the spacing (or lack thereof) of buildings in San Francisco, a few blocks means very little considering the ever-present threat of earthquake and/or fire.
So with that in mind, and after reading through the comments of the original post, I took Eydryan’s advice and looked into Backblaze. Backblaze is an online backup service for PC and Mac that allows unlimited data storage for $5/month per machine. This seemed a little too good to be true but I gave it a shot anyways. Much to my surprise, the service not only works, it works flawlessly and is about as dead-simple as anyone could ask for. It’s a little oversimplified for my tastes — being a PC user I’m more accustomed to layers-deep menus with infinite settings and options — but it does its job and does it well.
Backblaze in action (Also available for Mac)
I’ve been on Backblaze for around three weeks now and I’ve pushed up about 400GB of the 987GB total I have set to backup. Obviously the initial backup is pretty slow and depends a lot on your connection speed (I’m on Comcast), but I just allow it to crank away all day in the background and it hasn’t yet interfered much with any of my day to day activities. The internet has been a little sluggish lately while it’s moving everything up for the first time, but it’s a temporary annoyance and well worth it. I suppose I could just run it at night, but I’ve opted to let it go 24/7 to get the initial backup out of the way as soon as possible. I’ll probably be done backing up around the two month mark at which point Backblaze will begin incrementally updating files I’ve changed on my side. All the backups are encrypted so only I can view or access my files, which is a good feeling when you’re posting your life’s work to someone else’s data center.
As for local backup, I’m running an internal mirror drive which I then backup to an external which is still stored off-site. That’s a total of three physical copies of the data to which I have easy access. Backblaze is great for peace of mind in case of catastrophic loss, but when you just screwed up a 3GB PSB and need to go back a version, you really don’t want deal with the downtime involved in pulling it down from a server.
I’ve never felt this confident in terms of data security, the combination of local and online backup is virtually foolproof and gives me the best of both worlds in terms of ease of access and security. It’s actually sort of scary looking back at that first post and realizing how long I lived with the old system, catastrophe was just a careless neighbor away.
I know I’m always taunting you Mac users about your lack of 64-bit (I develop primarily on Windows 7 but have a few Macs for various purposes, mostly live shows). But now that CS5 is here you are free to bask in the unadulterated glory of full memory allocation that us Windows users have been enjoying since CS4. John Nack has put together some benchmark numbers that should give you a rough idea of the performance gains you can expect. As Nack points out though, these gains will only be seen by people working with larger files, tasks like web design won’t benefit much. You can check out the numbers here: Photoshop CS5 64-bit Benchmarked
On a side note, my overall experience with 64-bit has been favorable in the graphics realm, but for music I use a 32-bit installation. For music production there isn’t much of a benefit from 64-bit unless you’re doing a lot of sampling, it’s mostly about CPU and disk speed for recording and effects. The DAW software I use to record — Cakewalk Sonar 8.5.3 — still isn’t as stable as I’d like it to be when bridging 32-bit VSTs (many of my favorite VSTs have not been ported to 64-bit native yet) so I’m sticking with 32 for the production of this latest album I’m working on.
The little penguin made his iPhone debut last week with the release of the Plancast iPhone app. Everyone is at SXSW right now spreading the word and drumming up support. I designed some emergency t-shirts and business cards for the excursion and I’m excited to hear how it all went. Should have some pictures of that material this week — I’ve yet to see them in person due to the time/production constraints. Plancast also had a big article in the New York Times a few days ago which was exciting to see. If you look closely, you can see a wee version of the logo in the screenshot. Too bad the penguin didn’t hit the front page!
When I wrote about this project last week, I forgot to mention how different the post-production time has been compared to my normal project routine. For just about every one of my process posts I’ve written here, the work has always been completed in school for an assignment. Once the project is complete, it’s over as far as just about everyone is concerned. It’s been exciting to see this one continue to evolve in the real world — like winding one of those wind-up toys and setting it on the table.
These images are recordings of mousepaths using a Java applet by Anatoly Zenkov. In addition to being an interesting aggregation of usage data, they look pretty cool (especially the ones over shorter time periods). The third image is my mousepaths while writing this post. The most telling are my frequent trips to the corners to cue my Exposé actions. Important to note that the black spots are where the mouse stopped for a period of time, not clicks as I thought at first. You can download it here: PC Version | Mac Version.
“S” – save image. “R” – restart.
The last two images are pieces by Hiroyuki Hamada. Completely unrelated yes, but when I saw the mouspath images I immediately recalled these from a couple weeks ago on bdif. I’d worry about you if your mouseclick data looked like this.
These days there seems to be a never-ending stream of “next-generation” graphical user interfaces being by trotted out by experts. Unfortunately for us, most seem to be fundamentally flawed in some way or another. They’re usually too expensive, ergonomically unsound, or otherwise impractical for whatever reason. I’ve worked with multi-touch systems before and while novel, they never seem to live up to the promise of “mouse-killer”. Sure, Microsoft’s multi-touch tables might make ordering drinks all super futuristic at some point, but no one wants to use Photoshop for 8 hours on a Ms. Pacman table. It seems the humble mouse — that tired paradigm of human-machine interaction we’ve been shackled to for decades — isn’t going down so easily.
There is hope though. Today I saw a video outlining 10/GUI, a new kind of graphical user interface that “aims to bridge this gap by rethinking the desktop to leverage technology in an intuitive and powerful way.” Whether or not it can attain that lofty goal is anyone’s guess. What really struck me about this particular system was the pragmatism exhibited by it’s developers. They’ve mixed in a healthy dose of innovation with tried-and-true familiarity to come up with a very compelling compromise that has me wanting to see more. As a musician and graphic designer I wonder if a system like this could ever address all of my needs, but I suppose I’d have to get my hands on it to really know. The main problem with envisioning the potential success of a new interface like this is that the current software we all use was created for the mouse. It’s easy to dismiss 10/GUI when comparing it to how I am accustomed to interacting with my computer, but if the applications I use were rewritten with an interface like this in mind, who knows how powerful it might be.
At any rate, the video is worth a watch, it’s an exciting proposition and perhaps a glimpse of what’s in store down the road. The actual demo beings around the half-way point. Video
What do you think? When, if ever, will we see any of these next-gen interfaces in our workflow? Finally, if something like this was available now, would you use it? Sound off in the comments
I’d heard of Genuine Fractals — onOne Software’s scaling plugin — from Tim at Blue Moon Printing but I had yet to try it out for myself. It’s basically a plugin for Photoshop which uses a proprietary algorithm (as opposed to Photshop’s built in resizing modes) to enlarge images. I was pretty skeptical but finally decided to try it out tonight when faced with some daunting upscaling projects.
I’m in the process of working through some older posters and sizing them up to the larger formats. For a long time I created all of my prints at 12×18″ (or thereabouts, depending on the format) as my computer just couldn’t handle anything bigger. For many I’ve been able to go back and recreate them, but some elements in the posters are scanned from smaller sources and just couldn’t be scaled up (e.g. the sky background in the above example. It’s made from a photo of a textile which is of a finite size and I don’t have access to anymore). So I figured now would be a good time to give Genuine Fractals a try. To my amazement it handled everything I threw at it beautifully. The interface and workflow are dead simple: you just initiate the Genuine Fractals dialog from the File > Automate menu, resize, click apply, and you’re done. It’s even fast, about the same speed as Photoshop’s resize command. There’s not much more to say as the results really speak for themselves. Simply put: Genuine Fractals can scale your images up to 1000% larger without any noticeable degradation. That’s what it says on their site and from my experience I’d say that’s absolutely true.
Genuine Fractals excels at photographic imagery, but that’s to be expected. With complex raster images it’s easy for imperfections to hide amongst all the shapes and colors. I thought the true test would be it’s ability to scale up flattened vector images. That is, vector shape and text layers flattened into raster images. I am doing this just to better illustrate how clean the scaling is but Genuine Fractals can actually handle multi-layered images (text, raster, and vector shape layers), scaling each layer individually and maintaining the original layer type. Meaning, if you feed it a document with a raster layer, a text layer, and a vector layer, it will use it’s algorithm to scale the raster data but will also scale the text and vector layers without rasterizing them. All the layers will be maintained as they were in the original document, they will just be scaled up. For my purposes, this is what makes Genuine Fractals truly powerful.
Here are some of my results. I know, none of this is very scientific but it’s a small glimpse of how well this program works. See the subtext under each image for a description.
Genuine Fractals Resized
Genuine Fractals Resized
As you can see, the lines are still crisp and defined with the Genuine Fractals enlargements. It’s not exactly perfect when compared to the original, but it’s a greatly improved alternative to Photoshop’s native scaling algorithms. My only question now is: At $700, why doesn’t Photoshop have this kind of power built in? New features like content aware scaling are nice and all, but I’d much rather they spent their R&D money on core functionality like this.
You can download a demo of Genuine Fractals from their site to try it out yourself. At $150, the software is a little too pricey for casual use, I’d say this is more for print shops and professional photographers looking to scale up their work for large format printing.
The Ghostly Discovery App has been garnering all sorts of praise and even more downloads since it’s July launch. When we first posted on it a lot of you had noted that it was not available overseas. Well the announcement just came down that with the release of version 1.05, the app is available internationally. The best part is that it’s still free! Get yours now
Here’s something to keep you busy over the weekend: The Ghostly Discovery App for iPhone. The free app allows you to create streaming playlists from the Ghostly catalogue by choosing a “mood” via a spectrum color wheel and a “style” via fader-like sliders. It’s sort of like Pandora but instead of picking a specific artist, you use the mood and style of the music you’re looking for as a starting point. And of course, you can find some Tycho stuff in there too. Check it out here
Update: Sorry, but as many of you pointed out in the comments, the app is not yet available internationally. Ghostly is working out the international licensing issues and it should be out soon. You can sign up to be notified when it is available by entering your email at the bottom of this page.