Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My new data backup plan

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I realized that backups using Apple's Time Machine really isn't the best way for me to backup my laptop. I've got a new plan. I have 3 external hard drives, and here's how I use each.

1 tb drive: This one lives in my office at UBC. I partitioned it so there are 3 separate "drives". One partition is for incremental Time Machine backups. Another partition is for a bootable clone of my hard drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. This means that if my hard drive fails, I could use someone else's laptop to boot from my clone (you can't do this with a Time Machine backup). I think I have it set so that it doesn't archive changes (like Time Machine does) so the clone should be exactly the same size as my hard drive when it's cloned. The third partition is for files that I don't need on my computer anymore but don't want to delete permanently (some photos and music).

500 gb drive: This drive lives at the museum. It has two partitions: one for incremental Time Machine backups, and one for those files.

320 gb drive: This one is with me in Ukenzagapia and is the same size as my MacBook hard drive. Previously, I used Time Machine to back up to it, but I'd really be SOL in Ukenzagapia if I had to buy a new MacBook to get at the files! Now I'm using Carbon Copy Cloner to make a bootable clone of my drive without archiving.

Additionally, I have an 8 gb flash drive that I will put all of my most important documents on as a final backup. I should back up to the flash drive and my Ukenzagapia drive every Sunday at the very least.

A friend of mine recently had an external hard drive with years of photos fail on her, so I want to be sure that any files I have only on an external drive are on more than one external drive.

What do you think? Suggestions for improvement?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grand delusions?

I'm back at my field site now (Nyota) and I'm super excited about this last field season. I spent today unpacking, arranging, and cleaning things. Cam (my housemate for the last two trips) left 3 weeks ago and I went through the things he left behind for goodies like clipboards, string, and flagging tape.

I'm planning NOT to spend 7 days a week in the field this time. I'm wrapping things up, filling in gaps, and helping supervise other projects. So, I imagine all of this free time that I'm going to have, living in this house by myself. I know I'm not going to be able to do all of these things, but I'm very excited about the idea of running regularly, drawing, shooting things with a slingshot, doing yoga (did you know you can download free yoga podcasts?), making a solar oven and learning to bake with it, and taking awesome photographs, in addition to entering tons of data, sorting lots of research-related stuff, finishing my data collection, and generally keeping up on life. I've also got an exciting trip in the works.

Here's hoping for a great field season! First day in the field tomorrow!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Departure eve

I'm leaving tomorrow for my last data collection trip to Ukenzagapia. Woo hoo! I've got my bags packed (to the max, as usual) and my (new-to-me) iphone unlocked. I've redistributed all but the largest plants to friends so that my black-thumbed husband doesn't kill them while I'm gone. I've got a brand new laptop I'm couriering for Dr. K, a new laptop battery for a friend, and about 12 pounds of printed materials that I'm going to unload. On my way through Europe I'm going to buy a ridiculous amount of cheese for my American friend. Oh, and her son really wanted squeeze jam so I'm bringing a bunch of that too. Two friends requested ipods, which I am not bringing. I found a carryon sized wheelie bag at the thrift store which I'm using to carry a microscope and most of my electronics. I hope I don't forget anything too important!

Eating feces is definitely worse than eating insects

These are the things that field biologists talk about over lunch.

Several of us had lunch today and the conversation turned to what we eat in the field, which eventually turned into a conversation about what kinds of insects people have eaten. Everyone in the room had eaten some kind of grasshopper, ant, termite, cricket, or grub.

Then someone started talking about the sad time when they found a raisin-looking thing in their granola that they realized was actually mouse poop. Now that's gross.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maybe posters aren't so bad

I presented a poster at the meeting last week, but unfortunately many people who I'd hoped would stop by were unable to for a variety of reasons. The advantage of a poster is that it's a complete presentation that can stand on its own without me presenting it. Like I said, I collected several business cards so I emailed my poster to all of these folks who didn't get to see it at the meeting.

I've already gotten feedback from ALL of the people I sent it to! One person collaborates with the person whose study I modeled mine after (let's call him Dr. Bigname), and forwarded my email to Dr. Bigname (who wasn't at the meeting). Dr. Bigname emailed me and said he thinks my study may be the best of its type in Africa! How's that for awesome?! He's forwarding it to Dr. Evenbigger.

As an aside, my poster printed with a minor graphical error that wasn't my fault. I pointed it out to the company who printed it and they offered to reprint it, but when I said that wasn't necessary, they sent me a coupon for 50% off my next poster!

Maybe posters aren't so bad after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I wrote a couple of years ago about my backup plan, but it's time to revisit it in light of new information.

While I was at the conference, I brought my MacBook to the local Apple Store to get a minor problem fixed*. My AppleCare extended warranty will expire while I'm in Ukenzagapia, so I wanted to be sure to get it taken care of before I left. They had to replace my whole display, which I figured would be the case. What I didn't expect was that they said it's a 4-5 hour task so I needed to leave my computer for up to 3 days! Still, I was ok with this because I had brought my external hard drive anticipating this separation from my computer. I use Time Machine to back up to 2 different external hard drives. I thought I'd be able to boot from my TM backup onto my friend's MacBook, but no. Time Machine backups are serial locked to the original computer. The only way to get your data off a Time Machine backup (according to the guy at the store) is a full restore onto a different machine (erasing whatever might have been on there).

So, I need a new backup plan. I will keep doing Time Machine backups, but I think I need to do something else too that would allow me to access important files via another computer. What do you do? Should I partition my back up drive and keep part of it for TM backups, and part of it for "manual" backup copies of the stuff I'd need to access from another computer in case mine fails?

Online backup options are out of the question right now because I can't do them in Ukenzagpia. I have some (mostly shared) files in Dropbox but I only have 2 gb. In Ukenzagapia I plan to back up to a third external hard drive.

*The Apple logo on my display became unglued. While this is mostly cosmetic, it does let dust in behind the screen, and I think it increases the risk of my screen getting damaged from behind. I really didn't want to end up with a shattered screen in Ukenzagapia!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Motivation from the meeting

I love the big ecology meeting and this year was no exception! I saw some great presentations, got new ideas, met interesting people, and caught up with friends. I talked with several people who have similar research interests and I'm likely to collaborate with one of them. I gave out and collected lots of cards. I learned that I don't want to do another poster for a while.

More than anything, though, it has inspired me to think about a conference presentation timeline for parts of my dissertation. I want to give a presentation at next year's meeting on the final results of the project I did a poster on this year, and maybe present a different piece of that research at a smaller conference earlier in the summer. It will help me to have these deadlines on my calendar.

Timing is everything

When am I ever going to learn? Once again, I'm leaving for Ukenzagapia right as the term begins. Because some of my grant money has to pass through my student account, all of the money gets held up in the time between when they bill for my tuition and fees, and when they waive it or pay for it. If only I could just remember to start this in the middle of the summer to prevent the hangup! Alas, no. A couple thousand dollars will be tied up. So, the emergency fund goes into action once again. At least we have that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What I'm bringing to the conference

Next week is the big ecology conference (are any of my readers going to be there?). I'm really excited about. I just wanted to take a moment to share a few items on my conference packing list and see if any readers have anything to add.

-Business cards. I have plenty of these already printed and I'm going to carry them around in my name tag holder.
-Highlighter. For highlighting the talks I want to go to in the printed program. This is the #1 most important time I need a highlighter in my life.
-Water bottle. It'd just be embarrassing to carry around a disposable bottle at an ecology conference.
-Distinctive ribbon. This is new on my list. I'm going to tie it to the tote bag they give me so I can tell it apart from the other 2,000 identical tote bags.
-Lightweight sweater/cardigan. It's going to be wicked hot outside but if they crank up the AC or have some temperature regulation problems, I don't want to be shivering.

I've been way out of touch with the blogosphere- does anyone have a blogger meetup planned? I look forward to seeing some of you very soon!