Like a lot of stories that end up in the paper from me, the one that ran today about home storage (backups, streaming videos and photos to the TV, keeping an off-site backup) came from a dilemma I was facing myself.
We have a desktop Windows XP computer where we'd been keeping most of our important files (and backing that up regularly to an external hard drive). Now, we have an iBook G4 my wife uses and the computer I'm typing this on, my Macbook. I've begun using this computer a lot more for photos (ever since I started using Aperture 2 to keep them organized). But we still have stuff scattered across all three computers and because of a weird glitch on my XP machine, they can't all properly speak to each other on the home network to transfer files around.
For a while, I've been thinking we probably need centralized storage; unfortunately, the external hard drive we own is really old and not large enough to accommodate all three computers and the growing amount of photos and videos we're storing (especially HD camcorder footage, which takes up a TON of space).
I've started looking at devices like the Drobo, which seems to make backups pretty automatic and has built-in redundancy without messing with RAID, which even hardened IT people consider a pain. The Drobo holds multiple drives and if one goes out, you just replace the bad drive and move on with your life with no data lost. There's also an add-on box called DroboShare that turns the Drobo into network-attached storage for accessing files on the Internet and within your network.
The main issue I have with Drobo: it's pricey. The latest version of the Drobo box is $500 with no hard drives included. Let's say you get two cheap 1-terrabyte drives; that's another $200, at least. DroboShare is another $200 and, based on some reviews I've seen, is pretty slow for what it's supposed to do. I may not even need it; I have an Airport Extreme router that has a USB port for hooking up a printer or external hard drive. Ideally, I'd be able to hook the Drobo up there and have it act as a network-attached storage box. If everything worked out perfectly, I could even keep our network printer hooked up via USB through the Drobo (maybe).
No idea if that would work. And it would be nice if I could use Time Machine from my Macbook, too. (Rebecca's computer doesn't have OS X Leopard, so I'd only need that for my Macbook.) I doubt that would work over the network, but I guess I could hook up the Drobo to the Macbook periodically to do Time Machine backups. (Some people have told me that if you do it that way, you get error messages when your laptop's not hooked up to the backup drive. That could get annoying.
One thing I definitely don't want to do is set up a computer (or hook up an external drive to a computer) and keep it on all the time. I'd really like something that can be accessed all the time, but that doesn't suck up as much energy as a PC.
But then, the more I delve into the subject, the more it sounds like there are better, cheaper alternatives to buying a Drobo. Suddenly, I was on NewEgg.com looking at NAS devices for brands I've never even heard of like Thecus, Synology and QNAP.
Then, as I'm looking at these $400 and $500 devices, I start thinking, "Is this all overkill? Do I really need three or four hard drives on all the time backing up stuff? Isn't this overkill? Couldn't I just get a big external drive, plug that into the Airport Extreme to stream stuff to the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and keep an off-site backup?"
Ah yes, that's another piece of the puzzle. Ever since Glark put the bug in my ear about keeping a copy of our data at an external location, I've been experimenting with Carbonite and looking at other online options. My dad even suggests I keep a big hard drive at my parents' house and just backup over the Internet for updated files. That might be the cheapest, easiest solution.
So after a few weeks of thinking about it, I'm still no closer to a solution. I've been keeping an eye on eBay for a possible good deal on a Drobo and hoping some sane solution presents itself. Given that I get paid to tell people in print (and now on the radio) how to navigate technology like this, it's a little scary that I can't figure it out for our own home and our relatively modest data storage needs.
And you've just witnessed me completely geek out. I hope it wasn't too exhausting to read.
Online people I hope to never meet in the real life
Writers (except the ones I know and are friends with and are awesome) tend to have a reputation for being dickish, elitist jerkoffs. I mean, that's what I hear. I'm one of them, so who knows what people say behind our backs. I'm just guessing here.
I was very disappointed to learn this week, though, that people who think those things have a point. It started on Monday when I wrote what I thought was a pretty innocuous column for the business section about how some writers are promoting their books by doing e-book signings and virtual meet-ups. It was a last-minute story idea and I thought the column went fine. I'm not a publishing industry expert, but I think the piece holds together and has some interesting tidbits.
What I didn't expect was for someone on a sci-fi writers' blog to post about my piece and harp on what the author I quoted is charging for her e-book. Fine. Fair point. If you think it's overpriced, don't buy it.
By the time I got to the site, though, I saw that in the comments, these hacks (er, authors, excuse me) were not only belittling a woman they didn't know for what they perceive as her naivete (even though she's been a ghost writer on nearly 100 books), but some semi-anonymous dickwad took a potshot at me, saying I get something wrong every week on my NPR segments. (There was no NPR segment from me this week, by the way; I had the week off.)
Say what you will about an article I've written or a specific segment, but when you just throw out there, "Yeah, Omar gets shit wrong all the time. On a national radio show," you'll excuse me if I get a little fucking defensive.
Alls I knows, JS, is that I work my humpback humpin' ASS off. Constantly. And I think I do good work. I do a job now that I think I've been waiting my whole career to do in an area where I'm completely comfortable and knowledgeable. I don't get everything right 100 percent of a time because I'm not a robot from the future. And I particularly won't always get things perfect when I'm speaking instead of writing.
I know I shouldn't feel like I have to defend myself against what someone I don't even know spouted off in about four seconds on some blog I will never read again anyway.
I posted (probably a bad idea) suggesting that the person e-mail me directly and tell me what things I've messed up that I'm not already aware of. No reply. And, surprise surprise, the commenter doesn't have a public profile.
So, that's just me getting Internet hotheaded, but skimming the other comments (including a completely inaccurate one accusing my newspaper of deleting comments on our stories; never happened) I have to conclude that the people posting there don't bother to check, or even think about, what they post before they post it.
And even more than that what bothered me about this stinky little stain on the Internet was the tone of the comments. These writers, you can tell, loooove to bitch and whine and take people down, especially people they don't know or even have a passing familiarity with. They LOVE that shit. It's delicious. It's a goddamned Bon Bon to these starving artists.
10 years ago, I might have chimed in on a site like that hoping to find a community of other writers to bond with. Maybe I hadn't grown up enough to be able to tell the difference between an artist, a real writer and a self-involved dipshit. Sometimes you have to live a while longer to learn these things.
So, sorry about that. I needed to vent.
Here's what else is going on this week. I have a story in Thursday's paper about Jessica O'Connell, an iPod concierge. She was very cool to meet and I think what she's doing is kinda awesome. I hope she can make a living out of it. There's a video that goes with the story that I shot, but it doesn't appear to have been posted yet.
I also appear in a video from the Dadlabs guys about finding out you're gonna be a dad. Our story wasn't particularly dramatic, but I'm glad they found it interesting enough to include in their very well-edited piece.
You can see it below:
Have a great rest of the week. I'll have more stuff to share with you over the weekend.