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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: November 2009
One of the hardest life lessons I’ve learned is this: if the only person who knows (or cares) about a deadline is yourself, it’s not really a deadline — and don’t kill yourself trying to make it. I used to really stress out when I’d commit to something then not make the date because other things came up (even though I felt those things were more important, or out of my control). Even though the only person it mattered to was me.
I finally figured this out, and started teaching myself not to sweat over details that didn’t really matter. I decided back in 2006 I wanted to try to organize a second career around a camera; I never worked with Bill Atkinson, but you can’t be an Apple geek (or like me, an Apple alum) and not know about Hypercard, and in fact, I did a lot of work in Hypercard over the years. I did work with Dave Cardinal at Apple, and when I started dabbling with digital cameras and then run into their work, it was that seminal eye-opening moment that made me realize that I could make that shift as well, and that was the starting point for this second career planning.
That was in 2005.
In 2007, I thought I’d become a pretty good photographer and started seriously looking to fire up my second career plans. And then I blew out my knee by stepping in a gopher hole, then dad got sick (and then he died) and by the time I surfaced from helping mom through the estate, 2008 was almost over and it was time to try again. Then I landed the gig at Palm, and I knew it was going to an insanely fun few months and it went on hold again. And now it’s almost 2010, and I feel like it’s time to try again. So we will.
That doesn’t mean nothing happened in the meantime. In fact, the delays have been a blessing in disguise. I’ve spent a ot of time and energy in battling bits in photoshop and lightroom, in studying my work and really being honest about my strengths (and flaws) and working to fix the flaws; in studying other photographers and understanding their strengths and how to adapt them into my own work.
In 2007, I thought I was a good photographer. Today, I’m a much better photographer. Sometimes delays can be frustrating, but you turn them to your advantage.
There are always reasons to say “not yet” to your plans; planning is easy — and safe. Doing is hard, involves risk, and may fail. But sometimes, “not yet” is the right decision, even if you don’t like making it at the time. You might miss out on an opportunity, but if your plans are sound and your planning is done well, you’ll run into later opportunities later. (hint: if your plans revolve around a “now or never” situation, it’s probably a badly thought out plan. If you don’t have follow-on opportunities to build your business with, how are you going to grow your business?)
So knowing when to hold it — and using that hold time to improve your chances of later success as you can — can be a positive. You can’t be afraid to say “it’s time” and push the button and make it happen.
At the same time, you have to be realistic, and you can’t force yourself to push the button simply because it’s the date you said you were going to do it on — going in for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time makes the chances of failure skyrocket, and if it fails, it’s going to be harder to generate future opportunities or feel confident about going out and grabbing them when they happen.
There are also times when you simply need to fold the hand and try again. When I left StrongMail, I’d been working on a project called Dare2Thrive, and decided to take some time off and push that project into production. Once I left on my own, some outside factors kicked my motivation in the crotch, and I realized there were some fundamental flaws in my approach that I couldn’t easily solve.
The big one: I was putting myself into primarily an editorial role, not a creative role, and on a long term basis, I decided that was unacceptable; I wanted a situation that focused on my own material rather than creating an environment where I promoted the work of others.
That’s not something you fix by tweaking the CSS. I realized I needed to start over, tear it down to the bare assumptions, and starting over. I hated the decision at the time; at the time I felt it was fixable, but the external issues I was dealing with made it necessary. I realize now that not only was it the right decision — it saved me from almost certain failure if I’d pushed forward, and that was without taking into consideration what 2008 was going to surprise me with…
Holding it and Folding it. Never fun. To take something you really care about and want to do and stuff it back in the closet is hard. To take it out behind the shed and “Old Yeller” it is traumatic. If it’s the right thing to do, though, it has to be done, and many times, it creates new, better opportunities later if you let it.
And for the record, the core or Dare2Thrive — the piece that first made me want to do the project — is alive and well as part of this new project. And dammit if it isn’t even a better project now than it ever would have been in its original form.
And if anyone wants to buy them, I have the original dare2thrive domains available and parked, at least until I figure out a use for them….
To map a path, you not only must know where you want to end up, you have to know where you are. In fact, you really don’t need to know your final destination — it’s fine to say “let’s get to sweden, and then we can figure out where Stockholm is, and once we get there, we can find the hotel”. But if you map your route by starting at the wrong place, you’re screwed.
I’ve been spending time studying the analytics of my existing environment and trying to figure out what is working and what isn’t, why I like and what I don’t. It was about a year ago I decided to move from typepad back to wordpress and consolidate my presence on one blog on chuqui.com (I actually made the move in January). Overall, I think that worked very well; I like the platform and I like the technologies involved. I used an off the shelf wordpress theme that I feel worked fine in the interim with limited tweaking, and I can’t complain.
The numbers on the blog are decent. Since shifting from Typepad to WordPress, feed subscriptions have grown from about 425 to 650 (+35%). 16,000 different people visited in 2009 (so far), a number I find fascinating. Traffic is split 40% referral from other sites (including clicks from twitter postings), 40% direct (primarily RSS feeds) and 20% search engine. The search engine number is too low, but I haven’t done any significant optimization for SEO.
An interesting tidbit is that 45% of the pages published get no (zero, none, nada) viewings; if you factor out pages published in 2009 and generating views based on RSS/Twitter, it’s more like 70%.
A typical posting has about a two week lifetime where it’ll get views based on being in your RSS feed or posted to twitter/facebook; after that, unless it’s got prominent visibility on the site, gets traffic from links from other blogs or search engines, it no longer exists.
In other words, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) matters, especially if you want to avoid having to constantly throw traffic out onto the RSS feed to drive views. At the same time, if you aren’t updating on a regular basis, you’re going to disappear.
My adsense advertising made me about $0.75 this year. I haven’t done any work to try to maximize this — it was literally a put-there-and-watch test — but that’s really pitiful. Part of that, I think, is that Adsense seems to work better in a non-geek audience; if your audience lives within the tech-geek echo chamber, Adsense might as well not exist. it is certainly not a panacea; hell, if anyone still thinks there’s a magic cookie where you put up a blog and money rolls in, they deserve what they get.
On the other hand, my limited (very, VERY limited) tests using Amazon affiliate links netted about $40. That won’t pay the rent, but it will buy the occasional photography book (which I can review and generate affiliate links, which…); and since it’s literally a free option for readers, there’s little downside.
About 40% of my total pageviews are to the front page (http://www.chuqui.com); I’m not entirely clear why. Adsense revenue generated by the front page: $0.00. Talk about a waste of real estate.
Most popular content: all over the place. No real trends, which is probably good, because if my hockey writing was clearly my most popular material, that’d be bad for business.
Over on twitter, I’ve passed 1,000 followers, which just stuns me. That’s double (or more) what it was six months ago.My flickr viewing stream has a solid, regular pattern, and in fact has better SEO than my blog does — more on that later, and that’s not a bad thing, it just needs to be understood (and it can be leveraged).
My interpretations of this?
“Just posting” isn’t enough for what you publish to have an audience. The good news is that the blog format encourages conversation and allows for a less structured writing style. The negative is that if that’s all you do, most of the words or pictures will get seen for a short period of time and then effectively go away.
There are options to mitigate that. On a technical level, SEO techniques help improve visibility through the search engines. Good site design can help make content accessible to a user who visits the site, but the blunt reality is that people who visit the site don’t explore; they read what they came to see and leave. you can reduce that with careful planning of your home page and your posting-detail page, but still, expect “stick around and enjoy your stay” to be a tough sell.
I’ve decided that one way around this is repackaging. Tidbits does interesting work with their e-books, and I’ve been watching David duChemin‘s experiments with fascination, and I think this is a very interesting technique to explore. Content creation via the blog, which allows you to explore a topic in depth and over time, in a conversational and non-linear style, and then pull that content back together into an e-book where you can structure it and polish it and then publish it in HTML and/or PDF and then feature that publication on the blog entries where the content came from. The “typical” user won’t wander the blog to read the entire thread of postings, but I think if they find the content via search or from a link from another site, and the page they land on has it available as an extended article — that I think is a workable distribution for longer and more complex material.
It makes it easy for the viewer. If you make it complicated, they won’t. And you get a bit of the best of both worlds, the informality and interactivity of the blog format, and the formal “published” format for easy distribution — and for someone to come and grab later if they’re not part of the immediate conversation.
And since it is now in a tangible (albeit e-published) format, I think it is easier to make an argument that it has some value, which if you want to convince someone to exchant something of value for it, can’t hurt.
And it can be made to work with both text AND images, and adapts well for creative commons rights usage. You can get paid via an ecommerce solution as well as a donation model, depending on what you want to do, or even give it away and use sponsorship or advertising models if you want.
And that seems to be the starting point for the whole shebang, no?
Many years ago, when I was doing book reviews for Amazing Science Fiction (at that time owned by TSR. I did say “many years ago!”) a common question I got was ‘How can I get paid to read books?’
It may sound like I’m picking nits, but this is an important semantical detail: I didn’t get paid to read books. I got paid to help readers decide whether to read (and buy) books.
Typing is a skill. Writing is a craft. You don’t get paid for writing. You get paid for selling what you wrote. What you wrote is an asset, and your income depends on how others value that asset and what they’re willing to pay for it.
Ditto photography. The act of taking a photograph is a skill. The act of making a photograph is a craft. You don’t get paid to make a photo; that photo is an asset; it has to be valued and bought to generate income. (or more wonderful thoughts on making vs. taking, see Scott Bourne and Chase Jarvis)
Nowhere in here have I mentioned the word “art” or “artist”. To a good degree, it’s an irrelevant concept in the discussion (except it’s not). In my way of seeing things, to be a craftsman, you have to master the skills. To be an artist, you have to master the craft AND have a specific inner spark or vision that drives your work beyond the typical. Few are true artists, but in some fields, defining yourself as an “artist” is a marketing tactic used to increase your value and and improve sales. That’s not a crticism — it worked wonderfully for Andy Warhol (but is what he did art?)
Stephen King is a craftsman. So are John Scalzi and Terry Goodkind and John Le Carre. Gene Wolfe and Michael Swanwick are artists. Joe McNally is a craftsman. Art Wolfe is an artist. One s not superior to the other, they are different (and many times highly subjective) paths down the same road — and I tend to believe that the louder someone declares themselves an artist, the less likely they really are.
This is a somewhat round-about way of pointing out that business of selling your work has very little to do with the act of creating it. If you don’t understand this, I can’t believe you can succeed as a business — but you may still be a great writer or photographer.
Which is a round-about way of bringing forward the idea that there’s going to be very little discussion about making great photos. It’s a given that you can do that; you can probably market yourself to some level of success if you’re craft is technically mediocre, but you’ll be constantly shooting yourself in the foot.
So this conversation is really about what to sell. It’s about how to market it so people know you’re selling it. It’s about making sure that someone who wants to buy it can. It’s about maximizing the value of your assets, and making sure that what you sell it for makes you more than it cost you to make it.
It’s also about when to give it away, because many times, the best sales tool you have is the free sample.
But the trick there is how to give it away, without, well, giving it away. Because if it’s free, why should someone pay for it?
And that issue is core to success in the internet-enabled universe, and is both a massive challenge — and a bigger opportunity.
One aspect of figuring out what to do in a second career is understanding what NOT to do. As I noted in the intro, one decision I made a while back was that even though my hockey writing was one of the largest segments of my blog’s audience at the time, I chose not to try to make it a focus of my plans. It might have been a leg to build an income stream on in the short term, but over the longer term, it conflicted with other, more important goals (like getting out of Silicon Valley), and I didn’t see any logic in trying to building a hockey audience knowing I was going to “retire” from it at some point.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m interested in a lot of things. Some days I think my brain is a magpie, always looking at some new shiny thing to go and explore. there are days when I feel like I need to put a huge sign that says FOCUS on the wall over my desk, just to remind me to stick to what needs to be done and not spend a few hours “researching”. (although research is necessary and useful, but not to the exclusion of getting real work done).
One of the things I’ve been thinking about for the last year — and reluctantly putting back on the list of things I want to do but can’t justify doing — is going back to fiction writing. At one point I was an active fiction writer, and unlike a lot of them, I was selling some of it. I gave it up for a simple reason: the pay sucked, it was a lot of hard work, and I enjoyed computers and geeking at least as much as I enjoyed writing and being a writer, and computers pay a hell of a lot better.
Fiction writing is a tough market. It hasn’t gotten any better in the time I’ve been away, in fact it’s harder now to succeed as a writer than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and the pay scale is about the same. Not “same adjusted for inflation”, but pretty much the same. A few writers make really good money, a good chunk of writers make enough money to keep writing, and a huge number of writers are fighting for waiter jobs with those actors and actresses and muscians and artists who are all in the same boat in their respective fields.
John Scalzi sums it up wonderfully.
I go back to what I felt when I decided to retire from writing: I enjoy being a writer (the act of writing isn’t as pleasant as having written) — but I don’t see anyway someone who WANTS to be a writer can successfully compete in a tight market against someone who HAS TO BE a writer. And I want to be a writer, it just isn’t something that wraps me in knots at night when I’m not writing. So even though my unfinished novel has been calling to me in the interstices of the midnight hour, one of the things I’ve decided I’m not going to do — is try to go back to fiction writing.
Although I’d like to. But I don’t HAVE to — and that’s something everyone should be brutally honest with themselves about when playing the “I want to be…. ” game. “Want to” isn’t a success strategy. In a creative industry, if it doesn’t come from somewhere deep inside, if the hunger isn’t there, chances are you won’t succeed, because someone who is driven by that hunger is going to fight for the same opportunities, and they’ll win most of the time.
As I noted the other day, I expect posting frequency on the blog to go up soon. About this time last year I started serious planning on my “what’s next?” project — that being my long-term look at how I want to make the shift into the second career. I see a time where I’m not going to want to work in Silicon Valley and hack high tech 24×7 (gasp), but I certainly have no plans on retiring.
The elevator speech: I want to earn a respectable income from my home office in Astoria, Oregon without telecommuting.
Yes, you could potentially contract and consult from there (although if I were going to do that game, I’d do it from Ashland or Medford — like, it sometimes seems, half the population of those towns) but that’s not the point. At some point, I know I want to get out of the Silicon Valley rat race and do something else. The question is — what?
I want to emphasize something: this is a long term (3-5 years) thing; in fact for about the last 15 years I’ve been keeping (with more or less intensity) a 3-5 year plan. That’s the first lesson in something like this: planning is good, because it helps you map a path, but it should also be flexible because as you do the planning, you’ll change your mind, new situations come up, the unexpected happens. For me, the planning on the second career wasn’t so much about implementation, but on understanding where I wanted to end up and to influence decisions now that will make it happen someday. And occasionally, after a really bad day at the office, as a way to keep my sense of humor and sanity. Well, okay. My sense of humor.
Now, the day for that second career is closer. I’ve known for a few years roughly what I wanted to aim at here. Various decisions I’ve made over the last couple of years have been driven by this long-term planning. My move of the blog from Typepad back here to chuqui.com was because I knew I wanted total control over my online environment, and I wanted it under my own domain name for branding purposes. I chose WordPress because I really like that tool as a platform for it’s flexibility and the community ecosystem that exists around it (my second choice, even thought I’ve occasionally described it as sportfishing off of an aircraft carrier, is Drupal, and the drupal community has done a really nice job of cleaning up issues that bothered me back when they couldn’t even run the Drupal site on the Drupal 6 release).
Another decision I made was shutting down the “Two for Elbowing” blog on hockey and de-emphasizing my hockey writing. I did that for a few reasons; originally, that blog was supposed to be for both myself and Laurie to write about hockey (“two for… get it? heh. heh.). Laurie’s life took her in other directions and it turned into a solo gig (although the hockey world is missing out on a damn good hockey geek, and I’m not talking about me); as a solo, I much preferred putting all of my writing into one place (the branding thing) again. Also, think about my long-term goal: moving to Astoria. Building an income around writing about hockey and the Sharks and moving to Astoria conflict. Just a bit. Besides, there are good hockey writers out there now, and if I was 25 (instead of 50+), I might take a run at doing something like what Rich Hammond is doing with the Kings. Instead, I made a decision to enjoy hockey, not sweat about what to write about it — and I only write when I want to. This is a feature, not a bug.of
I’m firmly convinced that what Hammond and the Kings are doing is the future model for journalism in pro sports as the newspaper business continues to evolve and implode. NHL teams that haven’t figured this out yet should take a close look and find a good beat guy to bring on board and nurture. The Sharks could do a lot worse than hiring Dave Pollak and bringing him in-house, for instance. Having been writing about hockey online since before the Sharks existed, I do sometimes wish that the online environment that exists today had existed 15 years ago, but it didn’t. Sometimes timing is everything, and understanding that is a key aspect of designing success into your plans.
To succeed in ANY career path, not just a second career, it’s important to know what NOT to do, what not to sidetrack yourself on, what not to invest time and money in. That may be even more important than knowing what to do, in fact, because that’s how you stay focused and moving in the direction you want to end up.
In any event, this is the first in a series of articles on the idea of a second career and my thoughts and plans. I’m hoping this becomes a conversation, not a lecture; I’m doing this in public both because I hope you find it interesting and learn from it to help refine your own plans and ideas — and because I hope you will help me improve my own ideas and fix the flaws in my thinking and make my own second career success happen as well. I hope you find this interesting and useful; I know I’ll learn from your feedback and comments and end up the better for it. Together, everyone wins — and how can that be bad?
So, onward. The future starts today.
Footnote on Astoria: For those not familiar with Astoria, it’s about 2 hours from Portland on the coast, and it’s a very nice, small, homey town, but has some really nice places like the restaurant Baked Alaska and Cellar on 10th that make it more than a small rural town — and it’s well located to a lot of great photographic opportunities). It might not be Astoria (I’m really falling more and more in like with Morro Bay, for instance, and I love the northern Oregon Coast so it could be anywhere from Astoria to Newport…), but that’s a nice placeholder for what I’d like to do.
Small, inviting, not urban, on the coast, lower cost of living but with some nice amenties and close to civilization when I want it. The kind of place most Silicon Valley Geeks seem to wish they lived, unless they’re the hard core urban type. I’m not, but Vancouver tempts me to convert…
According to Greenbaum’s blog post (which was mirrored on his personal blog), someone posted a comment on a story in which they used a colloquial or slang term for female genitalia. It was deleted, but then was reposted. Greenbaum says he noticed that the comment alert from WordPress showed that it came from a nearby school. So Greenbaum called the school, and they asked him to send them the email with the comment, which he apparently did. About six hours later, he says, the school called and said that an employee had been confronted and that he had resigned.
Am I the only one who thinks that doing this goes way beyond the normal course of editorial behaviour?
There’s been some interesting commentary on this case — but there are some aspects that I think haven’t been addressed very well yet. It’s a more complicated situation than many have considered, and the answers really aren’t clear cut.
Here’s my take:
There are really two separate issues here.
Did Greenbaum over-react by reporting this person to his employer?
Yes — but.
Yes, he did. In the grand scheme of things, reporting a violator back to their host is a serious thing because it can have serious implications — like getting someone fired. Which effectively happened in this case. So it’s a last resort thing. Before you do something like that, I prefer taking many other tactics first:
- Delete the post
- Warn the User
- Ban the User (and ban the IP and/or IP range as necessary)
- Make it clear that if it doesn’t stop, they’re going to be reported
If those all fail, or if for some reason aren’t possible, THEN you start considering going back to the user’s host for support in making the behavior stop. As far as I can tell, only the first was tried, so a number of (to me) necessary steps were skipped. This could have been ended with much less serious ramifications, and wasn’t.
However, here’s the butt:
- The post was deleted, and the user insisted on putting it back. The admins made it clear it wasn’t acceptable, and the user decided to overrule their authority. This user was far from innocent here.
- Once the user is reportd back to their host (and I use that term carefully, because it’s many times unclear if it’s an employer or what, and to some degree it doesn’t matter if it’s an ISP or a boss or whatever), it’s out of Greenbaum’s control. The rest of the escalation to losing the job was the result of actions of the host (i.e the school, or this person’s boss). None of that is caused by Greenbaum (directly) or his fault, beyond that he should have been sensitive to the fact that his action in reporting might have caused other actions to happen.
So, you know what? I think Greenbaum’s transgression is a lot less serious than the user’s transgression in reposting his vulgarity after it was made clear it wasn’t welcome. I would have tried other tactics to cut the abuse, but let’s not forget that it was abuse, and it was repeated abuse after the site made it clear the posting wasn’t welcome. Whether you shoot over someone’s virtual bow one time or three times is a minor thing in the scheme of it.
The user’s fault in this problem was a much bigger problem than Greenbaum’s reaction.
But what about the school? They’re the group that took the complaint and escalated it into a situation where the person lost their job. None of that is Greenbaum’s fault. Was the school wrong for turning this into a termination issue?
I’m not so sure. It’s easy to say they over-reacted, but let’s not forget:
- This person did this using the school’s network
- It looks like he did it while on duty at the school – while he was being paid by them.
- He likely was on a school-owned computer
- He was (I’m sure) under some kind of employment contract with behavior clauses. The school very likely has acceptable use standards for computers and networks, and for all we know, also personal use restrictions (which this would be a violation of).
- So while this cascaded into a situation where someone lost their job, it’s not at all clear that the details of the action were the cause. We also don’t know if this person has a history of previous violations of work rules that might have been part of this. Has this person been warned about this kind of behavior before? We don’t know. It could well be from the school’s view that this was a “last straw”. We don’t know.
And those complications are why I believe reporting back to the host is something not to be taken lightly; once you do, the final outcome is not really under your control. On the other hand, the person who could have prevented this was the user who posted the vulgarity — either by not doing it in the first place, or by stopping after it was deleted the first time, or by being smart enough to not do it from his employer on company time and company equipment. He had plenty of opportunities to not turn this into what it was; Greenbaum had one.
And it’s not as simple as many of the folks commenting on it want to be. Real life never is…
That’s the question I’ve asked myself after watching the past few SJ Sharks games.
That’s the question Chelsea is asking.
The question I’m asking is why you’re asking this question with a team that’s 8-0-2 in their last ten, gaining 18 out of a possible 20 points? Given their success (they have not lost in regulation two games in a row yet this season), whatever McLellan is putting out on the ice is working. So why are we trying to fix it?
Now, sometimes — to try to answer my own question seriously — a team can be winning but clearly not playing good hockey. The Sharks, however, are a team that is starting to get on a roll to my eyes. They just got Pavelski back, and he really makes the 2nd line dangerously good, and it looks like the chemstry is coming together and the team is starting to play its game.
So my short answer is — it ain’t broken. In fact, it looks good. I’d leave it alone. And with a team playing this well and winning this consistently, I’d ask myself why I’m looking for things to kvetch about.
But that’s just me.
Now that we’re in November, I wanted to take a look at the Dany Heatley trade and the Sharks in general. Given I wasn’t a huge fan of the trade before it was made (look here), what do I think now?
I like it. Heatley is doing pretty much everything I could ask to convince me that Doug Wilson knew better than I did about this trade. Gee, that’s a surprise — the GM knows more than I do (but it’s surprising how few fans are willing to admit that. Hi, Tom!).
Michalek is — well, he’s Michalek. What you see is what you get. Cheechoo is just floundering, and I feel bad for the kid, but… well, am I surprised? Not really. So what we gave up I don’t miss. And what I see I like.
Heatley has kept his mouth shut, he’s worked his butt off on the ice, he’s produced, and he’s fit in well with the team. Exactly what he needed to do. Even better, he’s shown himself to me to be a grittier player than I expected — he’s no brett hull, he actually gets his nose dirty around the crease. And the Sharks have had him playing penalty kill, which I didn’t expect, and he’s okay at it (his defensive coverage is sometimes a bit — lax — but he’s decent and he tries. He also has a nice edge to him, which I also didn’t expect.
So what can I say? He’s the player I hoped we’d get, and more. I have no real complaints here. And what we gave up? expendable..
And the Sharks? took a bit to get the chemistry going. right now? they’re looking somewhat unstoppable. I was all for some adversity early in the season, given that last year it was easy early and they put it into coast mode and couldn’t get out.
This year? I’m not seeing that. The big difference is on the third and fourth line. No offense to Mike Grier or Marcel Goc or the third liners last year, but they were good defensive players, but weren’t able to impact or change momentum. Bringing in Nichol and Ortmeyer has made a huge difference, and changed the mix witwh the younger role players, too, and now we’re seeing that the third and fourth lines are really changing the flow of the game.
Most notable change from last year? These two lines still do a lot of cycling on the shifts, but this year, they’re doing it in the offensive zone and creating problems for the other team, rather than last year, where we saw these lines mostly in the defensive zones preventing goals. Over a season, this is huge.
I give this team an A- so far. And they’re fun to watch, too.
This seems to come up about once a year among the birders — bad behavior by a bird phoographer. I wrote up my thoughts on this, since I live in all three worlds (birder, photographer of birds, and list admin to both), and decided I’d turn it into a blog post so I can point to it next time this comes up.
The reality is this: bad behavior is bad behavior, and I’ve seen bad behavior by both birders and photographers. I’ve turned birders into the rangers for going off trail. I’ve also done the same with photographers. My favorite “what are you THINKING moment” here was a photog up on the bluffs above Fitzgerald out in Moss Beach, where they went over the fence and ten feet DOWN the bluff to take a picture of a flower.
If you’ve been in that area, you know why I just stood and watched until he came back up safely. Did I mention it to him? no. Why? I’ve found people like this rarely are interested in constructive feedback (and I’m not always in a mood to be constructive!), and honestly, I have no authority. But I do have no qualms about reporting people to rangers and letting them deal with it. Note that since I have a camera, the ranger has evidence of the act, and on more than one occasion has chatted with the person back in the parking lot…
The biggest problem I think both birders and bird photographers run into these days are off-leash dogs and their owners. That one’s a real tough issue. I don’t consider “off leash” to be a problem per-se, but many dogs are a lot less under control than the owner wants to believe, and many of these dogs are being allow to chase birds in restricted habitats. We won’t even go into the ones that don’t bother cleaning up after their animals…
Of course, the core problem here is that as a society, many people feel the rules don’t apply to them, and don’t care as long as they don’t get caught. Or don’t care even if they do get caught, given the abusive reaction some of them have to the rangers and cops who call them on it.. It’s the “what I want is the only thing that matters” mentality. Fortunately, this is really rare in birding circles — just not rare enough.
Here is the scenario: birders chase a reported rarity and congregate to see it once the word gets out. Many photographers are also birders but carry with them digital cameras, big lenses and the desire to get photos. As birders like to accumulate birds on their lists, photographers like to accumulate photos. Nothing wrong with either on the surface. The issues are politeness around other people, and potential disturbance to the bird. If the result is scaring off the bird then others won’t have the opportunity to see it
It goes both ways here. I’ve had situations where I’ve been working a location for a significant period of time, camera on tripod, keeping quiet and letting a specific posture or behavior develop, only to have a birder come tromping up through the brush making enough noise to flush every bird in the time zone. I’ve had them walk up and proceed to stand directly behind the tree in my camera view, ruining the shot. I’ve had them come up and stand directly in front of me — usually oblivious, but occasionally they just don’t care what anyone else thinks.
I had one birder who, after coming up to check out the bird I was trying to photograph, consciously flush the birds when he was done — and smirk at me on the way out. He’s lucky I valued my tripod more than I valued beating some sense into him.
There are bad photographers. There are bad birders. The focus should be on bad behavior, not on one class of person or the other.
I live with feet in all three buckets here: birder, bird photographer, and list owner. There ARE huge differences in behavior and attitude between birding and photographing birds, and they can conflict. 99% of the time, though, if the birders and the photographers just work at it and communicate, everyone can be happy. On lists, it’s important to set ground rules and understand what the primary reason the list exists — and then discourage users that don’t work within that.
In the field, it comes down to cooperation and communication. Someone who gets on a bird first should be given the opportunity to watch it without it being flushed; people who come in later need to hang back and have some patience rather than plow in and ruin it for everyone by flushing a bird. On the other hand — the person doing the watching needs to be sensitive to others who are waiting for them and bring them in as soon as they reasonably can and “not be greedy”.
Note that I specifically leave the camera out of this, either group could be the camera person and either group be the birder. Birders fixed on a bird and oblivious to all around them are fairly common, you don’t need a camera to tune out the universe. A few people skills work for both groups.
Now, on the list, it can be trickier. I’ll be the first to admit I love passing around good shots of what I’ve seen. On a birding-centric list like SBB, there’s some tolerance for that, but it’s easy to overdo it. My PERSONAL policy for dealing with this is this: the birds have to be local to the group; they have to be timely; I post links to rarities or to one or two representative photos and beyond that suggest they look at my flickr for the rest. I try to be sensitive to the fact that the list is about birding, and the photography is documentary to the birding, not the reason for the list, so I try to keep it relevant and subdued. For other birding centric lists, setting written policies that spell that out will reduce the fighting that can happen ON list. (as someone who sometimes has to break up these disagreements on SBB, I’ve tried to set an example and hold myself to a conservative standard. I sometimes fail, but I’m learning…)
It might be worth hashing it out a bit on list, or polling the members and asking them to comment privately, and then set a policy based on that feedback. If it’s a small problem, grabbing a consensus and formalizing it will keep it small, and help everyone understand what’s acceptable. Not having a policy is where trouble lies, because members get upset and start defining policy on the fly, and the fights over who’s setting policy tend to be a lot worse than the fight that led to the meta-fight…
What I’d suggest is focussing on the bad behavior, not on whether it’s birders vs. bird photographers. Like Steve, I have no problem removing someone from a list if they are found to be chronic abusers of the environment or their fellow birders. Fortunately, I haven’t had to. Unfortunately, the last three cases I can think (on various lists I’m on) of where abuse issues have come up have all involved photographers, but four of the last five times I’ve had conflicts in the field have been by birders, not photographers; I think the camera geeks get noted because there’s a perception (not completely false) that “they aren’t birders” — actually we’re many times both.
As list owner I have NO control whatsoever when it comes to stupidity or bad behavior out in the field, a
Actually, to some degree you do. You have the power of expulsion from the list, and you have the power of public chastisement and censure. Neither of which should be used trivially, but sometimes, it can be considered (and threatened). Just as a thought. Now with a list like SBB, which is informally but tightly tied to the county Audubon, I wouldn’t consider doing something like that without consulting with them.
And sometimes that’s the best option; many times these people are known within the birding and/or photo groups. and many times, if you ask the right person, someone who knows them well will take them aside and “have a little talk”. And “things get fixed” without there ever being any formal action or fight. So it’s never bad to spend time learning who the various people are and knowing who you can bring in if you need advice or — a little help with something. getting the right thought in the right ear is sometimes the best way to take a little thing and keeping it from festering and becoming a big one. Especially if the problem is one of naivete or obliviousness. Nothing is going to solve those smirks, though, except a tripod to the temple… but I’d hate to dent a good tripod…
I had a couple of people email me on my backup article (thank you all for the links and feedback!), and that led to a few more quick thoughts.
Is there significant advantage to Firewire over USB 2 for a backup drive?
Firewire is faster. USB is slower, but the drives are less expensive.
Apple left off the firewire port on the new Macbook. There have been indications for a while that they’re starting the shift away from Firewire. What that implies for now is that any external drive you buy should have a USB interface so as to avoid long-term compatibility issues. That’s not a problem for most drives, but it’s something to be aware of.
I normally run my backup drives via USB now for a simple reason: I can plug them into a USB hub. If nothing else, it’s one less thing to plug in (not such a big deal for macpro, bigger deal for laptop). And it saves me having to think about buying a firewire hub as the drives multiply.
Firewire has target disk mode, but Apple’s also indicated it’s future is limited to the future of firewire. Apple seems to be thinking that the future is USB3, high speed wifi (N speed) and to a lesser degree gigabit ethernet. I’m going to be curious if they start including an eSATA interface, but I think if they were going to, we’d have seen one by now.
As long as you buy external drives that are USB2/Firewire400, you’ll be fine. No need to spend more for Firewire800 for a backup drive, the extra performance is more or less wasted except for the initial backup, and who cares if the initial backup finishes at 3AM instead of 7AM while you’re sleeping?
This drive to me is the sweet spot for archival backups. I’ve used the drive casing and it’s less expensive than heavier duty enclosure I recommended on my blog (only about $40 per drive over the raw disk unit). I’ve used them, they’re nice and reliable. the 1TB is a lot cheaper per gigabyte than the 2TB drives, so if you can use them, I would for now. Buying down a generation never hurts.
(FWIW, a little birdie I trust told me to not trust the 1.5TB drives, that entire generation, according to them, are going to be less reliable than the 1′s or 2′s. I haven’t seen any data to back this up, but given who they work for, I trust them enough that I’m avoiding using them. I wouldn’t freak and replace one, but I’d also plan on retiring them earlier than I might otherwise)
Why the recommendation of that Mercury Elite drive? I’m trying to understand the price-performance-reliability issues here. The Mercury you cite runs $160; Newegg, as just one sample, has Hitachi and iomega external drives, retail, USB 2.0 (or “Turbo USB 2.0″?), 1TB, at $90.
I’ve used them and found them reliable. If you have another brand you like and trust, be my guest. To a good degree, these are commodities, but I like to make sure I have a high quality enclosure and then upgrade the drive mechanisms over time rather than replace the whole thing. Some of them, honestly, cheap out on the interface and/or power supply, and some can run really hot under load (or really hot, period), which reduces reliability and lifetime. The OWC enclosures are well engineered from what I’ve seen and I have enough history with them to know that the enclosures rarely fail, so I trust recommending them.
But really, whatever works for you, but an unreliable disk enclosure can make your life hell and be more likely to die early in its lifetime.
It was a topic for discussion multiple times at the Morro Bay Photo Expo. It’s a continuing topic online in various blogs. It’s a continuing problem where the solutions seem simple in theory, but in practice…
So while I’ve written about it before, I realized while I was at the expo that my own backups weren’t in great shape (in theory vs. in practice), so when I got back, I fixed that, and so here’s a snapshot of what I do and why I do it.
George Barr at behind the lens has written a couple of pieces on backups I found really interesting:
- A good computer system requires two separate and distinct components – both reliability and backup
- What are you thinking about reliable painless off site backup?
But first,from the point of view of a developer by Steven Frank.
And now my take. I try to be pretty anal about backups — despite that, in the last year, we lost some data off of Laurie’s disk when it failed because (ta da!) at some point I turned Time Machine off on that machine and forgot to turn it back on, and in Leopard, Time Machine’s ability to notify you of a problem like this is, well, non-existant. They have partially fixed that problem in Snow Leopard, but still: that tells you just how easy it is to screw this up, and not know until it’s too late.
The quest for the perfect backup system continues. It doesn’t exist. For me, “perfect” would imply:
- Turn-key and non-invasive
Preferably, it works out of the box without requiring me to figure out how to make it work; Time Machine actually takes a huge step forward in this regard, but still has weaknesses. All other solutions simply aren’t close.
Here’s what I do to back up my laptop:
- I split my data between two disks. My key data is on the disk on my laptop and goes with me everywhere. My “secondary” data is on a firewire drive that sits on my desk. That second disk is effectively an archive of things I may want to use (installers, movies and videos retired from itunes, etc) but don’t need on a regular basis. My lightroom catalog and my iTunes library both live on the laptop disk.
- I have a second firewire drive that I plug in when I’m wired onto the desk. That is my primary backup disk; on it, I use Superduper to make a bootable clone of my laptop drive onto this disk. Superduper is compatible with sharing a disk with Time Machine, so that disk also has a time machine backup on it. Superduper runs nightly, so that bootable clone is generally under 24 hours out of date. This is a feature, not a bug.
- I have a third drive, this a bus-powered firewire drive, that I carry with me on the road. It’s a bootable Superduper clone. When I’m at home, I update it weekly. When I’m on the road, I update it nightly. I do NOT run Time Machine on this drive, just Superduper.
- I’ve been backing up online for about the last year, using Amazon S3 and JungleDisk. I back up “key data” (photos, documents, and itunes) to S3 over the wire.
That is, if you’re counting, up to five copies of my key data, including an automated off-site backup online to S3. A few thoughts on why I do this:
- Time Machine is good for recovering A FILE. I don’t consider it acceptable to recover a disk for various reasons.
- This goes double for Time Capsule. When Apple released the Time Capsules, I bought two, one for my house, one for my mom’s house. I think it does a great job backing up my mom’s laptop at her house (this is the primary use case for this device, I think; non-technical user, light data usage, catastrophic recovery needs). For my uses, it fell short for many reasons — it doesn’t do well in data-intensive situations or multi-computer environments, and recovering over the network is beyond a pain (trust me, I tried). When Laurie’s disk failed, the first thing I did was clone the backups off the Time Capsule onto a disk (to preserve a copy, just in case) — and then found I couldn’t use that clone to recover the disk after plugging it into the computer. That forced me into a recovery over the network, and even running a long ethernet cable from the Time Capsule to the Mac made that recovery pretty painful. That along makes Time Capsule not acceptable to me in my environment.
- You should plan on your backup drive to be 3X the size of your drive that you’re backing up if you use Time Machine. Anything less, and it’ll probably end up thrashing with limited space and not keeping backups around as long as you’d like.
- Why backing up via superduper nightly is a feature, not a bug: If something corrupts and you don’t notice right away, one of the best ways to ruin your day is to realize that your backups are so efficient that they sucked in all of the corruption as well. That’s why it’s good to have a backup that’s only backed up once in a whilte, and even better, have a backup that you have to PLUG IN and MANUALLY back up. Because that way, you know you have a good backup even if your disk controller fries and writes gibberish over everything plugged into your computer. That’s why having a week-old backup in a drawer is a REALLY good thing — teach yourself to maintain it.
Bootable backups rock, as do bus-powered (i.e, don’t plug into an electrical socket) drives. If you’re on the road and your laptop fries (or runs away from home), a bootable, bus-powered drive means all you need to do is find a Mac and you can plug in and boot YOUR system; if you’re on the road with another Mac user, it makes surviving a lost computer a lot less painful (been there, done that); or you could even depending on circumstances find a cybercafe, or even overnight a new laptop from Amazon or Apple if that’s what it takes and be on the road again right away. That’s another reason why Time Machine shouldn’t be your only (or primary) backup.
I’ve bought my disks from Other Worlds Computing for years. I use their Mercury On-The-Go drives for my bus-powered carry-arounds. I user their Elite AL-Pro drives for my sit-on-desk and my archival drives. Laurie has an Elite AL-Pro dual-mechanism as her primary data disk on her Mac Mini, running mirrored drives via Softraid. SoftRaid rocks. The only reason I don’t use that configuration is that the ONLY failure I’ve had with a drive enclosure in the last half-dozen years was my RAID/mirror drive where the firewire interface died; I lost no data, but I never got around to replacing the enclosure; by the time it failed, I’d outgrown the drives anyway, so I just but a single-drive, much larger drive. Funny how data grows to fit available space.
That’s the first warning on RAID systems; there are still single points of failure in them. Two drives in a box is nice, unless the box itself fails.
RAID? SAN? NAS? Drobo? WTF?
It’s really easy to get lost and confused in the jargon. RAID? RAID 0? RAID 1? SAN? NAS? Drobo?
My view of all of this is simple: unless you NEED it, stay away. Keep it simple. The more complex you make your environment, the more pieces exist to go wrong, usually on deadline.
- RAID: RAID is a set of technologies that take multiple drives and hook them together in various ways. RAID 0 wires them up as one really large virtual drive. RAID 1 wires them up in parallel and writes the same data on each disk, in theory meaning the data will always exist even if one of the drives fails. Because theory rarely works as well in practice, they invented a bunch of other RAID options (RAID 5, RAID 10, RAID 1+0, RAID WTF) to try to accomplish in practice what RAID 0 and RAID 1 do in theory.
RAID is not a backup. RAID adds redundancy, but it is not a backup. If you don’t understand that concept, give a phone call to the people at Microsoft and Danger and ask about their Sidekick “oopsie”. Ask for Roz Ho (Hi, Roz!). RAID 1 has no capability to recover from many problems, including deleting a file off the disk (and wanting it back) or corrupting your data, because that data will be corrupted on all of your copies. that’s a bad thing.
RAID save you from a drive failure, but the drive you’re most likely to kill yourself when it fails is the one in your laptop or desktop computer, and it’s not set up for RAID. To me, RAID serves many useful purposes. I just don’t consider one of them to be backups. RAID can make it less likely for you to need to restore from a backup, but it doesn’t create or replace backups.
- SAN: Storage Area Network: If your data needs are complex enough to need a SAN, you either have an IT department, or you better plan on budgeting for one, at least with an IT guy on retainer.
- NAS: Network Area Storage: NAS boxes are hot among the geeks right now, for good reason. It’s basically a big fileserver that lives on your network. Your files are wherever your are, and in the days of Wifi and laptops where you carry your computer around the house, a very tempting option. you can find NAS boxes that are compatible with Time Machine, NAS boxes that are compatible with windows boxes, and NAS boxes that make breakfast and brew coffee in the morning.
I have a couple of problems with NAS boxes: first, all of your I/O goes over the network. I don’t care how you’ve built your network, unless it’s fiber optic, it’s slower than a disk attached to your computer.
The other big problem I have with NAS boxes; you are buying a computer that has a bunch of disks on it. That adds cost and complexity (and things that can fail) to the mix. The more complex your environment the harder it is to make it work reliably and the more likely something will fail along the way. I like SIMPLE. Plugging disks into my computer is simple. NAS is a lot less simple.
Now, if you are in a multi-computer, multi-user environment where sharing files happens regularly, then the cost and complexity of a NAS may well make sense for you. Buying a NAS just to back up one or two computers? To me, that makes no sense. Using it for backups as well as file sharing and storage for a small office of a few people? Different story. But for me, a NAS would make backups slower and less reliable, and not bring much to the equation to offset that. Your mileage will likely vary.
- Drobo: The Drobo is another toy that a lot of geeks are drooling over. Basically, it’s a really smart, RAID-capable disk enclosure that worries about the details of data storage and tells you when you need to feed it more drives, and it worries about data migration and all of that. When they work, they work great. When they don’t — I know people who’ve gone insane dealing with them (but most of those were early adopters; Drobo’s done a good job of dealing with this stuff).
My complaints about Drobo are similar to the NAS — it adds cost and complexity, and for my needs, I just don’t see that I need it. Well, not now. But I’m going to buy a Drobo at some point, unless something better comes along, but not as long as I can live on (and backup with) simple drives reasonably, which is, right now, 2 terabytes. When my backup and data needs outstrip the size of a standard large hard drive, then Drobo is a good option. Until then, I’ll go with SIMPLE (and cheaper).
It is, honestly, hard to argue with inexpensive and simple, and inexpensive and simple is to take a nice, 2 terabyte drive and plug it into your computer via USB or Firewire and back up via Time Machine and Superduper.
The combination of Time Machine (for short term backups and needing “that one file back”) and Superduper (nightly to online disk, and weekly to offline disk) is simple, manageable and it works, and it protects you from just about any kind of data/hardware failure below massive catastrophic problems like your house burning down.
If you can store your backups on a 2 terabyte disk (the largest standard drive generally available right now), then all you really need is a couple of 2 terabyte drives. Anything else adds cost and complexity, not reliability or better backups.
If you CAN’T live on a couple of 2 terabyte drives, the first thing you should do is ask yourself whether you really need access to all of that data all of the time? It not, come up with a plan to subset your data into your active data and your archived data. Data you know won’t change much is a lot easier to back up and by figuring out what you dn’t need to carry around, you can probably get to the point where you don’t need the complex solutions to make your backup work. And you lower your risk at losing data if you can figure out what data doesn’t have to be carried around to be lost.
What about that catastrophic problem? Your house just burnt down. Your office is underneath that mudslide. Now what?
For that, you need a copy of your data in a safe place. I’ve been using Amazon S3, others use a safe deposit box. Literally, any place where you can reasonably say “the chances of both places being destroyed at the same time is very small” works; I’m comfortable with leaving a disk in a locked drawer at work, for instance. Any disaster that takes out my house AND my office — I probably have bigger worries, if I’m around to worry about them.
The easiest way to handle an offsite backup (there’s that word again, SIMPLE): buy two firewire/USB 2 Terabyte disks. Plug one into your computer, do a time machine and Superduper backup. unplug. Take to work, lock in a drawer. Plug in the other computer and run backups.
Now, once a month, take your backup disk to work, take the disk at work home and plug it in.
How tough is that? So why don’t we? (hint: just do it)
I’ve been doing offsite backups to Amazon S3 for the last year. There are some nice advantages to it; it’s trivially easy (when you, say, don’t forget to turn the backups back on, when the network doesn’t fail, when… ) — I’ve had no complaints — zero, none, nada — with Amazon S3 and Jungledisk. It works great.
I’m going to stop doing it, too, in favor of the “buy another disk, swap it with the one at work” method. Here’s why:
- Cost: I’ve got about 45 gigabytes backed up on S3. That’s not all of my data. That’s the data that I can’t afford to lose. That data is growing every time I take a photo, and it’s not going to shrink. Currently, this is costing me $15-20/mo in storage and access charges. That’s roughly $200 a year. That’s a couple of terabytes of disk a year I can buy. This isn’t the cheaper option.
- Reliability: it’s only as reliable as the vendor you entrust your data to. That’s why I’m using Amazon S3. I know I won’t wake up some morning to find out my backup storage vendor ran out of funding and is shutting down (or shut down without notice). It’s happened. A soon as you start bringing in services like this, you start having to qualify your vendors (i.e., all that nasty stuff I.T. does for you at work) and monitoring their operations and validating their services and paying their bills. Do you want to be your own IT department more than absolutely necessary?
- Recovery: Okay, pop quiz: how long will it take to download 45 gigabytes? If I ever do need to recover a catastrophic failure from S3, not only will my data set be incomplete, it’ll take me days (I’m guessing 2-3 weeks) to pull that data down. Assuming nothing goes funky and my ISP doesn’t decide I’m pirating music and turns me over to the RIAA or rate throttles me.
That latter’s a killer. I could handle “really slow” if it were cheaper, but the cost-benefit of online backups doesn’t match simply buying a couple of disks and stuffing them in a drawer at work. It’s slower, it’s more expensive, it won’t scale, your recovery will be more painful, AND you’re adding complexity and the need to manage a vendor relationship or two.
So I’m doing away with online backups. Convenient in some ways, but not cost effective, not simple, and if you ever need to recover more than one or two files, incredibly painful. And for one or two files, Time Machine works.
Some day, online storage will happen. But not now. If you’re considering it, think long and hard about the costs and hassles — and go buy another disk.
Some final thoughts
- Here’s a hint many people don’t think about; you don’t need to keep buying disks with enclosures; it’s quite easy to replace the mechanism INSIDE the drive. That can save you $50-100 per drive, which over time really can add up. Or use a drive dock, which allows you to buy bare drives and plug them in as needed without opening an enclosure. Simply wrap the drive back in the non-static bag (or buy some to keep them in), and they take up less space and cost you less money. It’s an easy operation even for a non-techie.
- Don’t wait for a drive to fail. You don’t have to wait for a drive to fail to retire it. If you copy your data to a new drive and retire the old one BEFORE it fails, you can stick your old drive in a drawer (as an emergency backup!) and save yourself the pain of having a drive fail. A little preventative maintenance does wonders here.
- Always buy bigger than you think you need. If you are currently on a 500 megabyte drive, replace it with a 1 terabyte drive. Or better yet, a 2TB drive. you’ll find ways to use it.
- Think in terms of “active” data, “accessible” data, and “archival” data. You don’t need instant access to every file every moment. If you come to grips with a plan for “what’s available”, “what’s handy if I need it” and “what I might need”, you can REALLY simplify your life and your backups.
- I handle archival data really simply: it lives on my secondary drive until I get around to copying it to an archival drive. I make a clone of the archival drive. One lives in a drawer at work. One lives in a drive at home. Once every year or two, I take the oldest drive and retire it, and copy all of the data to a brand new (probably larger, because I’ll need it). That way, you continue to migrate that data to new media and minimize the chances of “it died sometime when we weren’t looking” or “wow, we can’t READ that zip drive any more”. By making data migration to new media part of your backup/archival plan, you limit the problems you have going back to old data down the road, at minimal cost and no real pain.
- Burning to DVD? CDs? Don’t bother. First, if you aren’t using gold archival DVDs in your burning, the chances of having bit errors down the road are high, especially after a few years, and even archival Gold DVDs have longevity issues. And when you look at the cost per gigabyte of DVDs vs buying another hard drive, it’s a no brainer. We outgrew burnable media years ago.
If you take nothing else away from this article, do these two things
- Keep your backups as simple as you can while still doing the job: two copies of your data (three is better. Four is even better), at least one copy of data off-site.
- The best way to make backups painless is to never need them — and the best way to do that is to retire/replace your PRIMARY drives every year to 18 months. This is especially true for laptop users where drives get bumped around. Upgrade your working drives on a regular schedule, and you’ll significantly reduce the change of a drive failing on you at a bad time. And you’ll get a bigger (and probably faster) hard drive in the bargain. A 500 gigabyte, 7200 RPM Seagate laptop drive will run you under $10o. You can clone your data to it via Superduper (using one of the bus-powered enclosures, say, or the disk dock…) and then even if you pay someone to install it in the laptop, that’s still $150 — and that $150 could well make sure you never NEED the backups in the first place, and people never seem to think about doing this. Do it. To me, that’s money well spent.