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February 2020

MVCUG Meeting Notes

February 8, 2020

Due to a last minute schedule change, John could not be present for the February meeting. So we did a topic swap with the April meeting, making the February meeting a Mike & Barry Show covering backup strategies.

Thanks to the 17 hearty souls who came out to the Cochise County Service Center and hanging around about 15 minutes past noon in order to get through the entire presentation. Following are some notes based on the show outline with some links for further reading.

Q&A

The Mike & Barry Show always starts out with a general Q&A session. This episode was no different. However, there were not many questions to start things off this month. Here’s what I remember (I don’t take notes while Mike and I run the show, so I may have forgotten something—please forgive).

Q: Tony asked about what happens to the files in the recent items menu of macOS when you remove them from the menu. He always makes a copy of the file someplace before doing so in case the file is deleted.
A: Assuming we were on the same page, the simple answer is “nothing.” The the list in the Recent Items menu (a submenu found in the Apple [⌘] menu) is made up of aliases, or pointers, to the actual applications and documents you have recently opened. You can control the number of items in that list in the General pane of System Preferences (from none to 50 for each category, applications and documents). When you select that menu and choose the Clear Menu command at the bottom, it “removes” all the applications and documents from the menu. But the actual applications and files are never touched—they remain wherever they happen to have been stored on your drive (applications in the Applications folder and the documents wherever you saved them). Here’s Apple’s support article about Recent Items.
Tony insisted that his recents list was showing him all of his documents and was not limited to 50 or any other of the options in System Preferences. If that truly is the case then he was not referring to the same Recent Items menu in the Apple [⌘] menu. Never-the-less, his practice of making a copy before removing an item, just in case, does dovetail into the backup topic for this month’s session. When in doubt, make a backup or copy of something before performing an action so you know you won’t loose data.
Neither Mike or I could remember the other questions, so we’ll move on to the rest of the notes.

MVCUG Business

We welcomed visitors and new members, of which there were none this month, introduced the officers (Carolyn gave her treasurer’s report), reminded all about the website and Facebook page, provided information about hardware members can check out, shared that John and I provide members with discounts on consultation services and shared our contact information, and gave a sneak peak of what’s coming up at our meetings in the next three months. Mike and I must have done a bang-up job as there were no questions about MVCUG.

Term of the Month

Encryption
In the last episode of The Mike & Barry Show Mike told us about digital certificates and how they work in regards to secure (encrypted) websites. In this episode I shared a bit more about how encryption works on a device and in the context of protecting your data when backing up and/or syncing to a cloud service as well as some commentary about encryption in the news regarding the FBI, DOJ, and POTUS asking Apple to unlock iPhones.
Wikipedia’s definition of encryption is, “In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a message or information in such a way that only authorized parties can access it and those who are not authorized cannot. Encryption does not itself prevent interference but denies the intelligible content to a would-be interceptor.”
For more information about how encryption works, see this eight-page article at How Stuff Works.

Tips o’ the Month

Windows:
What to do if your keyboard stops working?
What do you do when you start up your Windows PC and are presented with your user login screen but you discover that the built-in keyboard on your laptop or the USB/Bluetooth keyboard connected to your desktop doesn’t work for some reason or another. Mike demonstrated how you can bring up the on-screen keyboard and click or tap your way in. Microsoft has a page on their support site all about it.
macOS:
Share (some) contact details
Have you ever been asked to share your contact information with someone? If you have your own contact information set up in your Apple Contacts app, but only want to share a subset of what you have on record, I demonstrated how you can choose on a field-by-field basis just what to share in your digital Vcard file. Read about it in Apple’s knowledge base article.
iOS:
Share using AirDrop
I demonstrated using Apple’s AirDrop technology to share a photo from my iPhone directly to Mike’s iPhone. Here is Apple’s knowledge base article about AirDrop.

Share a Favorite

Mike
ReelGood.com
Mike shared his favorite website for answering the question of “what’s on?” Or rather, since he’s a cord cutter, “on what streaming service can I watch (insert title of TV show or movie here)?”
Barry
Overcast
I shared my podcast listening addiction and my favorite podcatcher, by independent developer Marco Arment.

Backup Strategies

Backups are an important part of personal computing. Hopefully, all of you are protecting your important data from loss by some kind of backup. Mike and I presented a backup strategy made up of three key parts and one key objective. What follows is the outline we followed with some links for for information.

Three Key Parts

  • Versioned backups
  • Bootable duplicate
  • Offsite copies

One Key Objective

  • Automate as much as possible
    • Backups happen in the background
    • You don’t have to remember to do anything

Versioned Backups

What are Versioned Backups?
  • Multiple copies of each file
    • Includes the latest version, numerous previous versions, and deleted files
  • Updates Incrementally
    • Copying only new or changed data each time
  • Daily (at least)
  • More often (preferred)
    • Depending on your use and how much risk of loss you want to assume
Why Versioned Backups?
  • Protects against accidental deletions
  • Protects against damaged files and corrupted disk
  • How far back to keep versions?
    • One year is probably enough
What do You Need for Versioned Backups?
  • Windows 10: File History
  • macOS: Time Machine
  • Included with their respective OS
  • Easy to setup
  • Set and forget
  • What hardware do you need?
    • Dedicated external drive (HD or SSD)
    • At least twice the size of the drive you are backing up

Bootable Duplicates

What is a Bootable Duplicate?
  • Exact copy or clone of the PC’s main boot drive (PC = personal computer; Windows or Mac)
    • Identical, sector by sector
    • Includes the system and all your applications and documents
  • Bootable
    • Capable of running your PC just like the main drive
  • Update it regularly
    • Weekly (at least)
    • Daily (preferred)
    • Depending on your use and how much risk of loss you want to assume
Why Make a Bootable Duplicate?
  • Protects against main boot drive failure
  • Allows you to reboot and get right back to work
  • May be possible to use to boot a secondary PC
    • Allows troubleshooting main PC without interruption in workflow
What do You Need for a Bootable Duplicate?
Windows
MacOS : two industry-leading applications
Application Notes
  • Commercial software (SIB is part of Windows 10; Clonezilla is open source; SuperDuper! has a free tier; CCC must be paid for)
  • Moderately easy to setup
  • Set and forget
What hardware do you need?
  • Dedicated external drive (HD or SSD)
    • Can be the exact same size as the drive being backed up
  • Optionally use same drive as versioned backups
    • Capacity at least three times the PC’s main drive
    • Partitioned into two volumes, one for each different backup

Offsite Backups

What are Offsite Backups?
At least one backup of your important files somewhere safely away from your PC
  • Could be in another building
  • Perhaps even in another part of the world (online backup service)
A copy of either versioned backup or bootable duplicate—or both
  • Have two sets on different external hard drives, keeping one set someplace else
    • Home of a friend or family member
    • Your place of work
    • A storage unit
    • Bank safe deposit box
Online backup service
  • Updates regularly in the background
  • Files are stored on someone else’s computer (cloud server)
  • Can be accessed from anyplace in the world from any computing device with Internet access
What about cloud sync services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, etc.?
  • Not an online backup, strictly speaking
  • Only files in a specific folder are synced
  • Old versions and deleted files usually only stored for 30 days unless paying
  • Restoring files can be a tedious, web-based operation
  • Absolutely can simplify backups, however ...
    • Makes it easier to restore data when moving to a new computer or replacing a hard drive.
Why Store Backups Offsite?
  • Protects against natural disaster
  • Protects against theft or fire
  • Extra protection against ransomware
What You Need to Store a Backup Offsite
To create your own offsite backup solution, you will need:
  • An extra external drive
    • Set up two backups of the same type, each on their own external drive
    • Keep one local for continued backups
    • Store the second in a different physical location
    • Swap them regularly
    • Add a third for even more redundancy
To use a cloud backup service, you will need:
  • Conventional backup app or proprietary software
  • Backup as usual, but use secure internet file servers
There are two main categories of online backup services:
  • Self-contained: The service supplies you with their own software
  • BYOS:: You must supply your own backup software, and in some cases additional software that enables your backup app to mount or otherwise interact with the storage space.. Here are some online storage services that can be used for backing up using your own software:
Self-Contained Services
  • Acronis True Image(from $50/year)
  • Backblaze ($6/month/computer and all attached drives; $60/year; $110/two years–this service is what John and I recommend, especially for Mac users)
  • DollyDrive (macOS only, from $5/month)
  • IDrive(5GB free; $70/year/2TB)
BYOS Services:
Pros and Cons of Offsite Backups
Pros
  • Keeps files safely offsite with little effort on your part
  • Files are encrypted
  • Service usually make their own redundant, offsite copies of your data
  • Painless offsite copies if swapping extra backup drives offsite is inconvenient
  • Extra insurance against data loss
Cons
  • No substitute for bootable duplicates (you can’t boot from an online backup when your main drive fails)
  • Speed may be an issue, depending on your internet bandwidth
    • Initial backups could take days or weeks to complete
    • Restoring files can also be slow
  • You may have to deal with monthly data caps and other restrictions your ISP may have
Conclusion
Consider online backup services as supplemental to conventional backup methods.

Credit Where Credit is Due

The content for this Mike & Barry Show was inspired and informed by Joe Kissel’s ebook, Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac. Thanks, Joe!


Back to our Regular Schedule

Next month we have a regularly scheduled episode of The Mike & Barry Show. Please join us on Saturday, March 14 where we will cover “Networking.” Do you have questions about setting up a personal network in your home? Do you need more than one network? Do you need to access a home computer when you are on the road? What about domains; do you need your own? We will try to answer these questions and more. If you have a specific question or concern about home networking, please send them to Mike and I at VicePresident@MVCUG.org and we’ll work them in to the show. See ya then!

Barry
Barry “Bazza” Midgorden
Vice President (macOS)
Mountain View Computer Users Group
Sierra Vista, Arizona

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