Sunday 30 December 2012

Looking for a backup application for a small home network

I have been looking at backup solution for the last few days and I am stuck, so I am asking for pointers or suggestions.

Since all backup solutions are appropriate to various needs, here are my requirements for my home network (two laptops backup on a very low powered server with a 3TiB HDD):
  • Free software/open source cross-platform solution - must be able to backup both Linux and Windows clients
  • network backup (to a Debian server, storage on HDD)
  • very low CPU and memory needs on the server side (server is a de-underclocked Linksys NSLU2 running Debian armel)
  • automatic backups with low maintenance cost and easy setup and recovery (setup once, forget about it)
  • easily accessible filesystem based storage
  • clients should be smart enough to detect when they aren't in the home network and not try to backup when away
  • available in Debian
These are the basic requirements, and bonus-points requirements include:
  • Windows clients don't need Cygwin
  • optional encryption (for storage)
  • default sanity checking for stored files (detection/correction of corrupt backed-up files)
  • unduplication (if present, sanity checking is mandatory)
  • logarithmic storage is a plus
  • Web/nice interface for both client and server is a plus
According to the info I found, candidates for these criteria are Amanda and BackupPC. I like the rsnapshot idea of deduplication and incremental backups, but it's not available for Windows. BackupPC seems to be OK-ish, but it sounds too much like a bunch of Perl scripts and Windows support sounds like an after-thought and I dislike the idea of installing Cygwin just to provide some *nix tools.

I discarded Bacula, because the general impression I got from what I read is that it is hard to set up, has its own storage and has heavy needs for both clients and server. It sounds like overkill.

So what do other people recommend for my setup? Is Amanda OK? Did I get the wrong impression regarding BackupPC?

Saturday 8 December 2012

Consent is needed, but not the point

Russ makes a good point about a nuance of practical jokes that makes them special, the characteristic of involving a third party which is the target of the joke, and how that relates to consent. He is right, consent is an important fact, I acknowledge that. Russ also says at the end of his post that being an asshole doesn't make you responsible for somebody else's decisions, I ackowledge that, too. I even somewhat agree to the position that the employer might fire you on assholery reasons, but in this particular case, I think that's a hypocrite position. If assholery was an issue, it should have been before, too, and I don't think the employer thought of it before this sad even, as long as it meant more money for them. I think this only shows how cynical they are, the cost analysis for them showed them they now might lose more money by not firing, than by keeping them. It's just cynical.

In spite of that, my initial post, just as I wrote, was not about the DJs, the people involved, the assholery, the taste or lack thereof of the joke. That's why I was intentionally leaving out names or specific context. It was about the bigger picture, irrational reactions and how in the face of a tragedy we surrender our thinking capabilities and react in an irrational manner to the least significant things.

I have had quite recent unfortunate events happening to people close to me, and, invariably, I observe this loss of rational faculties in the face of sad events. Even when this kind of disproportionate response is shown for what it is and how it is harmful in itself, people still refuse to give up on being irrational or they do after a long struggle with the facts.

I'll finish my article with a similar question: can we, as a species, go beyond our condition and make a conscious effort to keep calm and think things through before making decisions in the face of tragedy, or are we incapable to do that?

And no, I am not advocating to drop feelings and affection, I find it sad that I have to say that again, but I am almost sure that in spite of it, I will be wrongly understood by somebody.

Faulty logic - confusing correlation with causation

I want to start this post by saying two things:
  1. It is sad when a good person decides to commit suicide
  2. It is even sadder anyone writing on a subject like this MUST add this kind of disclaimers in the hope the message of the writing isn't distorted because we are unable to listen to each other without suspecting/blaming the other of pure evilness/lack of compassion.
 Imagine you are working in an office with other colleagues and one of them makes a print screen of your desktop screen and then displays it full-screen on your computer. You struggle a little and get frustrated when nothing works, the colleagues laugh at your expense. Pretty childish, but no harm, right? You laugh it off.

 Imagine a similar scenario, but your shoelaces are tied to the desk without your notice, and the colleagues tied your laces so you can't stand, so the risk of injury is null. You stumble a little when you want to leave the desk. Again, childish, funny, but no harm, right? Again, you laugh it off.

 Imagine even a scenario where you are the target of a prank that doesn't injure you physically, but it happens in front of an audience of 100 people. You might feel ashamed, embarrassed, depending on the prank. But that would go away with time, with your laughs or by leaving that audience, right?

 So now imagine you are just a person that unknowingly contributed to the success of a harmless prank in which somebody was duped into thinking they were talking to a very public figure about some unimportant and inconsequential stuff related to their job. You'd brush it off, wouldn't you? Most likely, you'd probably laugh at the prank and you wouldn't think the pranksters should be prosecuted or fired. Even if the famous public figure would be upset, taking into account the fact that the things discussed were inconsequential, you wouldn't worry about it. I wouldn't worry even if that famous person was my direct boss and I was the one talking about my boss.

 At least, that's how I am thinking, but for some reason, many people don't think this way. And yes, I am talking about the recent sad news about the apparent suicide of a nurse who was involved in the care of the person called Kate Middleton.

 I don't want to talk about names, or man-made titles, man-made concepts, or how some people forget that even the most influential people in the world are still a member of this same species that all of us are. I don't even want to talk about this particular sad situation, I just want to talk about the totally irrational reaction many people had to it.

 Everybody knows that jokes are a matter of taste. What I might consider funny, some people would take offence at, but, generally speaking, there's an area of jokes that even kids would consider funny. Also, if we are honest to ourselves, a joke is not funnier or less funnier if from the total of people in the room instead of 2 people not liking it, 5 people don't. Not even if some of them are so offended by the joke they leave the room. The joke is equally funny or in poor taste with 2 or with 100 people in the room.

 And there's the issue of confusing correlation with causation. If I tell somebody some good news about my aunt and the next day that somebody happens to had bought a car, it doesn't mean my good news made that person decide they want to buy a car. It could be, but it's not necessary, it could be a coincidence.

 The same happens in the sad case of the nurse. She decided to take her life, as far as it seems. But that's the extent to which we know anything about the situation. We don't know if the suicide had anything to do with the prank or not. Just the fact that it happened the next day doesn't mean AT ALL the prank call is the cause of the suicide. It doesn't even mean that is "the straw that broke the camel's back", it might be totally unrelated. Or it might not. Taking into account the inconsequential and harmless nature of the call, it seems even less likely. Yet, I might be mistaken.

 What I am sure of now is that jumping to the conclusion that the prank call had anything to do with the death, is wrong, as it is jumping to the opposing conclusion. I am also sure that in the absence of other information, the latter, the lack of connection, is more likely, because we know that such drastic sad decisions are not generally caused by trivial stuff.

 Time proximity doesn't prove causation. Geographical proximity doesn't either. There needs to be a lot more into it than simple temporal sequence.

 Which gets me to the second part of irrational reactions: terminating the show and twitter accounts of the two pranksters. What the hell? Talk about hypersensitivity and paranoid reactions! Are we this blind and willing to blame the least insignificant thing for the gravest consequences that we forget how we all make decisions and how to use our brains, as soon as some tragedy happens?

 Imagine some person who thinks the 21st of December 2012 will bring the end of the earth. Imagine that person taking as a serious declaration the obvious joke from the Australian prime-minister Julia Gillard, and would end their lives to avoid the mayhem, panic and violence they think would follow the 21st of December. I wonder, would as many people blame Julia Gillard for the suicide? I doubt it. And the irony is that for such an hypothetical case, there would be a stronger case for causation than what we now know about the previous case.

 I still wonder,  when will we learn to think a little more rationally than the people walking the Earth 100.000 years ago?