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A Burger With a Side of Spreadsheets, To Go


The Day the iMac Died.
“The Mac died” my wife sighed into the phone. I wasn’t surprised. First, the dead Mac was our 7 year old iMac computer, which had worked flawlessly the entire time. And second, I was traveling for business and things always seem to “break” when I am on the road.

It was Sunday night. I had just finished a meeting and was walking to dinner when the “The Mac died” phone call came in. “That’s OK,” I said to my wife, “we’ll get another computer next weekend. Everything’s fine.” But, everything was not fine as my wife explained that she had a Monday deadline for a project she was trying to finish. She was trying to save the last couple of spreadsheets and then print everything when the computer hung and wouldn’t reboot. Now she had nothing and she was not happy. “There are 4 or 5 spreadsheets that I need so I can finish everything,” she begged, “we have them backed up don’t we?”

Lesson 1: One Mac is not enough

Yes, we had the iMac backed up, twice in fact with Time Machine and Backblaze. The trouble with Time Machine was that we only had the one Mac at home and it was now dead. Our other computer was a PC and at the time I had no idea if I could plug a Time Machine drive into the PC and read it. Later on, I researched the topic and found that the most popular answer to the question, “Can a PC read a Time Machine drive?” was “Buy another Mac.”

So I had a perfectly good back up of the data on my Mac and at that moment on Sunday night it was not going to help. In the mean time, I had arrived at the restaurant and grabbed a seat at the bar as there was a 30 minute wait for a table.

Lesson 2: Practice makes perfect

Now I know all of you are saying “Backblaze to the rescue,” well not so fast. My wife said that she had never done a Backblaze restore. I cursed myself. Whenever I talk to people about using Backblaze, I always tell them to do a restore just for practice. Sign in, pick a couple of files and request a restore. That way when they really need their data, like when their hard drive crashes a day before a project is due, they’ve been through the process before. Practice makes perfect and I forgot to tell my wife to practice.

I offered to talk her through restoring the files she needed from Backblaze. Three things changed my mind, 1) I didn’t think the other patrons in the restaurant would be thrilled, 2) my Lagunitas was getting warm and my burger was getting cold, and 3) my wife asked me to do it. That’s three good reasons as to why I would restore the files.

My wife texted me the names of the files, 5 in all, and I signed into the Backblaze account for my now dead iMac using the Backblaze Mobile app on my iPhone. While the 3G connection was slow I was able to navigate to each file, download it to my iPhone and then email the file to my wife. It took me about 30 minutes in between bites of my burger.

My wife was able to download the files onto our PC at home and plow ahead with her project. I was a hero, well, Backblaze and I.

Lesson 3: Beware the “Spinning Ball of Death”

On Monday morning, my wife informed me that one of the files I had sent over was not the most current version. It was from Sunday morning and she was certain she had worked on the file late Sunday afternoon. “When did our iMac die?” I asked. “It started acting funny about noon, you know, the spinning ball keep showing up,” she replied, “I rebooted it three or four times and it died for good about 5 pm.”

The last Backblaze backup was at 2:15pm. I can only guess that the iMac was pretty unstable at that point as it spiraled towards its death. My wife, faced with a project deadline crossed her fingers and plowed ahead with the spinning ball of death appearing in ever increasing frequency. Even Backblaze is no match for the spinning ball of death.

RIP iMac

When I arrived home I was able to confirm the obvious, our iMac was dead. I requested a full restore of our files from Backblaze. When we get another Mac, I’ll start with the Time Machine backup to get up and running and use Backblaze to fill in the gaps if there are any. Once, my work MacBook hard drive failed while I was traveling and with my Time Machine drive back at the office, Backblaze filled in the gap very nicely, but that’s another story…

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Restoring Data From The NSA


blog-sad-yev-textIt All Started With A Meme
I’m an avid redditor, though my karma doesn’t show it, and around the time the NSA PRISM story broke, I started seeing this image appear in my feeds:

nsadata

I’m also the social guy at Backblaze, so I felt it was my duty to post it. After receiving many tweets like, “What’s @Backblaze going to do now that we can just rely on the NSA to keep a backup copy…”, I decided to make a funny quip about how restoring from Backblaze was much easier than from the NSA.

But how much easier is it, really? I decided to find out.

I started my quest with my personal data, to find out what information the NSA has on me, if any.  To find your data with Backblaze you simply log in with a web browser.  To find your data with the NSA you fill out forms and as it turns out, simply finding out whether or not the NSA even has any of your data is the hardest part.

The Right Stuff
In order to “talk” to the NSA or other government agencies who collect or hold data, you need to fill out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. What is the FOIA? Essentially it requires the federal government to release any requested information unless the release of said information is forbidden by law or executive order. It was intended to give more transparency to the government and let people know information from within large government organizations. FOIA requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 business days after receiving the request (http://www.dhs.gov/foia-processing), which sounds fairly quick, especially for the government. FOIA is only intended for citizens to request information about other things, not themselves. For that, you need to make a Privacy Act request. Unfortunately as per the NSA website for Privacy Act requests, there is no average processing time and the requests are handled on a first-in, first-out basis. Luckily though, you can submit a Privacy Act request via the internet, email, or by fax.

The First Attempt
Once I waded through all of the NSA’s websites and requirements for submitting a Privacy Act request, I sent one off via their email submission system. After about a week and a half, I got my response. Nope. The letter that the NSA sent me was well worded, and let me down gently. What it boiled down to was, they could not confirm nor deny that they had any information on me, and confirming or denying whether or not they did could potentially lead to adversaries of the United States knowing the full scope and breadth of the NSA’s ability to collect information, which they simply cannot allow.

“Therefore, your request is denied because the fact of the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter…”

Continue reading…

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Asiana Air Crash Survivor’s Data Survives


When Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed at San Francisco Airport on July 6th, we all watched in horror at the wreckage on the TV screens and could barely imagine anyone could have walked away. Amazingly, as details began to emerge, it sounded as though there may be many who made it.

One of the first survivors I saw on TV, Benjamin Levy, would later be lauded for helping dozens of people escape from the burning plane. While some raced out of the plane and others grabbed their luggage, Benjamin calmly helped as many people as he could, saying it was just “gut instinct” to help.

A month later, I received an email from Nicolai Wadstrom, founder and CEO of startup accelerator BootstrapLabs, who I had met a few years back at a tech event. He said:

“So wanted to connect you with Ben Levy, a good friend and also a partner at BootstrapLabs, that was on the Asiana 214 flight that crashed on SFO, he luckily got away in once piece, but his Macbook Air was not as lucky. Fortunately he was using Backblaze per my recommendation…”

Ben happened to be a few blocks away at that moment and we met up. He talked about feeling incredibly lucky to be alive; said it felt like a second chance. He told me that while some asked him if it made him reexamine his priorities, he felt it just made him all the more grateful for the life he has – where he gets to enjoy time with his family and love the work that he does.

The next day, Ben signed into his Backblaze account and ordered a restore. His computer was ominously backed up right up to July 5th, 2013 at 9:45pm PDT.

Since he wanted approximately 50 GB of data back quickly, he chose to order a USB Flash Drive to have sent to him via FedEx with his data on it. The next day he had all his data back.

After getting his data back, Ben sent me this email:

“Among the millions of things you have to handle after such a horrific event, having all my computer data backed up with Backblaze was very comforting and the recovery process was effortless. I was concerned for a minute that my computer had not been backed-up for a while as I was hopping planes and jumping between countries for a few weeks, not staying connected for long stretches at a time, but it was, down to the last bit.”

Obviously the loss of data on someone’s computer pales in comparison to the other tragedies of that July 6th crash. But I am glad we were able to play one very small part in helping at least one person return to a normal life, and we’re sending our best wishes to everyone else aboard and affected.

Benjamin Levy with his data back on a Backblaze USB Flash Drive restore:
Benjamin Levy with his Backblaze restore

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A Restory: When one file is all you need


Genealogy passion in "action"

For many people genealogy is a nice hobby. They spend a few hours a week chasing down distant relatives and creating family trees. They entertain their family with stories of potential connections to famous and infamous people in the past and give out family history albums as presents.

For some people genealogy is a passion. They spend countless hours searching and documenting. They can be found in libraries, courthouses, churches and cemeteries combing through yellowed records, scanning microfiche, or reading gravestones in search of the next clue or getting the final confirmation of a 3 year search for a long forgotten family member.

For Ilene genealogy is a passion and here is her Backblaze restory:

“My elderly mother lives in Florida and I go to visit her a few times a year. I always take my laptop with me so I can keep up with my work while I am there. This summer, I had placed a copy of a large genealogy file in my Dropbox folder, hoping to work on it while I was away. I was sitting in the Volusia County Public Library ready to do some research, when I opened the Dropbox file and discovered it was damaged. Unable to imagine a lost two-weeks without the updated information I needed, I went to your website and sent in a request for the last back up copy of the file from my desktop computer. Within hours I had a copy of the original file, which was in perfect shape, and I was able to use it to get quite a bit of work done for the rest of my stay. Thanks again for your quiet, efficient service. It’s certainly worth the cost to have peace of mind!”

Thanks for the restory Ilene, we’re glad Backblaze online backup could help.

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Backblaze: The Strong Silent Type


Online Backup for Valentines Day

Our first Restory is actually two stories. Each lovingly crafted and delivered to Backblaze. And you thought online backup couldn’t be romantic…

A One Way Street

I think I should take this time to just tell you what our relationship is: a one-way street.

Honestly, I don’t think about you at all. You just go and go – constantly running behind whatever I do, and whatever files I create – and I really don’t pay attention in the least.

What’s even worse is that you’re whom I go to first when there’s a problem. I take advantage of the fact that you’re always looking after me. I never even acknowledge you’re around until I lose something – then you’re my only hope. You would think after saving me so many times, I would show more gratitude. The truth is, I kind of like what we have going. You do all the work of following me around and making copies of what I leave behind, and I’ll forget about you until I need you. Deal? Deal.

– Aaron

I Couldn’t Ask for a Better Partner

We met on a dark and stormy night. I was scared. She was not. She had it all. Tons of reliable storage for all my back up needs. She had the confidence, the stamina, and the strength to take all my fears away! The storm raged on. The power kept going out. I knew then that I needed a solution to my back up issues. No therapist could help me. I had to jump in with both feet. I took the plunge and signed up for Backblaze.

Now, 4 months later, I sleep at night knowing she is taking care of my back up needs without any effort on my part. I feel safe and protected. And it just happens. After that initial uncertainty I now love her simplicity, her total competence and loyalty to my data, keeping it secure and safe so I can rock my MacBook without reservation! I know now that every song I download, every video and picture I capture is safe and I will never lose anything, ever again!

I couldn’t ask for a better partner. I am secure in my relationship with her and now I have the confidence to forge ahead with my files, my music, my pictures. All I need to do is just keep on keepin-on and she does the rest.

– Michael

Giving the gift of Backblaze to back up your Valentine’s photos, videos, music and more probably isn’t the most romantic present you can give — we understand. But remember, Backblaze will silently and reliably back up your Valentine’s files long after the chocolates have been eaten and the flowers have died. Such is the calling of the strong silent type.

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