All the Best Ways to Back Up Your Data

Image: Backblaze

You’ve got more choices than ever when it comes to backing up your data—you are backing up your data, right?—so how do you choose the best one for your needs? First, it’s a good idea to pick up some kind of external hard drive. You can go the Network Attached Storage (NAS) route if you want to access the storage from your Wi-Fi (or build your own Netflix). You can also just get a regular external hard drive from someone like Seagate or Western Digital.

Once you have you’ve selected the kind of storage device you’ll be backing your files up to its time to focus on a more complex decision—choosing an back up service. From built-in Windows and macOS options, to third-party syncing and upload services, we take a look at how all these options fit into your daily workflow.

Windows built-in options: File History and OneDrive

Windows’ integrated backing up options haven’t exactly been what you would call consistent in recent years. The company is always trying something new, which can make it difficult to trust in it’s back up solutions. Currently there’s a rumor that the Fall Creators Update will kill off the File History back up tool, but as it’s still around at the moment let’s start with it.


File History is a local backup option, accessible through Settings, that needs an external drive to work. Once you’ve got a disk attached, you can choose the folders that get backed up, and set how often files are copied, and decide how long they’re kept for. It doesn’t back up absolutely everything on your system, but it’s a perfectly fine option for copying your most important files somewhere else.

Image: Screenshot

There are a few annoyances (besides the fact that it might not exist come the fall). The tool needs a bit of configuration and only works while your external drive is attached (not ideal if you’re always moving). Modern-day cloud syncing services feel far more intuitive and discreet, which is probably the reason File History is (apparently) getting phased out.

Microsoft’s online cloud syncing service is of course OneDrive, and it’s now baked right into Windows for your convenience. Anything saved to the OneDrive folders gets synced to the cloud and any other computers you’ve got the OneDrive desktop client installed on. You get 5GB of backup room for free, but will need to pay if you want more.


Although cloud syncing services like OneDrive and Dropbox haven’t traditionally been considered full backup solutions, in 2017 they feel like a much more intuitive option than plugging in an external hard drive. Save your files, photos and music to the OneDrive folder, it’s uploaded instantly, and you can salvage your data if your laptop falls in the local lake.

Image: Screenshot

OneDrive even offers features usually associated with local backups, like version history. It’s not going to back up absolutely everything on your system—the settings for you applications will be toast, but as long as you keep an eye on where your files are, and are prepared to pay Microsoft for some cloud server space, you can get by with OneDrive on its own.

macOS built-in options: Time Machine and iCloud

Time Machine is Apple’s venerable local backup solution, requiring an external or networked drive connected to your Mac. Backups run automatically, as long as the drive is available (though you can switch to manual backups if you prefer), and after the initial file transfer is complete, backups are pretty speedy too.



The benefits of Time Machine are well-established: It’s automatic, it’s comprehensive (enabling a full system recovery if required), and it’s easy to use. You don’t get much in the way of configuration options, but most users barely bother to set up backups anyway, let alone dive into extra settings for them.

Image: Screenshot

Relying on external drives is something of a pain if you move around a lot, and those backups won’t be any use if both your laptop and your hard drives get lost in a fire or flood, but overall Time Machine does what every backup solution should be doing—getting the job done and staying out of the way while it’s doing it.

What Time Machine really needs is a cloud component, which is why Apple pushes iCloud too. iCloud used to operate mostly behind the scenes, on both macOS and iOS, but with the introduction of backups for the Desktop and Documents folders in macOS Sierra, it’s become more of a front-facing backup solution like OneDrive or DropBox.


As well as caching away files in the background for particular apps, it’s also copying your key folders to the web and any other Mac devices you happen to have up and running. As it syncs to the web rather than an external drive, it works everywhere you’ve got Wi-Fi too.

Image: Screenshot

On top of iCloud basic you’ve also got iCloud Photo Library to take care of your photos, and iCloud Music Library, though that latter one is more of a syncing service rather than a genuine backup option. As with everything else iCloud, you need to pay for additional storage once you’ve got beyond your free 5GB.

Both these built-in macOS options are slick, stable, and simple, and it’s difficult to make an argument for using anything else as long as you’re only ever going to be using Apple hardware. Time Machine and iCloud really need to be used together for the best protection, though if you know where your important files are kept then you might feel you can get along with just iCloud on its own now, especially with the photo and music components added on top and its rapidly improving feature-set.

Third-party options: file syncing and storage

You’ve got plenty of other options to consider too—buy an external hard drive and it will most likely come with a perfectly adequate backup program on it as well. Synology, Netgear, and Drobo all have backup programs built into the NAS. Ultimately, the more backups you have the better, though you need to make sure you’re getting everything covered.



Dropbox has been excelling at file syncing since way back in 2007 and will take good care of your files in the cloud. Not only does it have a better-looking interface then either OneDrive or iCloud (especially on the web), it’s equally happy running on Windows, macOS, Android or iOS. It even works on some NAS devices, including anything by Synology.

Image: Screenshot

Google Drive isn’t quite as polished as Dropbox but it has the same platform flexibility and with a powerful online office suite, as well as a ton of handy integrations with Google’s other services. For both Dropbox and Google Drive, you need to fork over $9.99 a month for 1TB of storage, though Google Drive offers tiers above and below that. On Dropbox you’re stuck with either 1TB or a business account.

Dropbox and Google Drive really epitomize what backing up should be in 2017: As soon as files get dropped into the designated folders, they’re sent to the cloud and your other devices, with changes updated seamlessly. External hard drives, USB sticks, backup schedules and folder selections feel almost antiquated by comparison.


The main worry would be if those cloud services failed, but that’s a rare occurrence these days, and you still have your local files on one or more computers at the same time. While Dropbox and Google Drive do essentially the same job as OneDrive and iCloud, they do it with more polish and over a greater number of platforms.

Image: Screenshot

Another alternative is to install one of the apps that suck up just about every file on your system to the cloud: The likes of Backblaze, Carbonite and CrashPlan. For a few dollars a month you get unlimited storage in the cloud for your files, without some of the web access extras or versatility of the file syncing services we’ve already mentioned. Some even cover external hard drives you’ve got hooked up to your main computer.

If you mostly stick to one computer then these comprehensive cloud services are worth a look to go alongside the options built into your OS of choice. Everything works in the background, and while the initial upload can take hours, or even days, it’s usually plain sailing from there. It’s the ultimate set-it-and-forget it solution.

The final verdict

Backing up is not the chore it once was. We’ve tested all of these options in recent times and found them all to be very good in what they do, easy to setup and maintain, and happy to whir away in the background with a minimal number of interruptions and annoyances. Which ones suit you best depends on the OSes you’re running and just how much of a data trail you leave behind you, rather than any major differences between the quality of the services and their associated apps.



The rule of backups has always been three copies of each file in two separate locations, but we’re getting to the stage where the cloud sync services are able to stand on their own without any help from local backup tools. That’s down to a few factors: Improving internet speeds, better reliability in terms of cloud infrastructure, and the smoother installation processes Windows and macOS have introduced in the last few years.

Getting your computer up and running from scratch is no longer the arduous challenge it once was—signing into cloud accounts is now an integrated part of the process as well—so you can simply install Dropbox (for example) on top and watch all your files trickle back down. If you’ve got more than one computer with Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or OneDrive installed then you’ve got a separate offline backup as well, just in case.

Nowadays, the full system image approach seems like overkill, but by all means set it up if you like—I tend to spend a lot of time hopping between computers with just a few important files to my name, so something like Dropbox or Google Drive works fine for me. Just make sure you’re doing something to keep your data backed up, as one day you’re going to be grateful you did.

via Gizmodo
All the Best Ways to Back Up Your Data

IFTTT’s powerful new initiative connects up with government data streams

Today, all around cool internet thing IFTTT is hooking all kinds of useful public data into its powerful platform. With the launch of its new Data Access Project, IFTTT will add support for a broad selection of government agencies, organizations and research and cultural groups. That includes public data from federal and state government feeds on down to municipal transit information.

The new data streams have the potential to be all kinds of useful. In practice, that means every time there’s a relevant new SEC filing, your Hue lights can flash green (or red, depending). Or you can get a text every time the State Department posts a travel warning. Or a Slack notification each time the Department of Defense posts an update. Or lots of things — infinitely configurable things, really.

Put simply, IFTTT lets you connect things to other things. It does this through easy to set up custom formulas, like “every time @techcrunch tweets, call my phone.” These logic statements, all take the form of “if x happens, do y,” hence the name If This Then That (IFTTT). IFTTT used to call these formulas Recipes but now they’re calling them Applets, which is more confusing in our book but the functionality remains the same.

IFTTT’s more than 40 new sources include:

  • Department of Labor
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Library of Congress
  • National Science Foundation
  • Energy Information Association
  • Pew Research Center
  • Department of Defense
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • Amtrak
  • Caltrain
  • Texas Legislature
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • American Civil Liberties Union

For IFTTT, the public data initiative stands to breathe some new life into a platform that in recent years is perhaps best known for letting you automate quirky things in your smart home. As a (really) long time IFTTT user, I have to say that it’s an exciting and potentially very useful new direction. I fully expect to lose hours configuring my own public data streams in the coming days.

According to IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets, the beauty of the service’s new direction is that it can help users organize yet another kind of information that might otherwise be overwhelming and put it to good use.

“It’s not that the information isn’t out there — companies, governments, and institutions are releasing information all the time. But for the average person, it’s overwhelming,” said Tibbets.

“We’ve built out services whose data impacts people in very real ways: governments, agencies, non-profits, transits, and other institutions. Now people can easily find, and use, that information in brand new ways. We’re excited to see the response, and plan to expand the Data Access Project with more services in the near future.”

Apparently, this could be the tip of the iceberg for IFTTT’s foray into helping people harness the power of public information that’s already floating around.

“People are hungry for public data, especially when it comes to staying on top of the news and government,” said Anne Mercogliano, IFTTT Vice President of Business Operations and Marketing. “Our IFTTT team kept seeing more and more amazing data resources out there and realized it was something we wanted to invest in and help build and bring onto the platform. We hope the Data Access Project is helpful for the average person, researcher, official and more.”

Mercogliano notes that ProPublica’s IFTTT channel saw a significant boost in interest after November 8, 2016. And in March of this year, IFTTT launched a collection of “Applets for activism” that sought to tap into that same phenomenon.

“Customizing your experience is at the heart of IFTTT and we want to ensure you’re getting all of the data you need but in a way that works for your lifestyle,” Mercogliano said. “The Data Access Project is an ongoing initiative for us and we’re looking for any government, local agency or nonprofit to be a part of our project.”

Interested groups can contact IFTTT at to get started.

via TechCrunch
IFTTT’s powerful new initiative connects up with government data streams

“Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy”

Every single day, 600 tons of particle board go into a factory, and out the other end comes a product so ubiquitous that there is one for every 100 people on Earth. It was designed in 1978. Can you guess what it is?

It’s Ikea’s Billy bookcase, which should go down in the history books as one of the farthest-reaching designs in the world, and a model of hyper-efficient production. Compared to the 1980s, Ikea is currently producing 37 times as many Billys as back then—yet the requisite workforce has only doubled!

I learned these facts and plenty more from a fantastic podcast that will be of interest to industrial designers, and which is also being turned into a book. The podcast is called "50 Things That Made the Modern Economy" and the book is called "Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy." The former is hosted on the BBC World Service; the latter is coming out in August. Both are by Tim Harford, the journalist better known as The Financial Times’ Undercover Economist. Writes Harford of the book,

I’ve tried to paint a picture of economic change by telling the stories of the ideas, people, and tools that had far-reaching and unexpected consequences for all of us. Drawing from the hugely popular BBC radio program and podcast "50 Things That Made The Modern Economy ," I discuss the inventions that have transformed the ways we work, play and live. From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette’s disposable razor to Ikea’s Billy bookcase, I recount each invention’s own memorable story and introduce you to the characters who developed them, profited from them, and were ruined by them.

The podcast is free and the sub-10-minute episodes are very listenable, well-researched and attributed. The book will be $15 to $20 for e-book or print versions, respectively. I highly recommend that you check both of them out.

Via Kottke

via Core77
“Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy”

Automakers Are Changing To Integrated Exhaust Manifolds Because The Benefits Are Staggering

Photo: Engineering Explained/YouTube (screengrab)

An integrated Exhaust Manifold, or “headifold,” is an exhaust manifold cast into an engine’s cylinder head and cooled by antifreeze. This type of design, where the exhaust manifold is no longer a separate part, is becoming a lot more common in the auto industry (see 2017 Honda Civic Type R). Here’s why.

Let Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained walk you through the benefits of a water cooled exhaust manifold:

One of Fenske’s main points is that coolant collecting heat from the exhaust gets the engine up to temperature faster, which yields faster cabin warmup times and better initial engine oil flow (and thus better fuel economy, emissions and engine longevity).

Another benefit, he says, occurs at high engine loads where exhaust gases are so high, they risk compromising the life of the catalytic converter. Cooling these gases with coolant, Fenske mentions, prevents the engine control unit from having to dump more gas into the combustion chambers to lower exhaust temperatures. This means a staggering 20 percent better highway fuel economy on the 2017 VW Golf Alltrack he was driving. Not to mention, the lower CO2 emissions that go along with that.



Three benefits he doesn’t mention are weight, packaging space, and catalytic converter warmup. Weight is a big one, as typically, cars use a separate cast iron exhaust manifold bolted to a head with a gasket in between. This integrated setup gets rid of that manifold, all the bolts, and the gasket, the latter of which can also act as a potential failure mode.

Related to this weight savings is packaging space, as these tightly-integrated manifolds are typically smaller than a separate manifold bolted to a cylinder head. This benefit in packaging space can, according to a Ford patent on the technology, yield faster catalytic converter warmup times (and thus lower emissions after startup) and better turbo response, due to the shorter exhaust paths to the catalyst and turbocharger turbine, respectively.

Of course, as Fenske mentions, this integrated exhaust manifold adds more heat load to the cooling system, and makes tuning more difficult. But despite these drawbacks, the benefits in emissions, fuel economy, cabin warmup, weight, complexity and turbo response are hard to ignore, which is why “headifolds” have become so prevalent over the past decade or so.

via Gizmodo
Automakers Are Changing To Integrated Exhaust Manifolds Because The Benefits Are Staggering

Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

50 Things Economy

Tim Harford, aka The Undercover Economist, is coming out with a new book called Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.

New ideas and inventions have woven, tangled or sliced right through the invisible economic web that surrounds us every day. From the bar code to double-entry bookkeeping, covering ideas as solid as concrete or as intangible as the limited liability company, this book not only shows us how new ideas come about, it also shows us their unintended consequences — for example, the gramophone introducing radically unequal pay in the music industry, or how the fridge shaped the politics of developing countries across the globe.

It’s based on his BBC podcast 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy.

Fun fact that I just discovered: Harford and I share the same birthday, both date and year.

Tags: books   economics   Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy   podcasts   Tim Harford
Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

GE is working on a massive 3D printer for jet engine parts

3D printing is coming of age in numerous ways. On a large scale, MIT researchers built a 50-foot-wide, 12-foot tall igloo in just 13 hours. They’ve also debuted the first completely 3D-printed rocket engine. On a much smaller level, our own Sean Buckley printed a little d-pad for his Nintendo Switch, while medical researchers have produced a 3D-printed patch that can heal scarred heart tissue. Now we’re seeing this technology coming to the industrial world with a new laser-powered metal 3D printer from GE.

GE Additive is a new business under the larger GE umbrella. It is developing what it calls "the world’s largest laser-powered 3D printer" to create parts that fit within one cubic meter cubic of space. "The machine will 3D print aviation parts suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft," said GE Additive’s Mohammad Ehteshami in a statement. "It will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries."

Additive printers fuse fine layers of powdered metal with a laser beam to print objects. The new process could make complex parts like jet engine components easier and less costly to make than traditional casting and welding techniques. GE Aviation is already printing fuel nozzles for jet engines that will be found in Airbus, Boeing and narrow-body jets. GE has a prototype large-scale metal prnter, called ATLAS, that can print 2D objects up to 1 meter long, but the new one will extend that to a third dimension. Beta versions of the new printer should be ready by the end of this year, according to Ehteshami, with a production version slated for 2018.

Source: GE Reports

via Engadget
GE is working on a massive 3D printer for jet engine parts

Netflix’s Interactive Stories Are Entertaining Even If You’re Not A Kid

Image via Netflix

On Tuesday, Netflix released its first interactive story. Like the choose-your-own-adventure books from our childhoods, Netflix’s television show lets viewers pick where the story should go, and it’s the best thing ever.

Right now, there’s only one interactive story available: “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale.” Luckily, it’s entertaining and well-written enough for both adults and kids.


In the episode, viewers get to follow Puss as he goes through remixes of popular fairytales. They encounter a book that prompts them to choose between two options while the narrator and Puss comment on both choices. Instead of a progress bar that tells you how far you are into watching a video, there are interactive book pages at the bottom of the screen that let you jump to decisions you can make. If viewers don’t decide in time, Netflix will automatically make a choice for them.

There are also characters from Puss in Boots upcycled to play new roles—like Toby the pig, who plays a pirate. There are the three little bears who can either be kind or not, depending on what viewers pick. And there’s my favorite character, an evil queen that enters the story, saying to her mirror: “I’m just saying maybe we could occasionally have a conversation about something other than who’s the fairest. Like, I don’t know, art, music?”

Unfortunately, the episode is only interactive on smart TVs, game consoles, iOS devices, and Roku devices, per Consumerist. On the web, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Androids devices, the episodes play as if Netflix were making the choices for you.


Apparently creating interactive stories has been an idea that took two years to execute. Netflix will release another interactive episode from the “Buddy Thunderstruck” series on July 14. In 2018, there will be an interactive episode of “Stretch Armstrong.”

Because it’s interactive, it’s not as easy to binge-watch a bunch of episodes in one sitting. There are other benefits, too, like letting kids think about the different pathways to creating a story and the potential consequences of a choice (Puss ends up getting injured a lot).

Hulu is also tinkering with choose-your-own-adventures. They’re developing a series called “Door No. 1" on its VR app, but the audience is for adults.

via Lifehacker
Netflix’s Interactive Stories Are Entertaining Even If You’re Not A Kid

The Perfect Server – Debian 9 (Stretch) with Apache, BIND, Dovecot, PureFTPD and ISPConfig 3.1

This tutorial shows how to prepare a Debian 9 server (with Apache2, BIND, Dovecot) for the installation of ISPConfig 3.1. The web hosting control panel ISPConfig 3 allows you to configure the following services through a web browser: Apache web server, Postfix mail server, Dovecot IMAP/POP3 server, MySQL, BIND nameserver, PureFTPd, SpamAssassin, ClamAV, and many more.
via Planet MySQL
The Perfect Server – Debian 9 (Stretch) with Apache, BIND, Dovecot, PureFTPD and ISPConfig 3.1

The law firm Cooley is updating its packet of startup tips and financing documents

The law firm Cooley is putting out a new package of seed investment documents for public viewing on its “GO” microsite, the firm said today.

It’s a way for entrepreneurs and early stage investors and business owners to access what the firm considers to be best practices for early stage investment and to streamline the process for committing capital at the seed stage.

The firm said its new release was prompted by the increase in convertible notes for early stage financing.

Since the investment structure is so popular, and relatively uncomplicated, it’s quickly becoming a default structure for early stage financing. The documents that Cooley is making public are the same ones it uses in the hundreds of transactions the firm has completed for startups.

The new documents will also be available on Github, where Cooley’s documents have received several comments from the community.

The company said that the new documents will act as a “fork” of the original GitHub repository under an open source licenses and on the Cooley GO website.

Other documents that support signing agreements for seed stage deals are also available on the Cooley site.

Any new business owner who wants to can access and amend the Series Seed “Notes” and equity financing documents directly through Cooley GO’s document generators.


Featured Image: CSA-Archive/Getty Images

via TechCrunch
The law firm Cooley is updating its packet of startup tips and financing documents