Back up your computer!

I got home from visiting the in-laws to find my computer dead.  The C drive is basically toast.  (I’m now moving my stuff over to DH’s old desktop, which I’d been planning to do for a while since my old desktop was OLD, but hadn’t gotten around to yet because change is hard, y’all.  So hopefully no new posts about buying a computer.)

But that was only about a day’s worth of hassle because ever since I lost some pilot data as a graduate student, I have been compulsive about backing up my computer.

Now, I do not have the kind of (human) memory to remember to manually back things up once a week or whatever.  So ever since there have been automated solutions, I have used them.  Early on that meant I had my hard drives set up in a RAID array, meaning that instead of having one hard drive in my computer, I had two that were essentially copies of each other, the idea being that there would probably be some time in between one dying and the other dying.

These days I use the cloud as backup for my harddrives (I also use dropbox and drive etc, but that’s all for work stuff).  My backup program of choice (completely not sponsored) is called Backblaze.  It is comparatively inexpensive at $7/month and it is pretty comprehensive.  And it just works.

Now, there are two potential problems:  1.  if you don’t have unlimited data in your internet plan, it will eat a lot of your monthly limit as it uploads things, at least at first, and 2. it is SLOW.  But for something that you only need for hopefully rare emergencies, slow isn’t so bad.

I also use puresync to copy my external hardrive to an internal one every time I plug it into my desktop.  External hd are more prone to toasting than are internal in my experience (possibly because I am not as careful with my external hd as I ought to be, often throwing them into a bag and occasionally dropping them), so it’s nice having that additional layer of backup.

How do you backup your computer stuff?


  • DC1 wanted a Swedish princess cake for hir birthday this year.  We had tried making Marzipan twice earlier this year and both times did not end up with something that would make a good cake cover.  So we decided to bite the bullet and buy marzipan.  Sadly the only local places we could get it sell it in tiny 7 oz tubes, so we had to get four of them and squeeze it out.  I know we have made good marzipan in the past, but we don’t seem to have saved the recipe.
  • Update:  we did not actually need to get 4 of them.  Three would have been fine and we probably could have handled just 2.  We have a lot of marzipan in the fridge now.
  • Swedish princess cake was AMAZING.
  • I know that some people are genuinely picky eaters and have processing disorders and so on.  But I do wish that my MIL and SIL would stop telling specific children that said children hate all vegetables.  Like, when I say, would you like some green bean casserole, they could just keep their mouths shut and let the kid answer rather than saying, oh, X hates all vegetables.  I didn’t like most vegetables until I was 15 or 16, but I kept an open mind and tried things.  If I didn’t, I’d never have known that my tastes changed.  It’s not just one kid, it is three kids (ironically the fourth kid actually does have a feeding disorder and eats lots of fruits and vegetables via purees).  My kids have different vegetable likes and dislikes, and with a few exceptions (DC1 has never liked tomatoes, and DC2 doesn’t like the concept of mushrooms), those likes and dislikes have changed through their lives.
  • DC2 actually really loves most vegetables.  I suspect this is connected to hir dislike of most milk products (zie likes ice cream and a very small number of cheeses– I also only liked a small number of cheeses as a kid and now I love everything except goat cheese, but I drank a lot of milk because the pediatrician was worried about me being small and skinny, which DC2 does not do).
  • DC1 tends to eat most vegetables only under duress, but (at age 15 minus a few days) noted that Brussels sprouts (covered in bacon sauce, which zie was obligated to try) aren’t so bad.
  • The in-laws had forgotten that DC2 likes vegetables– the first couple meals we had at their place were uniformly beige in color, though DC2 did eat a lot of mashed potatoes.  The Brussels sprouts came later on in the trip after they remembered.  MIL loves them, but doesn’t usually get to eat them.
  • It’s crazy to think that when we were DC1’s age, we were a year away from trying Thai food for the first time and several years away from Indian food and Sushi.  Home-style Korean didn’t come until graduate school!  Many of DC1’s favorite cuisines and almost all the healthy food that DC1 enjoys were things we didn’t try until we were older than zie is now.  Zie had hir first sushi (veggie/cooked) and Thai etc. before zie could hold a fork!  And I lived on Indian food while pregnant with DC2 because of the wheat allergy.  I wonder what other new foods we will get to try in our future.  I think Poke is our most recent new thing, and that’s from like 6 years ago.  Man I love food.
  • Because of my toasted C drive (more on that later– I bumped the post to a later week) I finally moved into DH’s hand-me-down desktop computer which is a lovely Alienware.  Lots of things that didn’t work before now just work and everything seems faster.  One problem is that the Alienware has a slanted top so we have had to put a box on its side next to the case to hold my external harddrive because it kept slipping off.
  • I do not like my BIL’s MIL.  The first time I met her, a decade and a half ago, she was making my BIL’s fiance (now wife) miserable with her stressing out about the wedding and her insistence on everything being a specific way even though she was paying for none of it.  I later found out that she’d promised to pay for the expensive wedding dress she’d insisted on but then didn’t and BIL and his wife were in debt because of it for a while (plus it took a while for her parents to admit it, so there were fees and interest tacked on).  This time she ended up sitting next to me at Christmas dinner and started complaining about poor people mismanaging their money and what Judge Judy has to say about them.  And she gossiped a lot about her extended family and how terrible they are at raising children and how their three year olds (!) are horrible and are going to grow up to be horrible.  When I said I didn’t like to pass judgment on how people who are worse off than I am spend their money because I can’t understand their problems, she said she could because she has been poor (and then we played the who had a poorer parent game– I think I won because my dad is 5’2″ and grew up in a literal warzone/the Depression).  I did not remind her of her poor monetary behavior in the past which DH later said was very good of me, though I did lecture a little bit about public finance and public policy which apparently Judge Judy does not understand AT ALL.  Fortunately when DH showed up she stopped having her comfortable coze with me and started asking him about his job and whether he was going to be doing all of the driving back.  (“No, we’ll be splitting it,” he said.  “It’s my car!” I piped up.  And then we noted DC1 will probably help with the driving next year if we drive.  She did not approve.)
  • But it could be worse– not a word about Mexicans (which was the big thing I was always correcting one of DH’s grandmas on, reminding her about their essential humanity, though she always accepted the correction and added on to it– she knew because she was a teacher and did remember that Hispanic kids are people– she had one of those racisms where she liked every individual she met and saw them as individual persons, but as a group she quoted conservative talk radio), and not a word about Trump or liberals etc.  Apparently BIL’s wife made her stop doing that in company ages ago.
  • I do like BIL’s wife quite a bit.  We have similar taste in reading.  She’s the one who I miss exchanging presents with now that we’re doing kids only.
  • That’s probably enough of me being catty about people I’m related to by marriage.  I wonder what they say when they gossip about me.  (Actually, I suspect I would rather not know!)

When to buy a new computer? And the laptop I ended up buying

My laptop has some sort of hardware issue that causes it to occasionally die even when it’s just sitting there.  This wouldn’t be such a big problem but my work computer, over which I have zero administrative control, has been pretty unworkable for months because of some sort of disagreement Symantec is having with Dropbox and our university IT’s unwillingness to install a patch.  At least that’s my understanding as to why my work computer will just randomly blue screen of death.

The laptop is only 4 years old, but I need a computer at work that won’t up and die on me when I’m in the middle of a complicated Stata thing.  It is a huge PITA to get everything open again and back to where I was when I’m in the middle of programming, especially when I’m trying to balance an away server with my desktop Stata.

Update:  The choice was taken from me– on January 6th, 2020, my laptop met its final end after half a day of shutting itself down every 20 minutes.

I ended up getting a Dell XPS 13, which is on the top of several “best laptops” lists and DH says has the best components of any of the best laptops at a similar price.  Irritatingly, it has also updated its ports and only has two thunderbolt ports and a newfangled little usb.  But DH says we’re better off buying new cords and other accessories than getting a worse computer with more ports.  It does mean that I will have to get a wireless (bluetooth) mouse, which I find somewhat irritating and I went with a 1TB harddrive so I could just not have an external dropbox harddrive, which was not cheap.  I paid an additional $25 to expedite shipping a week earlier because I need a working computer at work.   After taxes and without any software or accessories other than a 3 year subscription to McAfee (my university no longer provides discounted anti-virus software), my total cost was $1,834, which is not cheap, but also not as bad as it could have been.  I really hope it lasts longer than my previous laptop!

I will be getting additional software, but through the university.  It’s about time I upgraded to Stata 16 anyway.

The new laptop is super tiny.  It’s about the same size as my ipad pro though shaped a bit differently.  Very bright, good resolution.  A high quality product all around.  All the random cords we bought seem to be working– plugging in a second monitor just worked without any jiggling… it was almost Mac-like.

How do you decide when to get a new personal computer or laptop?


Ask the grumpies: what’s your computer setup like?

Leah asks:

Mouse or trackpad? Laptop or desktop?

#1:  Mouse, desktop.  I have a laptop but I mostly only use it for meetings that require I have computer access, which is pretty rare.  When I was on leave it was my main computer at work, but I had it hooked up to two big monitors.  I guess I do have a fancy mouse at home (Evoluent Vertical Mouse 3– not sponsored) to help combat RSI, though the only thing special about my work mouse is that it has a cord.  I carry a mouse with my laptop as well because it’s so much less of a hassle than the trackpad or nub.

#2:  laptop at home, desktop at work. Nothing fancy or special.