Backup your data – January 5, 2013

Have you backed up your computer files recently? While chewing glass sometimes seems preferable to sitting through a data backup, it can be an invaluable thing to do for your computer.

I try to do a big backup at the start of a new calendar year. However, this year I recently noticed that backup on my portable hard drive was several months out of date, and (gasp!) I last added a backup DVD three years ago!

Ironically enough, my portable hard drive died as I was running a backup. So what do you do when your main backup fails?

My backup situation

My laptop is my primary storage space for digital files. However, having regard to my nearly-vintage 2006 laptop, it’s worth some effort to ensure that if something were to happen to my computer, I can get back all or very nearly all of my important files quickly and with the least amount of pain. (If you’re running your law office from home, this is even more critical!)

I make two back-ups: The first is on a portable hard drive which (in theory) gets updated about every 6 weeks, and the second consists of DVDs that I add to incrementally (usually about once each year).

Why a second copy backup? While the portable HDD is fast and easy, it’s relatively expensive to have two of them. Also, I want something that is even more portable that I keep away from home, and what is on a different same type of storage media from the first backup (not all devices can read all types of storage – my laptop has a CD/DVD drive but not an SD card slot; also, storage technology changes over time).

Committing to backing up your files regularly is not a New Year’s resolution. When it comes to your resume, vacation photos, email or client files, “out with the old” doesn’t work.

“In with the new”

I could have purchased a similar replacement drive for less than $100, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, I didn’t get any toys for Christmas. I thought this might be a good opportunity to upgrade to a network-based storage solution that would offer shared access to files (and backups!) for multiple computers, phones or a tablet, video streaming and more. With some helpful guidance from my friend Damage, and $463 later, I now have a network attached storage (NAS) box that stores our files and photos, streams video to the TV, and more.

Geeky, sure. Cool, yes way!

My QNAP TS-212 NAS up and running
My QNAP TS-212 NAS up and running

Tech wise, the solution is a QNAP TS-212 Home/SOHO network attached storage (NAS) server outfitted with two 2TB Western Digital “Red” NAS hard drives. It took all of 5 minutes to install the drives into the TS-212 and attach the cables. Then I plugged the TS-212 into my router, and used the QNAP “Finder” app to detect the drive. It was pretty easy to setup the TS-212 via Windows using the wizard-based setup interface, and the longest time to wait was while the TS-212 formatted the new hard drives.

I did need to mess around with the TS-212’s configuration settings to get the Twonky Media Server streamer working and for our Samsung Smart TV to recognise it. While it took some tinkering, I think the key things were to update the TV’s firmware and to assign a static IP to the TS-212 (which is a good idea, in any case). Once that was done, the TV simply “found” the media server as a new input source, and happily started receiving the wireless video stream. Hurray for “big screen” viewing!

At this stage, my only complaint in relation to video streaming is that Twonky Media Server does not support fast-forward or rewind during video playback, meaning we can’t skip forward or backward during the show. In time, I may look for another DLNA media server to replace Twonky Media Server on the TS-212.

Some tips

  • It could pay to backup your files more frequently, but consider running a backup whenever you flip the calendar (monthly?), adjust the clocks for daylight saving time (twice yearly?) or when you replace your smoke alarm batteries (yearly?). It could help to put a reminder for this in your calendar.
  • While there are plenty of ways to backup your files, none of them are a single bullet. Consider using two backup solutions, at least one of which involves storing the backup off-site, ie away from home. Other locations to store your backup could include a safe deposit box at the bank, a friend’s house, locked cupboard or desk at the office, or “in the cloud” such as in a free Dropbox folder.
  • Keep in mind that cloud-based services may not (whether by design, choice or otherwise) protect the privacy of your files, so you may want to consider encrypting them before uploading to services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. See 5 Ways To Securely Encrypt Your Files In The Cloud and How To Add a Second Layer of Encryption to Dropbox.

Queensland floods – January 17, 2011

Thank you to all our family and friends who have called or asked how we are going amongst all the flooding in Queensland. A lot has happened in the past 7 days, so let me walk you through some of it.


A series of floods hit eastern Australia in December 2010 and January 2011. Many of the affected areas have been in Queensland, but the flooding has also impacted parts of New South Wales and Victoria.

Large parts of Queensland received much heavier than usual rainfall throughout the (southern) spring and Christmas 2010 periods. Around 7 January 2011, water management authorities were forced to start release thousands of gigalitres of rainwater from the Wivenhoe Dam into the Brisbane River, in order to avoid the dam breaching its banks.

10-13 January

Toowoomba, in the Darling Downs area west of Brisbane, was hit by flash-flooding after more than 160mm of rain fell in 36 hours to 10 January 2011. Much of that water travelled down the range towards Brisbane, to join the water that had been released in to the Brisbane River from Wivenhoe Dam. While the controlled releases presented some risk of flooding to Brisbane, the further rainfall in the Darling Downs and Brisbane Valley made flooding a certainty.

On Tuesday morning, several office buildings in the Brisbane CBD started to evacuate. It took Anna and me more than two hours to reach home by bus in the heavy rain. We quickly packed a few clothes and important papers, and headed to higher ground. Fortunately, we were able to stay with friends far enough away from the now-raging Brisbane River.

By Tuesday evening, huge areas of Brisbane’s southern and western suburbs, including West End, Rocklea, Milton and South Bank were flooding. My friend Tyler took a number of photos of South Bank and the Brisbane CBD on January 12, January 13 and January 14 and posted them to Facebook (login required). also featured some of Tyler’s photos and videos (no login needed).

Bronwyn has amazing photos of the Eagle St and Riverside areas of the Brisbane CBD (Coffee Club is on the second level at Eagle St pier – the restaurants below have flooded to the ceiling), while Mike’s house was badly flooded (login required).

The river swallows up Riverside in the CBD

The river swallows up Riverside in the CBD

Our suburb of Bulimba was expected to flood, and as our house is a mere two streets from the river, we did not hold out much hope of it staying dry. On Wednesday morning, we went back to the house to put as much of our furniture up as high as possible, and snuck a few photos of the raging river.

Furniture up high

Fridge up on the bench

Anna in water over the road

The water started to cover the roads just before noon, so we said goodbye and good luck to the house.

On Thursday morning, we watched in frustration as the TV news helicopters buzzed all over the southern and western suburbs and the Brisbane CBD. The images were unreal! But we could not figure out why the news seemed to refuse to mention any areas beyond the CBD.

We drove to the house, and were shocked to discover that our house had been strangely and miraculously untouched! Water had flowed up to the industrial property next to us, but only soaked the grass and roads.

A number of properties upriver from us in Bulimba and Hawthorne were not so lucky. You can see in my photos from 13 January that there are a number of new “lakes” surrounding many properties and lying across roadways.

Bulimba ferry terminal underwater

Why was our house not flooded on January 12?

The Brisbane River becomes wider and deeper when its flows reach the Bulimba area. So the main threat of flooding on our property is a storm tide. This is caused by wind and atmospheric pressure, such as tropical cyclones or storms, that produce higher than usual tide levels. In short, we are most likely to be flooded by water that has been pushed up-river by storm tides and strong winds, and less by the volume of water that flows down-river.

The storm tide scenario happened in Brisbane a big way in January 1974 and February 1893. The river’s peak in the ’74 flood measured 6.6 metres at the Port Office gauge and approximately 5.5 metres at the city gauge. That level likely meant that our house in Bulimba was under 2-3 metres of water.

The flood modeling for 13-14 January 2011 indicated that the river would exceed its 1974 levels. But very fortunately for us, the rain stopped on 11 January and we did not have a cyclone pushing water up-river.

What’s next?

The Big Wet 2011 is not over yet. There are a number of cyclones to the northeast of Queensland, and the next king tide is expected to hit Brisbane on Friday, 21 January. Meanwhile, the rainy season usually runs through to March. This is all the better reason to (finally) finish my disaster/storm kit!

a defiant Bulimba shopfront

The Paperless Office – August 1, 2010

I’m a little behind in my podcast listening, but one radio program that I enjoy is Future Tense, hosted by Antony Funnell on ABC Radio National.

Funnell recently interviewed futurist Richard Watson, the author of the book Future Files, and Matt Moore, director of Innotecture and chair of the NSW Knowledge Management Forum. They explored the question, “Was the idea of the paperless office a flawed prediction?”

I work in a law office which consumes an astounding amount of paper. I try to print only when necessary (and when I do, to print in either double sided or two-up double sided layout), but it is amazing to see how many more issues that I can easily spot in a draft contract as compared with reading on-screen. For that reason, I found myself nodding along with Matt Moore when he observed that to properly review documents, he needs to print them in order to “absorb” them properly. Richard Watson made a similar point when he talked about editing the draft for a new book and spreading paper all around the office floor in order to work out the flow of ideas from chapter to chapter.

Listen to the episode podcast – or read the transcript (paper or on-screen?) for The Paperless Office (15 July 2010). I think that you will find it interesting.

Private Australian universities steadily increase graduate numbers – Sept 21, 2008

Full article: The Australian, 19 Sept 2008

TWO of the most ambitious new players in legal education are the private universities Bond and Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has been operating at Fremantle in Perth for 11 years, but the first graduates from its three-year-old Sydney campus will enter the workforce next year. At Fremantle, 68 students graduated last year, representing a steady increase in graduates over the past decade.

Bond University’s Faculty of Law, which next year celebrates its 20th anniversary, provided 445 graduates last year. The Gold Coast-based institution seeks to be the only Australian law school to combine traditional tuition with a “legal skills” component and to limit tutorials to about 10 students.

In their latest intakes, DLA Phillips Fox, Blake Dawson and Baker & McKenzie each hired two Bond graduates, while Gilbert + Tobin and Freehills took one each. Significantly, almost half of the law faculty’s students are from overseas. (At Bond University as a whole, about half of its 4000 students come from 75 countries.)

Terry Fox’s Econoline van restored for cross-Canada tour – May 23, 2008

The 1980 Econoline Ford van that served as Terry Fox’s home – and the movable headquarters for his Marathon of Hope – has been restored for a cross-Canada tour.

The van that crept along the roadways of eastern Canada behind Fox for 143 days was shown off at Ford’s Canadian headquarters in Oakville, Ont., on Thursday for the first time since it was found and acquired by the Terry Fox Foundation.

The foundation plans to use the newly restored van to once again share Fox’s goal of raising funds to fight cancer with a cross-Canada tour starting May 25 in St. John’s.

Full article:

1980 Econoline Ford — restored for a cross-Canada tour
1980 Econoline Ford — Restored for a cross-Canada tour