Thursday, August 30, 2007

My initial Mozy backup is finally complete

About a month ago I wrote a post on Mozy, a new backup tool that I had been using for a few weeks at the time. Well, I thought I'd post an update, since as of 5 hours ago, my initial backup set is finally complete.

Perhaps it seems egregious for an initial backup set to take a month and a half, but I was backing up 59.3 GB of data. About ten years worth of my computer art materials, (legal) music, home video clips, numberless digital photos taken by my wife, and of course my writing. The whole process took longer than it otherwise would have because I throttled it down to about 30 Kbps between 8:30 AM and 10:00 PM, so it was only able to run at a full (for my cable connection) ~390 Kbps during the night hours.

I must say, it's been a bit interesting checking in each day to see how much progress had been made. But still, I'm looking forward to having this just kick off at 2AM every night, and quickly back up whatever changes I've made during the day. That's what I got this for, after all.

If I had one main suggestion for Mozy regarding initial backup sets, it would be this: how about creating a service by which clients can email you DVDs for you to upload straight from your data center? The indexes would certainly be a problem since you normally map everything to the hard disks, but if you made it so that Mozy had the option to do an initial backup set to a set of DVDs, then you could embed the indexes right on the DVDs and easily read them when the clients send them in.

This, of course, would take development time away from your main efforts, and would also require ongoing man hours for staff to handle the DVDs as they arrive. So I wouldn't expect this service to be free -- perhaps $5 per DVD would work for all parties. Whatever covers your costs while making it easier/faster for clients to do that initial backup set. Although, I can see where that added service might cause capacity planning problems in your data center, because your volume of data could quickly jump upwards when a lot of DVDs come in, whereas right now every individual client stream arrives at a fairly predictable trickle.

There are always so many different concerns when you have a centrally hosted software service like this. Part of what professionally interests me in that model, I guess.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Baby talk is perhaps biological?

Yesterday, there was a very interesting article on baby talk from macaque monkeys in the Chicago Tribune. Evidently, researchers have discovered that the monkeys have a special voice that they use only for talking to infants. This voice is higher-pitched, too, just like humans when they do baby talk. From the article:

The intent seemed simply to get the infant to look over and make eye contact with the caller, she said, then to amuse the infant, much as a human might try to get a baby to smile.

A rhesus macaque wanting to charm a tot has an advantage over a human: Besides babbling in baby tongues, it can wag its tail. The monkeys often wag their tails in the presence of a monkey infant, like a human using a rattle to entertain the little one.

Evidently, this tail wagging is extremely rare when they aren't in the presence of infants. The article vaguely suggests that this behavior in macaques might be indicative that baby talk in humans might have a biological imperative behind it. That seems plausible to me, given the ubiquitousness of baby talk amongst all human cultures.

The interesting thing is that this could fly in the face of modern critics of baby talk, who believe that using nonsense words and such stunts the baby's ability to learn real words. Of course, my argument would be that the nonsense words don't necessarily have to be a part of baby talk; it seems like the tone, facial expression, and intent alone would qualify.

My wife and I have both had an aversion to using nonsensical baby talk, even before the studies that show that might be harmful (or at least not helpful), but we still do the tone and facial expressions and such with kids. I'm no expert, but it seems like that would both satiate any biological imperatives that exist (plus fulfilling whatever role they play in the baby's development or at least mood), while also not confusing the baby with gibberish. Who knows for sure, anyway? But it is quite interesting...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Talk about a wate of paper

Check out this article on the bills that AT&T sends to iPhone customers. Apparently some of these monthly bills were as large as "small novels." That sounds like gross exaggeration, but, looking at the pictures, it doesn't seem like that is the case at all. Makes you feel a little bit better about the volume of paper used for manuscripts in the publishing industry, doesn't it? At least all that paper actually has a point...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Author Bio Updated

Anne Mini recently did a series on how to construct proper author bios (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), and this inspired me to redo my own author bio. The old version was much longer, and in some senses more informative, but the problem with it was that it was just too long. There was just too much information that I was trying to convey at once, so the important points were lost in the shuffle. It was really styled more like an encyclopedia entry than a marketing tool, anyway, so I doubt it would have been very effective with professional readers.

As Anne points out, one of the primary purposes of the author bio is to make the author sound interesting. I think my new version does that a lot better (and more concisely) than the old version did. For those of you with websites and/or blogs -- do you have an author bio online, yet? It might be a good thing to do, both as a great thing to have on hand for when agents request it, and to have readily available online in case someone from the industry stops by (you never know, right?).

If you post one, drop me a comment and let me know; I always like finding out more about the people who stop by my blog!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forging New Habits Is Hard

I've recently started trying to adopt the habit of putting two spaces after every period. This was not something that I ever learned, and it's something that still seems very foreign to me to do. I've of course seen plenty of other people who do this, but it's not been anything I've ever wanted to do myself; I always thought it was an antiquated practice. But recently I've learned that it throws off page counts in Standard Format, so I'm trying to learn this as a new habit.

I'm getting pretty good at automatically remembering to add that extra space most of the time, but fairly often I look back at my text and notice a string of places that I missed. Ah well, I've taught myself to put spaces on either side of em dashes, to put spaces between my ellipses -- and then to take them out again once I learned that was wrong -- and to put spaces between parentheses and their contents in programming but not in fiction. Ah well, I'll have this latest change down soon enough, despite years of conditioning to the contrary. It's just a bit amusing to see my subconscious struggle with it for the time being. How hard or easy do you find changing habits like this to be?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Writing Update

Been a while since I've logged one of these, unfortunately, but that's just the way it goes when planning and editing. I've partly been working on the worldbuilding, etc, for LUCIEN'S STORY, and that's not something I can really share much about, since I'd rather you learned of all that by actually reading the novel someday. The decision-making and discovery processes for that sort of thing are not all that scintillating, anyway.

The other part of what I've been doing is working on ALDEN RIDGE again. I showed the manuscript to an editor I know, to get some outside feedback, and this has resulted in some very good new ideas on how to handle certain aspects of the structure of the story. So I've been working on planning those changes, as well, and am just now getting to the point where I'll be working on them in earnest.

I'll post more updates as they become relevant, and try to keep you up to date on what's going on. I hope you're using my RSS feed and Google Reader (or whatever RSS program), and not relying on just checking back every few days.

Monday, August 13, 2007