Sunday, November 29, 2009

Easy Backups with rsync: Part 1 of 3

The most important thing about a home backup strategy is to make sure that the back ups actually get done. You're more likely to get this right if your process is simple and easy and if you make it part of your routine.

My strategy is to maintain mirrors of my home directories on an external hard drive. The process uses only free software but takes some effort to get set up.

The process has 4 steps.

  1. Shutdown
  2. Boot up Linux off a flash drive
  3. Plug in an external drive
  4. Run a backup script

The backup script mounts the target drives and uses rsync to mirror the home directories on them onto the external drive.

To set this up you need to:

  1. Have an external drive with sufficient capacity
  2. Have bootable flash drive with some flavor of Linux on it
  3. Write a backup script

In the next post I'll detail how to get Linux on a bootable flash drive.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Book Review: The Mythical Man-Month

I finished reading the Mythical Man Month last week. I bought the 20th Anniversary Edition which includes the famous 'No Silver Bullet' essay and some updated content. This must be the oldest coding-related book I have ever bought - even that anniversary edition was published more than 10 years ago!

The Mythical Man-Month has stood the test of time. In spite of it's age, it's still read and quoted today. If you've been a programmer for a decent length of time you will have come across discussions and references to it. This is the book that introduced Brooks' Law, Second-System Syndrome and made the much debated recommendation to 'plan to throw one away'. It's also the second book on the Coding Horror recommended reading list. Baring in mind how fast technology changes, it is arguably a classic book in the true sense of the word.

That said, I have mixed feelings about MM-M. The book contains some timeless insights but, unfortunately, whole chapters are completely irrelevant to today's coders. The information is just too dated and obsolete. For example, there is a whole chapter about managing paper based documentation systems including tips about microfiche and page numbering.

Buy MM-M if you're looking for a historical perspective on the craft. If you're purely looking for a practical book on programming practices, try Code Complete instead.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dude, Where's My Powershell 2.0?

Yesterday, I installed PowerShell 2.0 but encountered some issues that had me scratching my head. After I installed it, I couldn't find it.

I grabbed the latest installer listed on download page and ran it. It completed and then... nothing. I checked under my start menu and I couldn't see any new items. I found the PowerShell 1.0 directory (C:\WINDOWS\system32\windowspowershell\v1.0) but I couldn't find a 2.0 directory. It looked as if the installer didn't install 2.0 at all!

After reading the release notes and some fussing, I found out that 2.0 was, in fact, installed. The short cuts are placed unders 'All Programs' > 'Accessories' and the new files are installed in the 1.0 directory over the previous version.

I wonder if anyone else was confused by this.