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August 7th, 2016:

When is the last time you backed up your computer?

A former coworker once told me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those that have lost data, and those that will lose data. That was back in the 1990s. Back then, losing data meant losing some email, WordPerfect documents and Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet files. In the modern world, though, more and more of us have our entire photo collection, music collection, and movie collection on our computers. Losing that data is more serious. If When your computer dies, will you lose your data forever?

I have been a victim of digital data loss in the past, and now, I have a lot of photos and music on my computer. I have a paranoia about losing my data. I am pretty good at backing up my computer. For the last several years, my backup system consisted of an external hard drive. I’m a Mac user at home, and I like a program called Carbon Copy Cloner. It clones my hard drive, making an identical, bootable copy onto the external hard drive. If When my hard drive dies, I can boot from the external hard drive to access all of my data.

Hard drives are cheap and high-capacity. Many of them just require a USB cable, which serves as the power supply as well as the data connection.

The old: an external hard drive.

The old: an external hard drive.

Recently I used some of my BestBuy reward points to buy a flash drive. I’m amazed at how much capacity these buggers have, and how small they are.

We used to call these things “thumb drives.” This one could be called a “thumbnail drive.”


The new system: a flash drive.

This little thing holds 128 gigabytes of data, and only costs $30.

It’s small and fast. Because flash memory has no moving parts, unlike a traditional hard drive, backing up is fast. It’s still bootable, so disaster recovery should be easy as well.

I’ve looked into online backup systems, where your data is backed up to the cloud. But  my lifestyle probably doesn’t make that an option. I spend long times in countries that have low connection speeds and local governments that are “curious” about my data. So for the time being, physical backups will be the best choice for me.

How about you? When is the last time you backed up your computer? What’s your excuse for not backing up? More importantly, do you dare not to back up?

Public Diplomacy

I’m in “public diplomacy” training now, in preparation for my next job in Vietnam. The training is enjoyable, and it’s clear that my next job will be different from my last job.

Coincidentally, I just finished this interesting book: “Dirty Diplomacy.” The author was the ambassador from the UK to Uzbekistan starting in 2003.

This guy had an amazing experience before he got fired. He did some wonderful things that an ambassador should do. He traveled around the country in the attempt to learn what was really happening in the country. That helped him to be an effective advocate for British businesses operating in Uzbekistan. It also made his reports back to Britain more accurate.

He also learned about the terrible government corruption and human rights violations in the country. And he had the courage to call out the host government on the abuses. He wasn’t a very diplomatic diplomat. But even though he publicly embarrassed the host government, the result was that the president of the country seemed to respect him more.

He also did some things that an ambassador shouldn’t do. He made some unwise choices with his personal life that would definitely get me in trouble if I did them. In fact, I would probably lose my job if I did some of the things that he did.

The author described the inner workings of the British foreign service. It was fun for me to compare the workings of the UK Foreign Office and the U.S. State Department.

Then last weekend I re-watched the movie “Good Night and Good Luck.” The film tells the back story of the famous media battle between Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy.

The movie is more relevant to me now because of what Murrow did later in life. He left television journalism and became the Director of the United States Information Agency in 1961. That agency later became part of the State Department. It became the “public diplomacy” area of specialization, which is my current specialty.

Between training, reading books and watching movies, I’m overdosing a little bit on diplomacy. Time to branch out and do something different. Maybe I’ll go hiking.