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Skepticon in Sydney

Monday, November 20th, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I have just arrived home from a weekend up in Sydney for the 33rd Australian Skeptics National Convention, branded as Skepticon Australia.

It was a great weekend, so what were my highlights?

We heard from Britt Hermes of Naturopathic Diaries about how she became a nauropathic doctor, how she came to understand why that was a mistake and finally what she is now doing about it. It was a shame she wasn’t able to be there in person due to illness, but the video conference was the next best thing.

A panel on journalism featuring Kathy Marks, Marcus Strom & Fauziah Ibrahim gave some interesting insights into how journalists are dealing with the news these days. Of particular interest to me was the information from Marcus about – in his time at the Sydney Morning Herald – the level of tracking that occurs on a news website. They monitor every click and how much you read, plus things like constantly running A/B testing on variations of headlines to determine which is more clickable.

The session about War On Waste with Craig Reucassel, Stephen Oliver & Jodi Boylan started off teasing what we could expect to see in the upcoming fourth episode, but then went deeper building on the previous day’s panel. When can you advocate for one side of an issue versus straight journalism and how to balance education with entertainment.

The most powerful talk of the weekend was from Ruth Ellison (who I knew from perious skeptic and tech conferences as a as a user experience person and maker of laser cut jewelery), speaking for the first time in public about what it was like to grow up in and then leave a religious cult. The entire room was stunned to hear about Ruth’s experience, so much support from people later in the day and via twitter.

The other big thing this year was a number of live podcasts recordings (mostly in “the other room” so I didn’t go to them as I went to talks in “the main room”), but there was only one that I was even slightly aware of, and had never listened to. This is not unusual as there a lot of podcasts out there, but the striking thing was that quite a few people I spoke to were at the convention they listened to one of the podcasts (mainly The Scathing Atheist). The two recording in the main room that I watched were Cognitive Dissonance and God Awful Movies (by the same hosts as The Scathing Atheist). They were enjoyable but not quite my taste so I don’t think I will subscribe. I have queued up a couple of their older episodes to listen to, I will see how they are…

I think my next skeptics event like this will be the Surf Coast Skepticamp in February, but much sooner than that I have a technology event, the third BuzzConf in two weeks time…

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A replacement for CrashPlan

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 at 10:16 pm

For a number of years I have been using CrashPlan for backups, so it was a bit annoying to find out last week that it will stop working in a year’s time.

My initial setup involved three computers and two external hard drives:

  • linux box acting as a destination
  • my parents desktop backing up photos/documents/etc over the internet to my linux box
  • my windows desktop backing up photos/records/documents to both the my linux box (which it was sitting next to) and the two external hard drives (one of them kept off-site)

This worked ok, but it had issues. The first (and biggest) being that the upload through my parent’s cable modem could make my adsl connection unusable, so the first change was to pay for a subscription to have my parent’s back up to the cloud. The initial sync of around 100 GB took a while but then worked nicely. (works even nicer now that they have NBN…)

The only issue I had with the linux install was when it failed to update itself. I don’t know how often there were updates, but I know that four times it would get into a loop of downloading the update, failing to install, downloading the update, etc. This would continue until the 10GB root partition would fill up. Each time I would delete the update files, open the app and manually trigger an update.

The pair of external hard drives started out at 500GB, were replaced by a pair of 1TB drives, and then at the end of last year replaced again by a pair of 2TB drives. I keep taking photos, at 25MB per raw file it adds up.

I am also slowly getting around to replacing the current linux box, so I am getting rid of some things to simplify matters. The two external drives have been sufficient, the only trick being remembering to plug one of them in (usually after coming back from taking photos somewhere), letting it sync and then swapping it with the other one which I have been keeping at work.

So now I am being forced to change…

My parent’s desktop is going to be easy as a quick look around shows that backing up a single computer to the cloud is the common use case. Their current subscription expires in February, so I have six months to find an appropriate plan.

Backing up my data isn’t as straightforward, largely due to the quality of internet here in Australia, the reason that I have stuck with a pair of external drives.

My ADSL connection is better than it used to be (almost double the speed and reliability once a tech redid the connections in the junction box out on the pole…), these days around 7000kb/s down and 800kb/s up.

I have 1TB of photos, so over four months for the initial upload to a cloud service. When I take photos I come back with a lot of them, they get culled but the backup is before that. I can easily take 400 photos in a single day, which is 10GB or more than a full day to backup. I can’t see how a cloud service works for me with ADSL.

(But what about NBN? It is available to all of the houses around me, but I’m in a unit which appears to be being left until later… even then I don’t know what tier I am prepared to pay for. I should be able to pay the same as now for 25/5 or $20 more each month for 100/40, these work out to be 5 hours and 30 minutes for that “day” of photos)

As I start to look for a replacement I have been thinking about what I want:

  • local non-cloud and free
  • specify folders to monitor
  • target is multiple external drives
  • service that detects when external drive is connected
  • revision history (not just a basic sync, can recover deleted files)
  • data deduplication (no duplicates when files moved around or renamed)

I have a year until CrashPlan stops working, I wonder what I will find…

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Some possible photo spots

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 at 4:53 pm

At the end of a recent post I mentioned a couple of places that I would like to go/do to to take photos. I have a much longer list and decided that I would list a few of them here:

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Adjustable seating

Saturday, July 15th, 2017 at 11:03 pm

Over the past couple of years I have been to a few events (mostly organised by Think Inc. or Lateral Events) in the Plenary at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tonight was my second time seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The presentation, chat and Q&A were fantastic as expected, but the other thing that impresses me every time is the venue itself. Its size and how it can be reconfigured, in particular the adjustable seating.

If you don’t know what I mean then skip to 1:15:


MCC Plenary – YouTube

That is the promo video found on the MCEC site, but a bit of searching finds other videos, including this one which shows the mechanism as well as a 3d model animation:


Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre – YouTube

Systems by the same company at other venues:

So where am I going with this? Not anywhere really, except that it is part of my fascination with how things work. I enjoyed a recent Arts Centre Backstage Tour (my photos), I’m considering an Opera House Backstage Tour when I am in Sydney early next year, but first Open House Melbourne is in a few weeks…

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Finding backed up photos in Google Photos

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 at 10:25 pm

I don’t often take photos on my phone but when I do they are automatically backed up to Google Photos. As well as it being a backup it comes in handy every so often as it is a way to access the photo without copying it off the phone.

Every so often I clear the photos off my phone, incorporating some of them (usually just for future reference) into my photo collection (but not the section that Lightroom looks at). While the photos are no longer in the DCIM folder they all still exist as the backups in Google Photos, which I don’t want. When I look at Google Photos I prefer to only see the photos that I have shared in Albums.

Annoyingly there doesn’t appear to be a way to see all photos not in an album (this is trivial in Flickr and I am not going to get into the future of Flickr now…), despite it being a feature requested by many people over the years.

I have found an alternative that is also the better solution for my actual problem, you search for the following:

#autobackup

This is an undocumented feature (one of probably many) that does what it says…

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