Mac Tips: Backup (Part 1)

As a long-time Mac geek, I'm often called upon to help friends and family with Mac issues. In this new feature, I'll post a few of the most crucial tips so our Mac-using readers can benefit. This week's tip is also applicable to the Windows platform -- but future tips may not be!

Today's topic is backup. Anyone who has experienced a hard drive crash, had a computer stolen, or lost a computer in a disaster can tell you how important it is to have a copy of your precious data. Imagine losing all your data -- all your music, work files, email, everything. It's a terrible thing to contemplate! With a backup, you can restore critical files and get back to work. I think we all know that backup is important, but avoid dealing with it because it takes time and money to set up...right? Actually, it can be easy -- and free. In this article I'll introduce Mozy, an online backup service (for Windows users too) which offers free 2 GB personal backup service, in the hopes you'll upgrade to a pay-per-use plan (with unlimited space and extra features). I have no affiliation with Mozy, aside from being a satisfied user of their MozyHome Free service.

After the jump: specifics on Mozy and a free signup link!

Mozy is a "set it and forget it" backup solution, which is the only practical way for home users to backup. Other solutions that require you to actually do something to run the backup cause users to put it off, which leads to a stale backup when something bad actually happens. To get around this, Mozy runs in the background, automatically performing backups over the internet to a secure server when it detects that you've been idle for a period of time (you can set this period, or leave it at the default). If Mozy needs your attention (for example, if it hasn't been able to reach the server to backup for more than seven days) it'll pop up a warning message. But otherwise it just quietly does its thing. (Note: you may want to increase the amount of time your computer stays awake before sleep, in order to give Mozy more time to run backups.)

If you're going to use Mozy's free service, you'll need to limit the items you backup to fit in its 2 GB space. For me, Mozy's 2 GB space allows storage of all my email, all Word/Excel/PowerPoint documents, everything I've purchased from iTunes, and a set of key document folders (all my daily work and projects) -- with space to spare. Because of the limited space, Mozy's free service is only a partial solution. Should you experience a catastrophic computer failure -- you'll be able to recover your most crucial data, but will still have to restore all sorts of other stuff (MP3s, applications, and so on) by hand. We'll talk about some complementary "full backup" solutions next week. But keep in mind a key strength of Mozy's free service is that it runs backups to an offsite server -- this allows you to retrieve your data in the event that your house burns down.

Mozy is still in Beta on the Mac platform, which means it will need occasional updates, and may need extra care and feeding at times. But in my use (and my friends' use) over the past six months, it has been very stable and reliable -- and it appears to be fast approaching a final non-Beta release. I've done some test restores to make sure my data is retrievable, and it has worked like a charm. If you need to restore a lot of data and don't want to download your restores over the internet, you can pay a nominal fee for Mozy to burn a disc and mail it to you.

If you've read this far, you're ready to start using Mozy. If you use this Mozy link I'll get a kickback of some extra free storage on my account. IMPORTANT NOTE: be sure to sign up for the free service! Click the orange "Home Users" button in the upper right, then the orange "MozyHome Free" button in the lower left. The free service doesn't require a credit card or any other commitment. (Well, aside from you trusting Mozy with your data!) If you want to sign up for their paid service, it's $4.95/month for personal use with no storage restrictions.

If you want to know more about Mozy, check out Mozy's News section, which includes positive reviews by Consumer Reports, The Wall Street Journal, and Ars Technica (among others). Stay tuned for an article next week on full-system backup that works as a complement to Mozy. Also, if you want to scare the non-backer-uppers, share your tales of data loss in the comments.

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Undersea Internet Cables Could Be Key to the Future of Earthquake Detection
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iStock

Considering that 70 percent of the planet is covered by oceans, we don't have all that many underwater earthquake sensors. Though there's plenty of seismic activity that happens out in the middle of the ocean, most detection equipment is located on land, with the exception of a few offshore sensor projects in Japan, the U.S., and Canada.

To get better earthquake data for tremors and quakes that happen far from existing sensors, a group of scientists in the UK, Italy, and Malta suggest turning to the internet. As Science News reports, the fiber-optic cables already laid down to carry communication between continents could be repurposed as seismic sensors with the help of lasers.

The new study, detailed in a recent issue of Science, proposes beaming a laser into one end of the optical fiber, then measuring how that light changes. When the cable is disturbed by seismic shaking, the light will change.

This method, which the researchers tested during earthquakes in Italy, New Zealand, Japan, and Mexico, would allow scientists to use data from multiple undersea cables to both detect and measure earthquake activity, including pinpointing the epicenter and estimating the magnitude. They were able to sense quakes in New Zealand and Japan from a land-based fiber-optic cable in England, and measure an earthquake in the Malta Sea from an undersea cable running between Malta and Sicily that was located more than 50 miles away from the epicenter.

A map of the world's undersea cable connections with a diagram of how lasers can measure their movement
Marra et al., Science (2018)

Seismic sensors installed on the sea floor are expensive, but they can save lives: During the deadly Japanese earthquake in 2011, the country's extensive early-warning system, including underwater sensors, was able to alert people in Tokyo of the quake 90 seconds before the shaking started.

Using existing cable links that run across the ocean floor would allow scientists to collect data on earthquakes that start in the middle of the ocean that are too weak to register on land-based seismic sensors. The fact that hundreds of thousands of miles of these cables already crisscross the globe makes this method far, far cheaper to implement than installing brand-new seismic sensors at the bottom of the ocean, giving scientists potential access to data on earthquake activity throughout the world, rather than only from the select places that already have offshore sensors installed.

The researchers haven't yet studied how the laser method works on the long fiber-optic cables that run between continents, so it's not ready for the big leagues yet. But eventually, it could help bolster tsunami detection, monitor earthquakes in remote areas like the Arctic, and more.

[h/t Science News]

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AI Remade Old Music Videos, and You'll Never See 'Sabotage' the Same Way Again
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iStock

From rewriting Harry Potter scripts to naming guinea pigs, getting artificial intelligence to do humans' bidding is the latest trend in internet entertainment. Now, we can all enjoy AI remakes of iconic music videos such as "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, and "Take On Me" by A-Ha.

As spotted by Co.Design, these "neural remakes" were uploaded to YouTube by Mario Klingemann, an artist-in-residence at Google Arts. The AI model he created is capable of analyzing a music video and then creating its own version using similar shots lifted from a database of publicly available footage. The results are then uploaded side-by-side with the original video, with no human editing necessary.

"Sabotage," a spoof on '70s-era cop movies, might be the AI's "most effective visual match," at least by Co.Design's estimate. The AI model found accurate matches for vintage cars and foot chases—and even when it wasn't spot on, the dated clips still mesh well with the vintage feel of the original video. Check it out for yourself:

"Total Eclipse of the Heart," a bizarre video to begin with, spawned some interesting parallels when it was fed through the AI model. Jesus makes a few appearances in the AI version, as does a space shuttle launch and what appear to be Spartan warriors.

And finally, 11 years after the original rickroll, there's now a new way to annoy your friends: the AI version of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," featuring John F. Kennedy and Jesus, yet again. This one is presented on its own in full-screen rather than split-screen, but you can rewatch the original video here.

To see more videos like this, check out Klingemann's YouTube channel here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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