April 4, 2021

Almost free cloud backup

If you're sold on having a full cloud backup of all your data -- and you should be -- but you find the cloud backup services I suggested a bit pricey, there might be an "almost free" option you could use.  It depends, though, on your having access to a lot of space on a cloud storage service like Google Drive, OneDrive, Drobox, iCloud Drive, etc.  You might have this already, say, if you subscribe to Microsoft 365.

This solution will give you as much retention as you want of old file versions and deleted files, and will let you do point-in-time restores.

Here are the pieces of the solution:

  1. A Sync.com Free plan account, which gives you 5 GB for free (and more if you refer other people to the service).
  2. A cloud storage services (as noted above) with enough space for your entire backup. (You'll actually need somewhat more space given the versioning.)
  3. The SyncBackSE backup software, about CAD $62 one-time

Here is what you do:

  1. Divide your files logically -- in your head -- into two piles: Sensitive and Non-Sensitive.
    • Sensitive files are ones that you think need end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
    • Non-Sensitive files are ones that don't need E2EE.
  2. Then separate your files physically -- on your drive -- so that each high-level folder (say, the top level folders under your Documents folder or your Photos folder) contains either Sensitive files or Non-Sensitive files but not both.
    • Sensitive files are limited to the 5 GB or 6 GB or whatever in your Sync.com plan.
    • Non-Sensitive files are limited to whatever you have in your cloud storage plan.
  3. Buy SyncBackSE software (see above).
  4. Configure SyncBackSE to automatically and daily do this:
    • Back up all Sensitive folders to the Sync.com folder, using Versioning
    • Back up all Non-Sensitive folders to the OneDrive folder, using Versioning
If you want to get a bit fancier, you could use SyncBackSE's AES encryption abilities to encrypt files before writing them to the Non-Sensitive cloud storage. Then you don't really need Sync.com.

If you use this referral link to sign up for Sync.com, you'll get an extra 1 GB of storage.  (I will too, but I have no need for any more space.)

March 31, 2021

World Backup Day, and suggestions

Today is World Backup Day.  A CBC story.

Data backup is really important so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ensure that all your important data is backed up to at least one and ideally to two different "places", at least one of which is in the cloud.
  2. For files that live on your computer or an external drive, your first backup should be to a cloud provider.  Your second backup can be cloud or local.
  3. If you have files that live in the cloud, you need at least one backup too, which could be on your computer or an external drive.
  4. Manual backup can work if you're diligent, but automated regular backup is much better.
  5. Cloud sync (often free, e.g., Google Drive) is not the same as cloud backup (usually paid, e.g., Backblaze).  True backup will keep deleted files and old versions of your files for at least, say, a year, supports point-in-time restore, and lets you choose which folders to back up.  Cloud sync providers usually keep these for no more than 30 days, don't support PIT restore, and only back up files you place in the single fixed folder.
  6. For sensitive data consider using a cloud provider with end-to-end encryption (E2EE), also called Zero Knowledge.
  7. For local backups (e.g., to external drives) you probably want to ensure that the data is encrypted.  (But then also ensure that your computer's drive is encrypted.  Windows 10 Home doesn't do that and Windows 10 Pro doesn't do it by default; if an someone steals your computer they'll get all your data.)
  8. For mobile devices you can reduce data backup concerns by ensuring that all important data on your device actually comes from (is synced from) the cloud, or, say in the case of new photos, is automatically backed up to the cloud.

March 30, 2021

Browser extensions for privacy and security

This New York Times article lists my favorite three browser extensions for security and privacy:

Tools to Protect Your Digital Privacy

They are:

  1. uBlock Origin
  2. Privacy Badger, and
  3. HTTPS Everywhere.

There is one additional benefit of uBlock Origin not mentioned in the article, namely that advertising can contain or lead you to malware, aka, malvertising. 

March 9, 2021

How to follow blogs

Chances are that you've run across at least a few blogs or news websites that you find interesting -- maybe even this blog!  You'd love to read their new posts but you know you'll never remember to check the websites regularly.  What do to?

It's pretty easy, actually.  Use either of these services to subscribe to your favorite sites:

NewsBlur, my favorite, has a very nice free tier.

Using them is straightforward: you subscribe to the feeds to you want to follow, then you only have to remember to go to the NewsBlur or Feedly website every few days or so.  They will show you in one place any new content from the sites you follow.

Subscribing to a website/blog's feed is usually simple.  For NewsBlur, click the "+" icon in the bottom left and paste in the website URL.  For example, for this blog, you would paste this:


Alternatively, you can paste the URL of the feed into NewsBlur (and you'll have to do this if the website URL doesn't work).  You can often find the feed URL by viewing the page source of the website's main page and searching for "rss" or "atom".  For this blog, for instance, the feed URL is:


For websites that have multiple feeds, it's best to use the feed URL.  Websites with more than one feed will usually provide a page listing all the feeds.  Find the one you want, copy its URL, and paste it into NewsBlur.

How does this newsreader magic work?  It makes use of the RSS or Atom feeds that most (but not all) blogs and many other websites publish in parallel with their regular web (html) content.

Once you have subscribed to your favorite blogs and other sites and get in the habit of regularly checking your newsreader, you won't ever want to give it up.