A 11 post collection

Practice Skeptical Computing

 •  Filed under nerd

From Ars Technica:

Former Firefox developer Robert O'Callahan, now a free agent and safe from the PR tentacles of his corporate overlord, says that antivirus software is terrible, AV vendors are terrible, and that you should uninstall your antivirus software immediately—unless you use Microsoft's Windows Defender, which is apparently okay.

This has long been my personal policy. More often than not, antivirus software causes more problems than it fixes. It's either an impediment to user activities, or a drain on system resources; most likely it is both. I haven't installed an anti-virus package on a Windows machine in over a decade (though I generally allow Windows Defender to continue to function.) I certainly haven't used a Mac antivirus in the OS X era.

Just practice smart computing. Don't download software from shady websites. Don't click on links you receive in your email (even if it says it's from your bank or your dad or the exiled Crown Prince of Nambutu.) Keep your computer's software, especially your web browser, up-to-date at all times.

Family Reunion

 •  Filed under nerd

I have a few small collections of things, but my latest curation is old software. In this case, Mac OS through the ages.

From left:
System 6 (the first retail boxed version of the Macintosh OS)
System 7
System 7.1
System 7.5
Mac OS 7.6 (Name Change!)
Mac OS 8.0
Mac OS 8.1
Mac OS 8.5
Mac OS 9 (this sealed copy even has a CompUSA tag on the outside, which made me covet it even more)
Mac OS 9.1 (the final retail release; 9.2 only shipped with new Macs)
Mac OS 10.1
Mac OS 10.2
Mac OS 10.3
Mac OS 10.4
Mac OS 10.5
Mac OS 10.6

About half of these are unsealed boxes of major system releases, while the other half are opened but complete packages. This is a mostly complete collection of retail Mac OS releases from 6.0 to 10.6 (US Releases).

Still missing are these hard-to-find versions:

  • System 7.1.1, aka System 7 Pro. A short-lived release, which I think was the most expensive version of Mac OS ever sold ($150/retail.) This was the first version with AppleScript (which still exists today) and PowerTalk.
  • I suspect that there was an 8.6 retail version (much like 8.1 was released in a box which was otherwise identical to 8.0) but I cannot find any hard evidence of its existence. I've seen a PDF version of the installation guide for 8.6, but it's unclear if this accompanied an actual retail release.

10.7 came on a USB stick, so that's definitely a weird one to fit into the collection.

Computers, and Macs in particular, have been a big part of my life for about 25 years. Whenever I look up at this shelf I can remember the first time I used most of these versions. I'm definitely nostalgic for the classic Mac.

Not pictured, my sealed boxes of Hypercard and ClarisWorks!

Sometimes I Backup My Stuff

 •  Filed under nerd

With most of my correspondence, financial information, photos, etc. only existing electronically, it has always been important to have reliable and redundant backups. I’m sure you’re the same way, right? If something happened to your laptop or tablet or phone, you’d have a means of recovery, I’m sure (?).

I have archives of documents going back to at least 1994, and that is not because I've never had a crash. I’ve had numerous failures of hard disks (and even an SSD failure three years ago) which resulted in total data loss. With a backup system in place, however, I was able to recover virtually everything each time.

A caveat: my system is a bit complex and almost certainly unnecessary for most purposes. I will have a simpler recommendation at the end.


My primary computer is a MacBook Pro, so nearly all of the software I write about here is Mac-only.

My first and primary backup utilizes software which is already on your Mac: Time Machine. Time Machine isn’t perfect, and under the covers it’s actually a little bit gross, but it just works and you should be using it.

While my machine is at my desk, it is always plugged into an external Time Machine drive (a second external Time Machine drive also exists and I rotate between these two; one typically goes with me when I travel.) I use full disk encryption should I ever misplace one of my drives. If you don't have an external hard drive already,
this one is a fine choice.

When I am on my home network, I also utilize storage from a Synology Diskstation, a network-attached storage device. My Synology has five hard disks installed (two of which are RAID-6 redundant.) My Diskstation is connected to a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and serves out movies, TV shows, and large amounts of storage to our home network. A lot of stuff gets archived here. Among its many tasks though, it serves as a network Time Machine for all of the Macs in our house (currently three laptops.) My wife and teenager are backing up their computers and they don’t even know it (or care.)

Update 2017-03-08: I have migrated my Synology to the Btrfs file system. Among new features like checksums, auto-healing, and copy-on-write, Btrfs supports Snapshots. Snapshots, in computer storage terminology, is capturing the state of the file system at a particular point in time. This is more efficient than a full, file-for-file backup of the entire NAS. With snapshots, I can capture just the bits which have been changed since the last snapshot, later even rolling them back in time to a previous snapshot state. It's not a replacement for full backups, but it's a very handy tool to have.

So that takes care of my incremental backups. I also create bootable full-images of my Mac. To do this, I employ a second piece of software called SuperDuper. This, combined with a third external hard disk, allows me to restore everything very quickly to a bootable state in the case of catastrophic failure. Historically, I would have a second (encrypted) SuperDuper backup disk that I store off-site somewhere, but this has been harder to pull off since I started working from home.

Remote and Off-site

Okay, but what if my house burns down? Well, I’ve got that covered.

My Mac, starting each morning at 2:00 a.m., wakes up and sends an incremental backup of everything to Google Cloud Storage. To accomplish this I use a piece of software called Arq. Arq is a pretty powerful tool, which can send your data to just about anywhere. I chose Google Cloud Storage as the endpoint because it’s almost as inexpensive as competing Amazon Glacier, with much faster transfer speeds.

My Synology also has a remote backup. Once a week, the system sends an incremental backup of everything (currently 3.52 terabytes, plus another terabyte of Time Machine backups) to Microsoft Azure storage. Restoring all of that data after a catastrophe would take a few days, but at least it’s possible.

Remote storage does cost money, but it’s worth the small expense for peace of mind. My monthly storage and transfer fees for Google and Microsoft are about $30.


Assuming you have a Mac and are in the Apple ecosystem, you have no excuse not to buy an external hard drive and use Time Machine. Even if you only perform weekly backups, that’s better than nothing. I also recommend buying additional iCloud storage and keeping your photos there (with room to spare for your nightly iPhone and iPad backups). Honestly, backing up is not hard to do and it will save you a lot of heartache.

You can start adding some of my crazy redundancies (Arq or SuperDuper) as you deem necessary for your storage needs. The important thing is just to start backing up, even if only with the simple Time Machine. Do it now.

Digital Video Advertising: 2017 Landscape

 •  Filed under nerd, work

Cross-posted from work.

Researchers predicted that 2016 was to be the “Year of Video” in the digital space — and it was. Cisco projected that 64% of all consumer internet traffic was video, and Brafton is projecting this to rise to 74% in 2017. Today, more video content is uploaded to the web in a single month than TV created in the last three decades, and 55% of people watch videos online every single day. It seems that everyone is creating, uploading, and watching video online. Even your mom.

So as you plan your media buys for 2018, why is your template modeled on a strategy from 1998? This might sound self-serving coming from a digital firm, but that doesn’t make it any less true: your voter audience is choosing to watch digital video over broadcast video. It is well past time that your creative strategy and budget reflected this fact.

So what are some steps you can take to modernize your video strategy? Let’s explore.

Video Length

Nearly all traditional political television ads are structured around the tried-and-true 30-second spot. That inventory is still available in digital pre-roll, but there are now a lot of other options to consider. The shorter 15-second format is increasingly dominant, with available inventory on most premium publishers. Last year, Google launched six-second 'Bumper' ads , a format which makes a lot more sense when consumers might be watching a YouTube video which itself is less than 30 seconds.

Additionally, social media channels provide opportunities to engage voters with videos longer than 30- or even 60-second formats. On Facebook, advertisers can utilize videos up to two hours in length. While very few voters are going to have the attention span necessary to sit through a two-hour political speech, you can easily envision an inspirational campaign kick-off video of 2-3 minutes in length. Facebook will even auto-generate closed captions for your video, a tactic which has proven to increase viewer engagement.

Video Content: Digging Deep

Consider creating digital-specific videos for social. This can be great for highlighting things from the oppo file which you might not put on traditional television or pre-roll. With captions, you don’t even have to spend money for voice talent, making these relatively inexpensive to produce and with a fast turnaround.

Precise Targeting

I’ve written about this before, but our strategies for targeting voters online are now even more advanced. With our partners LiveRamp and TubeMogul, we can take your modeled voter file and match it to voter identities across the internet and across devices. This enables us to serve ads to your target audience on whichever device they are using: their computer at work, their phone while at lunch, or their tablet at home. This is precision and efficiency which broadcast television cannot match.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to start planning and executing a digital video strategy, get in touch with us. The Prosper Group is here to help.