Backups and Archives

We’re in the process of re-organizing our office back-ups and archives.

For a while now, we’ve had a 1TB D-Link mini-server, dual parallel drives, serving as a backup device. It’s been getting full – so we decided to review and revamp. Turns out a big chunk of that drive (700 GB, at the moment) is devoted to one client, and an archive of site data and reports that go back nearly 15 years. In the early days the data sets were relatively small (by today’s standards) – 10 or 20 MB maximum. But today, we regularly see data sets that exceed 1GB.

So, new plan, we picked up a relatively low cost, 4TB backup drive (USB connection) and are moving all of the customer data over there. There’s no real requirement for this data to be backed up permanently, it’s more of a “nice to hang on to” archive. That way, we can free up the 1TB drive (still nicely serviceble and redundant as an automated backup device) for everything else.

What this requires, however, is patience. In the process of copying 700GB of data from the network drive to the USB drive is taking some time (days really); it’s slowing down my main workstation a bit but not enough for me to set up something else to handle the chore.

Once the data gets pushed to the new drive, I’ll clean up the old backup drive, and also clear out some space on my main workstation and spend some time defragging the disks.

 

Engineering Templates

Popped up on Facebook this week; a friend posted some guitar innards and a commenter referenced engineering templates – and it was off to the races.

Picket 16101

Picket 1610I – A personal favorite by dint of the transformers and the Delta-Wye transformer windings

Which is more terrifying:

  • I’m of an age where I actually used these for their intended purpose?
  • I still have these?
  • I knew exactly where they were? They’ve sat waiting patiently in the hanging file folder I put them in when I started consulting in ’95.

Apparently one can still purchase these – although I’m not sure how many are sold. I’ve not seen a drafting table in use (except perhaps ironically) for many years.

Truth be told my love affair with these tools goes back much further – Dad worked in IT back when the Univac brand was on top of the industry, and weekend trips to his office meant a morning of messing around with programming templates, making punch cards, shooting big rubberbands (used to bundle punch cards or print-outs). Every year at xmas we’d get a dot-matrix, ascii art peanuts calendar – I found a pretty representative sample at Hackaday.

The Guru’s Cat

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

– Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird

A music festival where I’ve been a volunteer for nearly 25 years is doing their annual mid-winter pre-fest sales – selling a limited number of tickets at a reduced price. It’s a good way to carry the festival organizers over the winter, and to give regular festies a price break.

What’s NOT so good is how they do it – phone only, with a limited staff processing orders manually over a three day period. I’ve seen some posts on social media:

“After 111 attempts to get through, over a span of twelve minutes, tickets have been procured!”

Mine took longer than usual — 179 calls and 48 minutes (you re-dial faster than I do) . . .

and from one of the folks on the other end of the line:

FYI y’all S & A are working fingers off to accommodate youralls calls for tix & are very grateful for your wonderful patience

See, the thing is, this could be done online through eCommerce – put a limited number of tickets for sale (so you do not oversell) and for a limited time. Yeah, there’s a service fee (but probably not all that much higher than the credit card fees) and I suspect most customers would pony up an additional $5 or $10 per ticket to cover an eCommerce solution (and not have to dial in 100+ time). You could sell out your winter pre-fest stock without having to tie up customers, your staff, etc.

But….it’s been done this way for 25+ years and will probably always be done this way. Like the Guru’s Cat, sometimes we do things out of habit or tradition or inertia without stepping back and considering other options.

Spreadsheet Automation

We’ve spent some time recently putting together a spreadsheet for a client to review advance reservations for a local Dinner Train. It is intended to help management and marketing look down the road to fine-tune marketing and social media efforts.

The magic is the use of templates and macros – the spreadsheet is designed to quickly and easily import data obtained from an eCommerce platform (Shopify), and with the push of a button, to sort, filter, and copy the data so that the charts are automatically produced – in less than a minute, and by users who are not spreadsheet gurus.

Dinner Train Instructions

Step-by-step instructions embedded into the spreadsheet to ensure non-expert users and/or new users can work with the spreadsheet.

We set the spreadsheet and graphs up just once – and through macros, paste new data into the spreadsheet, so that the graphs are updated and ready for use without touching them at all.

DT Spring 10May16B

DT Spring 10May16C

DT Spring 10May16D

Just one of our many skills and services – if you have data that you’re having trouble making good use of, or are spending too much time on repetitive tasks to get your data into useful form, give us a shout. A few hours of work setting up an automated spreadsheet can yield huge savings down the road.

Autoclicker – A Handy Bit of Code

One of my annoying little work tasks involves scrolling through scores to hundreds of power disturbance graphs with Reliable Power Meter’s PAS software. Since RPM, now a subsidiary of Fluke, seems to excel at quirky ergonomic design, there is no way to set up the software to rapidly and easily page through the disturbance graphs so as to review each one. (there is also no way to extract low frequency transients or load generated transients from the data set, so looking at every single disturbance graph is required to be thorough, which I am, and sometimes there are 1000’s of images to review)

Can you say Repetitive Stress Injury?

But I found a neat software package from Valis Enterprises called Autoclicker that seems to help. With this, I can switch on the autoclicker, click the first graph, and simply watch as the events scroll at a programmable rate. With a small logging sheet so I can note events of interest to review later, I can review a full data set without wearing out my mouse or my wrist.

This hearkens back to the days when I was analyzing BMI-4800 data (large rolls of thermal paper) – I wanted to make a motorized roller / unroller to scroll through the data as well as re-roll the tapes afterwards. Never did get that one done.