File Backups – Checking for Copy Errors

One of my “safer at home” projects is updating my file storage system. The drive I put new camera captures on was getting close to filling up, so I needed to expand my system by purchasing a 8TB Seagate external drive that could hold the contents of a partially full 6TB drive, along with the contents of a partially full 2TB drive.

It took me many hours of copying with CarbonCopyCloner to transfer the files from both drives to the new 8TB drive, which always tests my patience, and my tendency to want to watch the pot to see if it’s boiled.

With the copy complete, the next to do is a major reorganization of my folder structure to better fit my current needs and to work with my backup scheme. As part of this, I’m going to erase and reuse some older backup drives, but before I erase those drives, found myself with a nagging question. Did my computer actually copy all my files correctly to the new drive?

Most file copy operations, including what I did with CarbonCopyCloner, are optimized for speed. They read the file from one location and write it to another without verifying that the file was written correctly. Verifying a copy would take re-reading each file and comparing them, which would take a lot more time. In the case of my 5.5TB of data, it would have to read 11TB total of data. 5.5TB on the original drives, and 5.5TB on the copies.

Since my copies weren’t verified, it’s entirely possible that when I copied my files to this new drive, files that hold decades of work, valuable drum scans, irreplaceable originals and memories, that some did not copy correctly, and I could be losing some data. I used to accept that risk in the past, but experience has made me less willing accept it going forward. So what to do then?

CarbonCopyCloner has an option to compare your backup with your original, but for the size of my archive, it was going to be a very time consuming project, and difficult to organize. Fortunately I remembered Lloyd Chamber’s IntegrityChecker software that was designed to do just what I wanted.

First a couple lines about Lloyd and why I’m trusting his software to check my files. Many years ago I met Lloyd when he attended one of my workshops. He was using 8×10 film at the time and trying to push the bounds of what it could achieve…no minor feat. His film was of fantastic quality, but he was still not satisfied. He’s the type of person who obsesses over details in a way I greatly appreciate. But he’s not just a photographer. He has a couple patents to his name for compression technology he used in his very popular DiskDoubler and RAMDoubler software. He has the knowledge and experience to get very deep in the weeds of some interesting computer and digital imaging problems, and he blogs about lens and camera testing at diglloyd.com.

IntegrityChecker validates files in a very unique way. It creates a cryptological hash for every file on a storage volume that can be used to check if the file has been changed in any way. This lets you check the integrity of files and backups in the most efficient way I know how.

So now I’m in the process of creating hash files for my “original” disks. Once all the hash files are created, I’ll use those to validate that my multiple backups are faithful copies of the “original.” That will let me have peace of mind that I have good copies of all my files, and let me decide which copies are redundant so I can re-use those drive.

This kind of integrity checking is something we should all do, but since it’s not built into the operating software we use, it doesn’t happen unless we seek it out. If this is something you’re interested in, check out IntegrityChecker on Lloyd’s website.

I think it’s important to note that this is more of a “expert” level tool. It’s offered in both GUI and command line versions, and it’s going to take some understanding of the underlying principles of what it’s doing if you want to apply it correctly. Because of that, it’s not a tool for everyone, but it’s one I wish I had started using a lot sooner. For now it’s the easiest way I know to ensure my files copy correctly and don’t change once they are copied. Check it out and see if it belongs in your toolbox.

Counting In Full Stops

Do you know how to count in full shutter speed stops?

Even with all the auto settings available on our camera, this basic photo knowledge still can help us solve many exposure problems.

If you don’t have this chart memorized, take some time to learn it, and understand how cutting the amount of time in half cuts the amount light in half, and how doubling the time doubles the amount of light.

It seems so basic but understanding it gives you so many more ways to apply it to your photographs. 

What should you buy with your stimulus check?

My advice, hold off on equipment and take a good photo trip instead. #makememories

For nature photographers, photos happen by being in the field. In general, You should probably be spending more “being out there” than you do on equipment. So bank that check for when we can travel again and start plotting out the trip that will cure your cabin fever.

Photo Projects – Update Your Backup!

When is the last time you did a proper backup? You know, three total copies of your photos?

If you are stuck at home because of the Corona crisis, now is the perfect time to finally get your backup up to date. If you already know how to backup, then just do it.

If you don’t know how to backup, then now’s the time to learn. Figure out what software you want to use (Carbon Copy Cloner is my favorite for mac) and take the time to read the manual and figure out how to use it.

Looking for a simple plan you can follow? Then send me your email address and I’ll give you access to my members only Simple Backup Plan article. It explains many of the ints and outs of backing up your photos, how to structure your backups, and much more.

Backup doesn’t get solve by itself. Only you can protect your photos, so what are you waiting for?

My Foundational Experiences In Photography

How we approach photography is shaped by our experiences. This episode of my vlog shares some of my foundational experiences, how they shaped my vision and my expectations for quality, and gives some of the backstory behind what I teach.

What are some experiences that have shaped your photography?

Stuck inside? Keep Learning, Keep Photographing!

As the current Corona Virus situation unfolds, many of us are going to be spending more time at home, and more time in some sort of semi-isolation.  I don’t know about you, but being closed off from my normal day-to-day is going to have me climbing the walls soon, so I want to suggest to you that this extra time is an opportunity to keep growing in your photography. 

The good news is that we can keep photographing wherever we are, with whatever we have. Even inside our homes there are whole worlds to explore. The 20th century photographer Edward Weston https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Weston made his famous “pepper” photos during a time when he was so poor he had to ration himself to one sheet of film a day, and the peppers he used as subjects became his meals. Out of those challenging circumstances, he made enduring images, and his photograph “Pepper #30” sets records at art auctions.

Don’t let equipment be a barrier either. When I was studying photography in college, one of my classmates did an amazing series on shoes for our product photography class, using just a desk-lamp and long exposures to light paint.  The result was something that equaled the best photos produced in a NYC studio.  Cost and equipment isn’t a barrier.  Weston’s Pepper #30 was made putting a pepper into a steel funnel as a “background.”

Even if we are avoiding social settings, nature remains open. From our yard, to green spaces and parks, there is a whole world we can explore while still keeping ourselves safe. Spring is upon us and every day gives new possibilities as flowers bloom and trees leaf out. Get down on your hands and knees with a macro lens and see what’s growing and photograph it!

The learning can also continue at the processing stage. I don’t know about you, but I have a whole host of “to learns” from new software packages, to techniques, to photos I’ve been meaning to get back to. Pick one of those and take advantage of the chance to dive in as deep as you can go.  If you’ve been putting off learning Photoshop, now is a perfect time to learn!

Those are my ideas, and I’d love to hear yours! Tell me what projects you’re planning on pursuing.

macOS Catalina causing problems with some storage devices

statement from Rod Harrison, VP of Engineering at StorCentric, parent company of Drobo:

macOS Catalina has reported issues with multiple external devices from various manufacturers. We have reported this to Apple in regards to Drobo specifically and we are still awaiting an update from the company. We will share an update with all of our customers as soon as we receive this. However, as this is a broader issue across multiple external devices, we do not believe that this should prevent Drobo users from upgrading to Catalina.

This is why it’s good to let major OS updates get the bugs worked out before installing it.

More info here:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/macos-catalina-warning-dont-upgrade-if-you-rely-on-a-drobo-8d/

Hard Drive Costs November 2019

Current hard drive costs at a glance with links to purchase from Amazon. I recommend Seagate hard drives because they continue to test as some of the longest lasting drives.

Highlight for November is that 10TB external drives are a big savings over 10TB Internal drives. Also, on a cost per TB basis, 10TB drives are getting close enough to the sweet spot of pricing to make them attractive. But I generally don’t recommend buying more than a year’s capacity at a time, because 10TB drives could be $100 by next November, and will erase any “savings” from buying more than you need now. Also remember that a properly backed up “storage set” requires three drives, so buying more than you reasonably need (over provisioning) can suck up a lot of money.

Sometimes external drives are less expensive than internal drives. Advanced users may want to explore “shucking” external drives to save money as the external drives are often, but not always, SATA drives that can be used as an internal drive.

EXTERNAL

2TB $59.99 ($30 per TB)
4TB $89.99 ($22.50 per TB)
6TB $99.99 ($16.60 per TB)
8TB $139.99 ($17.50 per TB)
10TB $179.99 ($18 per TB)

INTERNAL

2TB $49.99 ($25 per TB)
4TB $89.99 ($22.50 per TB)
6TB $131.99 ($22 per TB)
8TB $149.99 ($18.75 per TB)
10TB $249.99 ($25 per TB)
12TB $312.99 ($26 per TB)
14TB $439.99 ($31.40 per TB)
16TB $476.99 ($29.80 per TB)

I’m an Amazon affiliate so I receive a small commission from each sale.

Freemium Content

I’m experimenting with adding a “Freemium” section to the members site. It will be free content, but you’ll have to be a registered user to access it.

If you’d like access to the Freemium section, send an email to rich (at) richseiling .com and I’ll send you an invite to create your free account.

The first Freemium is in depth article explaining how to make sure your photos are protected from hard drive failures. Once you are registered, you can read it here:

https://members.craftingphotographs.com/simple-storage-and-backup-plan.html