Tag Archives: technology

Backup Day, and an Offer to Solve Your Tech Problems

Yesterday was World Backup Day, intended to raise awareness of the importance of backing up personal and archival data. I hope you won’t mind me sending this reminder a day late. The fact is, it’s never too late to back up your data—until it’s too late. Don’t wait until you have a system crash or data corruption: Back up now!

World Backup Day logoIf you missed it, I wrote a series of blogs on using cloud-based storage solutions to keep your writing and other valuable documents safe. Here are links to those articles just in case you haven’t yet set up your automatic backup sync:

This can’t be stressed too much: Back up now! Whatever storage you choose, whatever method you find practical, just do it—and frankly, one day a year is not enough if your livelihood, or at least your precious creations, are stored as bits of data.  Continue reading

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Cloud Backup: A Brief Primer for the Practicing Writer

Part 1: Why Should I Use Cloud Backup?

OK, raise your hand if you’ve ever lost a digital copy of something you’ve written. That could mean that the file became corrupt, your computer itself crashed, you lost a thumb drive or disk, or maybe you just forgot where you saved the file. Looks like just about everyone’s hand is up. A bit sad, but to be expected, I suppose.

For writers—that is, people who identify themselves as writers, engaged in the craft of creative writing in whatever form—losing your work can be particularly devastating. Which is why it’s important that you have good backup procedures in place and keep your writing works in multiple locations. Using a cloud backup provider usually lets you set up an automated backup procedure, and the saved files are offsite, so loss or damage of your local computer won’t affect the backup.

With current technologies and the variety of cloud storage options now available, setting up reliable backup has never been easier. But, because I know many writers and other creative people can be somewhat technologically phobic, I’d like the take some time to demonstrate, step by step, the process of setting up a cloud backup strategy that runs automatically to protect your most precious documents. In follow-up posts, I’ll show how you can use Dropbox and SkyDrive to get great protection. First, however, let’s look at what cloud storage actually is and how you can use it safely.  Continue reading

Machines in Music and the Modern World

Queen live in Frankfurt, Germany (at the Festh...

Queen live in Frankfurt, Germany (at the Festhalle, Sept.26 1984) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who knows me for even a short while will probably discover that music is a big part of my life. I listen to music all the time, and I listen to a fairly eclectic mix of styles and artists. But as far as I’m concerned, in the great history of rock and roll, Queen stands at the pinnacle. As I frequently say, Queen is my “Shakespeare of Music.” That is, if I could listen to no other band for all eternity, the full Queen catalog would provide ample sustenance.

One of my favorite Queen songs is “Machines” from The Works. In the diverse pantheon of great Queen songs, this probably isn’t one of the band’s best-known tracks. Even the CD isn’t one most American fans would turn to, although it was a pretty big deal in their native UK. Listening to The Works recently, I was reminded of not only how exceptional Queen was at their best, but also how prescient they could be, and nowhere on the record is that more obvious than in the song “Machines.”

(Now might be a good time to scroll below and click Play on the video link to listen to the song.)

The CD came out in 1984, which for those who recall, corresponds to the early days of personal computing. The term PC was around, if not yet synonymous for personal computer, so it’s pretty interesting that Queen, in “Machines,” used such terminology as disk drive, bytes and megachips, and random access memory—and they made such lingo fit nicely into a rock song. Perhaps more incredible, they used these terms in a way that still sounds appropriate today rather than dated.

As the song begins, the synthesized “machine” voice seems to chant for the machines. In the first verse, Freddy Mercury sings the lyric “When the machines take over / It ain’t no place for rock and roll.” It’s easy here to take the song as a comment on the growing use of technology and synthesizers in music destroying the purity and power of good old-fashioned rock and roll. Although that’s a valid interpretation, it’s also too simple.

The song actually comes with a subtitle or alternate title: “Machines (Or ‘Back to Humans’).” The song presents a picture of a society struggling to find a space for humanity in a world increasingly controlled by computers. As I look around today and see everyone with their faces glued to their smartphone or tablet screens wherever they go, I’m ready to shout “Back to humans!” along with Freddy.

Cover of "Works"

Cover of The Works

This song was co-written by Brian May and Roger Taylor. Even 10 years ago—let alone the nearly 30 years ago when they wrote “Machines”—I don’t think we could have truly predicted the vast changes in lifestyle that mobile computing would bring. But then, as now, society was on the cusp of change and no one could quite tell where it was leading. Perhaps that’s why the final message of this song still resonates:

Living in a new world
Thinking in the past
Living in a new world
How you gonna last?

If you work with technology, you’re probably one of the ones on the forefront of change—you’re not stuck thinking in the past. But even if you don’t live and breathe in the machine’s world, technology is still changing the way you live and the way you interact with the world. That doesn’t mean you need a smartphone, or an iPad, or even a computer, to live in this “new world” and be successful—but you’d better at least be educated enough to be part of the conversation.

Both musically and lyrically, “Machines” still sounds fresh to my ears almost 30 years after my first listen. I suppose today it might need to talk about virtualization or big data to stay on the cutting edge, but I think the boys knew what they were doing. Oh, and did I mention the song also uses the (invented) word parahumanoidarianised? Check it out!

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins