Backup Appreciation Day

24 April 2010

This Sony VAIO replaced my ill-fated Dell M1330.

I was taking my laptop out of its travel case on Friday night when my tired hands slipped and the laptop flopped out of its case and crashed corner-first to the floor. Though at first the damage seemed minor, a scratchy whine from the hard disk and an ominous black screen on boot convinced me the fall had been fatal.

I had almost everything on that laptop: the latest source code to Transcendence; six months worth of raw  astrophotos; specs and presentations for work (though no source code); and of course, gigabytes of music and photos. It was the perfect opportunity for another episode of Backup Awareness Day. But holding my battered laptop in my hands, trying once more to see if maybe this time it would turn on, I did not fear data loss because I had been religiously following a backup plan. In the event, I lost only about a hour's worth of work that I had been doing on the plane. Everything else was backed up.

I have two different backup strategies. For work I use a Live Mesh folder to store specs and other documents that I'm working on. Live Mesh synchronizes all those files across all my work machines and also keeps a copy in the sky (though the latter is limited to 5 GB). A few months ago, because of an experiment gone awry, I lost the BitLocker keys to my work laptop (which is essentially the same thing as losing the whole hard disk). But to recover, all I had to do was repave the machine and rejoin my mesh. All my files were automatically synchronized.

For Transcendence and other personal projects (including music and photos), I have an even simpler strategy: Every night a 3:30 AM a batch file runs that copies all modified files from my laptop to a terrabyte drive on my home network. Later, a second batch file will copy that backup drive to a second terrabyte drive.

On Saturday I bought a new laptop (an envy-inducing Sony VAIO—I might as well make the best of the disaster, right?) and by Saturday afternoon I had most of my applications reinstalled and all of my files restored. Ironically, the one thing that I did not back up was the batch file that did the backups and saved my data, an oversight that I have now corrected.

Live Mesh Wins 2008 Crunchie

10 January 2009

Live Mesh wins Best Technology Innovation or Achievement
Photo of Ray Ozzie and David Treadwell by magerleagues. Some rights reserved.

Winning isn't everything, but it's nice when it happens. Live Mesh won the 2008 Crunchie award for Best Technological Innovation or Achievement. We were up against Google Chrome (which I thought was going to win) and Facebook Connect (which got second place).

The list of companies and products that were nominated for Crunchie awards reads like a who's who of trendy, cool start ups and products. It's a world that Microsoft doesn't often appear in (our business enterprise competitors, IBM and Oracle, for example are nowhere near it).

Saving Microsoft

21 November 2008

Ray Ozzie

Wired's December 2008 cover story is about Ray Ozzie and how he is trying to turn the Microsoft battleship. I was lucky enough to get interviewed for the article and a few of my quotes survived. In the article, Steven Levy describes Microsoft's current challenges and paints Ray as the man trying to "lead—or drag, if need be—a software giant with 90,000 employees, $60 billion in revenue, and an untold number of blue screens of death across a chasm."

I know it's unfair to think that a company with $18 billion in annual profits could be "in trouble" (GM wishes it were in that kind of trouble) but after the problems with Vista and the attention lavished on Google and the iPhone, I think that Microsoft felt humbled and demoralized. An athlete who thinks he's in a slump will not perform at full potential. What Microsoft needs to get out of its slump is to start winning, not just in terms of profits, but in the arena of public opinion. And one way to change public opinion is with a good narrative: Ray as an agent of change who brings redemption to a once-respected but now humbled competitor. It doesn't hurt that there's some truth to that story.

Related Articles

Live Mesh

22 April 2008

Live Mesh

For the last two years I've been in a great team at Microsoft working on a new product. Not every team in Microsoft, never mind the industry, gets to work on something brand new. I've had the luck and privilege to work on a couple of v1 projects, including Chron X and Groove, and for me, the most exhilarating and the most nerve wracking moment is when the product first launches.

Today, at the Web 2.0 conference, we are launching a technology preview of Live Mesh, a new software and services product that (we hope) will simplify your digital life by "meshing" your computing devices so they work better together.

It's been a long two years, and the team has gone through many challenging points in the development of this new product. There were some times, to be honest, when some people wondered whether we would ever release anything. Whatever else happens, whatever the ultimate fate of Live Mesh, I am happy and proud to say that our product has shipped.

There are already some good links about Live Mesh:

You can learn about the product at This is a technology preview and invites are limited. If you're really interested, let me know and I might be able to get you an invitation.

The New York Times talk about Live Mesh and Ray's role in the generically named article, Microsoft Reveal a Web-Based Software System.

Charles Cooper puts Live Mesh in context of other projects from Ray and from Microsoft: Peering through Ozzie's Mesh.

And since this is my web site, I don't feel bad about plugging the video that Noah Edelstein and I did for Channel 10: Hands on with Live Mesh.