Items for Feb. 15, 2020: Lost pens, new pens, computer storage

February 15, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 15, 2020

Various items:

• Sometime over the last week, I lost a red pen. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but it was still annoying, especially because when I checked my office supplies at home I discovered that I didn’t have any red pens in reserve. I use red ink to mark questionable words and challenges while playing Scrabble; I also use them to mark attendees and the total number of players in late games when I work as a World Tavern Poker tournament director.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, I went into a convenient office-supply store that’s part of a national chain; I had a $30 “e-gift card” for it. (This item, which I printed out at home, belongs in a different category than either a gift card or a gift certificate, as various cashiers and I learned in 2019 through trial and error.)

I wound up buying a four-pack of fine-tipped black pens for $10.98 and a five-pack of fine-tipped red pens for $7.29. I wasn’t out of black pens, but I have been searching for fine-tipped black writing implements. I can no longer find the 0.5-millimeter black rollerball pens that used to be stocked in every office-supply store.

I put one of each of my new types of pens to work that night. To my disappointment, the black pens had those small, stiff, marker-like tips, which I’ve already tried and haven’t loved as much as very fine rollerballs.

Even worse, before the end of the night, the pen tip just… disappeared. The pen cost about $2.75, and it only endured light use for a couple of hours!

• In a similar vein: Last month, I lost a USB charger, one of those small almost cubical two-pronged white 5-watt adapters that Apple ships with iPhones. Along with it, I lost one of my favorite charging cord, a USB-to-Lightning cable wrapped in metal. I’ll eventually have to replace these items, because when a set of these isn’t handy it can become seriously problematic.

• For months now, I have been fighting to clear space on my computer, a refurbished 13-inch MacBook Pro that I bought in September 2015. (The model debuted earlier that year.) My hard drive has a capacity of 250 gigabytes; fewer than 10 GBs are free.

I’ve archived various files on external hard drives and deleting the originals from my laptop. I’ve erased iTunes videos. (Yes, I still have iTunes — one consequence of having a jammed hard drive is that there isn’t enough room to upgrade to MacOS Catalina.) I’ve archived audio recordings from my reporting days and deleted the original files from my internal drive.

No matter what I do, my hard drive has about two to eight available gigabytes at any given time.

On Thursday, I started looking into how to store my music files on an external drive. And then I realized that before I started messing around with that, I needed to acquire a gadget I’d thought about getting last year: An NAS or network-attached-storage device.

I went with a two-bay Buffalo TeraStation 1200; unlike many NAS devices, it comes with hard drives already installed, which saves me the steps of determining which drives are compatible, purchasing them and installing them. (The installation, as I understand it, is generally a matter of just opening up the device and sliding the drive into the open bay.)

My new personal server, which should arrive on Monday, comes with a pair of four-terabyte drives. I’ll set the server to mirror mode, so each drive will serve as a backup to each other. If one drive fails, I should be able to insert a new internal drive and copy my data to it with minimal effort.

That four TB storage capacity, in case you were curious, represents sixteen times the size of my MacBook Pro’s internal drive. It should, if I’m prudent, take me a very long time to use up all that…

I will likely have to mess around with network settings and file- and media-server programs so I can remotely access data, photos and music from my personal server. As long as the server is powered on and has a proper Internet connection, this shouldn’t be an issue — in theory. We’ll see!

The big thing, though, will be offloading the bulk of my photographs, which currently occupy nearly 88 gigabytes. (With a fair amount of effort, by the by, I winnowed that down by approximately eight GB.) My laptop should have a lot more storage once, say, everything except for recent pictures are stored elsewhere.

For years, I’ve backed up my laptop using two methods and multiple hard drives. The first method is Time Machine, the utility built into MacOS and its predecessor systems, Mac OS X.

Time Machine archives files but doesn’t create a bootable disk. So I also use Carbon Copy Cloner from Bombich Software. If things are working properly, CCC can create an effectively identical copy of your drive from scratch in an hour. If you update your backup regularly, CCC can bring the copy up to date in a matter of minutes.

I’ll continue using Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner and manually backing up especially important information on the external hard drives I already have. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be sitting pretty, backup- and storage-wise.

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