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Health, accounting and backups

For those who said that I have anger management issues regarding my last week’s post I’d like to point out that it’s actually a nervous breakdown that I got, not strictly (but partly) related to Gentoo.

Since work, personal life, Gentoo and (the last straw) taxes all merged this week, I ended up having to take a break from a lot of stuff; this included putting on hold for the week all kind of work, and actually spend most of my time making sure I have proper accounting, both for what concerns my freelancer activity, and home expenses (this is getting particularly important because I’m almost living alone – even if I technically am not – and thus I have to make sure that everything fits into the budget). Thankfully, GnuCash provides almost all the features I need. I ended up entering all the accounting information I had available, dating back to January 1st 2009 (my credit card company’s customer service site hasn’t worked in the past two weeks — since it’s the subsidiary of my own bank, I was able to get the most recent statements through them, but not the full archive of statements since issuing of the cards, which is a problem to me), and trying to get some data out of it.

Unfortunately, it seems like while GnuCash already provides a number of reports, it does not have the kind of reports I have, such as “How much money did the invoices from 2009 consists of?” (which is important for me to make sure I don’t go over the limit I’m given), or “How much money did I waste in credit card interests?”… I’ll have to check out the documentation and learn whether I can make some customised reports that produce the kind of data I need. And maybe there’s a way to set the term of payments that I have with a client of mine (30 days from the end of the month the invoice was issued in… which means if I issue the invoice tomorrow, I’ll be paid on May 1st).

On a different note, picking up from Klausman’s post I decided to also fix up my backup system, which was, before, based on single snapshots of the system on external disks and USB sticks; and moved to use a single rsnapshot system to back everything up in a single external disk, from the local system, the router, the iMac, the two remote servers, and so on. This worked out fine when I tried again the previous eSATA controller I had, but unfortunately it again failed (d’oh!) so I fell back to Firewire 400 but that’s way too slow for rsnapshot to do a full backup hourly. I’m thus trying to find a new setup for the external disk. I’m unsure whether to look up a FireWire 800 card or a new eSATA controller. I’m not sure about Linux’s support for the former though; I know that FireWire used to be not too well maintained, so I’m afraid it might just go down to FireWire 400, which is pointless. I’m not sure about eSATA because I’m afraid it might not be the controller’s fault but rather a problem with (three different kind of) disks or the cables; and if the problem is in the controller, I’m afraid about the chip on it; the one I have here is a JMicron-based controller, but with a memory chip that is not flashable with the JMicron-provided ROM (and I think there might be a fix in there for my problem) nor with flashrom as it is now.

So if you have to suggest an idea about this I’d be happy to hear of it; right now I only found a possibly interesting (price/features) card from Alternate (Business-to-business) “HighPoint RocketRAID 1742” which is PCI-based (I have a free PCI slot right now, and in case I can move it to a different box that has no PCI-E), and costs around €100. I’m not sure about driver support for that though, so if somebody have experience about it, please let me know. Interestingly enough my two main suppliers in Italy seem to not have any eSATA card, and of course high-grade, dependable controllers aren’t found at the nearest Saturn or Mediamarkt (actually, Mediaworld here, but it’s the very same thing).

Anyway, after this post I’m finally back to work on my job.

Comments 4
  1. No proposed solutions per se, but some comments on personal experiences with hard drives.But first, an aphorism: “Heat is the enemy”.And now second: “This is all anecdotal. I have done no measurements.”Lastly third: “I have no experience with Firewire.”I don’t use external drives for daily backup anymore. My personal experience has seen the failure of many of the hard drives I’ve stuffed in external cases due, I believe in large part, to excess heat. External cases with built in fans do actually seem more reliable, but I feel there is still a higher rate of failure than in a properly vented desktop.From a use and performance standpoint, I’ve been reasonably happy with eSATA. I prefer eSATA for several reasons. 1) It’s as fast as all my other SATA connections. 2) The resulting drive is treated like an internal drive as opposed to how an external drive is treated if using a USB connection.Under the continuing topic that “Heat is the enemy.”, I’d like to point out that a drive dedicated to backup doesn’t need to be spinning at 7200 rpm. 5400 rpm is more than sufficient. In general, slower drives from the same generation and manufacturer will run cooler.My philosophy is to reduce the opportunity for failure as much as possible while still maintaining reasonable performance. A drive used for backups requires reliability and longevity where a drive housing an active database requires speed and throughput.FWIW, I now purchase only Samsung drives. They are the drives I feel most comfortable with in terms of reliability.Of course, YMMV and all the other usual disclaimers.

  2. @dufeu, Samsung drives aren’t bad, I have a pair of those myself, but I have found by experience they are *very* susceptible to heat problems. My external drives right now are WD, should be 5400 as well. I do trust WD to make the choice for me there.I’m all for eSATA, but the card I got is sucky… if you can point me to a card name/model/chipset, I’d definitely be happy 🙂

  3. Look for a Silicon Image based controller. Personally I use 3132s (PCI-E, though) with great success (RAID-1 and RAID-5 arrays externally via port multiplier), the PCI versions should be just as solid.

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