My computer rules

Over the last few weeks I’ve been quite busy with evaluating my computer rules. I decided it was about time to define the ways I store information that’s valuable to me and whom do I trust on the web. Sounds serious and I suppose it is after all it’s my data and should take a good care of it so that it’s not lost or corrupted.
What really sparked my interest in this area is the most recent scandal with privacy issues and spying by some governments and in general worry that someone else has control over my information.

It’s very contentious topic and possibly not easy to solve, perhaps even impossible to solve.

Ben Brooks put things into nice perspective for me in a post from couple weeks ago.

As consequence of that I put together a list of couple basic rules that I’ve been implementing to make sure I’m controlling my information as much as possible. This means that certain tasks have become a bit more cumbersome but I’m pretty sure I will be able to navigate around them and find some good solutions. Over time I will try to share them here too.

Use native formats

Keep critical data in formats that been here very long like: txt, html, pdf, jpg. This will ensure that no matter what I can still access my information. These formats are not impacted by applications that gone stale, databases that got corrupted etc. All I need is a program that can read these format.

Export to native format

If using proprietary applications make sure there is easy and clean export into native formats. This not only ensure that I have a good backup of data but I can also move it somewhere else. New programs are coming up everyday so getting stuck isn’t an option anymore.

Proprietary files

If there is a need to use proprietary files make sure it’s for non-critical information and on temporary basis. Certain projects will require some very specific tools that keep data in custom type files. That’s inevitable but the key is that once the project is finished make sure data can be exported into native format.

One exception I’m willing to make is passwords, I need a good password manager and that need to be stored in an encrypted container.

Encrypted backups

Making backup is a first step in ensuring data is safe, the second one is to make sure it’s safe. They contain as much precious and private information as our laptops so making sure they are encrypted and well secured. Perhaps consider having two or three copies stored with family or friends you can trust. Yes, sacrifice convenience for that purpose.

Access to backup

My rule is that I don’t let other application to store my backups in their custom file formats. If I ever lose access the that application (lose registration code etc) I’m stuck but if backup is in the native format I can still access my data. Linux combined with TrueCrypt are easy way to get access to encrypted backups.

Keep an clean image.

Drives do die, systems can’t boot. Having a clean image of hard disk will let easily revert to previous or at least basic configuration and setup. It’s much better to reinstate the image than fully reinstall operating system.
Best to do it as soon as you’ve put a fresh install on your machine as down the road things can get a bit more messy.

Know your software

Make a list of all you primary tools so you know what needs to be installed as priority.

Trusty Providers

Find providers that you can trust whether it’s Google, Apple, Dropbox or your hosting company. Unless you are willing to spend time and energy on building your own stuff you need to trust some one and be happy with it.