The importance of a good backup strategy

I received a support email from a Simon customer who had a hard drive failure, and lost their data. Worse still, they were in the process of recreating their Time Machine backup at the time, so didn’t have a backup.

That prompted me to post about my backup strategy. When you live your life and make your living on computers, there is little more valuable than the data they contain. So it is critical to protect it from a loss that could set you back years.

Fortunately nowadays most important data is in the cloud… various remote servers. For example, if you use Apple Music, your music collection is safely on Apple’s servers (well, hopefully safely). Similarly for Apple Photos, and other iCloud services. And other services like Dropbox help protect important documents… if you put them in there.

For myself, I have a multi-pronged data management and backup strategy.

In terms of data management, I use cloud services to sync my data between my devices, which has the added benefit of keeping offsite copies of the important data:

  • My documents are all stored in Dropbox.
  • My app source code is managed by GitHub.
  • My music, photos and other data are stored in iCloud.

In fact, I replaced the Documents folder in my home directory with a symbolic link to a Documents folder within the Dropbox folder, so all of my documents are safely in Dropbox. It’s not necessary, but you can easily do this via a couple of simple Terminal commands: 

sudo mv ~/Documents ~/Dropbox/Documents

sudo ln -s ~/Dropbox/Documents ~/Documents

The first command moves the Documents folder to within Dropbox, and the second one makes a symbolic link to that folder where the old Documents folder was. The sudo is needed as the OS will normally prevent moving the Documents folder; Terminal will prompt you for your password.

But that doesn’t mean that backups aren’t important too. Backups are useful to get back earlier versions of documents (via Time Machine), or provide redundancy in case a cloud service loses something, or just as a quick way to get back up-and-running. Plus, of course, protecting data like settings that aren’t included in Dropbox or other cloud syncing.

I use multiple services for backups, too:

  • I use Time Machine to do hourly incremental backups of the most important files. Useful to get back earlier versions of documents.
  • I use Carbon Copy Cloner to make nightly exact clones of my SSD main drive and spinning media drive onto backup disks. Useful to quickly get back up-to-speed if a hard drive fails, or I need to revert an obscure file.
  • I use Backblaze to make nightly offsite backups of pretty much all of my files. Useful in case of a major disaster like my house burning down, or failure of one of the other backups.

(Full disclosure, if you use the Dropbox link to sign up I’ll get more space, not that I need it, and you’ll get 500 MB bonus space. And similarly that Backblaze link will give both you and I a free month of service.)

Your data is valuable — don’t risk losing it when it is so easy to protect it!

Why haven’t I received an email from Dejal?

If you send an email to Dejal asking for support, you should expect a reply within 24 hours. If you don’t get one, chances are your email service has mis-flagged it as spam. So check your spam folder.

If you use the contact form, and request a reply, you will get an automated reply email from the Dejal server within minutes, acknowledging receipt. And will get a personal reply within 24 hours, if needed. So if you don’t get that automatic reply, again check your spam folder.

I know it’s frustrating to write to a company and not get a reply. As an indie developer, I strive to provide excellent customer support. But it’s just as frustrating for me when I write a lengthy reply and it bounces due to a mail server being full, or thinking its spam, or other issues. So please check that you don’t have overly aggressive spam filtering if you’d like to receive a reply.

Another alternative to email, if you want to bypass those possible hassles, is to post in the Dejal community on Reddit, r/Dejal. I check that every day (well, most of the time), plus other members may be able to help you too.

And of course check the Frequently Asked Questions list, in case your issue is a commonly asked one.

Secret screenshot tips

[Like other recent posts, this is an updated repost of an older post from the previous Dejal blog; here’s the original in the web archive for comparison.]

I take a lot of screenshots while documenting my apps, and for my personal Sinclair Trails blog. While I’ve used third-party tools in the past, Apple’s built-in screenshot tools work really well.

The simplest is the whole-screen screenshot hotkey. Pressing ⇧⌘3 (Shift-Command-3) will save a PNG image of the whole screen (or multiple pictures if you have multiple screens) to the Desktop. (You can change the hotkey via the System Settings ▸ Keyboard ▸ Keyboard Shortcuts ▸ Screenshots options.)

Perhaps slightly less well known is ⌃⇧⌘3 (Control-Shift-Command-3), which saves the screenshot onto the Clipboard. Very handy for pasting into emails and such.

The one I find most useful is ⇧⌘4, though. This displays crosshairs with a coordinate display, and when you click-and-drag out a selection, the coordinates change to the selection size. Very handy. This saves the selected area to a PNG file.

Similarly, ⌃⇧⌘4 saves a selected region to the Clipboard.

These selection screenshot options are even more flexible than that, though. After invoking them, but before dragging a selection, you can press the Spacebar to highlight the window under the crosshairs. Clicking will then take a shot of that window, including the border.

While dragging a selection, there are more options. You can hold the (Shift) key to constrain one axis — to keep the height the same while adjusting the width, or vice versa.

You can also hold the (Option) key to adjust the size around the center point, instead of from the point where you started dragging.

And you can hold the Spacebar in selection mode to reposition the whole selection, keeping the size the same. Very handy.

And you can cancel the screenshot simply by pressing Escape. This can be useful on occasions other than just changing your mind: you can use the screenshot tool as a ruler, measuring the number of pixels of an object by dragging out a selection and reading the size display from the crosshairs, then hit Escape to exit without taking a shot.

Finally, ⌃⇧⌘5 presents an interactive panel that lets you choose between capturing the whole screen, a window, or a selection, or even recording the contents of a window or selection to a video, plus options of where to save it, a delay timer, and more.

Very useful. If anyone knows of any other tricks with the screenshot tools, please let me know!

Is a Windows or Android version available?

No, I’m a solo developer, so have limited time, and choose to focus my skills on platforms I use. I believe that Apple devices are the best computing platforms, so only write software for Macs, iPhones, and iPads.

I don’t have any significant experience with other platforms, so can’t recommend alternatives for them.

How do I pronounce “Dejal”, and where did the name come from?

The name “Dejal” is pronouced “DEE-JILL”. It is not a French word, so should not be pronounced as “DAY-ZHAL” or other variations.

The name originated from the former initials of the founder of the company, David Sinclair — me. I used to be David J. Lambert, but my wife and I both changed our surnames to “Sinclair” when we got married, being people who like to make our own conventions (and we chose that name in part after my first computer, the Sinclair ZX81). Anyway, back around 1983 I needed a password, so an obvious (if simplistic) choice was something based on my initials. D.J.L. with some vowels to make it pronounceable gave “DeJaL”, and thus “Dejal” was created.

Interestingly, it turns out that “dejal” is a word in some other languages. “Dejal” is a Slovene verb, the past participle of the verb “reci”, meaning “to say, tell.” An example: “He told her that she was beautiful” = “On ji je dejal, da je lepa.” (“je dejal” = “told”). Kinda appropriate for a software publisher! It appears that “Dejal” is also a Yugoslavian or Czech name equivalent to “David”, which is also rather fitting. If you have any other examples, or corrections, please let me know.