Ask Leo! #536 – Lots of Feedback, Breaking NAS, Angle Brackets, “From” Spoofing, and more…

Leo's Blog

Lots of Feedback on Backing Up

I want to thank you for responding to my question "What's the biggest issue that you have when it comes to backing up?" last week in my post titled "A Different Approach to a Book About Backing Up". The response was both awesome (as in awe-inspiring), and to be honest, somewhat overwhelming.

As I write this, there are well over 200 comments on that post. A few of those are my responses, but even so, it's almost certainly a one-week record, or at least very close to it.

I'm still processing the results, but one thing is immediately clear: the terminology around backing up is a huge problem.

As result, I've been inspired to put together a little something for you: a free video presentation series1 entitled "What Those Words Mean – Clearing Up Some Backup Confusion". You will need to sign up to attend the series, and you can do that right now: click right here. (You'll also get a peek at the final un-obfuscated cover of the book I've been talking about. :-) ). The first video in the series is available immediately.

I'll keep you updated with occasional news on the book's progress, as well as sharing a few other goodies.

Continue Reading: Lots of Feedback on Backing Up


NAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

As you might imagine, I have a number of computers and related devices. For the last three and a half years, one of them has been a NetGear ReadyNAS branded NAS – Network Attached Storage.

It's turned off now. I finished replacing it the other day, and I want to share why, some of the mistakes I made, some of the mistakes I didn't make, and what I replaced it with.

And yes, how I dodged a bullet: a data loss bullet that had my name written all over it.

Continue Reading: NAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

Why is an email address sometimes in angle-brackets?

Every so often I see email addresses listed like this:


or even

What's it all mean, especially that last one?

Well, the last one is someone just not filling in some information in their email program like they're supposed to.

But in general, that format is just the email protocol recognizing that most people don't think in terms of email addresses; they think in terms of names.

Continue Reading: Why is an email address sometimes in angle-brackets?

"From" Spoofing: How Spammers Send Email that Looks Like it Came from You

OK, I know that spammers can send email spoofing the "From:" address to make it look like it came from me. But how? How do they gain access to my account to do that?

They don't.

"From" spoofing means faking the "From:" address on an email to make it look like it came from you, and to do it, spammers don't need access to your account at all.

In fact, I'd say that 99.99% of the time it has nothing at all to do with your account, and your account is quite safe.

They only need your email address.

While your email account and your email address are related, they are not necessarily the same thing.

Continue Reading: "From" Spoofing: How Spammers Send Email that Looks Like it Came from You


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Glossary Term


NAS is an acronym for Network Attached Storage.

A NAS device is nothing more than a computer connected to a network that has hard disks "shared" in such a way that they are made available to other computers on that network.

Strictly speaking, a NAS is a device that is dedicated to the task of housing and sharing disk storage with a network.

In looser terms, any computer sharing out disk space could be considered a NAS of sorts.

In many cases, even dedicated NAS devices are actually stripped-down PCs "under the hood," often running a version of the Linux operating system configured to simple act as only a NAS.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

A Different Approach to a Book About Backing Up

Captain Quirk writes:

Yeah, complexity -- sadly, the bane of all things computer-related -- is the antidote to good computer hygiene like backing up. There's no question in my mind that if computers were simpler to use in general (as well as backup software in particular), more people would be backing up their data regularly. Very often an application's "main page" is very poorly designed -- sometimes with critical icons not even visible! (Again, this complaint applies to much software in general, not just backup software. But when people have a bad experience with any kind of software, it makes them gun-shy to try other software, like backup applications.)

In the same vein, DOCUMENTATION -- user manuals, help files, etc. -- is often bad or even nonexistent. Again, this is "poison" to good computer hygiene. I know many people are too lazy to "RTFM". But what about when there IS no effin' manual??? Bad experiences with computers -- especially when it's the result of undue complexity (and/or cryptic error messages) coupled with lack of a proper instruction manual (or a poorly designed one) -- leaves people with a negative or fearful attitude toward computers and software and is undoubtedly a main cause behind people's failure to backup their data. If people are afraid that something is "too hard to do", they will throw up their hands and say "to hell with it."

(That being said, I have to admit that the instruction manual that came with my Western Digital "My Passport Ultra" is pretty good. It's an example if what such guides SHOULD look like. It's kinda long, but that's only because it clearly explains almost everything, and that's what I WANT in a user manual. And the included WD backup software itself seems pretty simple and straightforward, too. So that's what I use to backup my data. And I do back it up regularly, ever since a disastrous and unexpected total hard drive failure last October, which caused me to lose four years' worth of data and is what turned me from a guy who almost never backed up his data into a backin' up fanatic! It was a painful lesson, but at least I learned it [albeit the hard way].)

(To answer Leo's original question, the reason *I* almost never backed up my data previously was mostly an "I'll get around to it one day" attitude combined with an "it won't happen to me" attitude. Big mistake.)

Last, Leo sez: "I have seen some programs try to provide one-button solutions and fail miserably." Can you elaborate on that for us, Leo?

Leo writes:

Without naming names several years ago now I did see one version of backup software specifically update to what they felt was a simpler, easier to use nearly one-button interface. It was simpler, but it was definitely not easier to use - it was really unclear what that one button DID, for example. Coupled with a severe lack of customer support that particular product lost my confidence to this day.

Howard Kaplan writes:

I backup my home computer regularly to a removable external hard drive, and I'm planning to start backing up the most critical files also to somewhere off-site, either the cloud or extra space on my web site host. I'm in the same situation with respect to a small community-owned business that I advise: we're backing up to a hard disk stored between backups in the office safe but not yet to anywhere off-site. In both locations, I'm able to write AHK scripts to automate most of the Macrium Reflect process, so executing the backup is not a technical problem for whoever needs to do it.

In the small business context, however, I'm anticipating a problem not with backing up but with writing and testing appropriate instructions for recovery. Users don't need to make any important choices during the backup process, but there are many more potential choices during a recovery process, depending on just what went wrong. I can document the fact that we're using standard tools such as Macrium Reflect, we can make sure that the document describing the backup process and files exists in multiple places, and I can simply hope that if I'm not around in an emergency someone will be able to find a local expert familiar with using the software. I'm hoping that this approach is at worst inefficient and not disastrous, and I wish I had the time for a more rigorous approach.

Given that context, I hope that your new book deals with the issues involved in recovery, especially the issues in helping non-technical people to recover critical files if not whole operating systems, as well as the issues involved in backup.

Leo writes:

I agree totally with your comments on the complexities of recovery. So much so that this book will probably not focus on that - as you said there are simply too many variations of what to do based on exactly what went wrong. My existing books (the "Saved!" series) details the standard "recover from a backup image" approach that is the basis for I'll say 50% of recovery, "recover files from within a backup image" which is probably another 40%. In this book I want to focus on getting people backed up in the first place, so that WHEN the time comes that something goes wrong they have options instead of lost data. They may need to seek out help for those options and recovering that data, but they'll be able to. And they'll have the specific scenario to work with and not pages and pages of "if it's this type of failure then do that kind of thing, maybe".

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