Mark Gilbert's Blog

Science and technology, served light and fluffy.

Moving to the Cloud

For many years, I’ve carried what you might call my life’s work on a thumb drive.


This 4GB drive held sample code I put together, documents I’d written, all of the data files for Tasks, my personal log – everything.  It was getting backed up every night to the cloud, but the primary source of truth was always this drive.

Then a couple of months ago I got a new laptop at work, mostly because I found myself needing to travel more frequently – whether it was down the hall to a conference call, or out of state for an onsite.  Since this was my primary machine, I would faithfully plug this thumb drive into the side.  However, it would stick out so far I was always afraid I would snag it on something, and bend or otherwise damage it.

So I replaced it with this tiny SanDisk.


My thinking was that it would keep a low-enough profile that I wouldn’t need to worry about it catching on anything.  I wasn’t wrong there, but moving to such a small thumb drive had an unexpected consequence.  I had to pay extra attention to where the thing was when it wasn’t a) plugged into my computer, or b) zipped up in my laptop case.

In other words, it was so tiny I was in danger of losing it every time I put it in my pocket. 

That thought increasingly nagged me.  Then one morning I walked out to my car and it fell out of my pocket when I retrieved my keys.  When I got to the car, I patted my pocket to make sure it was there, and it wasn’t.  I hurriedly retraced my steps, and found it in the garage.  I never even heard it hit the ground because the noise from the garage door opener masked the impact.  I resolved then and there to find a better solution.

I took a long hard look at what was on the drive, and what I actually needed with me:

  • I was keeping several software installers and configuration files on that drive.  Those were easy to move to my home server.  If I actually needed them at work, I could always wait a day, and bring in what I needed the next morning.
  • The next batch of files comprised the bulk of the contents of the drive.  They were files I rarely dipped into, and more times than not was actually at home when I did.  Those also got moved onto my home server.
  • Then there were a handful of files that I would actually need at work.  These were rarely (if ever) needed at work, so those got left on my corporate user’s drive.

Then it came down to the files that I would needed regularly at both home and at work – the files that Tasks required, and my personal log.  I didn’t want to load those onto my phone because then I’d have to keep it jacked into my computer to access them.  I also discarded any "syncing" solution due to my previous bad experiences.

That left me with putting these files in the cloud.  Would it be possible to map a drive letter to a folder somewhere (a requirement to keep Tasks work as is), and let me access them from home or at work?  I looked at both Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google’s Drive, and as it turns out both allow me to map a local drive letter.  I ultimately went with OneDrive since I already had files up there from past projects. 

With these files in the cloud, I had completely weaned myself off of thumb drive.  I could now fire up Tasks at home or at work, and get to all of my project notes.  The biggest downside has been the lag – saving files to the cloud is substantially slower than saving them on my thumb drive.  I’ve started thinking about ways to modify Tasks to do its saving-to-the-cloud in the background, making it more responsive.

I have so far had one occasion where I lost a file update (memories of August 2009 came rushing back – see the links above).  I wasn’t sure what triggered it, but somewhere along the way one of my most critical project files got completely wiped out – a 0-byte was all that remained.  I had a relatively recent update, and only ended up losing a few hours’ worth of work, but as a result, I’ve tweaked my regular backup to pull these files down from OneDrive, nightly.

All in all, the move to the cloud seems to be working fairly well, and it certainly renders the question of "what do I do if I lose my thumb drive?" moot.

August 13, 2016 - Posted by | Tools and Toys

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