Josh asked me the other day about how we backed up early hard disks when we didn’t have small portable drives, the internet, NAS, or writable DVDs. I started telling him about my teak box with the tambour top that held 50 (or was it 100?) 1.4MB 3½” floppy disks. I remember a routine of running a backup program while feeding disk after disk into the machine for an hour or two every day.

I don’t exactly miss it, but there are aspects of it that I enjoyed. It was a slow-paced, repetitive activity that let me take a break from intense coding and system administration, while still feeling as though I was doing important work.

These days, I have daily NAS and cloud backups, but I still have a weekly ritual of backing up the dozen or two most important servers onto linux bootable clone disks. In addition, I don’t allow some of the mission-critical servers to auto-update, so I get to manually walk them through the update process a couple of times a week. Oh, and the other activity that fills this same niche is 3D printing.

These aren’t fully automated tasks: those I can ignore except to review the emailed logs. They require just a little bit of interaction, like feeding floppies in the days of yore. The 3D printer needs some babysitting lest you end up with 3D printing spaghetti. The backups require that I physically move clone drives around. The updating requires looking at what packages are changing, and then doing a restart (and re-mounting encrypted partitions in some cases) if there are kernel changes.

It’s not that I can’t do anything else while I’m updating, backing up, or 3D printing, but I somehow feel a touch more content knowing that entropy is being reversed in my corner of the universe with only a minimal amount of direct effort on my part.