Guide to backup

Guide To Backup

This guide will go through some techniques you can use to make a backup of your PC. There are many cost effective ways available to make a back up.

The key points to be will be covered

  1. What is backup and why back up data?
  2. Three features of a good backup
  3. Which hardware can be used?
  4. Which software can be used?

What is backup and why back up data?

Simply put, a backup is a copy of your data on an alternative media. If your media fails you can recover your data from that backup.

Data backup is also an important aspect of computer security, should your computer be compromised with ransomware, the only economic method of recovering it may well be the backup.

The three features of a good backup

Maintenance: Simply making a copy of the data is not hard, but its important you maintain that copy regularly (update with changes). We are human, we get busy and put it off, the best way is with scheduled scripts or some automated software.

Location: Try to ensure the backup is usually stored in a location other than the original. The backup is pointless if fire or theft take both the machine and backup at the same time.

Security and integrity: Keep it secure, wherever you choose to store your backups, make sure they are encrypted (safe from hacking) or physically safe from theft. Also, the media you may be using could be unreliable, you will be disappointed when you find that what you thought were reliable backups turn out to be corrupted.

What hardware can be used?


Using DVD’s to store data is very secure, they are easy to relocate elsewhere, light and very cheap. They can keep data for many years if you store them in their jewel cases in a cool place away from dust and scratching.

Disadvantages are that they are a PITA to keep updating, you’ll end up with a lot of wasted plastic with potentially sensitive information on it at the end of the day. Automation is almost impossible.

Thumb Drives

Inexpensive, convenient, fast to use and easy to stash.

Disadvantaged by size/cost, another big disadvantage is reliability (not all thumb drives are equal) and they are easy to damage through inadvertent exposure to magnetic fields. Finally, due to physical size – they tend to get lost.

External Hard Drives

Portable or External HD are very cost effective, and backup is fairly simple to automate with software or scripts. You can backup up terabytes on just one device.

A disadvantage is that the device is just as vulnerable to theft, water and magnetic corruption as your computer. If your going to rely on this method then make sure you get a reputable device, and get two; one for use locally and another to keep safely off-site. Update the offsite as often as is practical, and the on-site daily or automated hourly.

Cloud or online

There are plenty of services that give free online storage space, and plenty more you have to pay for (though not as much as you think). Unless you run your own server online (in which case you probably don’t need my advice) please bear in mind that unless you encrypt your data at source that you are entrusting the security of your data to a third party. Your data may be subject to snooping by technicians working for the provider, or by state agencies with legal leverage over the provider. Under certain US laws, the provider may not even be allowed to tell you that your data has been passed on.


Usually a combination of cloud and External HD makes the best economic sense, cloud for the small files and data you update daily and External HDD for large multi media files. However you will need to become more aware of where and how you save things. Some Operating Systems use “Libraries” so they make that more difficult.

Which software can be used?

There are many options, the essential features to look out for are.

  • Automated (takes regular backups without you needing to remember to do it)
  • Encryption at source (the data is encrypted with a password or key before copying to storage)
  • Versioning (keeps historical versions of files)


Accessibility and Assistive Technology

Computer Accesibility

What is computer accesibility?

This term refers to the accessibility of a computer system to all people, regardless of disability or severity of impairment. It is largely a software concern; when software, hardware, or a combination of both, is used to enable use of a computer by a person with a disability or impairment, this is known as Assistive Technology.

For individuals with mild to medium vision impairment, it is helpful to use large fonts, high DPI displays, high-contrast themes and icons supplemented with auditory feedback and screen magnifying software.

In the case of severe vision impairment such as blindness, screen reader software that provides feedback via text-to-speech or a refreshable braille display is a necessary accommodation for interaction with a computer.

Assistive Technology Software

Vinux is a Linux distribution which has been specially designed for blind and partially sighted users.
It is a remastered version of the Ubuntu distribution and provides users with two screen-readers, two full-screen magnifiers, global font-size and colour changing facilities. The system also supports USB braille displays.
It can be run from a Live CD without making any changes to your hard drive

Requirements for Vinux main Edition:

  • 1 GHz x86 processor.
  • 1 Gb of system memory (RAM).
  • 15 GB of hard-drive space (although this can be split onto 2 drives, a 5Gb / and a 10Gb /home partition fairly easily).
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768 resolution.
  • Either a Cd/Dvd-drive or a Usb socket (or both).
  • Internet access is helpful though not vital.

Requirements for Vinux (CLI) Installation:

  • 300 MHz x86 processor.
  • 128 MiB of system memory (RAM).
  • 1 GB of disk space.
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 640×480.
  • CD-ROM drive.

Some other free alternatives:

Orca is a free, open source, flexible, and extensible screen reader for Linux that provides access to graphical desktop environments via user-customizable combinations of speech, braille, and magnification.

There are no specific system requirements, as it is expected to work even with very little RAM.

NVDA(NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free, open source, portable screen reader for Microsoft Windows.

NVDA uses eSpeak as its integrated speech synthesizer, and also supports SAPI synthesizers. Output to braille displays is supported too.
It runs on both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Microsoft Windows XP or later.

It has no additional hardware requirements beyond those of the operating system and requires less than 50 mb of disk space.

Proprietary software alternatives:

Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or a refreshable braille display.

There are two versions of the program,standard and professional. A third version for MS-DOS is free.

Window-eyes is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows, compatible with the following versions: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

How to speed up a slow Windows computer

Speeding up your slow Windows computer

Why is my computer so slow?

Could be any number of reasons, something really simple like a buggy app, or something serious like an impending hardware failure. Save yourself time in the long run by doing some diagnostics before it gets out of hand.

Hardware problems, Hard Drive Speed, RAM and the Event log

In our experience Windows 7+ needs at least 1GB just to get off the ground, to run MS Office 2003 or newer you will need at the very least another 2GB.

For Graphics intensive apps such as Gimp (Photshop, Gimp, Games etc), in addition to another few GB you need to have a good amount of graphics RAM (1GB+)

Check the Windows Event Log – look out for errors reported therein. If you see errors about “bad blocks” from “harddisk” – then it is likely your hard disk is starting to go and this will slow things down while the computer repeatedly tries to read from un-readble sectors on the hard drive. Backup your data as soon as you can and arrange to have it replaced. For this you need some expertise – or be willing to spend some serious hours of googling. Look at about 1-4 days for the average user computer-user. If you have neither, see “I cant handle this!” below.

You can get a massive boost to performance by replacing your Hard Drive with an SSD. Again, this can take a lot of time, but there are good people about who can help. Check out The Restart Project who host regular events in London. Their wiki has have great links for empowering yourself.

Temporary Files Buildup

For some reason, Windows insists on storing all the cookies and temp files it ever uses, for an indefinite period. Get rid of them! The problem is finding them because Windows also thinks that since you a just a dumb consumer do not want to see them, so the easiest way to do this is to install and run CCleaner (

Don’t remove anything unless you know what your doing, but please have a peek under the hood yourself – START | RUN | $APPDATA

Virus or Malware infection

Note that most malware is not classed as virus, so you will need to use an Anti-Malware product as well as the AV

Check that your Antivirus software is up to date and is not too resource hungry. Software such as Macaffee and Symantec tend to be very resource hungry, so if you have less than 2GB RAM then remove them and install a leaner one such as Bitdefender.

Make sure the “Safe Browsing” options are unchecked – since these submit all your search results to the AV provider for checking before giving them back to you. Apart from the privacy issues, if their server is having a bad day you too will be impacted.

Install an anti-malware software (we recommend MBAM from, update the signatures file and scan your drive, remove all it finds.

This has not helped..

Windows maintains all its information about hardware and programs in the “registry”. After some years of Installing/Uninstalling the registry can become too large and even corrupted. There are some specialist tools to tweak and clean the registry but in our experience they seldom work very well.

At the end of the day the best way to improve performance is to wipe Windows and re-install. This means you will have to back up all your documents, emails etc, wipe your drive and re-install Windows. Be sure to have the original disks and serial number for all the software you have installed because otherwise you will lose all of this.

If your going to the lengths of a re-install then you’ll thank yourself to do it on an SSD.

I can’t handle this!

Check out The Restart Project, based in London but there are regular events all over the world.


master ssh keys

Use ssh to run scripts on remote servers without entering a password.

Create your ssh key

ssh-keygen -b 4096 -t rsa -f ~/.ssh/keyname.rsa

will produce a keypair. The .rsa file will be the private and the is the one that goes into authorized_keys on the remote server. If you don’t enter a password the key can be used with no user interaction. Do this when you need script operations on a remote server.

Load a key

ssh-add keyname

Upload your ssh key to a server

ssh-copy-id -i username@remotehost

Carry your key with your ssh session

if you need to carry your key somewhere, for instance if you will be chaining through to a host WITHIN the network of your remotehost and there is no direct ssh port forwarded to that host.

ssh -v username@remote -A

using -v (verbose) can help diagnose connectivity issues

Display the ssh keys you have loaded

ssh-add -l

if you forgot to carry a key or you need to add a local key you will get the error:

ssh-add -l
Could not open a connection to your authentication agent.

in this case use

ssh-agent bash
ssh-add keyname

Using alternative ports

Sometimes your remote host is running ssh on another port since 22 on that IP is already used. To reduce brute force attacks on the standard ssh port you can also use alternative ports by setting up the listening port in sshd_config on the server.

Use the -p flag to specify:

ssh -p 41843 user@remotehost

You can use an -i flag to specify a key to use (always needed in bash scripting for using ssh password-less)

ssh -p 41843 -i ~/.ssh/keyfile.rsa user@remotehost

If you manage many servers you may want to use ~/.ssh/config to alias the connections.

vim ~/.ssh/config
Host remotehost
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/keyname.rsa
Port 41843
ServerAliveInterval 240

In the case above you can simply use ssh user@remotehost to get in using keyfile.rsa on port 41843