A short hop across the English channel for my data..

I’ve been a long term fan of Backblaze, the computer backup service which automatically stores your files securely in the cloud. But the big problem (well, it wasn’t a big problem as such, just a question of distance and location) was that all your data was being kept in a datacentre somewhere West of the good ol’ US of A.

Simple web interface to access your backed up files and B2 buckets

As the years progressed, Backblaze made backing up faster and faster and today it doesn’t feel particularly slow or strange that your files are being sent halfway across the world. But now, they’ve just announced their first European datacentre, based in Amsterdam.

Backblaze’s blogs have always been very informative, and they’re currently publishing a series of posts which explain how and why they picked their first datacentre outside of the USA.

There’s no price change. It’ll still be billed in dollars (which is fine with me, since my bank doesn’t charge for foreign transactions). Very little has changed other than the destination. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way of moving existing backups or B2 buckets. So I had to close my existing account, open a new one with the EU region selected, pay for a new license (well, I could have waited 15 days during the trial period) and start a brand new backup again.

The only clue to where your data is stored is in the My settings page.

I had no problem with doing a new backup from scratch. I still use Time Machine with my Macbook Pro to keep local backups. But what impressed me was that the 305Gb of data took roughly 12 hours straight at 50Mbs upload speed to transfer everything to the Amsterdam datacentre.

And there was no problem reconfiguring rclone to use the new account ID and API key to start new server backups going to my B2 buckets.

Once the backups were completed, I took snapshots of my Apple Photos, iTunes and important access documents so that I go right back in time at any point to a working backup. I’ll do this every 3 months to ensure I always have a restore point snapshot (since file versioning in Backblaze is limited to 30 days).

Take snapshots of points in time of your backups for safe keeping

If you want to try Backblaze for yourself, and want to help me pay some of the costs for running this blog – please consider using this link to start a 15-day free trial and to give me a month’s free backup in the process (assume you sign up). Every little helps, as they say.

The end of an era?

Star Wars was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. I’m too young to remember EXACTLY when I saw it (it was released in 1977 when I was just one year old, so no chance of catching it when it first came out) – but it must have been during one of the semi-frequent cinema re-releases. I do remember going to see Empire Strikes Back in the cinema with mum (and I was scared stiff of Yoda at first!), and Return of the Jedi with both my mum and dad. I loved every minute of it. Star Wars was a wonderful universe, full of imagination and strange creatures. And we could enjoy it as a family.

So Star Wars, for me, is rather special. The forthcoming release of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker will be quite special in that it ends the 9 films run featuring the Skywalkers. We’ve witnessed the rise of Anakin Skywalker and his transformation into Darth Vader. We’ve seen his son and daughter find each other after being separated at birth and fight the Empire. We’ve seen Leia’s son kill his dad, while Luke abandoned teaching after the terrible tragedy which saw his nephew turn to the dark side.

And it all ends here:

Mind you, while it will be sad to say goodbye to the Skywalker family, we’ll always have Disney+ to look forward to. No idea as to the availability in the UK, but it will carry the first-ever Star Wars TV series: The Mandolorian. Plus there will also be other TV series set in the Star Wars universe to follow. Disney recognises the importance of Star Wars as a brand, so they’re not going to just let it sit there and gather dust – unlike what they’ve done with The Muppets (which is a big shame).

The Art of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Exhibition, BFI Southbank

I’ve had a very pleasant day out in South London along the Southbank visiting the BFI Southbank for the Netflix exhibition of The Art of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. It was a chance to get up close and personal with the puppets (or at least sculptures/poseable versions) and learn a bit more about the production.

I’m hoping to attend a screening of the first episode along with a Q&A with Louise Gold on Monday.

It really was quite extraordinary to see the attention to detail that’s gone into these puppets, and as you can see from the many photos, the world of Thra is an incredible place. Even if it has phallic mushrooms/plants. With teeth. Ooer-missus.

Everything above was shot on an iPhone XS Max.

Figures from March are Unlimited Fibre Broadband 3

Two days after ordering the upgrade from Unlimited Fibre Broadband 3 to Unlimited Fibre Broadband 4, I’m getting a pretty decent speed boost.

The above image shows the difference between Ultimate Fibre Broadband 3 versus Unlimited Fibre Broadband 4. Bearing in mind this has just been provisioned, it’s possible the line may retrain itself over the next 10 days or so.

It’s quite incredible to think that this kind of performance was once limited to the likes of Virgin Media and fibre optic to the premises. While Virgin is now offering 500Mbs down, 35Mbs up – you have to subscribe to a lot of other stuff that quite simply I don’t want or need.

I’ve tried giving Virgin’s Tivo V6 box and TV service and it’s just not any good. Sky Cinema’s HD availability was shoddy, and absolutely no 4K content. Virgin also don’t give you a static IP which is incredibly useful for my home office (read: dining room table sat behind the living room sofa).

The downside to Sky Q, however, is that downloads are not simultaneous. On Zen’s Unlimited Fibre Broadband 3, 4K downloads never peaked above 90Mbs. I’ve yet to try with Zen UFB 4, but Sky has only just announced their own G.Fast service, also offering similar speeds to Zen. Will this mean that Sky Q customers using Sky Ultrafast Broadband will see faster downloads?

More testing is needed but combined with my Amplifi kit, it’s all looking really good so far.

“It was a shame how he carried on”

Ordinarily, Netflix requires that you remain indoors, slumped all over the couch and binge-watch all their TV shows and films which took forever and a day to make, only to be consumed in mere hours.

This Saturday (and Bank Holiday Monday), Netflix is making me (well, they’re not – but the tickets are free) take the train up to London’s South Bank to attend a limited exhibition of art, scenery and puppets from their forthcoming series: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jim Henson since I can remember, and The Dark Crystal (along with Labyrinth) was a major departure from the craziness of The Muppets. Featuring state of the art puppetry for the time, The Dark Crystal featured absolutely no humans – only spectacularly crafted puppets. It was also dark in tone. I remember when the emperor Skeksis dies – not only did it feature a jump scare, but the crumbling away of his flesh terrified me as a kid. There was nothing quite like it. And although the film floundered at the box office originally, it’s become a cult favourite since its release on home platforms.

There was the talk of a sequel for many years, but nothing ever materialised in the form of a TV or film. Ultimately the sequel became a graphic novel. But the talk of producing something relating to The Dark Crystal carried on. And now we have a prequel which tells the story of the Gelfling uprising against the evil Skeksis in a mini-series which will be airing on Netflix on the 30th August.

So I had to jump at the chance at being able to see the artwork and puppets. On Bank Holiday Monday, Louise Gold, one of the original members of The Muppet Show, a talented puppeteer, actress and singer, will be giving a talk during the screening of the first episode of Age of Resistance.

I’ll be filing my report as soon as I can. Hoping to come away with plenty of photos (and possibly video).


 (*) With apologies to Boney M.