Discussions
DIY custom maps for print & reference
7
15
Homesteading – how much does it cost?
24
10

Thanks Josh, all good points.  your examples about non-electric Coffee making and charcoal grills are great!  I’d known about Jon’s interest in board games but I guess it hadn’t fully clicked “oh, right, you can play those by candle/sun light!” – you’ve got me thinking about other durable goods (bikes that are easy to repair, for example) that might be more appropriate for my situation. When it comes to the more survival related aspects, I think most would agree that homesteading is probably the gold standard in realistic survival preps (short of mythically unobtainable New Zealand private estates?).  I guess where I’m approaching this from is: is that the only viable strategy (even if its the best, is it attainable for everyone?) and if there are other strategies what might they look like? If homesteading is the only viable strategy, it starts to raise some interesting questions:  how many homesteads can practically be established on land good enough to raise food for self-sufficiency?  Does the entire Southwest empty out due to lack of water?  Whats that do to the population (growth, decline, and distribution)?  Does the country start to look more like it did 100 years ago?  Even 100 years ago (even 200+ years ago) there were still people living in cities, specializing in trades, and making a life for themselves.  Maybe thats the long term trajectory but some non-homesteading ideas come to mind: Figure out what resources are more abundant in your area (farmland, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining/industry) and start picking up hobbies to relearn how to process the resources you’ll have best access to?  Even if you can’t farm your own land, if you know what you’re doing maybe someone will pay you with food to help them? Start learning how to repair things, even electronics, and other comparative “luxury items”.  Maybe learn how to turn car alternators into generators or stock pile electronics for voltage regulation for charing USB devices (maybe thats silly, trying to think outside the box) Stock-piling specialized high quality hand tools for maintenance/repair might be an option for those without farm land?  Everyone has a Philips head screw driver, not everyone has a set of threading taps and know how to use them without breaking them? Because this hits closer to home for me, I feel like some skills such as cartography and surveying might come back in style, but who knows?   Heck, paper/ink making even?  people will probably still want ledgers for inventory and who owes them what. Start learning [frontier medicine] for when you either end up too far away from a “real” doctor to matter, or for when equipment starts getting scares?

Bill, you bring up a great point regarding debt and while I realize global economic systems are complex and perhaps even the experts aren’t entirely sure, what would the results of such a debt default scenario look like (i.e. what happens when the borrowing stops?). While the US economy is larger than the examples mentioned here, it looks like other countries have defaulted on their debt, including Iceland, Dubai, and Greece.  So even though the scale might be different these could be object lessons in what might happen?  I’m sure there were painful consequences, but I’m also pretty sure these countries didn’t descend barbarism or a complete collapse situation. I was Inspired by your infographic so I tried to find more information about who holds the US public debt, this article came up with the following lines (my emphasis added): “If you add the debt held by Social Security and all the retirement and pension funds, almost half of the U.S. Treasury debt is held in trust for your retirement. If the United States defaults on its debt, foreign investors would be angry, but current and future retirees would be hurt the most.“ So I wonder, would this be more of a situation where retirement for an even larger swatch of the country becomes unobtainable, maybe it becomes common for people to effectively work until they die, and probably the demand for and cost of elder care services go up.  I’d argue this is already reality for some segments of the population, maybe that segment will grow dramatically? It’s perhaps not the idealistic outcome but the trains of civilization are still running, they’re just dirty, late, and occasionally broken down trains.  So in such a situation how might you prep for that over 20 years?  A few ideas come to mind: Double your retirement savings estimated requirements and lower your expected standard of living in the future? Take extra care for long term preventative health care to age more gracefully Start retraining for jobs 10-20 years out assuming retirement is not an option position yourself for a more nomadic life style, assuming you’ll have to migrate to where conditions are better (This flies in the face of “conventional wisdom” but is the kind of contrarian angle I’m curious about)

How to prep for “slow collapse”
35
11

I have a low impact, infrequent problem area (very minor flooding once every two years in an unfinished basement). Basically I have a basement door surrounded by concrete walls with steps leading up to ground level. During very high rain the water table briefly saturates and water comes into this ~3’x4′ sunken space (the concrete area is not waterproof). I’m able to “dam up” the door with a combination of plastic sheeting, tape, and quick damns but its not perfect. So what happens is the dams help a bit at first but since its a small area the water level rises quickly. When it rises high enough the quick-dams are overwhelmed and basically “float” freely, but by the time that happens the plastic sheeting, and oddly enough the weight of the water, kick in to help (I think?). Then I bail/pump water by hand for two hours while a small trickle of water comes in through the edges of the door where the sheeting doesn’t quite work well enough. This only happens during intense rain conditions and its easier to stay on top of the outdoor flooding than deal with surrendering to the indoor flooding. The way I deploy the sheeting is I fold it over on itself to make it thicker, and sort of “close the door” on it, so part of the plastic is inside the house with a folded edge (mostly water proof) around both the bottom and lower sides of the door and the rest is outside and can be spread up/out and either taped up or held down with dams (until water weight takes over).  Some water can squeeze between the door but its the best I can manage. It’s a kludge of a fix, but it’s only happened twice in 5 years without causing any real damage, just frustration and clean up, and I learn more each time. Hence, the electric submersible pump is my latest upgrade. One day I’ll do a proper sunken sump pump with battery backup, just not an urgent enough issue to tackle properly yet (but probably when I finish the basement…).

A humorous aside: its getting harder to contribute with so many people offering up great advice!  not a bad problem to have, I suppose. From the halfway point in life, the best I can suggest is this:  Consider what is important to you, and be aware that what is important to you, even some of your values, may change over time. You could set yourself to live to 80 and die of natural causes, but you also might change your mind in ten years.  Maybe you want to die a hero saving others, maybe you want to die happily with a smile on your face reflecting on a life well lived, regardless of how old you are.  Maybe you’re just scared silly of something like dementia/alzheimer’s, cancer, or heart disease (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm). Just be open to the fact that what you think and value now might change, or at least evolve, and try not to box yourself into a corner, try to keep as many options, as many doors open for as long as you can. And yes, this can apply to prepping, though is more general life advice.  Putting down a down payment on a remote property you think will keep you safe but you’ll have a hard time selling if you need money to live in a nursing home?  might think twice about that.  ditto if you can’t get to a hospital, or even a dentist, in a reasonable amount of time.  Spending a couple hundred dollars on portable equipment you can use in your dorm, an apartment, a house, or in the woods?  gives you lots of options without taking too many off the table.

My 2 cents:  Don’t worry too much about the “stuff” and instead focus on the skills (including the social skills!).  Get a good gym habit going (presumably free gym access? try and avoid the freshman 15?) select some classes that are relevant, maybe don’t ignore history 100%.  Maybe practice how you approach prepping with your peers and playing “gray man” a little – like, its cool to have some camp supplies (even better if you were to use it camping occasionaly) but you probably don’t want to stick out too much I imagine? Also, take stock of what your school actually has by way of emergency preparedness plans – one knowing where to go and quickly to be first in line but also to know where they’re lacking. Fun true fact: My freshman year in the dorms, 5 stories up I noticed it was cloudy out, got a phone call from my mom to get to the basement now, a tornado was coming, and halfway down the stairs (not elevator) heard howling wind like you wouldn’t believe.  All the midwesterners were like “what, why isn’t the tornado alarm going off!?!”  all the locals were like “What’s a tornado alarm?!?” (tornadoes being fairly rare in the area).  The thing touched down one building over, threw a few cars around in the process (thankfully not too big). That was also the night where a lot of people had to figure out where to sleep because of a gas leak concern at one of the dorms that was kept closed for a night. So your concern isn’t even unreasonable, but sometimes the solution is making friends who will let you crash in an emergency rather than carrying a sleeping bag with you all the time.  Just consider making friends outside your dorm/side of campus!

I wish I had a better answer than this here, but its basically what I was going to suggest in a different way.  Adding on in case alternate takes contribute., others have contributed for this specific instance but I thought I might add to the deeper issues in play. I see two issues in play here:  Making a well informed decision and knowing what information to trust.   Knowing what information to trust is hard to solve.  Google “epistemic crisis” but fair warning most recent examples are political so I won’t wade into it any deeper here. On the “making a choice” front though, there is an easier more straight forward approach: Even “not making a choice” or “delaying a choice” is actually a choice you actively are making.   By choosing to wait and research this more you have actively chosen not to avail yourself of a vaccination now and that choice carries risk. That is perhaps fine if you’re waiting a few days or a week or two, but at some point the risk of waiting to learn more potentially out weighs the risk of not acting decisively.  If your daily risk of exposure is low (you don’t interact with people and have no intension to start) you might be fine waiting – but if you’re going out in large crowds without other protective measures then perhaps the risk of not getting a vaccine is higher than getting one.   The root of the original question is actually really interesting: what knowledge is trustworthy and how do you make the best choices?  Unfortunately, the practical answer is that everyone has to come up with their own guiding principles and ultimately take responsibility for their own actions (I say this not in any critical way, more of a tautological statement).

I don’t claim to be an internet security expert, but keep in mind wifi is just a mechanism to transmit data wirelessly.  Yes, wifi can be hacked remotely, but typically they’re going to have to be within a few hundred feet (if not less) to be in range of your router’s wifi radio.  If more than a few hundred feet away they have to really have it out for you personally, with specialized equipment and amplifiers, pointing a directional antenna at your home (I *think* happy to learn more from someone with a deeper background!!!). Every internet connected device (including the one you’re using right now to read this) is theoretically “hackable” but there are various layers of defense.  Most reputable home/commercial routers (including wifi, if you have more than one device on the internet for a single home internet connection, you have a router) have a basic firewall and port access rules that prevent most normal/”easy” attacks/hacks (unless you open them up, hopefully you don’t do that unless you know what you’re doing).  Internet apps and hardware (yes, including security cameras) can run software that might open less obvious ‘holes’ in your home networks defenses.  One way to mitigate this is to go with a reliable vendor that has a vested interest in not losing customers with sloppy code. Another way to avoid this is to keep your [security network] “air-gapped” (which can also be a bit of a misnomer when talking about wifi…) or otherwise not connected to the internet.  This is an additional reason why I went looking for cameras that specifically did not require the internet to function, for those who have this as an added security concern.  If you keep a camera off the internet, it can’t be hacked by the internet (but you also can’t use it remotely…). To give an example – my home network includes a cable modem which connects me to the internet.  This modem only supports a single network connection via ethernet cord (hard wire).  Since I have multiple devices at home that need to connect (including laptops, cell phones, and tablets that connect wirelessly) I have my cable modem connected by ethernet cord to a wifi-enable router (which also supports additional hard wired connections).  Since I also don’t have a home with ethernet cords in the walls, wifi is needed if I want internet in more than one room. If I had an internet enabled camera that used a hard wire plugged into my home’s router, it would be just as vulnerable to any threat more than a few hundred feet or line of sight to my home via an internet attack.  A technically more secure option would be a hard wired camera system on an air gapped local area network (or an old school CCTV running on coax?) but thats more than you’re average consumer is going to do without going fairly high end and outside the budget range I had for this topic. Yes, wifi is technically less secure, but the greater threat is from poor internet security.  Also, it seems like maybe ADT doesn’t have the best safe guards in place to avoid abuse (thats independent of wifi/internet security).  (not trying to lecture or anything! just wanting to put good information out there, happy to be corrected by security experts with a formal background!)

Part of the issue is that since the camera and IR illumination are so good, rain drops (and sometimes bugs) that fly right in front of the lens are really obvious and set off an alert.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lower quality sensors just ‘didn’t notice’ things like rain rather than being specifically tuned to ignore them (either is possible, really).  Its a weird trade space.  Some of their products advertise “Smart Person/Vehicle Detection” which wasn’t on my radar at first so I didn’t think to look for it, can’t speak to how well it works or if its a service or baked into the hardware. On the topic of “relevance” I might not have explained 100% clear – Ring won that category (I suspect part of their “cloud plan” is some cloud based processing which is why you need a subscription to store events?).  Things like animals (stray cats, raccoons, deer, depending on your local fauna) are things to keep in mind too.  You can also partially mitigate this with camera placement – if you have a multi camera system one that points at your door and another that points towards a street with cars/pedestrian traffic – and you can choose to only enable push notifications for close in areas like your front door.  That is also part of the appeal of custom motion detection zones – but if a cat or a bug is in your motion zone it may still fire off an event.


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DIY custom maps for print & reference
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Homesteading – how much does it cost?
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How to prep for “slow collapse”
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Storing water outside?
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Digital preparedness
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Thanks Josh, all good points.  your examples about non-electric Coffee making and charcoal grills are great!  I’d known about Jon’s interest in board games but I guess it hadn’t fully clicked “oh, right, you can play those by candle/sun light!” – you’ve got me thinking about other durable goods (bikes that are easy to repair, for example) that might be more appropriate for my situation. When it comes to the more survival related aspects, I think most would agree that homesteading is probably the gold standard in realistic survival preps (short of mythically unobtainable New Zealand private estates?).  I guess where I’m approaching this from is: is that the only viable strategy (even if its the best, is it attainable for everyone?) and if there are other strategies what might they look like? If homesteading is the only viable strategy, it starts to raise some interesting questions:  how many homesteads can practically be established on land good enough to raise food for self-sufficiency?  Does the entire Southwest empty out due to lack of water?  Whats that do to the population (growth, decline, and distribution)?  Does the country start to look more like it did 100 years ago?  Even 100 years ago (even 200+ years ago) there were still people living in cities, specializing in trades, and making a life for themselves.  Maybe thats the long term trajectory but some non-homesteading ideas come to mind: Figure out what resources are more abundant in your area (farmland, forestry, fishing, hunting, mining/industry) and start picking up hobbies to relearn how to process the resources you’ll have best access to?  Even if you can’t farm your own land, if you know what you’re doing maybe someone will pay you with food to help them? Start learning how to repair things, even electronics, and other comparative “luxury items”.  Maybe learn how to turn car alternators into generators or stock pile electronics for voltage regulation for charing USB devices (maybe thats silly, trying to think outside the box) Stock-piling specialized high quality hand tools for maintenance/repair might be an option for those without farm land?  Everyone has a Philips head screw driver, not everyone has a set of threading taps and know how to use them without breaking them? Because this hits closer to home for me, I feel like some skills such as cartography and surveying might come back in style, but who knows?   Heck, paper/ink making even?  people will probably still want ledgers for inventory and who owes them what. Start learning [frontier medicine] for when you either end up too far away from a “real” doctor to matter, or for when equipment starts getting scares?

Bill, you bring up a great point regarding debt and while I realize global economic systems are complex and perhaps even the experts aren’t entirely sure, what would the results of such a debt default scenario look like (i.e. what happens when the borrowing stops?). While the US economy is larger than the examples mentioned here, it looks like other countries have defaulted on their debt, including Iceland, Dubai, and Greece.  So even though the scale might be different these could be object lessons in what might happen?  I’m sure there were painful consequences, but I’m also pretty sure these countries didn’t descend barbarism or a complete collapse situation. I was Inspired by your infographic so I tried to find more information about who holds the US public debt, this article came up with the following lines (my emphasis added): “If you add the debt held by Social Security and all the retirement and pension funds, almost half of the U.S. Treasury debt is held in trust for your retirement. If the United States defaults on its debt, foreign investors would be angry, but current and future retirees would be hurt the most.“ So I wonder, would this be more of a situation where retirement for an even larger swatch of the country becomes unobtainable, maybe it becomes common for people to effectively work until they die, and probably the demand for and cost of elder care services go up.  I’d argue this is already reality for some segments of the population, maybe that segment will grow dramatically? It’s perhaps not the idealistic outcome but the trains of civilization are still running, they’re just dirty, late, and occasionally broken down trains.  So in such a situation how might you prep for that over 20 years?  A few ideas come to mind: Double your retirement savings estimated requirements and lower your expected standard of living in the future? Take extra care for long term preventative health care to age more gracefully Start retraining for jobs 10-20 years out assuming retirement is not an option position yourself for a more nomadic life style, assuming you’ll have to migrate to where conditions are better (This flies in the face of “conventional wisdom” but is the kind of contrarian angle I’m curious about)

I have a low impact, infrequent problem area (very minor flooding once every two years in an unfinished basement). Basically I have a basement door surrounded by concrete walls with steps leading up to ground level. During very high rain the water table briefly saturates and water comes into this ~3’x4′ sunken space (the concrete area is not waterproof). I’m able to “dam up” the door with a combination of plastic sheeting, tape, and quick damns but its not perfect. So what happens is the dams help a bit at first but since its a small area the water level rises quickly. When it rises high enough the quick-dams are overwhelmed and basically “float” freely, but by the time that happens the plastic sheeting, and oddly enough the weight of the water, kick in to help (I think?). Then I bail/pump water by hand for two hours while a small trickle of water comes in through the edges of the door where the sheeting doesn’t quite work well enough. This only happens during intense rain conditions and its easier to stay on top of the outdoor flooding than deal with surrendering to the indoor flooding. The way I deploy the sheeting is I fold it over on itself to make it thicker, and sort of “close the door” on it, so part of the plastic is inside the house with a folded edge (mostly water proof) around both the bottom and lower sides of the door and the rest is outside and can be spread up/out and either taped up or held down with dams (until water weight takes over).  Some water can squeeze between the door but its the best I can manage. It’s a kludge of a fix, but it’s only happened twice in 5 years without causing any real damage, just frustration and clean up, and I learn more each time. Hence, the electric submersible pump is my latest upgrade. One day I’ll do a proper sunken sump pump with battery backup, just not an urgent enough issue to tackle properly yet (but probably when I finish the basement…).

A humorous aside: its getting harder to contribute with so many people offering up great advice!  not a bad problem to have, I suppose. From the halfway point in life, the best I can suggest is this:  Consider what is important to you, and be aware that what is important to you, even some of your values, may change over time. You could set yourself to live to 80 and die of natural causes, but you also might change your mind in ten years.  Maybe you want to die a hero saving others, maybe you want to die happily with a smile on your face reflecting on a life well lived, regardless of how old you are.  Maybe you’re just scared silly of something like dementia/alzheimer’s, cancer, or heart disease (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm). Just be open to the fact that what you think and value now might change, or at least evolve, and try not to box yourself into a corner, try to keep as many options, as many doors open for as long as you can. And yes, this can apply to prepping, though is more general life advice.  Putting down a down payment on a remote property you think will keep you safe but you’ll have a hard time selling if you need money to live in a nursing home?  might think twice about that.  ditto if you can’t get to a hospital, or even a dentist, in a reasonable amount of time.  Spending a couple hundred dollars on portable equipment you can use in your dorm, an apartment, a house, or in the woods?  gives you lots of options without taking too many off the table.

My 2 cents:  Don’t worry too much about the “stuff” and instead focus on the skills (including the social skills!).  Get a good gym habit going (presumably free gym access? try and avoid the freshman 15?) select some classes that are relevant, maybe don’t ignore history 100%.  Maybe practice how you approach prepping with your peers and playing “gray man” a little – like, its cool to have some camp supplies (even better if you were to use it camping occasionaly) but you probably don’t want to stick out too much I imagine? Also, take stock of what your school actually has by way of emergency preparedness plans – one knowing where to go and quickly to be first in line but also to know where they’re lacking. Fun true fact: My freshman year in the dorms, 5 stories up I noticed it was cloudy out, got a phone call from my mom to get to the basement now, a tornado was coming, and halfway down the stairs (not elevator) heard howling wind like you wouldn’t believe.  All the midwesterners were like “what, why isn’t the tornado alarm going off!?!”  all the locals were like “What’s a tornado alarm?!?” (tornadoes being fairly rare in the area).  The thing touched down one building over, threw a few cars around in the process (thankfully not too big). That was also the night where a lot of people had to figure out where to sleep because of a gas leak concern at one of the dorms that was kept closed for a night. So your concern isn’t even unreasonable, but sometimes the solution is making friends who will let you crash in an emergency rather than carrying a sleeping bag with you all the time.  Just consider making friends outside your dorm/side of campus!

I wish I had a better answer than this here, but its basically what I was going to suggest in a different way.  Adding on in case alternate takes contribute., others have contributed for this specific instance but I thought I might add to the deeper issues in play. I see two issues in play here:  Making a well informed decision and knowing what information to trust.   Knowing what information to trust is hard to solve.  Google “epistemic crisis” but fair warning most recent examples are political so I won’t wade into it any deeper here. On the “making a choice” front though, there is an easier more straight forward approach: Even “not making a choice” or “delaying a choice” is actually a choice you actively are making.   By choosing to wait and research this more you have actively chosen not to avail yourself of a vaccination now and that choice carries risk. That is perhaps fine if you’re waiting a few days or a week or two, but at some point the risk of waiting to learn more potentially out weighs the risk of not acting decisively.  If your daily risk of exposure is low (you don’t interact with people and have no intension to start) you might be fine waiting – but if you’re going out in large crowds without other protective measures then perhaps the risk of not getting a vaccine is higher than getting one.   The root of the original question is actually really interesting: what knowledge is trustworthy and how do you make the best choices?  Unfortunately, the practical answer is that everyone has to come up with their own guiding principles and ultimately take responsibility for their own actions (I say this not in any critical way, more of a tautological statement).

I don’t claim to be an internet security expert, but keep in mind wifi is just a mechanism to transmit data wirelessly.  Yes, wifi can be hacked remotely, but typically they’re going to have to be within a few hundred feet (if not less) to be in range of your router’s wifi radio.  If more than a few hundred feet away they have to really have it out for you personally, with specialized equipment and amplifiers, pointing a directional antenna at your home (I *think* happy to learn more from someone with a deeper background!!!). Every internet connected device (including the one you’re using right now to read this) is theoretically “hackable” but there are various layers of defense.  Most reputable home/commercial routers (including wifi, if you have more than one device on the internet for a single home internet connection, you have a router) have a basic firewall and port access rules that prevent most normal/”easy” attacks/hacks (unless you open them up, hopefully you don’t do that unless you know what you’re doing).  Internet apps and hardware (yes, including security cameras) can run software that might open less obvious ‘holes’ in your home networks defenses.  One way to mitigate this is to go with a reliable vendor that has a vested interest in not losing customers with sloppy code. Another way to avoid this is to keep your [security network] “air-gapped” (which can also be a bit of a misnomer when talking about wifi…) or otherwise not connected to the internet.  This is an additional reason why I went looking for cameras that specifically did not require the internet to function, for those who have this as an added security concern.  If you keep a camera off the internet, it can’t be hacked by the internet (but you also can’t use it remotely…). To give an example – my home network includes a cable modem which connects me to the internet.  This modem only supports a single network connection via ethernet cord (hard wire).  Since I have multiple devices at home that need to connect (including laptops, cell phones, and tablets that connect wirelessly) I have my cable modem connected by ethernet cord to a wifi-enable router (which also supports additional hard wired connections).  Since I also don’t have a home with ethernet cords in the walls, wifi is needed if I want internet in more than one room. If I had an internet enabled camera that used a hard wire plugged into my home’s router, it would be just as vulnerable to any threat more than a few hundred feet or line of sight to my home via an internet attack.  A technically more secure option would be a hard wired camera system on an air gapped local area network (or an old school CCTV running on coax?) but thats more than you’re average consumer is going to do without going fairly high end and outside the budget range I had for this topic. Yes, wifi is technically less secure, but the greater threat is from poor internet security.  Also, it seems like maybe ADT doesn’t have the best safe guards in place to avoid abuse (thats independent of wifi/internet security).  (not trying to lecture or anything! just wanting to put good information out there, happy to be corrected by security experts with a formal background!)

Part of the issue is that since the camera and IR illumination are so good, rain drops (and sometimes bugs) that fly right in front of the lens are really obvious and set off an alert.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lower quality sensors just ‘didn’t notice’ things like rain rather than being specifically tuned to ignore them (either is possible, really).  Its a weird trade space.  Some of their products advertise “Smart Person/Vehicle Detection” which wasn’t on my radar at first so I didn’t think to look for it, can’t speak to how well it works or if its a service or baked into the hardware. On the topic of “relevance” I might not have explained 100% clear – Ring won that category (I suspect part of their “cloud plan” is some cloud based processing which is why you need a subscription to store events?).  Things like animals (stray cats, raccoons, deer, depending on your local fauna) are things to keep in mind too.  You can also partially mitigate this with camera placement – if you have a multi camera system one that points at your door and another that points towards a street with cars/pedestrian traffic – and you can choose to only enable push notifications for close in areas like your front door.  That is also part of the appeal of custom motion detection zones – but if a cat or a bug is in your motion zone it may still fire off an event.

Any thoughts about wood/fuel type?  I started doing fire pits this past fall and the local hardware stores mostly sold birch.  Having never thought about wood selection (usually just whatever was sold on the side of the road, or whatever I could find in the woods) I was amazed at how quickly and cleanly it burnt up, low ash yield (go figure, means you have to buy more!).  I found this site after some googling and hadn’t previously stopped to think about what I was burning, or combinations of it.  Having experimented with other types (not always well labeled…) I am intrigued by the different properties (slow vs fast burn). Regarding the coal trick, any thoughts for how to best preserve them?  I recall when I was young at the beach, fire pits had sand in the bottom and if you dug through the ashes the next day you could still find semi-hot coals (maybe sand acid to help insulate/starve them of oxygen?).  Since going with a science/engineered-fire-pit that is designed with better ventilation and ash management, I find even large chunks of coal-like wood seem to break down (almost like a slow candle, but turning to ash instead of wax) after a few hours, if not by morning. Regarding the 1-match rule, I grew up doing scouting and learned the whole kindling thing, but as an adult who is lazy, I’ve come to appreciate the relatively inexpensive log starters (though your trick is better, I just don’t have kerosene lying around, am unsure how I’d store it long term in my setting – does it go bad?  Any thoughts on best storage/handling practices and where to buy it? does it go bad?).

Your options are somewhat dependent on the platforms/hardware you’re using, but all major platforms will have some sort of backup option – just different features and ease of use. Honestly, the “harder” part of backing up computers is organizing and taking stock of what is important to you.  While you can do whole-computer (and phone) backups I recommend having a root folder with your main archive so you can copy it and maybe a secondary “working area” that you periodically merge into a longer term archive.  Once you have those items identified/well organized you can usually copy them to backup media periodically.  Lets talk through a couple options: Cloud based services – while I don’t use them various vendors offer storage space (either free or paid) and a variety of software exists to upload your documents to a cloud backup.  This should protect you from local loss (theft, damage, etc).  I’m not familiar with all offerings on the market but if its a reputable vendor, it will probably offer some level of de-facto protection against virus/ransomware, etc?  The downside is large scale reliable backup is rarely free.  You’ll probably have to pay some nominal fee for more than a couple GB of space and you’re at the mercy of the vendor’s IT/backup practices.  You’ll also need an internet connection.  Think things like iCloud (apple), One Drive (Microsoft), Google Drive, DropBox, or other multi-platform providers. Local options – these aren’t free and require various levels of personal discipline and technical savvy. External hard drives are easy, and often/sometimes plug and play (automatic backup when plugged in).  But, you have to remember to use them.  I have an external hard drive for a macOS laptop – its yelling at me that I haven’t backed up in 26 days right now, actually – but truth be told I don’t keep much on this thing anymore.  External hard drives are nice because they are usually very portable and offer a small degree of segmentation that is inverse to how often you backup. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is another option, these are usually “always on” and “always available” but are still vulnerable to several of your concerns (virus, surge, theft, etc).  They aren’t always cheap but you can generally ‘set them and forget them.’  If you have friends/family who also has one my understanding is you can set these up for remote access so you could imagine hosting a friend’s encrypted backup in exchange for them hosting your encrypted backup.  Still requires internet and a trusted friend but at least its not a single point failure anymore (both have to get hacked/stolen/destroyed for a total loss). Keep in mind that if your concern is a virus/ransomware some might be able to travel over your network or even wait and spread to detachable read-write media like an external hard drive.  Offline backups are physically segmented and therefore less vulnerable (though less convenient/harder to actually use). If you have the patience and capacity, using physical write-once media is a possibility with some benefits.  Writing data to backups on DVD-R/blueray/etc once a month and putting copies in various different physical locations protects you from single point failures (fire/theft) and since they’re largely offline they can’t really be “hacked” by conventional means (though physical security becomes more of a concern if you have redundant copies). If you’re serious and have manageable amounts of data, use multiple methods (and store some offsite).  Get in the habit of refreshing backups periodically. This is something I spend a lot of time thinking about.  I have at least 3 external HDs, 2 desktops with large scale storage and network sharing, a newly purchased NAS on the way, and a few highly critical documents backed up in encrypted cloud storage.  I’ve written my own scripts and database tables to help me organize data going all the way back to 2001, and slightly before.  Its a never ending process, really, but you evolve best practices.  Most of my important files are backed up in at least 4 different places (more because I’m too lazy to *really* organize than that paranoid, HDs keep getting bigger/cheaper so why not have duplicate backups for older data?). For the long term keep in mind that you’ll have to migrate and refresh hardware.  Hard drives (spinning disks) can break, CDs/DVDs/etc have a shelf life and can degrade/become unreadable over time.  Even old hardware can stop being supported (I lost a lot of data from a “SuperDisk” drive using a parallel port and proprietary drivers from the late 90s.  In my defense I was literally a kid at the time).


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