Hello, Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California

Yesterday, I was invited to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California for a tour by an acquaintance who works as a software engineer in the an­i­ma­tion department of the company. Unfortunately, a lot of it was private so I wasn’t able to take my photographs, but I was able to capture some of the more public areas.

Our tour started in the museum area. I don’t really watch movies or television shows, so a lot of this didn’t really have much meaning to me.

The tour continued outdoors.

These large tan buildings are where movie sets are created and scenes are filmed.

These facilities used to be on-site housing for actors, but now they’re just offices. Apparently that golf cart is manufactured by Cadillac and is owned by someone famous, but I didn’t really recognize the name so I don’t remember whose it is.

Apparently there’s a new Ghostbusters movie coming out. They had the Ghostbusters car parked outside.

We were then led through an outdoor set.

I don’t remember the significance of this building, but there were some awards sitting inside (which I was not permitted to photograph).

After a tour of that campus, I met up with my acquaintance, who had finished working, and we got a tour of her work area. An overwhelming majority of it was confidential, so the only photograph I have of it is this Spider-Man mural.

As part of our tour, there was a photo opportunity where my friend Doug Wreden and I were supposed to stand in front of a green screen and we would be chromakeyed into an episode of Jeopardy. The prompt was to act like we had won, but while I was thinking about how I would react if I won Jeop­ard­y, the photographer already captured the shot.

As someone who is not really a fan of movies, this wasn’t really the best tour for me. Sony also has a music division, and I discovered throughout the tour by way of random posters that some of my favorite artists are signed to Sony Music, but the tour itself focused almost entirely on film and not on music. I am a lot more interested in music than film and television, so if there was a more music-oriented tour, I think I would have enjoyed that a lot more.

The highlight of my visit was, by sheer luck and coincidence because that was just the walking route we happened to take, overhearing Olivia Rodrigo in one of those tan buildings rehearsing for her performance at Coachella 2024. My second favorite part of the visit was eating a free Rice Krispy Treat. I think that might put into perspective how disinterested I am in movies and movie stars.

With that being said, if you are a big movie nut, this could potentially be a good tour for you to take. You don’t need a special invitation to go on it like I did—apparently you can just go on Sony’s website and purchase tickets (at least for the first portion on the main campus, though it wouldn’t grant access to the animations building). If you like celebrities, you might even see some famous people during the tour.

 

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Photo dump from January 2024

For the past month and a half, I went through a phase of chasing nostalgia. I live streamed a lot on Twitch during my holiday break between Christ­mas and New Year’s Day, just like how I used to stream a lot during my winter breaks from undergraduate university over a decade ago. I also wanted to try daily blogging again, just like how I used to daily blog in 2011.

Needless to say, I failed. I made it January 1-9 of daily blogging before I realized it was unsustainable. My minimum acceptable quality bar of a blog post has increased substantially up to the point where it usually takes me an average of an hour or more to finish writing one… if I even have anything to write about to begin with. Over ten years go, this wasn’t the case—on some days, I would just publish a single random photograph and call it a day.

Earlier in the month, I was collecting sets of pictures that I thought I would turn into individual blog posts, but didn’t because the size of each set wasn’t satisfactory. I don’t have much from the final cou­ple weeks of January because I let myself indulge in something personal I wanted to do that took up basically the entirety of all my free time and even some sleep time, but I think I still have enough to warrant a small photo dump from this month.

 
Here’s a small set of photos from a quick all-you-can-eat lunch from Tomomi Sushi in Alhambra, California. To open, I got tuna, salmon, yellowtail, al­ba­core, and tilapia sashimi.

Next was a plate of baked green mussels.

My third dish was tako wasabi, which is raw octopus.

For my assortment of nigiri, I got salmon, yellowtail, Spanish mackerel, albacore, escolar, and squid.

My final dish was ika sansai, which is squid salad.

 
As many people already know by now, I used to live on the Las Vegas Strip in a residential high-rise condominium building. It obviously has its perks, like having great amenities and security, and being central to the Las Vegas Valley so I can pretty much get anywhere within 20 minutes, but another ma­jor thing I liked was the view.

One of my biggest regrets from the past year is moving out into the suburbs under the false assumption that I would appreciate the more peaceful life­style after having road tripped for two years non-stop while living out of hotel rooms. The first month was pleasant, but after that, it got boring—it was too quiet out near Summerlin South, and more than anything, I missed waking up to a stunning view and bright sunlight.

While in Los Angeles County in January, I visited a friend who has a nice view from her home, even though she doesn’t live in a high-rise. It’s definitely not the same as a high-rise view, but it reminded me of when our Tempo team house was up near the Hollywood Hills, and it gave me a little bit of nostalgia from my time living on the Strip.

 
I have historically not been much of a board game person, but I was persuaded to join my friends Doug and Billie Rae for board game nights once in a while.

Our very first attempt was Pan Am, which is apparently built around Pan American Airways, a now-defunct airline. We spent almost two hours un­pack­aging the game and learning how to play, actually played the game for around 20 minutes, and then proceeded to get distracted and quit before ever fin­ish­ing a single round because it was almost 3 AM and I wanted to go to sleep.

Next was Monopoly. This went a lot better than Pan Am, though I accidentally made a catastrophically critical error which allowed Billie Rae to snowball out of control and make it absolutely hopeless for anyone else to have a chance at winning. Luckily, in exchange for my inadvertent generosity towards her cause, Billie Rae gave me a few breaks when I landed on her spots, which at least let me beat Doug and not get last place.

I also landed on the Free Parking space. I am going to save this photograph as evidence and use it the next time I go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which is what this version of Monopoly was themed after) so I can get free parking there.

 
I’m a fan of going to restaurants by myself with my laptop so I can enjoy a nice meal alone while getting some work done and not feeling pressured to uphold a conversation. However, I do still occasionally like dining out with friends, which I did earlier this month at No.1 Kazoku Japanese Yakitori and Sushi Bar in San Gabriel, Cali­fornia.

Our opening dish was tuna belly nigiri. The cuts of fish were extremely high quality and were overwhelmingly rich in flavor.

Next were chicken skin and beef tongue skewers. I found these to be pretty underwhelming—the chicken skin just tasted intensely strongly of gamey chick­en flavor, and the beef tongue was overcooked and lacked the tenderness that you normally expect from tongue. However, my friend ab­so­lute­ly loved these, so much so that she texted me in the middle of the night, hours after dinner, telling me that she was still thinking about the chicken skin skew­er.

Next up was tuna carpaccio. This wasn’t bad, but was vastly overshadowed by the tuna belly nigiri from earlier.

Finally, the closing dish of our dinner was a chirashi bowl. It’s very rare that chirashi bowls come with sea urchin, and I’m glad that this one did, con­sidering that sea urchin is my favorite sushi. However, it also came with little chunks of a strange cold cooked fish, and I never really found out what it was.

 
Hello doggo.

 

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The Douglas Wreden FAQ

My friend Doug Wreden is a full-time content creator and live streamer. Over the past few years, I have been making relatively frequent guest ap­pear­ances in his content and collaborating with him on some of his projects, which has ultimately led to the cross-pollination of our audiences. Due to the vast size of Doug’s follower-base, it was inevitable that I receive a lot of ques­tions about Doug.

Today is his birthday, so in celebration, I decided to release this FAQ about him. I’ve tried to include multiple wordings and variants of each question so you can try to use the Find com­mand to search for a certain topic.

 

  • How did you and Doug meet?

    Doug and I met in late 2017 as co-workers at Tempo.

    Tempo currently focuses on game development, but in 2017-2018, its primary business objective revolved around esports and multimedia pro­duc­tion. I joined Tempo in 2015 and held various roles throughout the years; I still work there today doing corporate operations.

    Doug was hired in late 2017 as the Executive Producer to run our Hollywood studio. He resigned from Tempo in late 2018 to pursue in­de­pend­ent content creation, which is what he is still doing today.
     

  • Are you and Doug roommates/housemates? Do you and Doug live together?

    Doug and I have never formally been roommates nor housemates. Ever since 2018, I have been a resident of the Las Vegas Valley in Nevada; during that time, Doug has been a resident of Greater Los Angeles and the Seattle Metropolitan Area. With that being said, I do visit Doug a lot, so it is reasonable that some people would mistake us as roommates or housemates.

    During the 2022 portion of my cross-country road trip, I stayed at Doug’s house in the Seattle suburbs in his guest bedroom and was in and out throughout the span of a few months. As of right now, I have a designated guest room at his new house in Los Angeles County where I stay during extended visits to Southern California. Because of this, we have technically “lived together,” even though I officially am and have been domiciled in Las Vegas.
     

  • Are you and Doug dating, or otherwise in some form of a romantic relationship? Can I write romantic fan fiction about you and Doug?

    No, I am not gay.

    I do not consent to my likeness being in works which include me participating in homosexual activity. With that being said, if you choose to write such works anyway, my opinion doesn’t matter and there is nothing I can or will do as long as you are not violating my right of pub­lic­i­ty or oth­er­wise committing com­mer­cial appropriation.
     

  • Has the extra attention you’re getting from Doug’s community been overwhelming or bothersome?

    I’ve already been a public figure for a long time—I started formally creating content online under my personal likeness in 2008, hosting and com­men­tating at live events in 2012, and con­sis­tent­ly making various on-screen and on-stage appearances throughout the years since then. Be­cause of this, I’m already familiar and com­fort­a­ble with what being a public figure entails, and pretty much any amount of non-violent and non-extremist attention will not be bother­some to me.

    With that being said, Doug’s community is unlike any other I’ve seen. I’d say about 99.99% of his fans fall within a broad scope of being “normal,” which is a much higher percentage compared to other public figures. However, the remaining 0.01% of his fans are the polar op­po­site—they are some of the most intrusive and obsessive people I’ve seen who have absolutely no sense of personal boundaries and are very out-of-touch with even the basics of societal norms.

    Although that is a microscopically small percentage, due to the sheer size of Doug’s audience, that still ends up being a sizeable number of people. Even when we account for only a fraction of the fraction of those people finding me, that has still resulted in me having several instances where these people severely interfere with my personal life. I have had multiple cases of people impersonating me or pretending to be my employee; try­ing to make contact with my family, friends, and clients; and parroting Doug-specific jokes out-of-context and in a way that they would be easily misconstrued as statements of fact, thus effectively spreading misinformation about me (more on this below).

    There are positives and negatives to everything, and this is one of the inevitable downsides of being a public figure. I’ve already accepted years ago that things like this are bound to happen at some point, and I have been taking a proactive approach implementing preventative measures to mit­i­gate the effects of future incidents that may arise.
     

  • Why can we no longer joke about you being a lawyer, police officer, doctor, or murderer anymore?

    Falsely calling me a lawyer and a police officer within the DougDoug community originated from the first time I made an in-person collaborative ap­pear­ance on his Twitch and YouTube channels during which Doug spent a majority of the time trying (and failing) to come up with a scenario where I would use my firearm against him when I am not under immediate threat of severe bodily harm or death. My steadfastly sound judgment, refusal to use a firearm in any situation where it is not deemed strictly necessary, and above-average knowledge of the law birthed the jokes about legal professions and firearms.

    Jokes like this on a personal level are fine, but due to the sheer size of Doug’s audience, people kept copying these jokes out-of-context. Doug is one of many friends whose content I appear on, and most people who know me don’t also know Doug, let alone the existence of that video. With the absence of contextual cues, people will take statements at face value and be tricked into thinking that I actually hold those professions or be­havioral issues.

    Practicing law without a license or impersonating a sworn peace officer is explicitly illegal, and so many people functionally accusing me of it by de­clar­ing it out-of-context ended up catching the attention of a law enforcement agency and triggering a legal investigation into the matter. There were also people review bombing my office and consulting service with these claims to the point where I couldn’t keep up and realized that the best course of action would be to just take down my page. Some people also found old collaborations and videos where I was a speaker at panels and posted ironic comments like “I’m surprised he didn’t shoot up the audience,” but there was no further indication whatsoever that the com­ment was intended to be satire, which prompted past business partners to reach out in concern.

    I strongly support open and free speech, but when such speech contains indisputable falsehoods that cause material and articulable damage to my reputation, there starts being a problem. I have asked Doug to stop making these jokes and, to whatever extent he can, make his community also stop making these jokes as a form of damage control and reputational protection.
     

  • Do you expect it when Doug randomly calls you in the middle of stream? Do you know when Doug is going to call?

    If Doug uses his cell phone to call me, it is always unplanned. There have been times when Doug has called me on the phone when I’m trying to find parking in a packed city, or in the process of driving to a restaurant, or out hiking on a random mountain, or in the middle of a business meet­ing with the CEO of Tempo. At the beginning of the call, I will usually tell Doug what I am doing. None of those were made up—I was ac­tu­al­ly doing those things when he had called at those certain points.

    If Doug uses Discord to call me, it is a toss-up. If I play a material role in his stream for that day, it is always planned. For example, if I have to re­view something that Twitch chat helped him make on stream, Doug will let me know before going live and give me a time estimate of when I should be available to participate. However, if Doug has an impromptu thought or idea related to me and wants my input, and he also knows for sure that I am at my computer, he will opt to call me on Discord because the audio quality is a lot better than on cell phone.
     

  • How staged are your on-screen interactions with Doug? Does Doug act to you off-screen the same way that he acts on-screen?

    Our on-screen interactions are sometimes planned, but never scripted or staged. We may go into a broadcast knowing how we want it to play out, but it is never more than a general understanding of the goal of the segment.

    Doug does not fake his personality for his broadcasts—he actually acts like that in-person, albeit a bit of a toned-down version.

    I am also not faking my personality when I am on Doug’s broadcasts, but there is one important point to keep in mind. Doug is extremely smart, witty, and clever, and he knows how to act and what to say to get the funniest reactions out of me. This ends up naturally emphasizing and spot­lighting the aspects of my personality that complement well with Doug’s, while suppressing other aspects of my personality that might not be as relevant to the content.
     

  • What is the favorite piece of content you’ve done together with Doug?

    In my opinion, Doug always creates a fun and welcoming environment for all guests on his broadcasts and shows, so I generally enjoy being a part of all his content to which I’m invited. However, as of today, there are two specific streams that stick out as being particularly memorable.

    The first is the “I’ll have what he’s having” fast food challenge. It was a good bonding experience with Doug and his staff members, the concept was very fun, and a lot of hilarious moments came out of it. The way it played out was also so good that it felt like it was scripted—we got strung along with just the right amount of motivation (i.e., the orders were such a perfect size that it wasn’t crushingly easy, but it wasn’t also de­mo­ral­iz­ingly difficult), so it felt like I was watching a storyline on the edge of my seat, but I was a character in the story and everything was un­fold­ing in realtime around me.

    The second is eating a whole salmon in bunny costumes. I loved this stream because it was a ridiculous concept, there was a perfect amount of ab­surd­i­ty such that it was very chaotic but still manageably executable, and it was for a good cause in the sense that it was a charity stretch goal. As a bonus, the salmon was somehow miraculously delicious.
     

  • Can I send suggestions on what you and Doug can do together for a live stream or video?

    Please do not send me content ideas to do with Doug (or with any of my other friends either, for that matter). I unfortunately do not have the time to handle the logistics of executing on ideas, so the effort you put into sending them to me will be in vain. Instead, I encourage you to reach out to the other party to see if they would be receptive. If they are, and also handle all the logistics of making a certain idea happen, then chances are good that I may be willing to be a guest on their show.
     

  • Who would win in a fight, you or Doug?

    This is a strange question, because I don’t routinely consider fighting my friends, but with the unusually frequent occurrence of this question, I decided to put in some thought.

    Ever since I was a kid, I have been involved in some form of martial arts or combat sport—I started with taekwondo, added on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and later trained some Muay Thai and kickboxing. I’ve never been consistent with training and have taken many long breaks from it, but I’ve al­ways gone back to it throughout my life. With that being said, I am a thin person, currently in the lightweight weight class and at one point even reaching as low as bantamweight.

    Although Doug does not have as extensive of a combat sport background as I do, he is much, much larger and stronger than me, and his muscles are visibly multiple times the size of mine. He is currently a light heavyweight, which is six weight classes above me—quite the difference.

    If I catch Doug with a quick knockout or submission early in the match, I have a chance at victory. However, due to my relatively poor endurance and strength, once we get into a grappling or brawling phase, Doug would win an overwhelming majority of the time.

 

—§—

 

Hello furniture

As of a couple months ago, my friend Doug Wreden finished his move from the Seattle Metropolitan Area to Los Angeles County. In order to furnish his new place, he, Billie Rae, and I decided to go on a furniture shopping adventure.

This is my look of unsettlement when I discovered that a tragically poor-quality plastic cup set was US$60 just because it had some artist’s name print­ed on the label.

Foto graffy…

is my passion.

I’m not sure why both of us look like we were caught doing something highly suspicious.

Hello, Douglas Douglas.

Ah look, it’s Doug, Billie Rae, and Billie Rae’s cup holder.

After looking at enough furniture, we went to get some plants too. It was extremely cold.

Every photo taken after that one either had too much motion blur or was out of focus… except this one.

 

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My thoughts on MapleStory after playing for one month

My childhood best friend Ed Lam, who you might remember from my old League of Legends days as “Grainyrice,” grew up playing MapleStory (similar to how I grew up playing Neopets and RuneScape). I’ve always wanted to at least try it out, but I never really had a good opportunity to get pulled into it.

Lately, MapleStory has been running some marketing campaigns about their new content patch and the Hyper Burning promotion, where your leveling process is vastly expedited in earlier levels so you can get into the game quickly and join your friends who might be veteran players and are far ahead of you. On top of that, I had a holiday recess coming up from my work at Tempo, during which I would have some extra time to binge a video game. Thus, I figured this would probably be one of the better times to get started, so I decided to make a MapleStory character exactly one month ago.

I ended up picking Angelic Buster, I’ve been having a great time playing. During my holiday recess, I live streamed a lot of my MapleStory gameplay on Twitch, and I had a nice time in­ter­act­ing with viewers and learning about optimal ways to advance my progression. While streaming, a decent number of people asked me whether I would recommend that they play MapleStory too.

Everyone’s situation is different, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what MapleStory has to offer, so I don’t feel like I’m particularly qual­i­fied to answer that question. With that being said, I can still give some of my thoughts and first impressions of the game so that you are better able to make an informed decision for yourself.

 

  • MapleStory is often called a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), but I think it is also as much of a hack-and-slash (also known as a “beat ’em up”) as it is an MMORPG. I really like games like Path of Exile and Diablo III, and I feel like MapleStory, to some extent, is a more light-hearted version of the aforementioned two games.

    Combat is an important part of MapleStory, and the way you engage in combat is very satisfying. The skill animations are bright and flashy. The sound effects are striking and aggressive. The damage numbers make it feel like you are having a huge impact on the screen. Every time you use a skill, hear the corresponding sound, and see the corresponding damage numbers, you get a tiny little hit of dopamine that continues hundreds and thousands of times throughout a combat session.

  • The Hyper Burning event (where you gain two bonus levels for every single level-up you achieve) makes a huge difference in getting through the earlier levels. I especially recognized the difference because I had originally accidentally created a character without Hyper Burning, and then when I created a new one with Hyper Burning active, it felt far more refreshing.

    MapleStory is known for its grindy nature, similar to many other Korean MMORPGs. With Hyper Burning, you’re able to avoid pretty much all grinding and go from storyline to storyline, sometimes even skipping some because you are leveling so quickly. If you are playing MapleStory for the story and want to complete all the storylines in chronological order, you are still able to do that—nothing is explicitly stopping you from taking the gameplay slowly (though you obviously wouldn’t get meaningful experience from quests if you’re overleveled for the requirements). If you are playing MapleStory to reach level 260 as quickly as possible to join friends who have been playing for a while, this makes it so you’re not stuck in-game for months before reaching your goal.

  • The quest system can get a little confusing. The map and quest log system is far from the worst I’ve seen, but once in a while, I’ll end up with a quest where I can’t use the navigation system to show me where to go and I can’t find the provided destination anywhere on the map. Luckily, because of Hyper Burning, if I ever run into a situation like this, I can just skip the entire quest chain and do another quest line in a different zone and still have plenty of experience to continue leveling up, but if I didn’t have Hyper Burning, I would imagine this would get extremely frus­trat­ing.

    I have had some issues like this in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft before, but at least World of Warcraft has some extremely thorough fan sites that explain how to do certain difficult quests in excruciating detail; I’ve noticed that MapleStory does not have many resources like this, which makes things harder.

  • One side effect of Hyper Burning is that you get in the habit of skipping things. I was having so much fun leveling up and unlocking new zones that I missed some of the critical teaching quests that would explain core game mechanics. Because of this, I was doing fine up to a certain point, upon which my power level fell fairly sharply because I wasn’t taking advantage of all the power-boosting features I had available to me, because I didn’t know they existed. At that certain point, it was taking a very long time for me to kill enemies, which prompted me to start looking into what was going on.

    Yes, it is my own fault for not seeing these important quests, but I would appreciate it if MapleStory had these quests marked differently, similar to how Final Fantasy XIV has the “blue/purple plus-sign quests.”

  • I’m torn about the interface. A lot of it is clunky and has very strange interactions and limitations, but I also like the “classic” style of interfaces. A lot of the newer games (as well as apps, websites, and pretty much everything nowadays) make the interface way too “idiot friendly” by using big round buttons and hiding a lot of important information, so I appreciate the fact that MapleStory doesn’t assume their players are stupid and will instead just show you everything you need to know.

  • I nearly quit the game at level 200 because it was so overwhelming. There are a ton of new things dumped on you at the same time, and as I just mentioned, if you did not know they exist and do not start integrating the new unlocks into your gameplay, you reach a point where you literally cannot kill anything and cannot gain more experience.

    To be clear, I am almost certain that this is my own fault, because, again, I was way too excited with the progression and skipped too much quest text that probably explained to me how to use everything. Luckily, I was live streaming during that time, so my Twitch chat was able to guide me through everything. There were two particular members in chat who literally saved the game for me, as they walked me through literally eve­ry­thing step-by-step until it clicked enough for me to be able to deduce how to optimize that aspect of the game.

  • Even now, the way I’m supposed to get better gear is confusing and unclear to me. I was under the impression that gear would progressively go up little by little, like about 10 levels at a time, but I am hearing from some sources that it jumps from 150 to 200? The entire gearing process is very unintuitive, I haven’t really be able to find a comprehensive and reliable guide for gearing, and it doesn’t seem like there are any in-game resources on the topic.

 
Now that I’ve typed this all out, this seems a bit more disorganized and scatterbrained than I anticipated… but I guess that might be a good thing, as these are my unfiltered thoughts that are probably more comparable to asking a friend for their input, rather than looking like a polished review.

I’m level 245 now, and the leveling process has slowed substantially—but this time, it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong. Once you get to these levels, progressing to the next storyline quest is limited to once every five levels, and the only way to level up otherwise is to do daily/weekly quests, spe­cial events, and other day-limited tasks… or just grind killing mobs for long periods of time.

The reason I know I’m not doing anything wrong is because I am extremely powerful—one single spell cast is enough to clear out multiple enemies. I’ve managed to reach this point because Hyper Burning also gives you a lot of gear- and stat-enhancing items, so I used those to min-max and optimize my character. With all that done, now it’s just a matter of putting in a lot of time investment to level up, otherwise I just need to wait for daily and weekly tasks to reset.

Since the end of holiday recess, I’ve just been signing into MapleStory once a day for about half an hour at a time to finish all my daily reset tasks. With work picking back up, I now no longer have the time or motivation to play as obsessively as I did between Christmas and New Year’s, but playing and watching the animations and damage effects for a little bit per day is still satisfying and rewarding enough that I’ll stick to it until at least level 260.

 

—§—

 

Re: “What does your backup architecture look like?”

When I went on a nostalgic streaming binge while I had some extra time during my company’s holiday recess between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I got asked a lot of times whether I still had recordings of my streams from over a decade ago when I used to stream nearly full-time hours. The answer, to some people’s surprise, is actually yes—I do indeed have VODs saved of pretty much every stream, as well as original source files of every video I’ve published.

A handful of people then followed up by asking what kind of backup and storage architecture I have that allows me to so reliably retain all this data, es­pe­cial­ly old data from before there were large advancements in storage solutions. My backup strategy has evolved over the years, starting from just keep­ing one copy of everything on my laptop and hoping that it doesn’t die, all the way to what I have implemented today.

One of the simplest ways I can think of to describe my current setup is that everything is organized into tiers. Tier 1 is where I actively use files, tier 2 con­sists of my primary storage lo­ca­tions, tier 3 has my backup storage solutions, and tier 4 is my secondary backup options.

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4
Local internal hard drives Synology DS1821+ WD Elements external hard drive YouTube
Google Drive   Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive Adobe Creative Cloud
      Amazon Photos
      Microsoft OneDrive

As is probably the case for most people, my first line of storage is just the internal drives in my computer. My boot drive is a Toshiba OCZ RD400 PCIe NVMe M.2 128 GB SSD, which holds my operating system and some software (its capacity is that small because I’ve been using the same one for 8 years now, and a 128 GB PCIe NVMe drive back then was pretty good). My SATA drive was originally a 1 TB HDD, but a few years ago, I upgraded to a West­ern Digital Blue 4 TB SSD and a Samsung 870 EVO 4 TB SSD. I use one as my primary drive and one as a storage drive.

On one of the 4 TB SSDs I use as my primary drive, I have a folder that is synced with Google Drive using Backup and Sync from Google. I used to use Google Drive a lot more, but over the past handful of years, I’ve toned down my usage of third-party service providers in general because I’ve become less trusting of them due to privacy and control concerns (e.g., I don’t want a company to be able to track everything I do, and I don’t want them to have the sole and absolute discretion to terminate my account and lock me out of my data without my input).

Everything in the Tier 1 column, as well as any other data I have that is not in Tier 1, is all in Tier 2, my Synology DS1821+ network-attached storage. This is basically my master vault of data, and close to everything I have ever created in my life exists on this NAS. It’s constantly humming, taking local backup copies of pretty much everything that exists in all my cloud service provider accounts, as well as for some of my friends and clients.

It is loaded with eight Seagate Exos X16 16 TB HDDs and two Samsung 980 Pro PCIe NVMe 2 TB SSDs. The HDDs are organized as a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) with two-drive fault tolerance, and the SSD cache is organized as RAID 1 with one-to-one data protection redundancy. The overall capacity for the storage pool is 87.3 TB.

It’s upgraded with a Synology D4ECSO-2666-16G 16 GB memory module, which is installed alongside the original 4 GB memory stick that came with the NAS.

It’s also upgraded with a Synology E25G30-F2 dual-port 25 GbE SFP28 to PCIe 3.0 adapter card… which was not actually the model I was intending to get, but I did not notice until I was done installing the card after it had arrived and was sitting on my desk for a few months. (If you want to avoid the same mistake as me, there might be a chance that the card you’re actually looking for is the Synology E10G30-T2.)

If you’re familiar with tech specs, you may be looking at this and wondering why I have something so powerful, and you’re not wrong—for my purposes, this is comparable to defending your house with a tank instead of just a rifle. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I do actually end up using a lot of the features of the NAS and I run enough containers in DiskStation Manager (DSM) to the point that it ends up sort of just being a miniature computer that is working on something 24/7. The second reason is because I like to do things right the first time around, so I wanted to build something that was robust and scalable in preparation for a situation where I would need to make upgrades.

Everything in Tier 2 is then backed up using at least one method in Tier 3. I have a WD Elements desktop external hard drive that is plugged into my NAS via USB and automatically backs up certain files on a routine basis; after sync, this hard drive is kept in a separate physical location as my NAS. I also have a lot of the data uploaded on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), a cloud object storage service, under the Glacier Deep Ar­chive storage classification.

The point of Tier 3 is to have redundancy of my data off-site in case a severe natural disaster destroys my residence and everything in it, including my com­pu­ter and NAS. My external hard drive’s file tree is set up so it is as close to a click-and-drag as possible to a new NAS. Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Ar­chive comes with its own set of issues, such as massive access and egress fees if I ever actually need to retrieve the data, but the storage is basically as cheap as you’ll ever find for cloud storage nowadays, at about a US dollar per terabyte.

Finally, some stuff is also backed up in Tier 4, which consist entirely of free or no-charge third-party services. If I have a video file I want to keep safe, I will upload it to YouTube for free and set it as private or unlisted. A lot of the files I work with in Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft 365 are au­to­mat­i­cal­ly synced to their respective servers using whatever storage space comes with my subscription fee for a software license. I upload most of my pho­tos in raw format to Amazon Photos, where I have unlimited storage thanks to my existing Amazon Prime subscription.

The point of Tier 4 is to protect my data if there is some kind of unprecedented, multi-scope destruction of data that somehow hits my computer, NAS, backup external hard drive, and even Amazon Web Services‘ servers at the same time. In that case, I can hope that some of my videos on Google’s servers and some of my files on Adobe’s and Microsoft’s servers survived, but realistically, I don’t think I will ever have a need to resort to recovering data from Tier 4, and if it ever gets to that point, I think there are going to be much more severe problems with the world to deal with.

Before I end this blog post, I do want to disclaim that I am not an IT professional and you should not blindly copy what I’ve put in this blog post—this is intended to be anecdotal so you can learn more about me, and is not to be construed as a guide on how to build the best backup architecture. Fur­ther­more, I have bought some pretty pricey pieces of hardware in exchange for some of the convenience of the products, and there are a lot of meth­ods out there where you can achieve what I did for lower cost. If you want to take some steps to enhance your data protection, there are a lot of great re­sources available online and I encourage you to conduct your own research.

 

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