Monday, January 2, 2023

Your Memories, Their Cloud

Kashmir Hill:

If I were suddenly cut off from any of these services, the data loss would be professionally and personally devastating.


Some of my data landlords were more accommodating than others. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offered Takeout-like tools, while Apple had a more complicated data transfer process that involved voluminous instructions and a USB cable.

The amount of data I eventually pulled down was staggering, including more than 30,000 photos, 2,000 videos, 22,000 tweets, 57,000 emails, 15,000 pages of old Google chats and 16,000 pages of Google searches going back to 2011.


The granularity of what was in my digital archive accentuated the parts of my life that were missing entirely: emails from college in a university-provided account that I hadn’t thought to migrate; photos and videos I took on an Android phone that I backed up to an external hard drive that has since disappeared; and stories I’d written in journalism school for publications that no longer exist.

Via Nick Heer:

Given enough time, I think all of us want to believe we could pare down our own digital stockpiles to just the files and photos that matter. But as I have thought about it more often, I have come to accept I will never be able to anticipate within my lifetime what is truly important in my data trove. Due to a botched iPhone backup from years ago, I am missing hundreds of photos I only later discovered were important and irreplaceable. As I tried to find those images on long-disused hard drives last year, I found images from family gatherings in decade-old Aperture libraries which took on an entirely new meaning when I rediscovered them.


My long overdue project for 2023 is to ensure I have local versions of everything in iCloud. After all, I cannot know what may be relevant years from now, but I can have control over my ability to access it.

I keep local copies of my photos, videos, e-mail, and of course documents in EagleFiler. (The photos are managed by Lightroom, which is configured to store its master images and metadata within an EagleFiler folder.) The larger folders are stored on external hard drives, which are backed up using Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper. To protect against bit rot, I have a repeating OmniFocus reminder for asking EagleFiler to verify the checksums.

The main hole in my system is that it only includes my older iMessages, from before the Catalyst version of Messages. My newer text messages are locked up without a good way to access them. Yes, there are apps that can export them, but they only work with messages that are locally cached. Neither my phone nor my Mac has anywhere close to a complete set of my messages stored locally, despite having tens of GB of free space.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I've been using EagleFiler for so many things, but never thought about using it for photos. I'm assuming you just create the EF library folder and then tell Lightroom to use it? Also, thanks for the tip on using verify for checking for bit rot. I didn't even realize EF had this feature!

Would EagleFiler work for integrity checking of Apple Photos content? Also, ideally I'd like to make sure that I verify integrity not only of the masters but also edits, albums (including shared albums), etc...

@Scott Yes, I just tell Lightroom (Classic) to use a subfolder of one of my of EagleFiler libraries. This works out well because Lightroom keeps its database and cache files separate, so only the actual photos and adjustments are in EagleFiler. (I have it set to write the metadata into the masters or into sidecar XML files, so most things I do will outlast a damaged Lightroom database and are also eligible for EagleFiler verification.) This is a bit of an advanced setup because EagleFiler doesn’t want other apps to move or rename files behind its back. The reason it works here is that I have my current working photos stored on my SSD (and backed up via Arq). This is where I organize them and make edits. Then I have a separate Lightroom folder on a larger spinning hard drive where I store the “finished” photos, organized into subfolders within each year/month. This is what is in EagleFiler. It works because I am only ever adding to these folders, not rearranging them, so EagleFiler and Lightroom are each happy sharing that folder hierarchy. At that point, since the photos are “done,” if their checksum changes that usually indicates a real problem. (Rarely, I make a global change to a keyword or something and that gets written into the photo, causing the checksum to change.)

@Sean I haven’t tried it, but in theory I think you could do this for the originals/masters in Photos, if you have it set to download the whole library from iCloud. It’s a bit trickier to set up than with Lightroom because Photos doesn’t let you choose where to store that subfolder of its library. You would probably want to make an originals folder in EagleFiler, then replace it (out from under EagleFiler) with a symlink to the Photos LIbrary.photoslibrary/originals folder.

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