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Allright. This is the last BarretTime of 2010, and it’s not going to be an easy one. I’m going to ask you to look deep into yourselves and into your filesystems, make some tough calls, then actually act on them. While it will take some effort on your part, your soul and your data will thank you.

A point of order before we get underway – this is a non-denominational BarretTime. I’m not here to argue the merits of the different religions: the venerable FAT, the indecipherable NTFS, the kool-aid drinking UFS & HFS-Plus zealots, the solemn ext two through fours, the wonderful XFS, the aging JFS, killer ReiserFS and Styx. Any guesses as to what uses or used Styx? The OS of choice of 70s rock bands? Or the firewall appliance that serves as the boundary between Earth and the Underworld?

A: The Inferno Operating System used Styx, which is actually a variant of the Plan 9 Filesystem Protocol from Bell Labs. That’s metal.

OK – so we’ll wrap up the bit where I’m not mentioning that XFS is the best filesystem on the planet, and we’ll get back to your soul. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then your *desktop* is the window to your *computing* soul. Sorry, Chrome OS users… For those of you with a desktop and a soul: do just a few frequently used shortcuts adorn some cool hand-picked wallpaper? Can you see your wall paper? Do you even remember what it looks like? If you haven’t seen your desktop background image in ages, it may be time to dejunk your desktop. Most operating systems come with existing folders for downloads, documents, images and movies located underneath a user’s home directory. If this isn’t granular enough for you, consider creating subfolders under each of these, like Work and Personal for a start. You can sort the files on your desktop by file type, allowing you to make quick work of going through them, identifying them, and then moving them into the appropriate folder or directory.

Now is also a good time to take a look at installed programs and ask yourself how often you actually use them. Windows will tell you the last date a particular program was used, helping make some difficult decisions easier. Keep in mind that if you are running a Microsoft Windows based operating system and you have done a lot of installing, uninstalling, and re-installing programs throughout the year, you may want to freshen things up with the Jay Lee Maneuver, though the pilgrimage to that temple is one you’ll have to make on your own. Whichever way you go, you’ll wind up with a much more orderly soul, though not necessarily a lighter one. If you really want to soar to the heavens, you’re going to have to trim some of the real weight from your filesystem.

If you have plenty of drive space left, say you’re using less than 50% of your disk, then you’re fine. If, however, you find yourself approaching 80 or even 90%, you may want to search your filesystem to see what’s taking up all the space. Keep in mind that a lot of downloadable software can be downloaded again, especially free packages like Open Office or any Linux Distro, allowing you to delete the original downloaded file. Also, if you have the same files on multiple machines (outside of your backup plan), you can free up some room by removing duplicates. Now, you may have to ask yourself some tough questions like, Do I really need every episode of Battle Star Galactica in HD on every device I own? The answer is yes, by the way, but I’m sure a lot of Linux ISOs and large files can be burned to CD or DVD to free up space just in case Universal decides to make more episodes of BSG.

A note of caution: Unless you truly know what you’re doing, don’t go digging around outside of your personal folders in the hopes of freeing up drive space. If you downloaded it, then by all means delete it, but don’t delve into directories you’re decidedly unfamiliar with. You may think you’re freeing up space by deleting stuff you never look at, like everything in the system32 directory or all of /dev, but in most cases, it’s best not to venture below your own personal directory. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t take a look around; just be careful doing so.

Now that you’re a little lighter, you want to take steps to preserve this new found filesystem freedom by backing up your data to removeable media, another machine or even the cloud. Hopefully, this won’t turn into a do as we say, not as we do, but in 140 characters or less, what backup method or system do each of the hosts use?

The last commandment is to actually test your backups. Once you have your data backed up, see if you can get your files and data extracted from the backups, then actually try to open and use those files. It’s much better to find out that your backup method of choice didn’t perform as you had expected now, when you still have all your data, rather than when the inevitable happens.

So this conveniently leads us into making some New Year’s Resolutions.

My suggestions to you would be:

1) Purge your desktop an all but the bare minimum, moving data files and downloads to their own folders.

2) Do an end-of-the-year backup, and then continue to back up at regular intervals.

3) Test your backups.

My resolution for next year? 1440 by 900.

That’s it for 2010 and that’s that for BarretTime.

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