Okay, not HTML per se, but HTML when it applies to eBooks.
HTML for web sites? Brilliant idea, and even it if it wasn’t, I’m not going to suggest changing it now.
But when the idea of eBooks was first floated, we had a completely clean slate; we could have gone anywhere, done anything. Instead, we plumped for a technology that had already shown how difficult it is to get the same look and feel across different devices.
Ignoring everything they’ve seen throughout the Terminator franchise, a group of Japanese researchers have come up with a computer that writes short stories… and it’s actually produced a piece of work that got through the first round of a literary competition.
Creative writing as a manufactured commodity – that’s a scary thought, but perhaps it’s inevitable. Companies love automation: feed a few instructions in one end and get a finished product out of the other. It’s always been a popular notion that there are only a handful of stories and that everything written is a variation on those; if that’s true then why can’t a machine just write a half decent story?
Okay, so the other night, the unthinkable happened: I double-clicked the icon to open the book, and nothing happened.
Another click, same result. So I logged out, logged in and tried again.
This time I got one of those heart-warming boxes with a number as long as my arm, and a message telling me the document couldn’t be opened – not now, not ever again.
Well, there’s no feeling like it: six hundred pages and eighteen months work – gone, taken to the great cloud in the… er… sky.
Sphincter-loosening: yup, that’s how I’d describe it.
Deep breaths… Think it through. The editor has a copy… but you’ve done a lot of work since then!
You have a mate who has a later copy, but he’s skiing or mountaineering or some other nonsense! Gaaahhh! If only I’d taken a backup! No wait, hang on… I did.
So once I calmed down a bit, I had my book up and running, with no changes lost. You hear stories like this all the time; sometimes they end happily, sometimes they don’t. I still run across a lot of folk who either don’t make copies of their most important stuff, or they make copies, but do it all wrong. Here’s Dom’s handy guide for doing it right:
Your backup strategy needs to be invisible. There’s no point having one that you need to kick off yourself every fortnight or so. It has to run constantly, and automatically. The one I use saves incremental changes every time a file is saved, which means I can go back several revisions until I find one that doesn’t choke when I try to load it.
Don’t keep your backups on top of your computer. I knew a fella who had his laptop stolen. I asked him if he had a backup disk. ‘Yes,’ he said miserably, ‘it’s in the laptop.’
Test it regularly. Nothing worse than hitting the ‘restore’ key with a smug look on your face, only to find that the backups are just as corrupted as your hard disk. I like to try out test restores every few months to make sure everything is still working as it should.
Be sure you’re backing up everything you need. It might not just be the documents (though that’s usually enough). What about photographs? Music? What about the library folders? Apple’s iClould keeps your documents in the library folder, not with your regular documents, which brings me neatly to
iCloud is for syncing, not backups! There’s a big difference. iCloud is for making sure that your documents, images etc. are available across all your iStuff. If you have a corrupt file on your iPhone then its corruption might get synced to your other devices too.