How to Back Up Your WordPress Website, Automagically!

I maintain several WordPress-based websites, all of which are, well, important to me, including this one, and it would seriously stink if something happened to any of them. Jason Tarasi posted a great how-to at with easy instructions for backing up a WordPress blog using the uber-simple WP-DB-Backup plug-in. I installed the plug-in, and my WordPress installations started emailing me daily copies of their databases. Awesome.

But what to do with these backup copies? Well, I have a Dropbox account (that’s my referral link) that I can use for safekeeping. Dropbox is a great app that lets you synch files and folders on your hard drive with an online file-sharing service, even keeping files synched across multiple computers if you want. You can share files and folders with others, so, for example, your wife and you could use it to work on your Christmas letter. Each time one of you made a change, it would be synched across all computers. It’s great for larger documents or things that are more complicated than Google Docs can handle.

So I have a place to store my WordPress backups, but I don’t really want to manually save the new backups every time they arrive. How could I make this process automatic and invisible?

After several failed attempts, here’s the process I created. Continue reading

OneManOffice: MacHeist Bundle

MacHeist is a website that periodically offers discounted “bundles” of software for Macs.  They offer 14 pieces of software for only $49, and two of the programs – DEVONthink Personal and TextExpander – are ones that I use and recommend.  Unfortunately, I already own DEVONthink, and don’t have enough use for the other software to justify the price.  But, if you don’t already own DEVONthink or TextExpander, it’s a great price for some great apps. 


Ok, so maybe this doesn’t exactly fit into to my series on free (or cheap) tools for your single person office, but I think it does.  The right music helps me work better.  When I’m writing, instrumental jazz (especially John Coltrane) or choral music (especially Zadok the Priest) keeps me in my groove.  When I’m taking care of repetitive tasks, music that I haven’t heard before eats up all of my “distraction energy” and helps me stay on task.  Physical work, like cleaning my office, is when I turn to podcasts.  

Here’s the problem, though: I’m cheap, I haven’t added substantially to my music collection since college, and I get bored listening to the same stuff too much.  I purchase maybe 2 CDs a year, usually for my wife, and I worry that if I get too used to buying stuff from iTunes, I’ll blow my entertainment budget.  So where do I find music? 

That’s where comes in.   Continue reading

OneManOffice: Ta-da Lists

Just a quick post in my continuing series of free (or cheap) and useful services for your one-person home office. 

Ta-da Lists, by 37signals, is a 100% free list service.  If you can list it, you can put it on Ta-da Lists: to-do items, shopping lists, things to pack, etc. It’s very simple to use, which is one of my primary concerns with software like this.  I’m not talking rocket science here – I just want to make a list! 

Some screen shots after the jump. Continue reading

OneManOffice: Backpack

The next couple of OneManOffice posts are going to describe products from a great company, 37signals.  If you want to know more about their philosophy for building simple, useful, elegant web-based applications, check out their book, Getting Real. 

Backpack is an online organizational tool, a place to keep your notes, lists, ideas, events, photos, files — basically, any bits of information that you would want to keep track of.  You can create separate pages based on whatever categories you feel are useful, and then fill those pages with your notes, lists, photos, etc. (Full disclosure: If you sign up using the link I provided, I’ll get discounts to my own Backpack account.) 

Here are some pictures that might help make more sense. 

Backpack is based around pages.  You create these pages based on whatever categories you want.  They are listed in a sidebar, generally in alphabetical order, but you can “cheat” on that order by adding numbers or blank spaces to the front of a page name. 

Once you’ve made a page, you can add your content – text notes, lists, photos, even dividers so that you can further organize your life. Here’s the top of my home page, where you can see the different items you can add.  As you can also see, Backpack includes a calendar feature (which can read Google calendars), a reminders function that will email you one-time or repeating reminders, and integration with 37signals’ Writeboard, an online document creator. 

Top of a Backpack Page

Then, you just start adding!  Here’s a page that I create to help me keep track of books that I want to read. 

Reading Page from Backpack

(iBackpack is a little snippet of code so that I can use Backpack on my iPhone – cool, eh?) 

What makes Backpack so great, as opposed to say, oh, any of the other organizational tools out there? 

  • It’s free.  Actually it’s free for your first 5 pages, but that’s very useful in and of itself. That’s how I got started – created a free account and set up a few pages.  I used the free account for months before I upgraded.  And the upgrades are not expensive.  The lowest level upgrade is $7 per month. (All of 37signals’ products are based on monthly subscription rates.) 
  • It’s easy. It’s very intuitive, and there’s really nothing to learn.  There are certainly some tricks that you can pick up from the user forums, but you can start using Backpack out of the gate without any kind of learning curve. 

Is there anything else you need to know other than it’s free and easy to use? There is one more cool feature that will make it very useful to anyone who has to share information with colleagues in other offices.  Recently, Backpack added a multi-user feature, so that it can act like an intranet for files, notes, or other things you need to share.  You can also make Backpack pages public, making it a very easy way to create simple webpages.  Here’s a public copy of my reading list, so that you can see exactly how behind I am.