If you're like most of us, you've got at least one computer at home. If you're like most developers, you've got half a dozen lashed together with some sort of network, with a box set aside for the kids and an always-on Internet connection. And, most likely, you've got a whole list of things that you've been putting off doing. I'm not going to suggest that you make New Year's Resolutions to do these things, but if work is slowing down a bit as the end of the year nears, you might want to think about getting your own house in order.

For starters, when was the last time you backed up your precious data? No, you most likely don't have a mission-critical database application at home. But how many gigabytes of pictures of the kids are on your hard drive? What about your personal finance records? E-mail from your grandkids? If you don't back this stuff up before the inevitable hard-drive failure, you'll regret it. A few years back, I would have suggested in investing in a tape drive, but fortunately there are better alternatives today. DVD burners are cheap and let you take backups to your office or some other relatively safe place. Extra hard drives are cheap too, and let you protect against drive failure by mirroring or other forms of RAID.

And speaking of disasters: if you get hit by a bus, can your significant other get into your system to answer e-mail from clients, collect the last few payments you're due, or see the household financial records? Ordinarily I would caution you not to write down passwords, but to cover these scenarios, I suggest leaving a page or two of network instructions in your safety deposit box. They'll come in handy for your executors too.

This is a good time of the year to retire old hardware, too. For the longest time I had one box running Windows 95 still, because the software for my scanner wouldn't run on any newer version of Windows. But, you know - a new scanner was pretty darned cheap. Buying the scanner and putting it on one of our other computers meant the old box - and the security hole that it represented - could be put out to pasture.

And of course some of you will be getting new hardware instead of coal in your stockings this year. If you do get a new computer, please please PLEASE get it secured before you put it on the Internet. It is practically impossible these days to run a box through Windows Update before it gets hacked. If you have to, download and burn the latest patches on to a CD and hand-carry them to the new machine. You won't have a very happy holiday if the very first thing your new computer does is turn into a zombied proxy for fake Rolex watch spam.

Finally, if you're like me: do remember to take some time off for the holidays. No matter what kind of death match project you're on, it's good to remember that there are other things in life once in a while.

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