feedback friday: tech edition
It’s time for another round of Q+A with my brother Kevin. He’s seriously smart, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and he has a passion for helping people embrace and utilize technology to bless their lives (and their businesses). I asked you to submit any tech-related question, and these are his responses.
Q: Where is the safest digital place to store photos? I have had two back up hard drives crash, but never my main one. Should I just copy everything to blu-rays?
A: Let me start by stating a fact (for those who don’t backup their data, this is meant to scare you into submission)… 20% of all consumer-grade hard drives fail in the first 12 months of its life. If you aren’t backing up, you need to… NOW. Fortunately, you are trying to, and that is commendable. If you’re serious about backing up precious data, you may want to look into a multi-drive storage system like a Drobo. Even if one drive fails, your data is still protected and accessible (you would need to replace the drive, of course). The downside, they can be pricey. For a more economical solution, a single external USB/FireWire hard drive would suffice as a primary backup, but I would also recommend a secondary backup as well. Carbonite, Crash Plan and Mozy are a few good online backup solutions worth looking at. I generally shy away from DVD or BlueRay just because they are cumbersome to work with and easy to misplace. That stinks that you’ve had such bad luck with external drives, but stick with them (and make sure you aren’t buying the ultra-cheap brands… you get what you pay for). If it makes you feel better, I’ve had drives in my Drobo fail on me. Unfortunately, it’s relatively common for hard drives.
Q: What would you say is the simplest, straight forward photo editing program or app? I don’t do Photoshop or anything close to that…but I would really like to be able to set up two photos next to each other, do a little color correction and cropping and easily print onto a 4×6 photo paper.
A: I would take a serious look at PhotoShop Elements. It’s a great mid-range solution for those who want to do some of what PhotoShop does, but don’t want to spend that much money (PhotoShop gets very pricey).
Q: Looking for a new laptop used mostly for pictures and family movies. Is a Mac really worth all that money or can I get what I need from a PC? Any recommendations?
A: If you’re looking for a reason to not buy a Mac, you’re asking the wrong guy. I used to be a hard core PC guy, then saw the power of what Macs can do. As someone who knows both sides really well (and works on both all day, every day), I’m telling you… you really should do a Mac if you can. I could write a 10-page response to give you all the details, but I don’t want to bore everyone else. I’d be happy to walk you through some of that offline, if your interested (contact me).
Q: Internet providers which do you prefer: Phone Companies offerings or Cable Companies offerings?
A: That’s a hard one to answer without knowing locale, but generally, you will have better luck with a cable company. Where I live, I wouldn’t even consider going with the phone company, so I chose Comcast. Some love them, and some hate them… as long as they are responsive and reliable, I’m good. Comcast has been great for me, and I use it for everything, including voice (Vonage), Internet and media consumption.
Q: Would love to know how to get away from cable.
A: Oh, this is one of my favorite topics, and I could go on and on and on about it (in a positive way, of course). I became a cord-cutter about 7 years ago. My setup is nearly complete, yet super simple (and super inexpensive). My total home setup includes the following: 3 LED TVs, 3 Apple TVs, 1 Mac mini. That’s it. As you can imagine, each TV has an Apple TV, and it acts as the multimedia receiver (much like a cable box for cable) to my Mac mini. The Mac mini is what stores all of our movies, TV shows, music, etc. You don’t have to use a Mac mini to do this (a PC would also work, as long as it has iTunes), but I chose to for reliability purposes (and I use it for others things as well). I get my movies from either iTunes or Netflix (in that order), and I get my TV shows from Hulu Plus, Netflix and iTunes (in that order). iTunes is great for newer movie content, Hulu Plus is great for newer TV shows, and Netflix is great for documentaries and older movies and TV shows. I believe that more people would be cord-cutters if it weren’t for the fact that it’s still hard to get live sporting events and news (CNN, CNBC, etc). I even get local channels and networks (like ABC, NBC, etc) using an HD receiver ($30 from Walmart) mounted to the back of one of my TVs, but I honestly rarely use it. The best part about all of this… you watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it (and without commercials). If you want to talk more about this offline, I’m happy to answer your questions in more detail (contact me).
Q: If I were to purchase a tablet for my 9 yr old son, who likes digital novels, games, puzzles, etc. what direction is the best to go that would allow me to have the most parental controls over approving downloads and web surfing?
A: Each of my children have iPads (that’s no surprise to anyone who knows me), so I know exactly where you’re coming from. The way that we decided to handle it was we control their iTunes account (they don’t know their password). If they want to purchase a game or book, they go looking for mom or dad to help out. Sounds a little restrictive and inconvenient, but we find that it works really well for us. As for the device… you really can’t go wrong with an iPad, and the iPad mini works great for our children (and they’re cheaper too).
Q: We have a WordPress blog. This week I was trying to link to an old post and it seems to have just disappeared. Is this possible? Why would it happen?
A: The whole site is gone, or just the one post? This is a tough one to answer without much to go on, but I’m happy to help if you give me more information (contact me).
Q: My question is about photo stream, photo album and camera roll on iPad and iPhone – I’m confused on how it all works. Do you need to have both going on? Does that take up twice the memory? Also, is there a way to delete photos in bulk on iPhone and iPad if you do it later?
A: Photo Stream is a great service! I’m really glad that Apple released it. What’s really neat about it is that I can take a photo on one of my devices, and that photo is available on my other devices almost instantly (as long as they are connected to the Internet). A real world example (and a common one for me): I take a photo on my iPhone, then open that photo on my iPad where I then use Adobe PhotoShop Touch to edit and share with others (or post to a blog entry). I can do the same editing on my Mac, since it’s available there as well. It does take a little more storage, but it’s really not that much compared to other content on your devices. The key to making this all work… make sure you have Photo Stream enabled on all devices (and all devices are using the same Apple ID). You can fine more information here.
Q: Is there a way to move you photos in your iPad to a new folder and have them disappear from your old folder without having to manually delete them?
A: Absolutely! Well, kind of. Yes, you can move (or rather add) photos you take to an existing or new album on your iPad, but doing that won’t remove the photo from your Camera Roll (at least not when you move the photo using your iPad). The Camera Roll is designed to be a rolling set of photos on your iPad, and the only way they will disappear from that is if you either delete it, or you sync your photos with a computer and then remove it from your iPad. If you want to add (copy) photos to an existing or new album on your iPad, go to your Camera Roll, tap “Edit”, select the photos, then tap “Add To”. If you want to move the photos to an album, then remove them from the Camera Roll, you will first need to sync the photos with your computer, put those photos into an album, then remove the photos from the iPad while then syncing the new album back to the iPad. Hopefully that makes some sense. You can learn more about sharing your photos here.
Q: Do you recommend having an external hard drive or using an online back up service? Why?
A: Both. Here is Kevin’s rule of thumb when it comes to backups: if your data doesn’t exist in at least 3 different places (with two of those being different geographic locations), then your data doesn’t really exist (and you can’t be mad if you lose it). My backup strategy is this: I have my live data on my MacBook Pro, a complete backup (using Mac OS X Time Machine) at home on a Drobo, as well as a backup on Dropbox (in the cloud). I sleep well at night knowing that if my laptop were stolen, I could pick up a new one and restore my data without missing a beat.
Q: Our family wants to purchase a new wireless printer. We would like one that can scan, prints color and can handle cardstock. Any suggestions?
A: I’ve said it before and I will say it again (and again and again)… you get what you pay for with tech. Seriously. With that in mind, I would recommend you look at the HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Premium. It retails for about $400 (you can probably find it for cheaper), but it’s a great unit (fully functional and pretty quick).
Q: I use Carbonite. How do I know if video files within iPhoto are being backed up? I know it does not happen automatically but I don’t know how to find them from Carbonite and select them for backup when they are in iPhoto. Any suggestions?
A: First of all, good job for actively backing up! You’re a rock star! OK, here’s the deal. Carbonite does automatically backup your iPhoto library UNLESS you chose to manually select the files you wanted backed up initially, or you specifically chose not to backup your Pictures folder (you should be able to go into your settings and verify that). As long as it is being backed up, you should be able to browse your backup files, dive into the Pictures folder and look for a huge fie called “iPhoto Library”.
Q: I have just transferred from PC to Mac and am struggling with how to keep my photos organized/stored in iPhoto. I would love to know how to do this with Project Life. Are you creating an iPhoto album to copy your PL photos to? I would like to transfer my older photos to an external hard drive. Should I transfer the whole iPhoto library or just export my photos?
A: Managing photos is a hard one to tackle because everyone has different requirements and thinks differently about how to organize. What works great for me, may not work great for you (and may actually slow down your workflow). My organization is actually quite simple… let iPhoto do the work. By that, I mean iPhoto has some really, really great tools built-in (like face recognition, tags, albums, smart albums, etc). My advice is to use that technology as much as possible starting now, because it will make it much easier for you to be organized later on. As for creating albums and integrating with Project Life… again, that’s hard because it needs to match your personality and needs. The more you know about iPhoto’s capabilities, the easier it will be for you. If you’re close to an Apple store, they have lots of free workshops there to help you feel really comfortable with iPhoto (or any of their apps). Don’t hesitate to schedule some time with them. They are there to help.
Q: I bought a MacBook Air last Christmas and am now putting my photos onto the mac book using iPhoto. Could we have a general explanation of iPhoto. I struggle a bit when I go to use the photos in Word documents or Publisher documents as insert, or want to send them to an online printing company. It seems I need to export them. It is very different from the folders which I had set up on my PC where the photos were all just saved as jpegs, and I would cut and paste or simply copy them.
A: iPhoto is a photo management system. One thing that’s important to understand is that the files are not stored in a normal file structure (like with other programs). Instead, it’s all stored nice and neat inside a huge library file. That can make it challenging when using it with Word, but some apps (like Apple’s Pages app) has built-in hooks so that you can just drag and drop from the Inspector (for the record, I much prefer Pages over Word anyway… it may be worth looking at). When you have time, here is a link you should really check out these iPhoto tutorials. And as I mentioned in the question above, Apple offers free workshops at their stores to help people feel comfortable with their apps. I would take advantage of them.
Q: When I go to sync my iPhone and mac Book or iPod and MacBook, I am worried about losing contacts from the phone or music from the iPod as they are maybe not seen as the ‘primary’ source. Could you explain syncing to me.
A: Sure! Syncing is the process by which two (or more) sets of data (any type of data) is compared against each other to look for changes. Each time a change is made, the sync process begins. Each copy will look for differences between itself and the other copies, then make updates appropriately so that both copies are then current. For example, if I create a new Address Book entry on my MacBook Pro, that is automatically synced with my iCloud account in “the cloud”. That change is then synced with all my other devices (iPhone, iPad, etc) so that they, too, have that new entry. Likewise, if I add a new entry to my iPhone, that entry is automatically synced with my iCloud account, and then synced again with my other devices. All of this happens automatically without you doing a thing. You don’t have to use iCloud for all this syncing to take place. Lots of people use other services like Google, etc. However, my recommendation (especially if you are using iOS devices and Macs) is to use iCloud. I rely 100% on iCloud and it very rarely gives me issues. This may not be a very comprehensive answer to your question, but there’s a lot that could go into really answering it well for you. I’d be happy to take this one offline with you and dive into more detail (contact me).
When Kevin says “contact me” … you can do that through his website – firstname.lastname@example.org. He is genuinely happy to help. And he might even tell you what I was really like as a kid. ; )
Thank you Kevin, for answering all these questions, and sharing your expertise, insight, and tech tips with us!