Guardian Maximus for up to the minute protection

OK, you've heard me harp on the need to have backups. However, in some cases having an up to date backup could still mean losing hours of work. That's where a RAID-1 [MIRROR] comes in. OWC carries the NewerTechnology Guardian Maximus line of RAIDs. With a RAID-1 you have TWO identical hard drives in a case that are writing the data simultaneously to each drive. The idea is that if one drive fails, you would still have everything up to that second on the other drive.  

I tested the 1TB Guardian Maximus

This drive has USB2, Firewire 800 and Firewire 400 connections on the back and comes with all 3 cables. I connected the drive up via Firewire 800 out of the box and it mounted on the desktop. It was already formatted for Mac OS. I copied a couple of gig to it from my server and speed was acceptable. When it comes to speed you have to remember that the data is being written to both 1TB drives at once. The drive (enclosure) is relatively quiet. There are LED indicators for the drive activity of both drives. If one of the drives fails the indicator for that drive will go red. Once you replace the failed drive, the Guardian Maximus will automatically "rebuild" which means that it will mirror the data onto the replacement drive. The only downside to this that I can see is that there is no other indicator that the drive has failed that I'm aware of. In other words if you didn't notice the red light on the front of the enclosure you could be at risk. It would be nice to have software (like the Drobo) that monitors the status of the drives and automatically alerts you if one of the drives goes bad.  

This is not a substitute for backing up

OWC includes award winning backup utilities like Prosoft's Data Backup 3 for the Mac and NovaBACKUP for the PC. They also include Intech Hard Disk SpeedTools for the Mac. The reason that a RAID doesn't substitute for a backup is that it's writing and erasing data on both drives as you use your computer. Therefore if you accidentally delete a file the file will be deleted on both drives immediately. Also if you got some corruption or a virus, then your files will be corrupted or infected on both drives in the RAID. Instead use a RAID as your main drive or as a backup drive or both. This way you'll still have your backups if you need to recover a file or two AND if one of your drives crashed you could theoretically keep right on going.   OWC sells these starting at $259.99 for a 250GB solution (2 250GB drives). They also sell the enclosure so you could build your own using your own drives. The enclosure goes for $149.99.

More on the iPhone 3g

Now that the dust has settled a bit on yesterday’s announcement of the iPhone 3g, a few little tidbits are coming to the surface:

  • The iPhone 3g will REQUIRE in-store activation! So no more picking one up, never activating it on AT&T (or whomever) and jailbreaking it just to resell it.
  • The AT&T data plan is going up by $10/month to $30/month instead of the original $20/month. Rod Harlan has an interesting take on that and the price comparison between the iPhone 1.0 and iPhone 3g.
  • As it stands right now, no online orders for the iPhone. You’ll have to go into a retail outlet to get one!
  • See the Steve Jobs WWDC ’08 Keynote introducing the iPhone 3g and iPhone 2.0 software update here.

So it looks like even though the entry price for the iPhone is only $199, Apple has tightened up on making sure you activate your iPhone with the appropriate carrier (and sign up for the 2 year contract). Also for those that ask the question: “why is it that I can get a 16GB iPhone 3g for $299 while an iPod touch 16GB goes for $399?”, the answer is with the iPhone you can’t use it without signing up for phone service. Apple appears to be taking a more traditional method of using the service contract to bring down the entry price of the phone. It will be interesting to see as time goes on, whether they will officially offer an unlocked version here in the states at a higher price?

iPhone 3g coming July 11, 2008

As expected Apple announced the iPhone 3g today! This is the iPhone that takes advantage of faster 3g data networks for near wi-fi data speeds.

 

It’s the software stupid

Apple lead their keynote today with lots of talk about software. As with any successful platform, it will live or die by the apps that are available for it. Apple realizes that they can’t do everything that everyone wants. So many 3rd party developers announced and showcased their apps today. Apple also showcased their support for Microsoft’s Exchange syncing which is HUGE in the corporate world. Not to leave consumers out, Apple announced “mobileme“. Mobileme is the successor to Apple’s .Mac service. This service will provide push email, calendar, contacts and photos to consumer users of the iPhone.

3rd party iPhone apps will range in price from FREE on up. You’ll get your apps directly through the iPhone App store on your iPhone running the 2.0 software.

 

What we know…

  • Shipping: July 11, 2008
  • Software: iPhone 2.0 as a free download to existing iPhone users and $9.95 for iPod touch users
  • Capacity: 8GB (only in black) and 16GB (available in black or white)
  • Speed: 3g data network
  • GPS: YES!
  • Push Data: via Microsoft Exchange and Apple’s NEW mobileme (no announcement of when mobileme goes live)
  • iPhone 2.0 Software and the iPhone App store: a free download to existing iPhone users ($9.95 for iPod touch users) in early July.
  • Terry’s Pet Peeves Addressed: Not sure what else from my list of “50 ways to make the iPhone better” will get solved in the 2.0 version, but one thing that has been added is a Search feature for Contacts. Also we now get Bulk Delete and Move of things like email messages.
  • Other NEW Features: View PowerPoint, and iWork (Pages, Numbers & Keynote) document attachments. New Scientific Calculator. Adding photos from emails to your iPhone Pictures library. Also many more languages are included.
  • Price: 8GB model $199!, 16GB model $299

Learn more here.

 

iPhone 3G: Twice as fast. Half the price!

Probably one of the biggest shocks of this announcement was the price! You’ll be able to get a iPhone 3g 8GB model for a mere $199. The 16GB model will go for $299. Both models are slated to be available Friday, July 11th (I’ve got to imagine that there is some idiot out there who is already standing in line. Please tell me it isn’t so!) Don’t get me wrong, I plan to upgrade on day one, but camping has never been my thing :-)

When you think about it, $199 is a STEAL for a touch screen iPhone, with a GPS, that is also an iPod that plays video, does web, email, mapping and allows for 3rd party apps. Wow! The first 5GB iPod was $399 if that gives you some perspective.

 

Start the countdown…. July 11th can’t get here fast enough!

Belkin Mini Surge Protector – almost perfect!

Although Belkin doesn’t specifically label this Mini surge protector as "Travel", they do go out their way to talk about how "hotel rooms and airport terminals never seem to have enough power outlets to charge all the devices today’s traveler brings along." So that leads me to believe that they intended their "Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger" to be used by Road Warriors. I have been looking for a compact surge protector/slash power strip to keep in my computer bag for travel. We’ve all been in those hotel rooms where you’ve had to decide between having a lamp, a clock or power for your phone or laptop, due to the lack of available outlets (I also love it when the only outlet is behind the bed). This mini surge protector has an added bonus of two USB powered ports on it to charge up my USB devices (such as iPods, GPS units, phones, etc.) When I traveled to Spain, I bought a universal adapter that also had a single USB port on it, but I was disappointed in that the USB port didn’t provide enough juice to charge the iPhone.

It’s seems that that iPhone uses a little more juice than most standard USB ports provide. For example, my old Treo 650 would still get enough juice from my MacBook Pro while it was sleeping. Not so with the iPhone. I’m very happy to report that the Belkin unit DOES provide enough power through the USB port to also charge the iPhone. That means one less adapter I have to carry around.

I could never figure out why Apple didn’t design a USB port into the power adapter of its portables. Seems like a natural fit since most MacBook owners I know also either have iPods or iPhones (or both).

 

It’s almost perfect

It’s a little on the large side. However, that doesn’t bother me because after all there has to be room for the surge suppressing circuitry as well as the two USB ports too. What does bother me is that the AC prongs don’t retract or fold down. To Belkin’s credit they did design the prongs so that they rotate. This allows the strip to be horizontal or vertical depending on how your wall outlet is configured. The protruding prong thing is not the end of the world, but it’s one more thing to have to deal with in an already crowded bag. If I were a ratings kinda guy, this would be one of those things that would keep me from giving it a full 5 stars. I give it 4.5 stars. Hopefully the next version will be designed to fix this small little issue.

 

Also since this is one of those little items you might forget and leave behind in your room, don’t forget to put a label on it.

 

Amazon has it for $16.99.

Too many video cards?

Apple typically makes things easy. However, a couple of buddies have recently pointed out that if you’re not careful you could end up with a extra video cards in your Mac Pro that you don’t need.

The problem seems to be in the way Apple words the video card selection in their configure to order page for the Mac Pro.

Some users are mistaking the 2 x, 3 x and 4 x selections above to mean 2, 3 & 4 times the performance instead of 2, 3 or 4 video cards. I mean after all, if you were spending a few thousand on a New Mac Pro, what’s another $359 for a 4x speed video card right?

The sad part is that if you do make this mistake, there are no returns on custom configs, so you’re stuck with the extra video cards you probably don’t need or you’d have to eBay them.

I know some of you are probably thinking this is no big deal and it’s very clear to you, "how could anyone not see this?" However, I know TWO different people that it’s happened to recently. So obviously it’s not clear to everyone.

Need more room?

I like to keep at least 20-30 GBs free on my MacBook Pro hard drive. Lately I’ve been working with less than 10 GBs free. It really started becoming a problem over the weekend as I started getting "out of space" errors right in the middle of a photo shoot and while working in Photoshop.

 

I started wondering "what could be taking up so much space?"

I know that the Mac OS X Finder can list the size of your items and folders and sort that way, but it’s too slow. So I downloaded the really cool shareware app – WhatSize. This was the best $12.99 I’ve spent in a while. With this little gem I was able to immediately identify about 7 GBs of files that I either no longer needed at all (like two very large podcasts) or files that didn’t need to be on my internal drive. This app is amazingly FAST! I could quickly drill down on those large numbers and see exactly "WHAT" was taking up so much space? Within about 10 minutes I had over 13 GB free and I’m still cleaning stuff off and I probably will upgrade to a larger drive soon, but for now this app rocks!

My favorite movie cataloger just got a major update

Although I don’t buy movies like I used to, I do have a 350+ DVD collection. As I get older I often times don’t know which movies I have and which ones I don’t. That’s where Delicious Library comes in. My colleagues turned me on to Delicious Library a few years ago and I’ve used it ever since to catalog my DVD collection. The one thing (as a gadget junkie) that really turned me on to it at first was the ease of entering your info about your stuff. You simply scan the barcode! Yep, that’s it! Using your iSight camera (it’s a Mac only app), you scan the barcode on the back of your book, DVD, game, etc. and it does a look up on Amazon and pulls down the title, artwork and description. I was able to catalog my entire collection in an evening. The other thing I really liked about Delicious Library is that it also keeps track of stuff you loan out. I would loan out DVDs all the time and forget about them until I went to go watch them myself. Then I would think, "who did I loan that to?" I have even been known to call around looking for something I’ve loaned out. Delicious Library integrates with Address Book and to loan something out, you simply drag the item to the contact you’re loaning it to. Then it even sets up a proposed reminder in iCal as to when the item is due back.

Although I use Delicious Library primarily for DVDs, it’s not just for movies. It can keep track of your books, video games, music CDs and just about any other media you have.

 

The most Mac like app outside of Apple

Delicious Library has to be one of the most Mac like apps I’ve ever used outside of Apple’s own apps. It looks and feels like an app from the iLife package. Delicious-Monster prides themselves on taking advantage of as many features as they possibly can in Mac OS X. Version 2 goes even deeper and takes advantage of Mac OS X 10.5.3′s core services to the max.

 

What’s new?

Delicious Library 2 (DL2) has taken things up a notch or two. The interface has been refined and sped up quite a bit (Version 1, could be a dog with a lot of items in it). This new version is much snapier. They integrated directly with iTunes now. So your iTunes items such as movies, audio books and music show up right in DL2. See an album you want to play, click on it right in DL2 and it will start playing it in iTunes. It even works with your Apple Remote.

DL2 also sports a new web publishing feature that allows you to take your catalog (or specific shelves) to the web. It works directly with .Mac or iWeb and can upload directly via FTP or simply publish to a folder. The FTP upload feature didn’t work for me. I put in all my FTP info and every attempt to publish just sits at 0% complete with no progress bar or errors. So I just published to a Folder and used my favorite FTP app, Transmit to publish my DVD collection here. If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, they’ve even put in the extra code to take advantage of the mobile version of Safari on those devices. It’s pretty impressive! This way if you were out and about and were about to buy a movie or CD that you may already have, you could whip out your iPhone and check right there on the spot. Don’t have an iPhone? No worries, they also do exports and syncs to regular iPods too.

DL2 also incorporates one of the features I’ve wanted for a while and that’s Library Sharing. This allows others on your local network to use their copy of DL2 to see your Library. I keep my main Library on my iTunes iMac and now the family can see what we have from their Macs.

 

DL2 introduces "Smart Shelves"

I haven’t quite figured out if and how I’m going to use this feature yet. Like iTunes’s Smart Albums, Smart Shelves allow you to set up criteria such as "Actor contains "Denzel Washington" and any movies you have with Denzel in them will automatically populate the shelf. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You could do book authors, genres, formats, etc. etc. There’s a mile long list of Smart Shelf criteria to use.

All and all, this update is well worth the $20 upgrade ($40 entry price). As soon as I get my FTP upload working, I’ll be 100% satisfied (I know, I know)! To see a complete list of features or download the trial, go to Delicious-Monster.com.

Are you backed up?

Like many of you, I used to take backing up for granted. That was until an unfortunate Norton Utilities mishap screwed up my hard drive beyond recovery. That was years ago and needless to say, I’ve been backing up ever since.

 

What if your main hard drive died right now?

What would you lose? That was the question I used to ask myself to remind me to do backups. I do backups daily now and feel pretty secure. I have multiple backups and some offsite backups too. Before we get into my backup methods, let me tell you about an interesting thing that happened just the other day:

I have a Power Mac G5 that I use on occasion. Needless to say, I don’t use it everyday. Sometimes I go days without touching it. This is the Mac that I do most of my scanning on and I needed to scan something, so I woke it from its screen saver only to see a warning message that Time Machine (Apple’s automated backup technology) hadn’t successfully completed a backup in 10 days! I then noticed that my external hard drive was no longer mounted on the desktop (which is why Time Machine hadn’t backed up). After a lot of unplugging and re-plugging and restarting, I determined that the drive had actually CRASHED! I could feel the drive making a thumping sound when I powered it back up.

This was a backup drive, so no problem right? Just buy a new backup drive and move on. Well, kinda. You see, this was an external Maxtor drive that I had been using for "Archiving" before I even started using it for Time Machine.

We all have files that we probably won’t need again, but like to hang onto just in case. That’s what was on that drive in addition to the Time Machine backups. I’m not too worried about it because I can’t remember the last time I needed any of those files. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember what files were on that drive. People ask me all the time: "Can I use my Time Machine Backup Drive for other files?" Technically the answer is yes. Time Machine stores its backups in folders as disk images. So there is nothing stopping you from using the rest of the drive for other things. However, it’s just not smart to do. If you put other files on the drive, those files are not being backed up! I knew this and took that chance. Well guess what? It died!

 

What’s the point?

The point I’m trying to make here, is that Archiving and Backing Up are TWO DIFFERENT things. If your archives are important to you, then you should back them up too! The bottom line is that you can’t keep every project that you’ve ever done on your main drive. It will eventually run out of room. So if those projects are important to you to hang on to, then archive them onto other drives, BUT also back those drives up too. In my case I’m not feeling any great loss here. However, it was an important reminder to me that ALL important files need to be backed up. Hard Drives are mechanical devices that will eventually FAIL!

 

What about archiving to CDs and DVDs?

Admittedly I do have some files archived on to DVDs that are in a safe deposit box. Mostly these are wedding photos from friends and family weddings who I’ve long since given them their copies or prints. I don’t ever expect to need these shots again, however I just didn’t feel comfortable trashing them completely. I’m not a fan of archiving to optical media because they can become unreadable over time due to a variety of factors. Nothing changes here though. If you’re going to use optical media for archiving, then back it up too! I made multiple copies of those DVDs just in case.

 

How do I backup?

I thought you would never ask! Each of the computers in my house is backed up via Time Machine to either an external hard drive or my Time Capsule. I have a file server (running Mac OS X Server) that has my most critical documents on it (photos, movies, financial stuff, etc.). It’s backed up each night using SuperDuper which clones to an external Firewire hard drive. I rotate the external hard drive backups of the server to a safe deposit box at the bank so that If my house burns down I can still recover from my offsite backup. One of my most important files is my Quicken data file. So it’s backed up in several places. After each use it automatically backs up to the server AND to my .Mac account. So at any given time I have no less than 5 current copies of that file in different locations (one on the iMac that it resides on, one on the server, one on the server’s backup, one on the iMac’s Time Machine backup and one on .Mac). I can not ever afford to lose this file!

My main computer is my MacBook Pro. Since it’s a laptop and I travel with it, I’m not always on my home network to do Time Machine back ups to my Time Capsule. Therefore I travel with an OWC Mercury On-the-Go 500GB external hard drive. Before each trip I do a Time Machine backup to the Time Capsule AND a SuperDuper! backup to the OWC drive which provides me with a bootable clone. This way if my MacBook Pro died right before a presentation I could simply boot another computer from my drive and keep right on going.

 

Time Machine is Great, why do I still use SuperDuper! then?

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard’s Time Machine is great! Accidentally trashed a file two days ago? No problem, fire up Time Machine and within about a minute or two you’ve got your file back. However, if the whole drive crashes, you can’t boot from your Time Machine backup. You’ll have to put in the new drive and do a complete restore from scratch. This could take hours! If I crash on the go, I need to be back up and running within minutes. That’s why I carry an external bootable backup with me!

 

More travel tips

If your job involves doing presentations on the go, then you have even more to worry about if something dies. If you have to deliver a slide presentation, convert your slides to Adobe PDF and put the PDF file on a thumb drive. You won’t have all the fancy animations, but you’ll be able to present from any computer in the building running a copy of the Free Adobe Reader. If you’re demoing other software, put a copy of your demo files, the necessary fonts, the installer for the software and the serial number on a thumb drive. This way, all you would need is a colleague’s computer to continue the show. Don’t forget about online store either. You could use something like your .Mac iDisk or Adobe’s Acrobat Share (a FREE service) to store backups of your critical files so that they can be pulled down from any computer with an internet connection.

 

I hope that you never become victim of a hard drive crash! Just remember: "there are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and those who are about to." The more we go digital, the more you stand to lose (cherished photos, purchased music, movies, etc.) Backup! Also be sure to check out Scott Kelby’s blog on his use of the Drobo for backups.

Memorial Day – A Time for Thanks and Remembrance

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the men and women that currently serve or have served in our US Military Service! Your sacrifices to protect our freedoms are greatly appreciated.

As we observe this solemn day, we must remember all the brave men and women in uniform who gave their lives in the service of our country.

Again, Thank You!

Terry White

Underwater Fantasea

I wanted to take a more serious look at underwater photography, so I did! I LOVE WATER! I also love photography and I’ve always wanted to mix the two. After much research I decided to go with the Fantasea Underwater Housing for my older Nikon D70 DSLR camera. Sure I’ve got newer better cameras like my D300, but none that I was willing risk taking underwater for the first time (even with the included flood insurance). If I lost my D70 it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but if I lost my D300 I’d cry real tears.

 

The first thing I found out…

Like everything else, you can spend a little or you can spend a LOT! If you’ve never priced underwater housings before, you’ll quickly find that in most cases, they cost more than the cameras themselves. Even the older housing for the now discontinued Nikon D70 still fetches a hefty price of over $1,300. That’s more than the D70 costs when it was NEW! I could have gone cheaper with the point and shoot route and I even seriously considered the Canon G9 with an underwater housing. I could have gotten both the camera and housing for less than the price of the one for the D70, but I really wanted an DSLR if I was going to be serious about this. The Fantasea housing lets you control just about every feature on the camera while it’s in the housing. So there wasn’t anything that I needed to control or adjust that I couldn’t do while it was enclosed. They also have excellent controls for the SB800 too. The standard housing accommodates my original Nikkor 18-70mm lens.

 

The next thing I found out…

Like most everything else in photography, lighting is the key! That’s one of the things that also attracted me to the Fantasea housing. It came with an optional (included in my kit) off camera housing for the Nikon SB800 speedlight. I figured that I’m getting pretty good with the SB800 and it would be a good fit for this adventure.

How does it work?

I did a couple of dry (actually wet) runs in my pool before bringing in my model. I quickly learned that I was going to need to buy a couple more accessories before the big day. The one thing I needed was a weight belt to allow me to more easily stay down underwater. So I made a quick trip to my local scuba shop and $300 later, I was out with two weight belts (one for me, one for the model), a snorkel and a waterproof (bright) LED spotlight.

Everything worked as expected except the connection to the SB800. For some reason, even though I could see it firing, it seemed to be off sync. In other words, the SB800 was either firing slightly before or after the shutter causing my shots to be underexposed. I poured over the settings again and again before doing a Goole search to find that someone else was having the exact same issue. He never posted a resolution for his problem. I emailed Fantasea and they offered a few tips, none of which worked. I’ve determined that it has something to do with the sync cable they supply. If I attach the SB800 directly to my D70, it works as expected. So I know it’s not the camera, the flash or the settings. This was disappointing, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I have a lot of natural light coming into my pool area. I also setup a Westcott Spiderlite TD5 and pointed it into the water (weighted down of course). Also remember the LED spotlight I bought? I used that as a continuous light. The results were good, but not perfect. I plan to continue to work on the SB800 sync issue and possibly even add a slave flash accessory to the housing to get two lights going.

Shay underwater

 


Now that I have this housing, I’ll also be able to use it in conditions such as rain, waterfalls, etc. that I would never have attempted before.

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