Why I Might Change My Mind and get an iPad!

Way back when on January 27th, I got out of bed got out of bed while vacationing in Kauai, poured a cup of coffee and fired up my laptop. I immediately went to Engadget’s live blog of the Apple announcement regarding the much rumoured iPad.

My first thoughts on seeing what the iPad could do was that while it was a cool device, I really didn’t think I would get one anytime soon. To me it was just an overgrown iPod Touch. With it you could read eBooks, play music and video (not high def though), show photographs and use iPhone Apps. All in a device that weighed 1.5 pounds.

I use a Sony PRS-600 Reader and really like the experience of reading on that device (although the screen is not as good as my older PRS-505). It is fairly small, easy to handle and comfortable to read for long periods of time with it’s E-Ink screen.

As time went and more specs on the iPad were released there were a few things that really started to make me think it wasn’t the device for me. Apple was saying it would get 10 hours of battery life and I have come to learn with most manufacturers, you can take that number down by 20 or 30%. I think the real turn off in regards to this device was the fact that it wouldn’t support ePub books using the Adobe Digital Editions DRM scheme which is most of the books in my library and that Apple would have it’s own fairplay DRM on eBooks. Once again Apple was putting it’s users in a closed system and forcing users to buy from them alone.

One of the things that I really like about my Sony Reader is the fact that it does support the ADE DRM scheme. Last fall Sony’s own book store went all ADE ePub from a proprietary format and they have been supporting the ADE format on all of the readers since July 2008. This is very important to me as I am not tied to the Sony Store to purchase my eBooks! In fact I have bought books from Sony, booksonboard.com, Dieselebooks.com and Kobo as well as renting them from my public library. This open system has not tied me to one book seller and I can shop around for the best prices on my eBooks.

So what has changed over the last few weeks that I have re-sparked my interest in the device. Well there are several factors. I do have a iPod 3rd gen Touch device that I carry for pocket computer use more than as an iPod (I use a Microsoft Zune 120 and a 32 GB Zune HD hooked up to a Zune pass for music and podcasts).  I have found several apps though for the Touch that I use frequently and that I feel would work very well on an iPad. These apps could also allow me to use the iPad instead of my Asus 1000H Net Book.

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Amazon Kindle Now Available in Canada – Big Deal!

Amazon announced yesterday (Nov 17th, 2009), that the Amazon Kindle EBook Reader was available to Canadian customers. A year and a half ago this news might have really excited me, but today I shrugged it off saying who cares!

In August 2008, while I was searching for news of the Kindle coming to Canada, I found out that the Sony EBook readers had been available in Canada since April 2008. After researching the Sony Reader a little more, I contacted a few Sony Style Stores locally and finally found one that had 1 Reader left (PRS-505). I went down to the store to look at it and after seeing the crisp text on the screen and starting to read the sample book I immediately got hooked and purchased it. By all accounts the Sony Readers have been selling very well in Canada and the local Sony Style stores have been regularly selling out of readers.

I had been using my Sony PRS-505 daily since then and just a couple of weeks ago decided to upgrade my reader to the new Sony PRS-600. My old PRS-505 has been passed on to my wife and daughter. I am very happy with my Sony devices and there are more than I few reasons why I think that these readers (as well as some other brands) offer more features than the Amazon Kindle overall.

What is an EBook Reader?

Here is a brief primary for people that don’t know what an EBook reader is. These devices allow you to store and read books (as well as newspapers and magazines) on the device. They are about the size of a standard Trade back book (and about as heavy) except that they are much thinner. The devices use a technology called E-Ink. These screens are non backlit, light grey screens that use very little power, in fact they only use power when you turn the page. You can think of them sort of like the old Etch A Sketch toys. When you turn a page the screen flashes and the new page is displayed. I find that the screens are very easy to read and not hard on the eyes. In fact I prefer reading an E-Ink screen than trying to read a book on my desktop or laptop PC. Because they use so little power the battery life on these devices is usually very good. Sony has been in this market for quite some time and Amazon came along a couple of years ago with the first Kindle.

While all of the devices from different manufacturers basically do the same thing they all have a few different features, Amazon’s Kindle features 3G Wireless while Sony’s new PRS-600 offers a touch screen and the ability to take notes.

You can usually buy books from the vendors stores as well as from some other EBook stores on the web as well as adding your own content. One of the problems with all of these devices is that the books that you buy have DRM on them (Digital Rights Management). This means that if you buy a book, you cannot lend or give it to another person. If you do have multiple readers on your account you can put the titles on those devices. You can’t resell your books either.

Why I really like my Sony Reader!

Before I bought my first Sony Reader last August, I did a lot of looking at the specs, reading reviews online and my usual in depth research. The biggest thing that I discovered really surprised me especially for a Sony product. In what seemed to be a change from their usually Modus Operandi, Sony moved away from proprietary features with their readers. In July 08 they released firmware for their readers that added ePub support. ePub is the standard that publishing industry has adopted for EBooks. In addition the Sony also supported both non DRM’s and DRMed PDF files.

Another feature is that the Sony device had is 2 memory card slots, one for Sony’s Memory Stick Pro as well as a slot for a standard SD card. This makes the devices expandable for storage. Again kudos to Sony for not just leaving it as their own format.

An early criticism of the Sony Reader was that there was no Mac Software. That changed at the end of September this year when Sony released their EBook Library Software for the Mac.

The biggest feature for me with the Sony Reader is that I am not locked into one bookstore or vendor for my books. I can buy from the Sony Bookstore, Booksonboard.com or Shortcovers.com (Chapters Canada’s store)and many others. This is because the Sony Readers support the ePub standard that all of these bookstores use. In addition, I can also borrow books from the library because the Calgary Public Library offers eBook downloads in PDF or Epub format and read them on my reader.

In my business and hobbies, I have loads of technical EBooks, manuals and other documentation. All of these PDF, Word and txt files can be added to my Sony Reader as well. For example I have all of the Canon manuals for my Canon Camera bodies, Flashes and other gadgets. I have Microsoft Press EBooks for SBS and Virtualization on there and even PDF manuals for some phone systems that I support for clients. If I travel all of this is in one convenient spot. I also create PDF versions of all of my travel documents and confirmations and put those on the reader.

The Sony readers have excellent battery life. My PRS-505 could go a couple of weeks on a single charge and while I haven’t really used my new 600 that much (I only started using it a week ago) I find that the battery life is not quite as good as the PRS-505 (due to the touch screen) but I still get a good week and a half out of the battery reading at least an hour each day. Battery life is usually measured in page turns and the Sony REaders are supposed to be good for 7500 page turns.

Why the Kindle doesn’t excite me now!

You would think that being a gadget guy I would be excited by the Kindle being available to me, but I really think it is no big deal. The Kindle does feature 3G wireless purchasing directly from the device, but again I can live without this feature. With the ability to add memory cards to the Sony and the fact that I can store hundreds of books on there, I don’t think that I will ever get caught not having something to read on the device and I can wait until I can start up my laptop, buy and transfer books to the device. In addition the wireless radio will drain the battery faster on the Kindle especially if you are in area of poor coverage where the device may not get a strong 3G signal and will try to fall back on an Edge/GPRS connection.

Another disadvantage of having the Kindle connected wirelessly directly relates to something Amazon did this past summer. They had sold a copy of a book via their store that they did not have the rights to sell in the US. Amazon then wirelessly deleted the books all Kindles with no warning at all. While Amazon didn’t handle this very well at the start, they did make it right for all customers by replacing the title with another copy of the same book, they restored the notes people had taken in regards to the title and they also applied a 30.00 credit to the people who had purchased the book. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos apologized to all users about how the whole situation was handled. However the fact of the matter is that they can delete a book off of the devices wirelessly and not inform purchasers that they did it. This is a major concern for me.

The other thing that really disappoints me about the Kindle is the built in format support. The Kindle only supports it’s own EBook format natively as well as Audible Audio Files,MP3 audio files and unprotected (non DRM) Mobi or PRC files. The device supports unprotected PDF, Word Doc, Jpg Gif, HTML or BMP files via a conversion by Amazon. You have to send these files to Amazon via email where they are converted and sent wirelessly to your Kindle at a cost of .10 each! I am not sure if I want to send all of my camera manuals and my MS Press EBooks (some of which are 50MB + in size) via email and then get them back this way. On my Sony reader I import documents to my EBook Library software then drag and drop them onto the device or the SD card in the device to copy them over when connected via USB.

Because the device doesn’t support the industry standard, when you buy a Kindle you are locked into just buying from Amazon. You can’t borrow books from your local library and if down the road you want to change devices you would have to re buy your library. With my Sony I could move to any device that supports the ePub format down the road and still have access to my books.

Sony has also announced that they will be converting all of the books in their online bookstore to ePub and allowing purchasers to get ePub versions of books that they bought in Sony’s proprietary format free.

While I do have an Audible account, in the year and a bit since I have had my Sony Readers I have never once listened to audio on them, I find that this feature doesn’t do anything for me and just drains the devices battery life. I listen to all of my Audible books on either one of my Zunes or my iPod Touch. In addition I also have Audible software loaded on my Blackberry and can stream books to it if I really need something to do.

Same goes for picture formats. These device have displays with either 8 or 16 shades of grey and don’t do justice to photos so I don’t put any on my devices either. Another unused feature.

These are things that Sony realized when they designed the PRS-300 Pocket Edition of their reader (smaller and lighter with a 5” screen). They removed the MP3 Audio Player and removed the picture file format support from this reader. This device is strictly an EBook reader.

You can also subscribe to your favourite blogs on the Kindle but you do have to pay to get this service. The Sony does have a few blogs that you can subscribe to for free and have transferred to your reader but they are limited to about 10 of their choosing and you can’t add your own. I can use Google Reader Mobile on my Blackberry to read blogs too.

The Kindle also offers newspaper subscriptions that can be delivered to your device daily. Again this to me is not a big deal. There are currently two Canadian newspapers available; The Globe and Mail and the National Post. I don’t read either of these papers as I find them too Toronto centric. In addition the cost is 15.00 per month for a subscription. Instead I have purchased a subscription to the E-Edition of my local paper, The Calgary Sun that is currently on special for .99 per month. I can download a copy of this paper to my laptop using their own software for offline reading as well.

There is also a limited number of Magazines that are available for purchase on the Kindle, however I do the same thing with Zinio.com except that I can read my magazines in full colour on my laptop or desktop even offline.

Sony will soon be offering a new reader called the Daily that will feature newspaper subscriptions and wireless connectivity (and will be available in Canada soon as I was told at a local Sony Style Store). No word on the price yet but I anticipate that it will be a very expensive device.

Here is another thing I just discovered while writing this post about the Kindle. Amazon may not have the rights to sell certain books to Canadians via their store. I found this out as I was trying to compare prices on Dan Brown’s latest novel The Lost Symbol. Sony sells it for 9.99 USD but I could not find it on the Amazon Store for Canadians, although it is available for 9.99 USD to Americans. To be fair, I have run into this occasionally on the Sony Store too, however it says US only in the store software and virtually every book that I had saved to my wish list that was originally US only is now available for me to purchase.

What I do find cool about the Kindle!

There is one feature that uses the wireless that is cool on the Kindle and I would love to see this on the Sony reader. It is the Whisper Sync technology. With the new software available for Kindle users (for the iPhone or iPod Touch although it doesn’t look like it is available in Canada yet) and the new Kindle for Windows software,  whisper sync will add your notes and the sync your place in books from the Kindle to the other devices with the Kindle software installed on them and connectivity. So you can start to read a book on your Kindle and then continue to read from the same place on your iPhone or PC.

Pricing

These EBook readers are currently not cheap devices. The Sony’s that have been available in Canada for a while now sell for 259.00 CAD for the 5” screened PRS-300 and 399.99 for the 6” Touch Screen PRS-600. The Kindle which is available through Amazon.com only, costs 259.00 USD + Shipping and whatever Duty and GST that you will get hit with at the border.

Pricing for books is about the same for both devices. Sony sells NYT Bestsellers for 9.99 USD and offer a number of specials on books. In addition Sony has a deal with Google and you can search and download Public Domain Books from their site.

Amazon has 360,000 books available. Pricing is similar to what Sony offers although I just found 3 books on there for 2.00 USD each that the Sony Bookstore is currently giving away on their bookstore. Most bestsellers I have found at about the same price on each store.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier in my post, if this announcement had been made a year and a half ago I would have been using the Kindle by now. But because it was not available, I stumbled onto the Sony Readers, did a lot of research and purchased one of those. Am I disappointed with my decision? No definitely not! Would I purchase a Kindle now? No I probably won’t as 90% of my EBook library is ePub format and I couldn’t read them on the Kindle. Surprisingly not being able to buy a popular book like Dan Brown’s the Lost symbol as I indicated above also makes me pause.

I will have to wait and see as to whether or not I will buy future versions of the Kindle. The biggest thing holding me back is the lack of support for the ePub format. Although I don’t see this being added anytime in the near future as Amazon developed the device to sell books through their site and adding ePub would allow you to buy anywhere!

EBook readers are still relatively new and very expensive. Some people claim that EBooks are also too expensive. We are in the early days of EBook readers now and I think as more devices and bookstores come to market the prices on the readers and the books themselves will also fall.

Some people will claim that they prefer the feel of books and wouldn’t switch to a reader and to those people I suggest that they actually try a reader! I have seen a few people switch after saying the same thing and then actually trying a reader.

I plan on reviewing my Sony PRS-600 and doing some comparisons to my old PRS-505 on this blog soon so stayed tuned to learn about the good and the bad about it.

If you still want to purchase a Kindle please support my blog and use my Amazon Link

Tools for People with Multiple Machines – Dropbox

Most people today are now starting to use multiple systems. It is not uncommon for most folks to have a desktop PC and a laptop at the same time. But is there an easy way of ensuring that data that you need is available on all of your machines? You can easily do this with a USB key, but you really don’t have to.

As a user of a couple of MacBook Pro laptops, a windows Asus net book and a primary windows desktop PC, I have found a couple of tools that I use on a regular basis that help keep my information up to date on all machines. Most of these programs work on both Macs and PCs as well. This is the first post regarding a couple of these tools.

The first tool I want to write about is a little service called Dropbox available at www.getdropbox.com.

Dropbox is a free (they also offer a paid Pro accounts) service and software combination that gives you 2 GB of space, on a free account, to store and sync data between machines and to the web. Once you sign up for an account at the site, you then install the client software on your PC or Mac. There is even an application for the iPhone or iPod Touch. The software creates a folder in your My Documents folder called My Dropbox. Any files that are saved or moved into these folders are then synchronized to your Dropbox account on the web.

Once you install the software on multiple machines, when each computer connects to the Internet, the files in the My Dropbox folder get synchronized to and from the website.

Right now this is one of the most important pieces of software that I am using. I store documents that I may need in my dropbox folders (I have created a hierarchy of folders under that one folder) and I have access to these files from every one of my laptops and or desktop. In addition by going to the Dropbox site I can also access my files from any Internet connected machine.  You can also store photos, software programs virtually any type of files in your Dropbox account.

Another feature of Dropbox is that you can share files with family, friends and business associates. All you have to do is set up sharing via the web site (for a particular folder) and send the URL to whoever you want to share the file with. If they update the file or add files these can also be synced with your machines.

If you need more space a Dropbox Pro account costs 9.99 USD per month and you get 50GB of storage. If that is not enough, you can sign up for 100GB plan for 19.99 USD.

Right now running my own business in addition to being a soccer coach and member of our club’s board of directors, Dropbox allows me to move around and always have the information that I need wherever I go. For my uses the 2GB is just fine right now.

If you want to sign up for a free account please use the following link to do so. By using my link you will get an additional 250 MB of monthly storage as well as giving me an additional 250 MB of storage. https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTEyMTkwNTk.

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks for more of the tools that I use to ensure that all of my data is synced up between multiple machines.

Upgrading your Shaw HD PVR

I was searching the web recently trying to figure out how to move recorded content from my Shaw HD PVR to my DVD recorder via firewire. While searching I saw that many Shaw users were indicating that their Motorola HD PVRs had received the firmware that enabled the eSata port on the back of their boxes. More searching indicated that the while the firmware could activate the port it was not yet active. Forum posts indicated that Shaw had told several people that the ports would be activated soon.

Last week while checking out the Shaw site, I saw that the Shaw was now selling a PVR expander for 200.00 CAD. This PVR expander is a Western Digital external 1TB eSata drive. I called Shaw to find out if you needed the Shaw PVR expander or could you use any external eSata drive.

Update November 13, 2009 – I just found out that Shaw has dropped the price of their PVR Expander to 150.00 CAD. TIt looks like they now have the Western Digital drive and a Seagate Drive Available.
I was told that you could use any drive, and that the eSata ports on the Motorola boxes were globally enabled at the end of October.

I ran down to Memory Express (http://www.memoryexpress.com) where I picked up a Velocity external USB/eSata enclosure and a Seagate 1 Terabyte drive for 119.00.
Once I got home it took me about 15 minutes to install the drive in the enclosure and then another 5 minutes to plug it into my Shaw box’s eSata port and get it powered up. When I fired up the Shaw box it indicated that I was not authorized to have an external drive. I 10 minute call to Shaw Technical support and the enabled the port on my box and rebooted it.

When the box came back on it indicated that the drive was not formatted for the PVR and did I want to format it? I indicated yes and within a couple of minutes I flipped to the PVR menu. Sure enough all of our old recordings were there however there was a nice number 0% of space used. we have since recorded several shows and space is no longer an issue.

So I upgraded the box in less than half an hour with a new external drive and now we don’t have to worry about space. I haven’t tried this yet but I should be able to plug in yet a different eSata drive if I ever need more space. I should be able to swap between a couple of drives over time.

Shaw indicated that they wouldn’t support a drive other than the one they are selling however it is a very easy procedure. One problem with the Velocity enclosure is that it is a little noisy compared to the Western Digital firewire enclosure I have but it is not too bad. If you are looking at a little quieter solution Costco in Calgary is selling a 1 TB external drive with USB, Firewire and eSata for 159.99. So it is still 40.00 cheaper than the Shaw drive. See below for updates. There is not really much to performing this upgrade. If your port is not activated it is a simple call to Shaw support asking them to activate it which requires a box reboot and you lose your programming guide and menus for a short period of time, but it truly is a plug and play install.

I have read that the largest drive supported is 1 TB but I haven’t confirmed that as of yet but better to stay with the 1 TB size. It will give you significantly more recording space than the default 160 GB drive that comes with the box.

Important Update November 19th, 2009

I have been reading the forums and have discovered a few things about upgrading your Shaw PVR with an external hard drive enclosure.
1) There is a problem with external enclosures that feature a sleep or low power setting (most of the desktop style drives from Western Digital and Seagate). These drives will go to sleep and not work with the PVR. The lower costs enclosures don’t do this nor do the dedicated PVR Expanders. I would suggest staying away from the Costco WD drive mentioned above.

2) There is a known problem where your Motorola Box will not be able to track space on the external drive and will always register at 0% full. Some people have had Shaw fix this by resetting their boxes several times however another reset (even a firmware upgrade or a power failure will reset this down to 0 again). When the box starts tracking again it will ignore what content is on the drive and start counting at 0 again not indicating how much space there is. To check you use the diagnostics. Power off your box and power it on hitting select immediately, go to PVR diagnostics and use option 13. The first two numbers on each drive will tell you space available on the drive in GB. Motorola will have to release new firmware to connect this and it looks like it might be spring of 2010 before seeing it. This happens with all drives attached.

3) If your PVR box is connected to your TV via an HDMI cable, some people have reported that they do not see the format option. Connect your PVR via component or composite cabling to the TV  to set up the drive

4) Once a drive is connected to the PVR it cannot be swapped. Contents are encrypted and tied to the box they are connected to. Swapping drives will not work as you will not be able to get your old content back after changing external drives.

5) The enclosures that Shaw sells contain special drives designed to record video. These are non error correcting drives (unlike desktop drives). I have had no issues with my EC drive but some people have reported video and audio dropouts in recorded shows and this can be caused by built in error correcting on the drives. With the lower price being offered by Shaw on their expanders (in addition to a 3 year swap warranty) I would suggest that these drives are the best way to go. I may soon be switching my drive to one of the Shaw Expanders.

Download the Pictures from your Camera!

I recently saw a tweet on Twitter that reminded me of a very important thing. Just because you have a large memory card in your camera, make sure you get into the habit of taking your pictures off your digital camera every time you use it!

I’ll get back to the tweet later as it reminded me of a situation I found myself in a few years ago.

One thing I tell people when they are buying a new camera is don’t just buy the largest digital memory card you can find (or your camera supports)! My feelings are that you would be better off with 2 smaller cards than one large one! There are a couple schools of thought on this out there with some people saying that you risk dropping a card when you are trying to change them, while others say don’t put all of your eggs in one basket (or your pictures on one card). If you do use multiple cards make sure you flip the used card over in its case or the wallet. This way you won’t accidentally erase the cards.

I myself use 4, 4 GB  SanDisk Extreme III cards for my Canon 40D body and 2 Lexar Professional 8 GB cards for my Canon 5DMKII. There is usually one card in each camera and the rest are in their plastic cases in a Memory Card Wallet. I also keep my older 1 GB and 2 GB cards for additional storage.

Regardless of what size card you use, make sure you are taking the photos off on a regular basis. If I am using my cameras over a weekend, either Sunday night or Monday all of the cards are ejected, backed up and removed from the card.

One thing to note is that while if you are buying decent brand name cards, while it doesn’t happen often, these cards can go bad too. When and if they do you might not be able to access some of the data so if your pictures for the last two years are on there they will be gone too. What about if you accidentally format the card by pushing a wrong button on your camera?

How many times have you run into this scenario (I see it all of the time); you are out at an event taking pictures and suddenly there is no more room in your card. Now you have to make a decision of what pictures of Aunt Sally or other relatives that you can delete without feeling the wrath of your spouse in order to make room to take pictures at the event you are at. Sure you can go to the local convenience store and buy another card (although you will pay a little more) or it may not be that convenient! In the meantime how many shots are you missing because you are editing your pictures on the LCD screen on your camera!

Another tip is to edit your pictures as you go and if you have some bad shots, delete them right away.

Like I said I was encouraged to write this post after seeing a tweet from someone I am following on Twitter. Apparently after a day of a family event at the Dinosaur Museum the digital camera was lost (or stolen) and not only were the pictures from that day gone but a friends Mexican Family vacation photos were also gone. You never think it could happen to you but this is the story that it reminded me of!

My wife and I were on our first cruise in September 2006 for our 15th anniversary. When we got on board the ship and got our cabin, I pulled my camera out before leaving port and as we were exploring I started taking pictures. Then I noticed that my batteries were running low. Because I was using a battery grip with I went to charge one of the batteries right away. It was at that point that I noticed that although I had pulled out my battery charger, I guess I didn’t pack it! So I decided that I would use my wife’s point and shoot until we hit our first port (Key West, FL) and I could buy a battery charger. I also thought I would be able to borrow a charger from someone on the ship but most of the passengers were Nikon shooters and the Canon camera owners I found had different models and batteries.

So I used my wife’s Canon A540 point and shoot camera for the first two days of the cruise and got pictures of people we met on board, dolphins that were beside the ship as we were pulling out of port and a few Water Spouts we saw in the Gulf of Mexico!

When we got to Key West, I found a Radio Shack and got a universal battery charger and went on my way. I downloaded the pictures from my DSLR to my laptop every night  while we were on the cruise. I didn’t think of doing it with the Mrs’ point and shoot camera during the week because there was plenty of space on the card.,

One the Friday night of the cruise my wife went back to our cabin because of a migraine and I took her camera with me to meet some friends. I attended the on board show and grabbed a coffee then went back to check on my wife. At that point I realized that the camera was no longer in my pocket! I immediate went back to the lost and found at the purser’s desk and the theatre were I was sitting. No one had turned in the camera and it was not in the theatre. I checked continuously at the lost and found for the next two days and the camera was never turned in!

We weren’t upset by the loss of the camera but I was more upset that I lost a number of really good pictures that were on there. Those can’t be replaced but the camera can!

Ok you may say that you are careful with your camera and you won’t lose it, but what if you fall into water (or drop the camera). What if your bag get’s stolen? If all of your pictures are on the card inside the camera those could all be gone.

So what can you do. First of all get into the habit of downloading and saving your pictures to your card after most uses of it. That way when you go away your card is empty. Alternatively buy a couple of smaller cards and switch them daily or every two days. If you own a laptop you could always take your laptop with you on your vacation and download the cards there (don’t forget a card reader or USB cable).

Some people may want to take a laptop with them on vacation and there still are a few solutions out there. You can get a Netbook Laptop. These are typically sub 400.00 10” or smaller laptops running Windows XP or Linux (and soon Windows 7). Be careful to ensure that there is ample storage space on these machines as some of them come with 8 or 16 GB Solid State drives and may not be large enough to hold a couple of your cards. I used an Asus 1000H on my cruise last year and it comes with a 160GB drive so I was able to store photos on there (I also copied all photos to an external Seagate 160GB USB hard drive, but that is my paranoia). In addition you can use these little machines to do email, web surf, Skype and virtually everything you can do on a full sized machine.

Understandably some people would not want to take a laptop with them on holidays (I need one for my own business purposes) so what can they do?

Well there are several things.. Some MP3 Players will allow you to download from a digital camera to the spare storage space on the device (I had a 60 GB Creative Zen Vision that could) and there are a few other devices that could.

The lowest price device I have is a small 40.00 box that allows you to hook a card reader (or digital camera) up to one side and a USB key to the other and hit the transfer button. This will move all photos from one device to the other. It operates on 4 AAA batteries and while it is a little slow does it jobs.

There are also several other devices that Pro and Amateur Photographers use for infield backup. Epson makes a couple of devices that while are expensive (480.00 CAN +) have LCD screens and built in slots for downloading and viewing images. There is a product called the SmartDisk Photobank that is the same idea but does not have an LCD screen for viewing images on. This device is limited to 40GB of space and sells for about 160.00 CAN. There is also the Digital Foci that is almost the same except with a larger internal drive (250GB) as well as a larger price 230.00 CAN. B and H Photo sells some devices starting at around 100.00 USD.

I recently picked up a new Hyperdrive  Colorspace UDMA  enclosure from a company called Sensuz Media in Toronto. This company had one unit left in stock and I also found that they were the lowest priced in Canada. I purchased the empty enclosure as I had 3 160 GB Notebook hard drives kicking around the house here and this is one of the few products that allow for Hard Drive upgrades (in fact you can get it with up to a 500GB Hard Drive). The price was 289.00  + Shipping and Taxes, and I had it in a week. I took an old 160 GB Sata Drive off the shelf, opened the enclosure, slid the drive in, closed the enclosure and turned the device on. It formatted the drive and was ready to go!

I haven’t had much of a chance to test the device as my wife took it with her for her annual trip to Winnipeg, but in my first test I downloaded a 4GB Sandisk card (about 3.5 GB used) in 2.5 minutes. In addition the device has a colour LCD screen that photos can be viewed  on. There are slots for SD (6 in 1) and CF cards on the device, a replaceable rechargeable battery (claimed to be good for 250GB of data transfer), an AC adaptor, USB cable and soft case in the box. I had it working in 5 minutes after opening the box (drive installation included). All you do is pop a card in, hit backup and wait for it to be done. The data is even checked after copying!

When I get the device back next week I hope to do some further testing on it with different cards etc, but I can see this as a device that almost everyone in my family will be asking to borrow when they go away! Watch here for a more detailed review soon.

I hope that I have explained just how easy it is to lose your pictures just by not removing them from your digital camera’s memory card. While removing them helps you should also be sure to make sure you have a backup plan in place for these photos while they are on your computer at home! I have already written several posts here on backing up your home PC and even how I, a computer guy, recently lost a folder of pictures on a fairly new hard drive because I hadn’t started backing up that folder yet! Just do a search here on the Blog for backups.

Didn’t Follow My Own Rules!

Well yesterday I didn’t follow my own backup rules and got burned! On my main desktop I had a 500 GB Seagate drive connected via an eSata dock to the system. I was trying to copy files to this drive (an XP CD and SP3) to make a bootable XPSP3 CD for a client when I started to get drive errors!

Eventually I couldn’t access the drive at all. I tried several things to get access to the drive including several data recovery software packages and had no luck. While most of the data on this drive was backed up folders or data that I had backed up in another location, there was one folder containing pictures that I had shot of both my son’s and daughters soccer teams in various games and tournaments this season. In total there was about 3500 photos there. Unfortunately I didn’t back up this folder anywhere (against my own rules)!

Regular readers will know that I am an Adobe Lightroom user and luckily I didn’t store the catalogue for these photos in the same folder (they are on my main drive and yes these are backed up regularly to my various NAS devices).

I opened the Lightroom and could see that I had the previews for the images in the database, and so I searched the web to see if these could be extracted to jpg files. I ran across this post http://lightroomsecrets.com/2009/05/recover-lost-images-with-lrviewer/ which in turn led me to this software http://basepath.com/ImageIngester/LRViewer-info.php. I downloaded the software, installed it and was able to save all of the preview images as jpg files. Earlier today I found that my favorite Lightroom plugin author also has a similar plug in on his site that is available here http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/preview-extraction.

While these are lower resolution files than what I originally had at least for posting to the web and allowing the parents to print 4 x 6 images they will be fine. Another thing I noticed is that not all of the preview files were full sized. Most of the images that I had marked for export were in a larger size however there are a few images that were a little smaller.

Thanks to these two tools, I was able to get back some of the images that I wanted to share with others.

All in all I learned my lesson yet again. I will remember this problem and have already set up MS Sync Toy to run as a scheduled task on my system and backup all photo related folders to my Drobo on the DroboShare or my HP WHS.

Once again I hope that this is a lesson learned for anyone about how easily it is to lose data if you don’t back up properly!

Use Your Blackberry GPS as a Golf Aid!

When GPS devices started showing up for golfers, I seriously considered getting one to help improve my game. Then I looked at the cost of most (300.00 +) and decided that I had been a member of my own course long enough and I could do a decent job of figuring out my own yardage.

Then last August I got my new Blackberry Bold that has a built in GPS receiver and started looking at software that I could maybe use on the golf course. I did find and try two excellent packages; IntelliGolf and GreenFinder. Both are programs that you can purchase with IntelliGolf coming in at 59.95 USD for the non GPS version and 69.95 USD for the GPS enabled (Eagle Edition) IntelliGolf also sells versions for other mobile devices. GreenFinder sells a yearly subscription for 35.00 USD and is available for Blackberries and the iPhone. Rogers Wireless in Canada also sells this as a service that you can add to your wireless plan for 3.00 CDN per month.

I downloaded GreenFinder to my Blackberry Bold and used the 5 course trial download last fall. It worked very well on my phone and I found that it was quite accurate for the yardage. You can see the distances to the front, middle and back of the green, see distances to hazards and even mark and get a distance for your shot. Currently there is a database of approximately 10000 courses online. I was quite impressed with the software when I used it and was seriously considering purchasing it.

I also tried IntelliGolf which can do a little more than just give you distances of the course. It can track your scores, keep track of side games, as well as keeping your stats. The price of the software is a onetime fee and you can download from their library of 25000 + golf courses. When I tried it my course wasn’t GPS enabled in the database and I never got around to doing it on the course itself using the software.

Recently I happened upon a free application called BB GPS Golf. I downloaded the software over the air to my Blackberry Bold and tried to find my home course (we actually have 27 holes). They did not exist in the database so I visited the web site to see how to map the courses myself and found that I could do it via their website using satellite images and Google maps. I mapped each of the nine hole course at my club simply by dragging pins on the maps from the tee to the green and using very simple instructions (although I have to say it was probably a little easier on my dual monitor system). In less than 2 hours I had all 3 nine’s mapped out and saved to the database. The next time I went to the club, I downloaded the 3 nines to my Bold selected the first 9 I was playing and off I went.

The first time i used the software I didn’t take advantage of any of the extra features found in the program (like keeping score, marking club distances etc), I didn’t even download my club distances from the site. I concentrated on checking the data for the courses I created using markers on the course. I did find that I was in most cases very accurate with the distances I think the largest discrepancy was 3 yards. I also found, just like with other GPS devices, that you had to stop and wait for the device to settle before taking a reading.

The software interface is pretty simplistic. It gives you text data to the front, middle and back of the green as well as the calculated depth. If you have input your club data on the website and download them to your Blackberry, the software will also suggest a club. When I mapped our courses I took advantage of the 5 extra fields for every hole and marked the start and end of fairway hazards as well. If you want to see a detailed image of the hole, the program has the option to view the hole on Google maps.

This weekend I played a round and actually marked some of my shots and used the score keeping feature. I had to figure out how to mark each shot but after the first mistake I made I figured it out.

To mark a shot, you press a menu button, indicate to mark location at which point the software will ask for what club you are using, hit your ball and move towards it. Once you get to your ball, wait for the unit to settle a bit, press the menu button and press end mark. The software will ask you if you hit a good, ok or bad shot. Once you answer the software will upload the data to the website under your account (or new with version 1.17 released May 18, 2009) allow you to store the information to a memory card or device memory for later uploading. This could be a worthwhile feature if you are travelling and don’t want to pay roaming charges on your data.

I checked the results of my shot marking today from my last round this weekend on the website and I was quite impressed (not with my shot making but with the software)! I was able to see the data of my good, ok and bad shots, as well I had the ability to see the shots on a map. I did notice that a few of the shots were a little off but I believe I can attribute that too two things; marking the end point of the shot before the GPS had settled and/or inaccuracy of a consumer grade GPS unit (usually +or – 3 Meters). For the most part however the information was pretty good. Another factor that was difficult to account for was wind. Out here in the west we often get high winds and the day I played it was a 1 to 2 club wind (I know because I hit my Sand Wedge 130 yards, normally it is 105 yards). I think I solved this by marking almost all my shots as OK (except for the really bad ones). Shots marked as Good and OK show up in your club stats, shots marked as bad do not.

While out of the three BB Golf GPS software packages I have tried BB GPS Golf has the fewest courses in it’s online databases, one of it’s big strengths is that is very easy to create a course yourself at the website. Currently there are just over 4200 courses in the database online and just over 2400 of them are fully mapped. As users add courses though they immediately become available to all users. Usually before I travel (and if I am planning on golfing) , I often make my decisions on where I will be playing before I leave. I will search the database before leaving and if the courses I am planning on playing don’t exist I will quickly map them. I have noticed that three of the courses that I usually play when visiting Maui are not listed so I will probably try to map those this summer in case we head out there this winter again.

While there is no formal documentation for the program, the website has some tips and tricks and there is a fairly active community with 3100 + members and a forum. The author of the software has been very good about finding bugs and adding features that are being requested. He does give away the software for free, but does ask for a small donation. I agree that if you try the software and like it, you should donate a little bit of money to the author so that he continues to develop it.

In fact I was playing a few weeks ago with someone at our club. On the second hole he asked what software I was using and within a few minutes he had downloaded and installed the software as well as downloading the courses I created and was using it himself on his Blackberry Storm!

Overall I have really enjoyed using the software and will continue to use over the foreseeable future! I like all of the features in the software the way they are now and it has been very stable running on my Blackberry Bold. True there aren’t as many courses listed but that will change as people discover the software and start mapping their own courses. You really can’t go wrong if you want to use GPS with your Blackberry  on the golf course. Even if you don’t have a GPS enabled Blackberry there are small Bluetooth GPS receivers that you can use with your Blackberry and still enjoy using this software!

You can get more information, create a free account and download the software from http://www.bbsgpsgolf.com.

I’m Sorry, I am Weak!!!

A big sorry to my Twitter followers after last night when I participated in something that can be considered Twitter Spam!

I got an email from the gang at Macheist.com saying that I could get two more applications if I sent out a Tweet with their information.

I did debate whether or not I should but given the opportunity to get free Mac Software (I will probably use one of the apps) got the better of me.

At least I waited till later at night hoping that most of my followers would have long gone to bed and not seen the Tweet!

Not only did I want the two free applications, there was another reason why I did it. With the Macheist Bundle program, the more they sell and raise for charity the more applications get unlocked. We are very close to having the BoinxTV (Sponsored Edition) application unlocked which is something that I really want to play with, so I contributed hoping to boost some sales.

In case you missed my previous post about the Macheist Bundle, it is a software bundle of Mac software applications written by Independent software writers. The bundle is available for 4 more days and if there are one or two Mac Applications in the bundle that you can use it works out to be a pretty good deal!

I purchased the bundle last year and was happy with the software I got, this year’s bundle was not as compelling for me, but there were a couple of applications I wanted to get so I took the plunge.

If you are interested in getting the bundle please consider using my referral link here so that I can get credit (and get yet another free application)! Yes I am terrible I admit it.

Thanks

Backup Primer for Home Users – Part 2 – Software

Like I said at the end of Part 1 of this post here http://sysguy.com/wordpress/?p=253, my original intention was to put everything in a single post. Then I got on about the hardware and the post would have run too long if I added the software portion on to it.

So as promised here is Part 2 of my Backup Primer – The Software!

So you have picked up a hardware device and want to backup to it. There are a couple of programs you can get that will allow you to do different types of backups. Many of these are free and can be downloaded. To make things simple I will discuss the software that should work with the hardware that you are using. I am not including the backup software here that may have come included with your external drive as these vary across manufacturers and products. These programs will probably work very well and you should take them for a test run as well.

Vista Users have a freebie!

While not officially supported in Windows Vista Basic or Vista Home Premium, there is a feature called Volume Shadow Services that are turned on and enabled by default in all versions of Windows Vista.

Shadow copy is basically a service that runs in the background on your PC and a couple of times a day takes a snapshot of your data files. In theory of you delete or change a file you can revert back to a previous version of the file later.

However the menu to see previous versions is only available in Windows Vista Business or higher. There is a way that Vista Home Premium Users can take advantage of  using a freeware program called Shadow Explorer. Here is a link to a blog post that describes the functionality in more detail as well as a link to the software download.

Be warned however that Shadow Copy is not a replacement for a good backup of your files and will not protect you against a system or OS failure only against user error.

Vista also comes with a built in backup program although only Business and higher get the full PC Image backup portion. On a Vista based PC do a search in the search bar for backup.

Windows XP home does not come with NTbackup installed by default however if you have your Windows installation disk you can install it from the CD. It is located in the valueadd\msft\ntbackup folder. Click on the ntbackup.msi file to install it. Windows XP Pro users should have ntbackup by default and is usually found under the system tools program group.

Backing up CD or DVD

This is one of the basic methods of backing up and is best suited for specifically backing up your data only. If you are using Windows XP or better you have all the software that you need built in to create CDs or DVDs of your data. Simply select the files you want to add to the disk. Right click and select Burn to CD. Once you have all the files you want selected, go to the files waiting to be burned, insert the appropriate disk in your burner then go ahead and burn your files to disk. On a Mac create a Burn folder somewhere (I usually do it on the desktop) then drag and drop the files you want to burn to the disk to that folder. When completed you can delete the files in the Burn Folder.

I suggest always making at least two or more copies of your CD or DVD backups.

In most cases on a PC, you may also have received some sort of OEM CD/DVD Burning software with your system. This software could be Nero, Roxio or some other brand. Personally I find that this software is much better than the built in Windows Disk Burning module. Usually you have better control of the burning process, the selection of files etc. But if you didn’t get software with your PC don’t worry as there is free software you can download that works very well. My suggestion for CD Burning freeware is CDBurnerXP which is available here. It works with virtually all CD and DVD burners that are recognized by the PC.

Most of the free software that comes with systems is a feature reduced version of the manufacturers full software. Nero for example offers their Ultimate Edition upgrade that does more than just burn CDs and DVDs. It can do Video editing and DVD authoring, audio editing and more. These full packages also usually include a system backup utility that will allow you to create recovery or backup disks of your system. These can work very well, however be warned even with a DVD disks, you could end up with 20 – 30 disks and a backup that takes a very long time to burn to disk. Having said that, this is better than doing nothing at all!

Backing up to Other Storage Devices

The software I will include here will work with a variety of different storage devices. Most will work with just about any storage device from a USB Key to external devices and networked attached storage devices.

One of the simplest is the Microsoft Sync Toy Powertoy. This free software utility from Microsoft is a very handy little tool. The application works by syncing a set of folder pairs so that they are identical. You simply download it and install it on your PC. After installation open the application. The first thing you want to do is use the wizard to set up a folder pair.

For example let’s say you want to back up your documents folders. In the wizard make the source folder your my documents (Documents folder in Vista) then create a folder on your external device using the software. Click on next. You will then be prompted for what type of a sync you want to do. A Synchronize (make both folders identical copies), Echo (new and updated are synced left to right deletes and renames happen on the right folder) or contribute (sync left to right, renames are kept but no deletions on left folders). To be safe you may want to use either sync or contribute to backup your files.

This is one of the utilities that I use constantly. I sync things like my accounting software data, my pictures and Lightroom Databases, my documents folders all to either my LAN attached storage devices (DNS-323 or Drobo Share) as well as external Hard drives or a folder locates on my PCs second drive. The first sync could take a little bit of time depending on the amount of data you have to sync. I try to remember to do mine about once a week as there is no way of scheduling from within the software itself. However you can use the built in Windows task scheduler to perform this feat. Here is a link to a blog that explains the instructions on how to accomplish this.

Another application that you can use is Allway sync. It works similar to the MS Sync Toy and has the added benefit that it can run directly from a USB key and automatically sync folders as soon as the drive is connected. Allway Sync is free for non commercial users with some limitations (and I had a client hit the limitation). If you exceed syncing 40,000 files in a 30 day period you are considered a Pro user and have to purchase the software for further use.

Unfortunately Mac users cannot use the MS sync toy however there are options for Mac users as well. You can use Carbon Copy Cloner that can do file backups or whole image backups, however you will need some form of attached storage device (USB or Firewire) to accomplish this. If you are using OSX Leopard and have an external drive you can use Time Machine program that is included with the OS. Time Machine is very similar to the previous versions and Shadow Copy functions of Windows Vista. On my Mac have also found some automator actions that  allow me to sync folders between external devices, folders and network storage devices. I am sure there are more programs that you can search for and find for both Macs and or PCs.

There are plenty of other back up programs that you can find that are free or very low cost. Looking at the freeware backup page of Snapfiles.com shows a fair number of applications (backup or sync programs) that can do a variety of different backup types, from creating zip files as well as other file syncing programs.

Something to note here is that most of these files won’t do backups of your email messages unless you specify them to. Backing up email is a little more difficult as you have to know where your data (messages are kept) and you usually have to be out of your email program when doing the backups. I will soon write another post about how to do email backups for the home user. For now if you want to get started right away do a Google search for instructions on how to do email backups.

All of the above software however only backs up your selected files (with the exception of Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac). Another type of backup you may want to do is an image based backup.

Image Based Backups

You may want to consider doing an image based backup of your system. What an image based backup does it basically take a snapshot of your system at a certain point in time and allow you to restore your whole system in the case of problems. There are both advantages and disadvantages about using image based backup software. These are typically the types of backups I do to external drives of client machines before I do any important work to them.

The advantage of using an image based backup is that you end up backing up all of the files on your system including some files that may be stored in folders that are different from where you normally store your files. In addition if you do run into a major problem with your system, you can restore it to your hardware without having to reinstall the OS, all of your programs and then restoring data. Another advantage of using an image based backup is that your email is also backed up at the same time (you are backing up the whole drive after all).

Some of the disadvantages are they they are typically slower and take up more storage space than a file backups. You may not be able to use your system while the backup is happening and you may have to boot via a CD or DVD to start the backup. Another problem is that you may backup problems and viruses that you may have on your system and then end up restoring it back to your system or you may run into problems if you change certain components of your hardware.

There are several commercial packages that are available including Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image or Image for Windows. All of these packages do a good job of imaging your system and several SMB Consultants use True Image Pro and server versions for imaging backups of their clients servers.  Image for Windows and True Image also include tools that allow you to restore to different or upgraded hardware as well. These programs start at about $39.00 USD (Image for Windows) and go up to $69.99 USD (Norton Ghost). Look for a feature in the program as well that can recover individual files and folders from your backups as this can come in very handy at times.

A free alternative that I have been using for sometime however (for client PCs and for my own hard drive upgrades) is DriveImage XML available from www.runtime.org. However they have recently changed their licensing agreement to make the program free for non commercial use only (commercial use requires a license purchase). I use Drive Image XML on my favourite recovery CD (Ultimate Boot CD for Windows) that I use religiously on client PCs. With Drive Image I can backup a system, restore just the files that I want or the whole system or use it for drive to drive imaging (I recently used it for my EEEPC 1000H hard drive upgrade).

How all of these software programs work is that they start and you indicate that you want to image your drive and where you want to image it too. For backing up your system you will usually save the backup to image files on another media source. Some of the above packages allow you to make just incremental changes (only changed files) which allows for faster backups.

For Mac users you can use Carbon Copy Cloner listed above to do the same thing and I have heard very good things about SuperDuper. Carbon Copy Cloner is donation ware and Super Duper sells for $27.95 USD.

I recommend that you do a combination of both types of backup if you have the external storage space available. Typically I only back up my own data, but for me rebuilding and reinstalling an OS on my PC is usually a better option (and fun) for me.

Offsite Online Backup

With more and more people moving to high speed broadband internet connections, offsite backup software and services are becoming more and more popular. These services typically backup your data to various datacenters around the world and store your valuable documents off site or in the cloud.

Three of the most popular of these services are www.carbonite.com, www.mozy.com and www.jungledisk.com. Carbonite and Mozy work in similar ways, you pay a fee, $54.95 USD for Carbonite or $4.95 per month or 54.95 per year for Mozy. You install the software on your PC or Mac, Select what you want to back up and the software runs copying files up to their datacenters. If a file changes, it get’s queued for backup. If your PC ever crashes you can download the files after reinstalling the software and get your files back. The prices however are per PC so if there is more than one computer in your home you have to buy additional accounts for each PC. These software programs can also be used to transfer data from an old PC to a new one.

The software that comes with Mozy and Carbonite can be set up to back up your email messages as well. Both also allow web access to your backed up files.

Jungle Disk works a little differently. You purchase the software for 20.00 USD however you can use the software on as many PCs or Macs (including a Windows Home Server Plugin) as you want. The software is basically an interface to the Amazon S3 service. Once the software is set up, you can set you an Amazon S3 account from within the software and start backing up. The S3 service (which is widely used by a large number of large websites) charges on a volume and bandwidth model. With S3 you pay $.15 per month per Gigabyte for the storage, $.10 per gigabyte uploaded and $.17 per Gigabyte downloaded. In addition you can purchase for $2.00 per month the ability to access and change your files via the web. As this model supports multiple computers (they all back up to the same S3 account) it can be cheaper than using one of the other services, but of course this depends on how much you are backing up. In addition the Jungle Disk software adds a network share to your PC do you can drag and drop files to your share any time. With Jungle Disk however you have to know where your email messages are stored in order to get them backed up.

Personally I have been using Jungle Disk for almost a year. With close to 24 GB of stuff backed up I pay on average about 7.00 per month to Amazon and my Desktop Fee to Jungle Disk. This is currently set up on 4 laptops though. I am looking forward to adding the WHS plugin soon.

All of the companies above encrypt your data so it is safe and both Mozy and Jungle Disk have business offerings. Mozy also offers a 2GB free account to home users and Carbonite offers a 15 day free trial. I did try Mozy before I went to Jungle Disk but I had issues with the software slowing down my system and I had to remove it. I can’t say that I have tried it since but have heard good things about it in the past.

Don’t rely as these services however as a sole backup solution. For one it is still slow (even with broadband) to do some backups. My largest upload to Amazon via Jungle Disk (of about 20 GB) took just over a week to do and it is slower than a USB backup to restore from. These services are ideally to protect you against catastrophic events, such as fire, theft of a laptop or complete hardware failure.

A very specialized way of backing up your photos offsite can be something as simple as a photo sharing site. For almost a year now I have been using Smugmug.com as my primary photo sharing site. My best digital photos as well as those I want to share with family and friends have been posted there. While these are not the Raw images that I keep and that have come out of my camera, they are the highest quality jpegs I can post. Should any thing happen to my storage or backups I know that I can at least recover some of my pictures from there.  In addition Smugmug is a great way of sharing your photos. If you are looking at an account please use my coupon code ( XUgaKIvXVMo0Y ) in the referred by field when signing up to save $5.00 off of your first year.

Windows Home Server

While I mentioned the WHS in the backup hardware post, I do want to mention it again here. Windows Home Server can do automated backups of all your Windows Machines to the server daily (Image backups). Once your WHS is installed, run the software CD on each PC you want connected and they will be backed up to the Home Server. If a machine crashes, boot it from the WHS CDE and you can restore from the last backup on the WHS box. If you have one of the newer HP WHS units you can also backup Mac machines, this functionality will also be added to the older HP MediaSmart servers like the EX475 soon (according to HP). Alternatively you can use Time Machine with your home server and another software application called iTime Machine installed on your Mac. Full instructions are available here.

Conclusion

While this is list is by no means everything that you can do for backing up it should at least serve as a starting point. Do you have to do all of the types of backup mentioned above? I would say no (although I do). You should though consider at the very least backing up important documents and pictures that you deem important and that you would be heartbroken to lose. Then at the very least create two copies of your backups (on a hard drive and maybe DVDs) and keep one somewhere offsite and secure.

Almost every time I work on a client PC, I ask the client whether or not they have created a backup recently and almost every time I get the same answer, no. Don’t be that person that loses all of their precious family memories and their important documents thinking it could never happen to you!  It does, hard drives fail, OS’ get corrupted and PCs and Laptops get stolen. This happens to both PCs and Macs.  Spend a little time (and if necessary money)and do a proper backup at least once every couple of weeks!

If you need assistance with setting up some sort of a backup system. Please feel free to contact us!

Great Deal for Mac Users, Macheist 3! Limited time!

Something a little different today. This is for any Mac users that read my blog. The guys and gals over at Macheist are at it again. I was introduced to the Macheist Bundle last year with version 2.0. They offer a bundle of Mac software applications for a limited time at a very low price with 25% of the proceeds going to charity. These are all full applications (usually the most current version) with full support and the ability to upgrade to new versions. This years bundle includes 12 applications some of which I am really exceited to try! This years bundle is selling for $39.95 USD.

A few of the packages applications that come in this years bundle look very interesting. In particular I am anxious to try Picturesque (a simple and fast photo editor), Kinemac (a 3D animation program), Acorn (another Mac Photo editor) , and Wiretap studio (an audio editing program). Wiretap Studio has already been unlocked for all users as the Macheist gang has already raised over $100,000.00 for charity (and at the time of this post have raised $236,625.00 for charity)!

When the bundle raises $400,00.00 another application will become unlocked called Boinx TV wich is a video broadcasting piece of sofware that I am also interested in trying out!

The bundle is only availalble for a limited time though so you have to act quickly! There are only 11 days left to purchase the bundle (by my calcualtion the bundle ends April 6th, 2009).

If you are interested in purchasing this bundle of goodies please use the following link:
http://www.macheist.com/bundle/u/197198/

If you want to make sure that you get the deal make sure that you purchase ASAP. In addition you will be signed up to recieve emails about the next Macheist. What I learned this year is that there is a pre bundle game where you have to figure out clues and you can get additional software and discounts n the bundle. This year I was able to get about $515.00 worth of software in the pre bundle games as well as $8.00 in discounts off of the bundle.

If you are a Mac user, be sure not to miss this!