Cabin

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Here’s a short film I put together to get the kids excited about sleeping in the cabin.

The End of Google+ As We Know It

And I feel fine.

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“It’s no secret that Google+ didn’t quite work out the way Google envisioned….  The focus of Google+ – which still isn’t quite dead – will be on ‘becoming a place where people engage around their shared interests, with the content and people who inspire them.'”

via Google Stops Requiring Google+ For Services Like YouTube And Moves Features Out.

Google+ as an aggregation of all things Google was dead on arrival, because people don’t want to use or be conscripted into all things Google.  But that doesn’t mean Google+ has nothing to offer.  The code is solid, the interface is plenty usable, and it provides a ready-made platform for communities.  For example, David Sparks and Katie Floyd have created quite a Mac Power Users community on Google+.  There’s also a community for Text Expander snippets.

Google may have envisioned Google+ as the new Facebook, but it may end up being the new Google Groups, which was the new newsgroups.  Anyone who’s been around the internet as long as I have remembers the fun, frontier-like days of the newsgroup.  Many of us learned our way around the internet via various newsgroups.

So maybe Google+ won’t be quite as all-encompassing as Google planned.  Maybe it will just be a platform for interest-based communities to gather and share ideas and information.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I feel good about it.

Apple Music vs iCloud Photos

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“iCloud Photos gets right everything that Apple Music gets wrong.”

via Daring Fireball, discussing a post by Marco Arment.

Amen.  It’s hard to believe the same company that makes Photos and iMovie also makes iTunes and its bolted-on appendage, Apple Music.

One of the reasons Photos is so, so much better than Apple Music is because iPhoto, for all its issues, was a pretty awesome app to begin with.  Yes, Photos is a “new” app, but my point is that Apple already had photos figured out.  Apple has never had music figured out, beyond, you know, the selling it part.  Steve Jobs wrangled the music industry, but the corral is still a hot mess.

And there’s the fact that gazillions of people are buying gazillions of songs and movies and whatnot, making Apple gazillions of dollars, and they are doing it with iTunes.  Changing out the storage room is one thing.  Remodeling the storefront is another thing altogether, sadly.

Backup Update

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I wrote about my computer data backup plan a few months ago, noting that:

1.  any backup plan is better than none,
2. most tech-savvy people who backup over think it and go overboard, usually with redundancy overkill, and
3. all you really need to back up are photos, music, data files (documents, scans, etc.), and videos, but you should have a safety net.

I have never restored a complete hard drive from a backup, because on the rare occasions I’ve lost a drive, I’ve taken the opportunity to do a clean install of the operating system, and imported only the stuff I still needed.  Yes, everyone should do a complete system backup, but primarily for redundancy and as a safety net.  I backup both my Mac and my MacBook Pro to a Synology NAS device, via Time Machine.  Again, I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d restore an entire drive, but it’s so easy to do a Time Machine backup, and it’s good to have a full (and redundant) backup, just in case.  Another approach would be to clone your hard drive to network device or an external USB drive via Carbon Copy Cloner (a great and easy to use app).

But when I need to find something I’ve lost, the first place I look is my content-specific backups (e.g., the backups of certain files, not the Time Machine backup of the entire hard drive.).

The migration to the cloud is changing the conventional wisdom on backups, making some traditional backup techniques unnecessary, and providing many options to put data in many places.  It’s far too easy these days to scatter your digital bits all over the internet, but it’s better to be deliberate about how and where you backup your data.

Let’s take a look at the categories of things to be backed up, because that will show what’s easy and what’s not, what’s taken care of more or less automatically as we migrate to the cloud, and what needs help getting there.

Photos: There are a million ways to automatically backup photos to the cloud. DropboxApple’s Photos app (which is what I use), Google Photos, Flickr, Amazon, etc.  So photos are easy- just pick one and stick with it.

Music: There are half a million ways to back up your music to the cloud, assuming you own some of the music you listen to and haven’t gone all-in on streaming (most of my music is played via Sonos playlists comprised of Spotify streaming tracks (lots of good music can be heard via that link) and some old, hard to find stuff I have on the network.  The cloud-based choices for storing owned music include Amazon, Apple Music, and Google Music.  I use Google Music to store in the cloud and access my owned music, and so should you.  It will accept a huge library (50,000 song limit) and it’s easy to access it via computers and devices.  Mac people are genetically predisposed to try to make the Apple solution work, but Apple Music is a train wreck, so avoid it for now.

Data files: Now it gets a little more complicated.  There are lots of options, but you have to know where your documents are, so you know what folders to back up.  Mac users can keep documents, spreadsheets and other iCloud enabled  files in iCloud (that’s what I do), but there are always lots of other files that don’t naturally fit into the Pages/Numbers/Mac app iCloud workflow (for me, most notably song files for new songs I’m working on and scanned documents, as I’ve been paperless for close to a decade).  I back that stuff up to my Synology NAS via Carbon Copy Cloner.

I don’t want to gloss over an important issue mentioned above. To do an effective targeted backup of data files, you have to know where they are.  This means creating, managing and being disciplined about the folder and storage structure on your computer.  By way of example (any logical approach will do), here’s mine.

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The circled folders contain subfolders where I keep all of the associated data files.  The stuff in there comprises the data I want to backup, one way and another.

Everyone who uses a Mac should be syncing their contacts and calendar via iCloud, which will take care of backups for you.  To the extent you aren’t keeping your contacts and calendar online via one service or another, (a) why in the heck not?, and (b) make sure the associated data files are located in one of the data folders backed up as described above.

Videos: Here comes the hard part.  Videos are both important (especially home movies, etc.) and large (I have 600 GB of home movies).  Unlike photos and music there aren’t a horde of free or close to free options to automatically and effectively back them up.  Previously, I backed up my movies to Amazon Glacier, via Arq (see the prior post for more details).  This worked fine, and was cheap. I’ve never had to recover videos from the backup, but I know that one of the trade-offs with Amazon Glacier is the delay and time it takes to recover data. When Amazon released Amazon Cloud Drive– unlimited cloud space for $60 a year, that seemed like a perfect place to store backup files.  $60 a year is even cheaper than Glacier, and, unlike Glacier, Amazon Cloud Drive stores your files in their native form and in their native folder structure.  And it lets you access them and view the ones that are 20 minutes or shorter via its web interface. When Arq released an update that supports Amazon Cloud Drive, I decided to give it a try.  I switched my Arq preferences to back up my Movies folder to Amazon Cloud Drive.  A week later (600 GB takes a while to upload), my videos are residing happily on Amazon Cloud Drive.

In sum, do a complete back up of your computer for redundancy, let the cloud-enabled app you choose handle your photos automatically, put your owned MP3s in Google Music, and organize and backup your other data files to either Amazon Cloud Drive via Arq or an external or network drive via Carbon Copy Cloner.

Easy peasy

Here’s Why I Refuse to Consider Social Media a News Source

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I’ve said for years that newspapers and magazines are obsolete media.  By the time it’s in a paper form, I either already know about it or don’t care about it.  I’m not kidding, the combination of caring about news and then getting it from a newspaper the next day seems like a logical disconnect Evel Knievel couldn’t jump over on a rocket bike.  I find the evening television news to be only slightly less untimely.

But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to get my news from social media.  The screen capture above, just taken from my Facebook page, explains why, perfectly.

The fact that some football player’s new tattoo is in a list (of 2 items) with the increasing tension in the Middle East tells me that what I thought was only the funniest movie ever made may also have been an accurate prediction of things to come.

If you want to know where I do get my news, there are three primary sources:

1. Rancho DeNada Times, the real time news aggregation page I created years ago.  I can quickly scan the headlines and see if there is anything I want to know about.

2. My RSS feeds, via Feedly.  I subscribe to Google News, The Atlantic, and NPR.

3.  NPR audio, via XM radio if I’m driving or via my Amazon Echo if I’m at home.

If there’s something major happening, I’ll tune into CNN via the internet or on my TV, but that’s a rare occasion.

American culture is celebrity-obsessed, serially focused on the media created drama-of-the week, and attention deficient.  As such, it’s important to decide where you get your news from.  Otherwise, your experience may start to look like this:

Split View in OS X Photos

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“In the Photos app, there’s a useful button that I don’t think a lot of folks know about.”

via OS X Photos: Using Split View – The Mac Observer.

Count me as one of those folks.  One of the many joys of being a Mac user is the never-ending supply of little tips and tricks you learn.

Apple Music Is Missing Some Notes

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“Apple Music is just too much of a hassle to be bothered with. Nobody I’ve spoken at Apple or outside the company has any idea how to fix it, so the chances of a positive outcome seem slim to none.”

via Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it.

Here’s my conclusion.  Apple Music is geared towards young people who grew up in an era when few of their friends bought, listened to or cared about the entire album experience.  They just want to hear music they like, and maybe save (e,g,. buy, add or steal) a song or two here and there.

That may work out OK for lots of people, but it’s not going to work for people like me who have spent decades compiling, organizing and curating a vast music library.  I find the Apple Music experience to be a jumbled mess (compare just about any screen in Apple Music to the comparable one in Spotify; I gave up on Apple Music when I realized it was going to take more time figuring it out, slogging through its interface and getting things organized the way I want than I would spend enjoying the results).  I’m not interested in “personally curated playlists,” because no persons are curating playlists of the sort of music I like (and, as I noted the other day, no personally curated playlist will ever top Pandora when it comes to finding new music).  Neither am I naïve enough to think the marketing scheme feathered up to look like a way to “connect” with artists is anything more than a new age advertising platform.  America is celebrity-obsessed, so I understand the logic behind it.

But like the rest of Apple Music, it’s not for me.