Category Archives: android

Technology is great until it fails! How to back up your pictures and other files

In this age where almost everyone has some form of capturing the moment digitally; whether you have a full-on Digital SLR camera, point and click, iPod, iPhone, Android, etc. at some point you’re going to amass lots of pictures and videos.

So what would happen if the device they were on right now failed? Would you lose all your treasured files? What options do you have to backup?

Backing up your PC / Mac

There are so many options here to consider; here’s a brief run-down of the main ones:

Data Transfer Speed Cost to Implement Typically Stored Risk of Failure Comments
Optical Media (CD/DVD) Slow $ On Site Low Long term storage option; Size limitations per Disc (e.g. Single Layer DVD is 4.7GB)
Attached Portable Disk Fast $ On Site Moderate Good for quick archival; risk of disk failure
(in unit) RAID array (non-NAS) Fast $$ On Site Low Provides protection, but risk to data if the entire unit is affected
Single NAS drive Medium * $ On Site Moderate Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk of single disk failure
RAID NAS Drive Medium * $$ On Site Low Central location for everyone on a home network to backup to; risk should the location catch fire, etc.
Free Cloud Offerings Medium * Cloud Low Space is typically limited; very little options in syncing files
Paid Cloud Offerings Medium * $$$ Cloud Low Best compromise  of accessibility, speed, risk and flexibility; Most expensive option long term

Some terminology while we’re here:

NAS = Network Attached Storage; think of it like a portable hard drive that you can put in your home network and anyone on your network can see it

RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks; most home PCs have one hard drive. if that fails then it’s game over. Some PCs are configured to allow other hard drives to be added which mirror the main hard drive. This doesn’t increase your hard drive space – instead, if the main hard drive fails, you have at least one disk with a backup of your data which you can run from. To read more about RAID, check this wiki article out.

Backing up isn’t just once and done

Backups typically are one of three types. When you are looking to backup your files, you might want to think about using backup software to help automate it, and so you’ll need to consider the following

  • Full – A complete backup of all files is taken each time
  • Incremental – A full backup is taken and then only changes are backed up after that point, resulting in multiple incremental sets of backups
  • Differential – A full backup is taken and then only changes are taken; each time a backup occurs it overwrites the last differential backup and takes all files updated since the full backup. This results in only two backup files being present at any one time.

Many backup services offer a variety of these. To me, differential seems the one I’d pick because in the event of a disk failure, I’m only having to work with two files, otherwise I’m maintaining many files with incremental (unless I’m on the ball with when I do a full backup).

The Need for Speed

When you’re backing up gigabytes of files you want it to happen fairly quickly – if you’re using something like a DVD or slow internet connection it’s going to take a while. That could be a PITA.

What’s the best option for me?

Generally using Cloud for backups is the best compromise – if all you’re doing is backing up and don’t want others to have access to the files. Otherwise, a NAS RAID drive might suit better. Both have pros and cons – think about speed, access, cost and finally – if you’re house were to catch on fire, would you save your RAID NAS drive?

Here’s a comparison of Cloud services to consider. Carbonite, Mozy and Backblaze are typically the most popular premium services, so also check out this.

What about my cell / mobile phone backups?

iPhones have iCloud and iTunes to help with that. You can sync your files to either / both and take care of it.

Android has a slightly different set of options; You can sync your contacts and pictures with Google directly (including Google Picassa) or you can buy some of the apps out there for it. TechHive has a great article on this very topic.

Conclusion

We all need to consider our backup strategy – and have one in place. It also goes hand in hand with being able to organise your files so that if you need to refer back to them, you can. How many times have you seen the folder “DCIM” with image names such as “IMAGE0012.JPG”? Technology still has to solve the ability to catalogue digital images effectively!

So, what do you use for backups?

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The State of the Smart Phone Union – iPhone 5, HTC, Motorola, Samsung et al

The iPhone 5 is launched 21 September 2012. It is anticipated to out-sell the iPhone 4S, yet reading the netisphere there’s some negative press out there about the launch – somehow, despite the leaking of multiple parts ahead of time, it wasn’t revolutionary enough.

Whilst it didn’t blow away the competition, it did provide enough reason for some to upgrade their phones – faster processor, widescreen, better construction and updated camera to name the main ones (IOS6 is a given and available for other models). Consequently the general reaction from Apple Fanbois was to either cry in their latte, blindly accept their given lot, or to critique the product for not being evolutionary enough (e.g. missing NFC). Droidbois meanwhile were laughing in their Mountain Dew because the hardware specs are a little underwhelming compared to many of their handsets.

To me this was all somewhat irrelevant. In my opinion, we’ve reached a plateau in smart phone hardware. It’s not a roadblock, just a natural pause in the way of tech things that let’s the market stabilise and then move on.

The Differentiator

The difference here is the software implementation – the iPhone 5 hardware is comparative enough with its’ Android competitors (namely Samsung Galaxy SIII, HTC OneX and Motorola Razr) to not really care. Without getting into a debate about the Apple custom processor vs OOTB Snapdragon et al., the software is going to be the thing that makes the difference for many.

When you look at the comparison of IOS vs Droid apps, there’s very little difference – there are some outliers (for example, iPhone has Hipstamatic and Siri whilst Droid has Swype and a swathe of apps that let you customize your android experience – to name but a few). It’s these differences that will drive consumers to the platform – and they’re looking for integration both at an app level, but also to their life. I’ve seen some beautiful apps but their function is limited (Solar for example), and to be honest, I’d rather have something a little more intuitive that could give me more insight into the weather and what it means for me.

So whilst the debate will rage on about IOS vs Android, i’m looking to the app developers to really push each platform and bring true value. In turn they will also push the limits of the hardware which will drive the handset manufacturers to go to the next evolution (or revolution – Google Glasses anyone?). That in turn will put pressure on the batteries, cameras, building materials,etc to go to that next level.

So when is iPhone 5S out again? 🙂

Review of HTC OneX (AT&T USA)

A potentially great phone let down by under performing battery performance and lacklustre camera.

HTC OneXWhen HTC announced the OneX, it was with much anticipation. A sumptious screen, contemporary profile, enhanced audio and a dedicated image processor for taking great pictures. It says here.

A large but friendly giant

HTC have delivered on some fronts. From an ergonomic perspective, the OneX works pretty well. It fits comfortably in the hand and can be slipped into a gentleman’s trousers (pants for the colonials) without being annoying.

It’s rather generous dimensions work well from a viewing perspective – 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.7 inches (~312 ppi pixel density). Comparing the display against an iPhone Retina showed little difference in definition. However when it comes to screen brightness, it does not quite measure up to the iPhone – and when diagnosing battery issues (later), the screen was the biggest cause of battery drain.

Camera – Disappointing

My first foray into using the camera was an outside location (evening light); the result of the camera left high red tones, particularly on people. We had a DroidX also taking photos, which turned out fine. After adjusting the white balance from “Auto” it helped resolve the problems somewhat, but they still weren’t as expected. If you want to see how the issue appeared, click here. Clearly picked up the red dress and overcompensated.

Later I was using the camera again (inside the house) and felt the camera was again overcompensating and really pushing the yellows. So to settle it once and for all, I took the same photograph with an iPhone 4 and the OneX. The results are here – I think the iPhone naturally tweaks the shot to up the saturation and brightness.. but it worked for me. I also took some other comparison shots – each time the iPhone got the better across the board.

On the plus side the ability to take shots rapidly was amazing – it outperforms many other phones in this perspective – and the ability to take a shot whilst simultaneously recording a video demonstrates the power of the dedicated image processor.

Speaking of video, it actually performed better in the white balance department. Weird.

The battery is so draining

Battery life is a make-or-break-it thing for me. A phone must be able to last a day (or thereabouts) for it to be acceptable. Enabling 4G and GPS on the OneX would eat battery power faster than a large gentleman in a pie shop. There’s something fundamentally wrong with the way HTC have handled 4G – even with full bars on AT&T it would be a massive drain (along with the screen).

As mentioned, when looking at where power was being used, Android reported the screen being the prime consumer – this with brightness turned down, a black wallpaper and some battery management software (and no Live Wallpaper, though it is cool). If this is what it takes to keep battery use down, what’s the point of having such a big screen.

It’s not all bad

Android ICS with HTCs Touch works really well; the widgets work, the live wallpaper idea works well, screen scrolling is smooth, everything works without delay, GPS discovery is very quick and when 4G is enabled, it’s fast enough (but not blindingly fast).

I have a feeling that perhaps I may have had a faulty unit due to the poor battery performance – but also that HTC Touch isn’t quite mature enough and there’s more work to be done. I would be very interested to see how Android Jelly Bean performs on the unit – I have a feeling that natively, it would really exploit the power of the OneX.

In Summary

I could *maybe* forgive the camera, but the battery life is the thing that turned me off. I went to an old iPhone 4 and the difference was night and day. Yes, the iPhone doesn’t have such a powerful processor, 4G, nor the same screen dimension which needs to be powered – but then perhaps that’s why Apple took such a move; you don’t always need the biggest, fastest behemoth. Just the best for the job.

… and yes, I’ll probably get the next-gen iPhone now. Thanks to HTC.

Fix: DroidX won’t show characters in a text / SMS message

If you own a DroidX then this might happen to you with the current implementation of the Moto/Google software; when you’re typing a text message, the screen will either not update, appear incorrect or if you’re typing away and the on-screen keyboard goes away.

Having tried the official method of going through Verizon support which resulted in a new (refurbed) phone, only 3 weeks later for the same issue to recur, I realised this must be something else. The good news it is, and is easily fixed!

From your DroidX home screen….

  • Go to Settings > Applications > Manage Applications
  • Click on “All Applications”
  • Find “Multi-touch keyboard”
  • On the next screen, under the “Storage” section, click “Clear Data”
  • That should resolve the issue seen.