Just a quick note to say I’m going to move the site’s feed away from FeedBurner. By the looks of it there are still a few of you subscribing to me via RSS (which is great!) so if you could all update your feeds to http://www.istherefood.com/rss.xml I’d very much appreciate it. Or use the link at the top of the site.
When Amazon first launched Glacier, their super cheap alternative to S3, my immediate reaction was “when will Arq support it?”. Answer: now.
So hurrah, right? We should all ditch our Crashplans and our Backblazes and our Dropboxes, and even our S3s and move to Glacier, yes? Well, probably not.
Glacier is super cheap for storage, yes. Ludicrously cheap in fact. According to various Glacier calculators online, storing 100gb of data for a month would set me back a single dollar (at the time of writing, 62 of my shiny British pence). Currently I back up 82gb of family photos and video to Crashplan at a cost of $5 a month. So I could move that the Glacier and save a few dollars.
I could also nuke Crashplan’s Java based Mac app, and install Arq which is all lovely and native. Although Crashplan’s app allows me to not only back up my content using their online service, but also allows me to very easily perform a backup to an attached USB drive and network attached storage, which Arq doesn’t do now, and based on conversations with the developer, probably never will.
There’s another reason though. Suppose I wanted to pull that 100gb of data back from Glacier. Doing so would cost me quite a lot of money.
Glacier isn’t really geared up for retrieval of data. It’s fire and forget. You don’t want to store this pile of data that you rarely look at? Fine, throw it at Glacier. You’re unlikely to ever want it back, and if you did, you’d probably only want a sliver of it.
But with family photos, videos, mp3s, and the kind of consumer data that’s so commonly found on the hardrives of computer users today, you a) want that to be accessible for those nostalgic strolls down memory lane, b) want to know it’s safe, and c) want it back pretty damn quick if you lose it.
Thanks to the impenetrable voodoo pricing scheme that Glacier employs, it’s a little tricky to work out how much data retrieval will cost. Online calculators help, but it’s still such a dark art that I’m not entirely certain they’re accurate. Which is a problem in itself.
According to the calculators to retrieve 100gb of data in one shot would cost nearly $180. The tricky thing is, Glacier doesn’t want or expect you to pull data back in one shot, so you get a retrieval allowance. On 100gb, the retrieval allowance is something like 170mb per day, or 5gb per month. So if I didn’t mind waiting 20 months to pull back my 100gb of family photos, it wouldn’t cost me anything1.
If I wanted to pull my data back from Crashplan? I just do it. No questions asked, no costs incurred. Even better, if I want to check a specific file or photo in Crashplan, they have a pretty good iOS app that lets you access your stuff. Which is very handy, but also gives real peace of mind.
Before switching to Glacier, make sure you know it’s the right fit. As another layer of backup on an existing solution, which you’ll only ever need to rely on in the worst possible scenario, it might suit. But I’d quite like my last line of defence to be something I can prove works, and I can’t test a complete download from Glacier without incurring a huge bill. Your mileage may vary.
Regardless of whether you decide to use Glacier or not, you should have a look at Arq. It’s a great app.
My understanding of the retrieval costs could be nonsense - that’s a distinct possibility. If it is, I’d love to know, so please tweet me and tell me I’m an idiot (and explanation as to why I’m an idiot would be nice too). ↩
The other day I read a post by Federico Viticci on moving your photos from iPhoto to Dropbox as a “management app”. I’d pondered this in the past, especially when Dropbox increased everybody’s base storage amount. I’ve never committed and gone through with it though, although I have stopped using iPhoto and replaced it with managing my own folders. When photos are coming in from potentially lots of different devices, I’d rather manage them myself.
Plus, I was never a fan of iPhoto’s “would you like me to delete all these photos now, I’ve copied them all into my library, honestly I have” prompt. I just don’t trust it. I want to see the photos with my own eyes, before I let an app delete them forever.
After Federico’s post, Stephen Hackett posted his own version of the approach, along with an Applescript technique for moving photos from Photostream into Dropbox. But something nagging in the back of my mind said “surely Hazel can do that?” and so I set about to see if it can.
Turns out it’s possible, and I tweeted Stephen to let him know. I thought I’d post this as a more permenant home for the solution because, well, Twitter.
I don’t use Hazel as much as a should. These days I have a Mac Mini running all the time as a server, so it makes sense to start getting Hazel to do more for me. Mail rules are another “thing” I need to get my head around, but that’s an entirely different post!
So, to Photostream and Hazel. The special sauce to make this work is an option in Hazel called “run rules on folder contents”. Photostream creates subfolders on the file system for every photo; instead of…
“\photostream\long guid based id\photo1.jpg”.
You need Hazel to dig down into each folder in the top-level Photostream folder, and treat each folder it finds as a folder to process.
To make this work I added two rules, like this:
Then the first rule is extremely simple:
The second rule is where Stuff Happens. Because the first fule contains “run rules on folder contents”, the second rule happens on each folder within the Photostream directory.
Note: the iPhone Camera Roll folder in the screenshot above is just where all my iPhone photos end up. Just to clarify any “why copy from Photostream back to the camera roll?” confusion.
This isn’t just useful for Photostream, anywhere you want Hazel to process a folder full of folders, you can use this option.
My next trick is working out how best to take two Photostreams and mash them together for archiving.
Once again the iPad Mini rumours are reaching critical mass, and once again I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about them. The question of whether Apple can do a particular thing is at this point totally redundant. From a hardware point of view, Apple can do pretty much whatever the hell they please; they have the designers, the supply chain, and the funds to build devices that surpass previously perceived limits of portable technology, and they can make a profit doing it.
A better question, and the one that Ben Brooks is the latest to ask, is this:
What is demonstrably better about a 7 inch tablet?
Bingo. Apple already sell the iPad 2 at a reduced price, and as time goes by that should become even cheaper to produce, so why not just work to drop the price of that one? What does the 7 inch form factor offer that a cheaper version of the 10 inch doesn’t?
Having used a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab for a few months, I feel qualified to weigh in on this. Because qualifications always stop people weighing in on the Internet, right? I’ve ordered Google’s Nexus 7 based on the experience I had with Samsung’s offering, despite owning the latest generation iPad. Why?
The two main reasons are portability, and preciousness.
Let’s tackle portability first. Commuting by train takes me roughly ten minutes, so I don’t bother sitting. I’ve tried to use my iPad to read on during that time, but it’s too bulky to hold one handed while I hang on to something so I don’t flatten the person next to me as the carriage bumps along. I ended up going back to using my phone to read on, which does the job. I could read on the Kindle, which is probably the best point of reference for the 7 inch form factor, but I don’t want to read a novel for such a brief amount of time. I want to hit my Instapaper queue, or catch up on my RSS.
It goes beyond the commute. Anyone that’s worked away from home on business will know what it’s like to sit alone in a restaurant night after night. Sitting with an iPad in a restaurant is pretty awkward. The smaller form factor fixes that. I’ve found the iPad is too big to use comfortably during long periods of air travel too, certainly when flying economy. It’s just too big and too heavy. Same thing in bed. I can’t comfortably sit and hold my iPad for extended amounts of time when reading in bed; it needs to be propped up on something, either my chest or the bed next to me.
Ben Brooks himself mentioned on his podcast a few weeks back that the iPad was impossible to hold while nursing his new born daughter. There’s another area where the 7 inch form factor would help. There are lots of use cases where your phone (unless you’re using something freakishly large, like a Galaxy Note) is probably too small for extended comfortable use, and your iPad is too big.
And so to preciousness. I would never, ever, under any circumstances contemplate taking my iPad to the beach with me. Not that I frequent the beach, being a pale and pasty developer type with an aversion to simple daylight let alone the sun’s scorching rays. But sand is to beautiful glass screens as Kryptonite is to Superman; it will mess him up good and proper. The iPad, despite offering superb value for its capability, is too expensive to encourage careless use. I always feel like I’m using a substantial, expensive piece of equipment that deserves to be looked after.
Did I care with the Galaxy Tab? A little, but nowhere near as much. But by the same token it felt less precarious, less delicate. I could carry it around with one hand without worrying about it slipping to the floor. Adam Lisagor mentioned something similar when he appeared on John Gruber’s The Talk Show recently: he’s not found a tablet that he felt could be carried around with there being an real risk of dropping it.
Would a 7 inch device encourage people to be less precious with their iPad, or would simply lowering the price of the existing 10 inch tablet have the same effect? A cheap 10 inch could still feel like it’s easily droppable.
It seems to me like Apple could solve a lot of the above by simply making the existing iPad lighter. Except, it’s not simple. Not by any stretch of the imagination. With the retina screen, the latest generation iPad needs a significant chunk of battery, which makes it heavier. It needs a certain kind of glass, which makes it heavier. There’s no easy way to make the current generation iPad lighter. There will be, that’s almost certain. Over time newer battery technology, better glass, maybe even a different material for the case will serve to make the iPad lighter. But not in the immediate future.
And so the simplest, cheapest way for Apple to make a lighter iPad is to make a smaller iPad, with a non-retina screen so it needs less battery and less processing grunt to power it. Maybe it serves as a test for a new case material which could ultimately make its way to the larger iPad - I seem to recall Apple tested a new kind of glass on the original Nano, much to the annoyance of pretty much anyone that owned one.
Apple can then kill a number of birds with one 7 inch stone: they overcome any objection about the iPad being too heavy (“buy the smaller version”), or too expensive (“buy the smaller version”), and they manage to offer at least something to buyers on the market for a smaller tablet.
This is precisely the reason I registered a domain short enough to give out easily. Having a surname like Woolstencroft makes for not only long addresses, but you also have to spell the surname to people at the same time. I ended up going for a domain based on my initials (DTW) but probably made two mistakes:
repeating the initials confuses people - so dtw@dtw throws people off, because they expect x@y instead of y@y.
using an less common suffix confuses people - .com and .co.uk are things people are quite familiar with these days. Something like .me.uk or .uk.net is not.
Another thing I got into a habit of doing is changing the front part of the address depending on what or who I’m giving the address to. So if I’m signing up for a WordPress mailing list, for example, I’d use email@example.com. That way if you start getting spam, you can see who shared your address because they’re all unique. I’m starting to think that’s possibly overkill these days, but it’s an old habit now.
I’d highly recommend thinking this through if you’re signing up for, or getting cheesed off with, a long email address. Bear in mind who you’re giving it out to, and how often, and you might save yourself some time and frustration by shortening it.
For many, many moons I’ve been with Be Broadband. If you’re looking for excellent ADSL2+ based broadband, I’d really recommend them. But as with all things technology, there’s always bigger, better, faster, more! Enter BT Infinity, the super fast fibre optic broadband hotness that’s creeping its way around the UK.
For months I’d enthusiastically key my postcode into the BT Infinity checker to see if it was available in my area. And for months I’d get the same reply: no. And yet weirdly, my local exchange was upgraded, so why the hell couldn’t I get Infinity?
It turns out that Infinity doesn’t work like normal broadband. It’s FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) which basically means the fibre optic pipes have to run from your local exchange to the cabinets at the end of your road. If they don’t, you can’t get Infinity, regardless of the state of your exchange.
You can’t get Infinity, but what BT have been a bit quiet about is that you CAN get fibre optic broadband. They call it BT Broadband Option 3 With Fibre, or Faster Total Broadband, depending on which way the wind’s blowing and who you speak to. The principle is this: you can have faster broadband, they won’t call it Infinity, and you won’t get full on Infinity speeds. But it’ll be, you know, a bit quicker.
In my case, their fibre option was showing estimated download speeds of 16mb, which was twice as fast as my existing 8mb with Be. So I went for it. I cancelled my Be account, signed up with BT, and scheduled the installation. As I saw it, twice as fast was worth the upgrade.
As I write this my shiny new BT connection has been in and working for almost three weeks, has been trouble free and is providing me with speeds of 37mb. So despite not getting Infinity level speeds, not being called Infinity, and not being actively sold to homes that it’s theoretically available to, this is pretty much Infinity by any other name. Infinity Lite then, if you can get your head around that.
The moral of this story? If you think you can get Infinity, but BT’s checker says you can’t, it’s worth giving them a call. Your creaky old wiring might be capable of more than you, and they, think.
It’s interesting to me that people write posts like this about the iPhone:
The iPhone is the most useful computer in the world.
Everything quoted is possible on an Android device, or some other smartphone, but it’s the Apple guys, the iPhone and iPad users, that seem to tap into the emotional aspects of owning such a powerful device.
I’ve been using an Android device for a few days now, and while I like some of the power-user (read: geek) functionality you can tap into, I don’t feel an emotional attachment like I did my iPhone.
I’ve been meaning to write something expressing the wonder of carrying such a powerful device around with you, but Chuck Skoda pretty much sums it up perfectly. Albeit with a focus on the wonder of Apple.
Maybe in a couple of weeks I’ll be waxing lyrical about my Nexus S. Somehow I doubt it.
Lately I’m detecting a bit of a shift in the way people are using the Internet to communicate their ideas. Certainly from the perspective of individual, personalised blogging.
Chris Shiflett writes that “We need a blog revival”. He talks about an “Ideas of March” concept that’s intended to rejuvenate blogging. Frank Chimero responds to that with a brilliantly written post, culminating in the advice/instruction “Go write”. This is very much in keeping with the Bring Back Blogging BBB idea I posted about a while back, coined by someone I chat with on Twitter.
Combined with that, there’s been a lot of discussion on various sites to do with Baked Blogging - that is, a blogging system that’s resilient enough to handle a massive uptick in traffic. The long story short is this: WordPress, gloriously flexible as it is, can be made to fall over on an average cheap webhost quite easily if not tuned correctly. That’s because WordPress is dynamic, it’s database driven. If you look at the address of this post, you’ll see it’s not an html page - akin to a text file on your computer - but a php page. It’s been built out of lots of little bits of data that have been extracted from a database (think big, complicated spreadsheet).
A “baked” system would create html files, that can be delivered to a browser without the server doing a lot of heavy lifting, and survive that spike in traffic. You could argue that it’s more environmentally friendly this way too, there are less wasted CPU cycles to generate the text you’re reading. That’s the practical advantage.
Marco Arment, on the Build and Analyze podcast, suggests another reason for this kind of system: you own your content. If you’re publishing to the web via text files on your computer, you’ve still got those text files after you’ve posted. It doesn’t matter if the server explodes, you forget your password, or you want to publish somewhere else. You’ve got the data on your computer or DropBox.
Another thing that Marco talks about, and something that I’ve noticed lately, is that there isn’t a fantastic way to post your writing using an iOS or Android device. There’s a WordPress app, but it doesn’t feel all that brilliant and I’ve had reliability problems with it in the past. Everyone speaks very highly about Mars Edit for the Mac, and it doesn’t feel to me like we’ve got a Mars Edit level application for mobile devices yet.
And so, I suggest to you that we need not just a blogging revival: we need a blogging reinvention. Blogging 2.0 would be an unpleasantly lazy way of expressing it.
There’s a certain type of person who’s moving away from Twitter, and recognises that some or all of their creative energies are being sapped by that platform. They want to express their ideas in greater details than Twitter allows. They want to create content on whatever platform they like, and be unconstrained by the particular software that they’re using. Like Twitter, this new kind of blogging should allow and encourage any kind of client.
The cost of entry should be low. It should be personalised, single user focused, and transparent enough to allow the writing to be the key area of focus. Like recent apps OmmWriter, IA Writer, and others, it would be nice to have a blogging platform that’s enjoyable and inspiring to use. WordPress seem to recognise this, and a focus of the next release is claimed to be a more zen-like posting interface that reduces the huge number of checkboxes, menus, and input fields clamouring for your attention.
That gives us 4 core elements:
Enjoyable to use
resilient enough to survive traffic spikes (and require a low cost of ownership in terms of hosting)
Place the ownership of raw content in the hands of the user, not the back-end system
Allow content creation and posting from any device you chose
Who’s with me? And perhaps more importantly, who’s going to build it?!?
I’ve pulled the trigger on a new theme I’ve been playing with tonight. Mainly because Twitter Tools digests are broken, and I don’t want no new content popping onto the blog. So, Tweets will now sit in the sidebar, and will appear as I make them, rather than at the end of each day.
I’m going to be putting up RSS feeds that don’t include the Tweets, for anyone that finds them annoying. If you enjoy them and want to join the conversation, please sign up at Twitter and follow me.
The theme is very much a work in progress at the moment, and I’ll add bits over the next few days. There’s a big empty bit at the bottom of the homepage, and some of the sidebar stuff probably looks quite odd.
I’m also aware that the sidebar Tweets don’t look right (doubling up of the t icon), but that should clear up after I’ve posted some stuff.
Hope you like the new look, and I’ll try to get it finished as soon as I can. I’ll also try to get some more proper content on the site, including reviews of the films I saw at Frightfest’s all-nighter a few weeks ago.
This is just silly. After a quick flick through the pages of Play.com’s upcoming gaming releases, these are the titles I reckon are worth playing for the remainder of the year:
Little Big Planet, Valkyria Chronicles, Resistance 2, Fable 2, Dead Space, Far Cry 2, Midnight Club LA, Spiderman: Web of Shadows, Saint’s Row 2, Fallout 3, Quantum of Solace, Silent Hill, Gears 2, Endwar, COD: World at War, Mirror’s Edge, Banjo and Kazooie, Left 4 Dead, Tomb Raider Underworld, Mortal Kombat versus DC, Prince of Persia, Damnation
That’s £880 worth of games that’ll be worth playing released between now and the end of the year. We’re in the middle of an economic crisis, and the games industry decides that it’d be clever to release essentially everything in the last two months of the year. Muppets.
Here was me thinking of blowing out an MMOG in favour of playing through the numerous upcoming console games I fancied, when in actual fact it makes far more economic sense to stick with WOW or Warhammer in this time of crisis. Assuming you can eschew this flood of quality gaming.