Sunday, January 26, 2014

How To Backup Photos On Your iPhone

One of the most important things about your iPhone is not the phone itself, but the photos you take with it.  Not so long ago, photography was nowhere near as common as it is today.  Cameras were large and unwieldy, and people rarely carried them along during their normal days.

Fast-forward to today, and things have changed; chances are you have a camera on your phone, and it is more powerful than what is used by many spacecraft out there today!  Having such a powerful camera right at your fingertips virtually at all times of the day has led to the capture of many beautiful and wonderful moments that might have otherwise been missed.  Another side to this is that many people forego a traditional photo- or video-camera and instead exclusively use their iPhone or other smartphone as their primary photography device.

With this comes the concern of the security and longevity of those photos.  Before, we would take our film down to the store, and have it developed.  We would get the negatives and printed copies of the photos back.  Physical things that we could store and share.  Today however, in our digital world, we instantly have access to hi-res copies of the photos we create.  The downside is that they can be lost or completely destroyed in the blink of an eye.

That is why, my friends, it is of upmost importance to secure the photos you are creating, not just for yourself, but for generations to come of your future relatives.

Doing this is not hard, but it does take some effort on your part.  I am writing this article specifically about the iPhone (at the request of a friend), but the techniques I'm about to talk about can mostly be applied to any smartphone or digital camera/ camcorder.

Firstly, you can utilize Apple's iCloud service to sync your photos to your account online.  They only give you a small amount of storage up front, with the option to purchase additional space.  If you are a Google+ user, you can do a similar thing with that account.  I won't delve into the specifics of this (because I don't use it msyelf) but please be aware that it is an option.

You should, from time to time, create a backup of your photos onto your computer.  If you are using your iPhone on a PC, simply go to "My Computer" and your iPhone will show up as a removable disk.  You can copy the photos off of your iPhone onto your computer or external drive.  If you are on a Mac, you can use the program "Image Capture" to backup photos from your iPhone to your computer.  Using either of these methods, you can also delete photos off your iPhone (to free up space), however, you should never do that until you have made at least one other copy of your photos (preferably by burning to disc).

Another way to back up your photos is to burn them to CD or DVD.  DVD is the preferred method now as it has much more capacity, so it will take fewer discs (and less time and money).  For the purpose of these backups you should try to use high quality discs (I prefer Verbatim or TDK).  I have recently found out about M-Disc, and while I haven't been able to try them yet, this might be something else to consider.  You should make TWO copies.  Keep one copy at your home, and another somewhere else (safe deposit box at your bank, or a relative's home perhaps).  Storing the discs is best done in either hard-plastic or paper sleeves, not in a folder or binder.  Make sure the discs are kept in a cool, dark place out of sunlight.

Finally, a great method of storing (and sharing) your photos is with an online service such as Flickr, Facebook, or Google+ -- all of these offer the ability to upload (and store) your photos online, making them available from any computer or internet-connected device you can connect with.  I have recently been recommending Flickr because you can create a free account and they will give you 1TB of online storage (which is a LOT).  No reason not to set up one of these free accounts and get a little more peace of mind.

No matter what method you choose for backing up your photos, you should use several different methods.  Personally I do the following:

--Photos are kept on an external hard drive connected to my main computer; I have a second external hard drive of the same size, and have software that automatically syncs the contents of the drives (creates an exact copy).  That way, if one drive fails, I have the 2nd one with all my data.

--Photos are burned to DVDs (two copies).  While I don't yet have a safe-deposit box, I do intend on getting one soon.

--I've recently set up my own free Flickr account and am in the process of uploading all of my photos to it.

In summary, backing up your iPhone's photos is one of those things most people don't think about until its too late.  This is a project you can take care of in one weekend (or less) -- and will preserve those memories for many years to come.  Keep in mind that you are not just doing this for yourself, you are doing it for your family, and your unborn relatives to come.  All of these photos are very precious, and if not properly taken care of, can indeed be lost forever -- don't let that happen to your photos -- use my suggestions in this article to help preserve them.

If you have any questions or care to add anything, please feel free to post in the comments section below!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Running Windows XP In 2014

Whether Microsoft likes it or not, there are still lots of people out there using Windows XP.  And why not?  Computers are much more reliable than they were 10-15 years ago, and are often seeing many years of service before failing or being replaced.  Unfortunately, the world must move on, and this includes getting away from older things such as XP.

Microsoft will officially be ending support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014 (which will be here sooner than you realize).  So what does this mean for you if you are someone still using a laptop or desktop with Windows XP?

For one, you should of course seriously consider upgrading to a new computer.  If you are running XP, you do have the option of purchasing a new version of Windows and upgrading, however that is money that would be better spent on a replacement computer.

However, if you are indeed perfectly happy with your computer and have no desire to replace it, here are some things you can do to remain safe.

- Make sure you are patched up to the latest version of Windows XP.  Currently on Service Pack 3, but there have been many updates since then.  Run Windows Update and install any available updates for your computer.

- Antivirus.  For a long time I have recommended the free Microsoft Security Essentials -- but XP users please be aware- Microsoft intents to discontinue support for this as well (security update releases).  As such, I would recommend you switch to another free (or paid) product.  My next free choice would be AVG Antivirus Free 2014.  If you are looking for a paid product, I would suggest Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2014 (be sure to check out they sometimes sell this as a digital download at a discounted rate).

- Web Browser.  The latest version of Internet Explorer available for Windows XP is version 8, which was released back in 2009.  Using an old version of a web browser is never recommended as many, many pieces of malware take advantage of security holes in them.  If you are running Windows XP you absolutely should run Google Chrome -- they have pledged to support their browser on Windows XP until at least April of 2015 -- which will give you some breathing room until you decide to upgrade later on.

Finally, be sure you are prepared for any unforseen issues by properly backing up your computer.  I've written a guide on how to do this HERE.

In conclusion- you can indeed continue to use Windows XP in 2014 (and beyond) and still enjoy a modicum of security, but you absolutely must take the proper steps to secure your computer.