Sometimes A Simple Mac Backup Is Best

Every Mac user should have a comprehensive backup plan. If you do not, then you’re courting disaster. Sooner or later your Mac will fail, all your files will be gone. It does not happen often, but it happens, and usually without any warning. Most Mac backup plans have a couple of holes. There are mine and what I did to plug them.

My home network of Macs have what I thought to be a rather comprehensive backup plan involving multiple external storage units, multiple Macs, Time Machine, ChronoSync, and SuperDuper! Time Machine ensures that files changed on each Mac get backed up every hour. That leaves a hole of up to an hour. SuperDuper! clones each Mac to an external disk drive but the backup is only as good when it’s backed up frequently. ChronoSync copies critical files from one Mac to another for multiple backups, but still awaits a schedule, hence another hole. Finally, all the Macs and external disk drives are in my home office. Theft, hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or water damage could render every Mac and every backup useless.

Here’s how I plugged the holes.

The first hole was plugged by backing up critical files online, away from the home office. For that I used Amazon S3 and a Mac utility called Arq which does the backups in the background according to a schedule. There are many online backup services, but few do a good job of managing Mac files appropriately, though the major backup services will function just fine. The main idea is to get critical files copied nearby, but also copied elsewhere.

The second hole was plugged by an inexpensive Mac utility called SyncTime. While it has plenty of features to sync files between Macs, remote computers, and attached storage devices, what I wanted was a way to copy changed files automatically. No schedule. No waiting an hour for Time Machine. When I make a change to a file the file then gets copied to a couple of different locations; another Mac, external USB disk drive; that kind of thing.

SyncTime uses the time honored Source and Destination backup method. Select the source file or folders, select the location for them to be backed up, click to backup.

SyncTime

Wait! What? ‘Click’ to backup. The idea is to automate the process, not add on more steps that can be forgotten.

Fortunately, SyncTime does the one thing very well that I need done. It backups up files in the background, unattended. How? By monitoring the folders of files you want backed up. Whenever a file in that folder is changed, added, or deleted, SyncTime makes the changes on the other backup folders automatically.

Other features are included, and for many Mac users they’ll be worthwhile. Files can be excluded, files can synced in multiple directions, and so on, but what I wanted and need is the ‘Once Synced, Keep Synced’ which works in the background.

More SyncTime

SyncTime is simple, elegant, but has enough additional functionality to be useful in many situations. ChronoSync, which I use and recommend, can backup on a schedule and is loaded with more features, but is more expensive, and has a learning curve.

If what you want is to automate the file and folder monitoring process to create instant backups of files (before Time Machine gets around to it, before SuperDuper! does the clone thing), SyncTime is a sweet solution for a low price.

Science Says: Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution Is Wrong

From Epoch Times:

In school we learned that dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago, and small mammals survived and evolved into other mammals and at some point around 250,000 years ago an apelike mammal evolved into what is now the modern human, right? Wrong. Newly discovered artifacts prove that humanity has been around much longer than originally thought, and that humans did not always live in a primitive society.

The only problem I see with the ‘theories’ of evolution is that they keep changing. If it’s science, wouldn’t it be fact?

Why Asians Wear Surgical Masks In Public

From Quartz, the answer to a question asked tens of thousands of times in California, where the tourists roam (here in Hawaii we already know why Asians wear surgical masks).

The custom of facemask-wearing began in Japan during the early years of the 20th century, when a massive pandemic of influenza killed between 20 and 40 million people around the world—more than died in World War I. There were outbreaks of the disease on every inhabited continent, including Asia (where it devastated India, leading to the deaths of a full 0.5% of the population). Covering the face with scarves, veils and masks became a prevalent (if ineffective) means of warding off the disease in many parts of the world, until the epidemic finally faded at the end of 1919.

Are the Japanese keeping germs in? Or, keeping germs out?

700 Abandoned Dodges

From Autos:

There are salvage yards, and then there’s this place in Anderson, Alabama, which has over 700 Dodge vehicles, mostly Chargers, sitting in an expansive yard and slowly rusting into nothing.

I owned a Dodge. Once. Worst. Car. Ever.

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Better Way To Rename Files On Your Mac

What’s the easiest way to rename a file on your Mac? Even though it’s a time honored process that everyone follows, let me walk you through the steps because there is on problem. From the Finder, select the file or folder whose name you want to change. Press the Return key on the keyboard. Type in the file’s new name. Done.

What could be easier? Not much. Unless you have to change the name of, let’s say, a dozen or so file or folder names. The simplicity of changing a file’s name just became tedious and a bit time consuming, but not enough to make you run out and buy a specialized utility. Now, what if you change file or folder names by the dozens and you do it frequently. The simplicity became tedium which quickly translates into a chore which cries out to you, “There must be a better way!”

There is. It’s called A Better Finder Rename, a Mac app which automates file and folder renaming. I’ve used it since the last century and nothing is better at changing file names by the hundreds or thousands. Drag and drop a folder of files to change. Adjust the drop down boxes accordingly. Check it all in Preview mode. Click Perform Renames.

A Better Finder Rename

The renaming process is simple. Drag and drop files to rename. Select the prefix, suffix, renumbering and sorting processes from the dropdown menus. View the changes instantly in Preview mode. Click to rename the whole batch.

The ability to rename files by the thousands makes A Better Finder Rename popular with photographers. It can extract EXIF data from photos and use that in sequence numbers or date information, and it handles all major RAW formats, including JPEG, CRW, CR2, THM, NEF, TIFF, RAJ, ORF , MRW, DNG, PEF, SRF and more, but anyone with a large music collection will appreciate the built-in options to change ID3 metadata tags in music files.

More Finder Rename

File renaming by the hundreds or thousands can get tricky, and may involve multiple steps where you name a batch of files this way, and then name the resulting renamed files another way. A Better Finder Rename has that covered, too. Just setup multiple actions and then combine, order, and reorder the actions as needed for future renaming projects. That eliminates the multiple step tedium.

There are many Mac utilities which can rename files in batches, but none are faster or have more features than A Better Finder Rename. It’s a classic and well regarded in the Mac community. The Mac App Store version gets well over 100 five star reviews, with a handful of single-star reviews which appear to be written by competitors as their ‘issues’ do not mirror my 15 years of usage at all.

Buggiest iPhone Update Ever?

Wired says iOS 8.x is Apple’s buggiest iPhone and iPad update ever.

WIRED saw similar bugs on the iPhone 6 Plus. Other reviewers pronounced it Apple’s buggiest release yet, and Apple pundit John Gruber wrote “it seems like Apple’s software teams can’t keep up with the pace of the hardware teams” before talking more about getting stuck in an endless reboot cycle.

Is that an inherent danger is being an early adopter?

Data from app performance monitor Crittercism showed iOS 8’s crash rate was 60 percent higher than iOS 7 during their respective first months on handsets.

I waited a couple of months before getting an iPhone 6 Plus. iOS 8.x has never crashed, but a few older apps that had not been updated did. A recent flurry of app updates seems to have minimized it as an issue. Now it just works.

Below Freezing In All 50 States

From Weather.com– It doesn’t happen often, but it happens– even in Hawaii and Florida.

Freezing Weather Map

Here in Hawaii we can see snow on top of the Big Island’s two largest volcanoes.

29 License Plates That Got By The DMV

From Odometer, a list not as impressive as you might think, but some are clever if not inspirational.

License Plates

For Photographers Only: Re-name And Re-date Photos, Movies By The Batch On A Mac

Every now and again I run into a very useful Mac utility which just isn’t going to be used much by the great masses of Mac users who stuff every new photo into iPhoto and call it a day. Photographers have different requirements, and one is the need to batch re-name or re-date hundreds of photos or movies at a time.

That’s exactly what ShootShifter does.

Not only is it useful, fast, and accurate, ShootShifter couldn’t be much simpler to use. Drag and drop a folder full of photos or movie clips onto ShootShifter and you get a list of each one based on EXIF or filesystem dates displayed on chronological order.

Simply apply the changes using the built-in tools, and Voila! Done.

ShootShifter Screenshot

ShootShifter’s timeline visual approach makes it easy to change dates, even among several photos. It’s the perfect app to modify photos or videos from a camera that was set to the wrong date or wrong time.

You control both time and date stamp and the file name using simple renaming tools. ShootShifter can double up as an image or movie viewer, too, as it’s easy to get rid of photos or clips you don’t need. There’s even a built-in magnifying loupe to view photos in closeup mode.

ShootShifter

The preview mode lets you view file name changes and date changes before implementing them. Date changes are saved back to the EXIF tag so photos remain in the correct sequence when importing into iPhoto or Lightroom.

Shootshifter in iPhoto

While the basics of renaming or changing the file dates is easy enough, ShootShifter comes with other useful features, including keyboard shortcuts for power users, an ‘adjust separately’ mode for individual photo or movie clip editing, and more.

ShootShifter is priced right but, as it’s Mac App Store only, there’s no try-before-you-buy option. If you’re a bona fide card carrying photographer and need what ShootShifter does, the price tag is nominal, but a trial version would be useful.

Here Comes iPhone 8

Yes, the iPhone 6 models have been around only a few weeks. The iPhone 6s is expected this time next year and, if Apple follows tradition, should look much the same as this year’s model. Then, iPhone 7 and 7s. What about iPhone 8? Zach Epstein gushes over a concept iPhone.

Forget next year’s iPhone 6s. Forget the iPhone 7 expected in 2016 and its sequel, which will likely debut in 2018. A graphic designer who goes by “Steel Drake” took to Behance earlier this week to share his vision of the iPhone 8, a device that likely won’t debut until sometime in 2019.

And if Apple’s actual iPhone 8 looks anything like Drake’s vision, 2019 can’t get here soon enough.

Gimme a break.

iPhone 8 Concept

Sigh.

10 Worst Cars Of All Time

It’s difficult to agree with most on this slideshow photo list of lemon cars from Yahoo! How did they arrive at such a list of losers?

We referred to three lists as our main sources: Edmunds.com’s “100 Worst Cars of All Time,” TIME’s “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time,” and “The Worst Car in the History of the World” episode of Top Gear.

So, nothing original at all. Here’s what you’re after. The Spoiler Alert!

  • Ford Pinto
  • PT Cruiser Convertible
  • Reliant Robin
  • Lincoln Continental Mark IV
  • FSO Polonez
  • Citroen Pluriel
  • BMW X6
  • Lexus SC 430
  • Pontiac Aztek
  • Eagle Premier

What? No Chevy Vega? No Gremlin? No Yugo? Bad list. Bad. Down boy.

And So It Begins

Black Friday is on the horizon but some shoppers have already started the inevitable lines for bargains. Daniel Bean:

Two California women, ABC7 reports, have been camped outside of their local Best Buy since the middle of last week. The friends, equipped with blankets and snacks, are set to post up for a solid three weeks, hoping to be first in line when the store launches its Black Friday sale the evening of Thanksgiving.

What’s their game? A 52-inch HD TV for $199.

6 Ways To Love And Use The Mac’s Best Desktop Background Image Manager

My Mac’s Desktop background wallpaper doesn’t get changed often. Maybe three or four times in a year, but all three or four times within half an hour as I try out different backgrounds until one just ‘fits.’ You know how that goes, right? Even then, I think I spend too much time worrying about a Desktop background image that spends 99.99-percent of its time covered up by app windows, an image that not only seldom sees the light of day, but one I seldom see except through the translucent Menubar and Dock.

That changed with the Backgrounds app (that’s the name) that does six wonderful things to the Desktop, which combined make it worthy of the abnormally low price tag. If you like to muck around and use the Mac’s Desktop, this is the app that makes it work right.

First, Artwork. Backgrounds works with iTunes and displays the current track as wallpaper. Or, it will play a video that matches the current track as the background. It even activate automatically when you play a song in iTunes.

Second, Video. Background can play any video as the Desktop wallpaper, and you can setup a playlist of multiple video clips, or add a loop to make them play on and on as the moving background.

Third, Parallax. Move the Mac’s screen pointer (commonly referred to as the ‘cursor’ or mouse pointer) and get some visual depth; it even flips the x or y axis to simulate screen movement.

Fourth, System Monitor. It’s not like we don’t have enough ways already to monitor the Mac’s CPU and network connection, but Backgrounds parks those visuals into a nice speedometer where you can set your own bandwidth limits, combine it with the background image, even setup the speedometer size and positioning on the screen.

Fifth, Time. Every screensaver and every background utility should have time as default and Backgrounds is no exception. Customize the font, size, location on the screen, even change color and add shadows. It even supports multiple connected displays, and has separate settings for each one.

Finally, Quartz. Backgrounds has the option to run any quartz composition as background wallpaper. I saved that to last because it’s a non-starter for me, but some Mac users might be into Quartz Composer.

Overall, I don’t know of Mac background utility which packs in as much as Backgrounds for the lowest price possible, one notch above free. Nicely done. Simple to setup and use. Needs a better logo, but that’s a nit as logos are not my forte.

Lava Is Hot

If you needed a little more proof that flowing lava is hot– really hot– here’s more from Nicholas St. Fleur on Hawaii’s lava problem:

The first flames from the 2,000-degree Fahrenheit molten rock ignited a one-story home in Pahoa just before noon on Monday. It turned the entire 1,100-square-foot, $200,000 house into an inferno 45-minutes later… The slow-moving flow arose from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on June 27, and has trekked across the island unmitigated for the past few months at a rate of 15-20 yards per hour. Although this was the first house set on fire, it may not be the last to be consumed by the flames.

The Penalty For Bigamy

The latest news from Reuters is a report that Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith had 40 wives.

The Mormon church has admitted that founder Joseph Smith married about 40 women including a 14-year-old and others who were already the wives of his followers, having maintained for nearly 200 years that he was monogamous.

My father once told me about the penalty for bigamy. Two wives.

Space Is Really, Really, Really Big

Great graphic on VOX to describe just how big the known universe really is.

The vast majority of stars, meanwhile, are much, much older. When you look up at the more distant (but still quite visible) Andromeda galaxy, the light you see was emitted 2.54 million years ago — before humans had fully evolved into our modern anatomical state.

We’re very, very, very small.

How The Future Of Siri And A Personal Avatar On iPhone, iPad, And Mac Is A Bit Like CrazyTalk

Apple has a long way to go to turn Siri into a real personal assistant but our favorite iPhone and iPad talk back mechanism is on the right track. A few years ago I invested in a Mac app that I thought would personalize a digital assistant similar to Siri. Unfortunately, Siri hasn’t advanced much in recent years, and the CrazyTalk facial animation app for the Mac remains an interesting novelty, but has yet to be coupled to anything useful.

Worse, there’s no Siri on the Mac yet.

CrazyTalk for Mac is a facial animation app that combines voice, facial expressions, and text to give you an idea of what Siri could do in the future, if only Apple would recognize the true value of a more personable personal assistant.

Think about it. Facial animation on a character that works much like Siri, but on Mac as well as iPhone and iPad. CrazyTalk requires some effort to bring a true visual representation of Siri to the screen. Images have to be selected an prepared. The facial expressions need three dimensional profiling. Lips and mouth need to sync to the text. Motion needs to be added, then animation for the entire bodyless character.

Think of CrazyTalk as a mashup of page layout, 3D animation, Garageband, and PhotoBooth. You create the character and give it life starting with face puppeteering.

CrazyTalk

CrazyTalk comes with all the tools you need to create a personal character where facial animation matches audio output, lip-sync style. And that includes muscle animation of head and face, as well as reactions, eye control, expressions, and much more.

That means you’re getting an animation tool that focuses on characters instead of objects, faces instead of products, but every element of CrazyTalk can be applied to drawings of people and even animals.

The only real problem with using CrazyTalk to create a digital avatar is that you have to build it from the ground up. Almost. It comes with all the tools you need and plenty of characters to get started, but you can create your own.

More CrazyTalk

That makes CrazyTalk good for creating website avatars, but it’s the potential that I find more interesting, and that’s the marriage of personal avatar characters with Apple’s Siri technology to create a truly personable and seemingly intelligent personal assistant.

For now, the technology has limits. CrazyTalk works with a single animated avatar at a time. Animated the face to match Siri responses, for example, requires some substantial digital horsepower not easily dropped into a mobile device. Maybe that problem can never be solved. After all, the computers in Star Trek, as powerful as they seemingly were, could not do video communication between people (Star Trek communicators were audio only), and the Enterprise computer itself was audio only, no video avatar, either.

Still, a video avatar, Siri or some other character, would seem to be a natural progression of the technology. Apple has imbued a touch of human personality into Siri which would be even more attractive (usefulness is a different issue) with a visual representation.

Bungled Product Placement

Notice the MacBook Pro sitting on Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s desk? That’s product placement. Microsoft has been trying the same kind of promotion with the poor-selling Surface Pro tablet-notebook hybrid. Brad Reed:

During the coverage of last night’s midterm elections, CNN pundits all had Surface tablets lined up on the table that were supposedly being used to keep track of all the important races. However, GeekWire noticed that many of these pundits were secretly swiping away at iPads even as the shiny Surface tablets were right in front of them to use, attachable keyboards and all.

Ouch.

More Than You Need To Know About Palm Oil

Just when you thought it was safe to eat and then go back in the water, comes news about another oil that’s helping to destroy planet earth. Reuters:

Palm oil—which appears in a dizzying amount of food and cosmetic products and is a feedstock for biofuel—poses many environmental problems. It’s the largest driver of Indonesian deforestation, which destroys habitat and contributes to climate change. And ponds of wastewater at palm oil refineries release immense amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

But is it in Twinkies?

Supermodel Bashes Ferrari

News Flash: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Nicole Wakelin has details on what a jilted supermodel girlfriend can do with a sledgehammer and a Ferrari.

Gentlemen, here’s why you do not cheat on your supermodel girlfriend with another supermodel. Scratch that. Here’s why you simply do not cheat on the lady in your life, especially if you’ve got a car like the Ferrari 458 and a sledgehammer in your garage.

Stunning video. Turns out it’s an ad for Forgiato wheels.