Archive for November 5, 2009

How I backed up 12 gigabytes of World Series photos

new iMac computer review

It’s fun sharing historic photos like this one, which I shot at last night’s World Series finale. Preserving the additional thousands of post-season shots I took at Yankee Stadium over the past few weeks may not be fun, but it’s important because it will let me mine that photo collection for all sorts of purposes for years.

There are numerous ways to create backups of important files. For a brief overview, see our video on computer backups (embedded below). Our computer backup system buying guide (available for subscribers) provides much more detailed advice along with brand-name recommendations of systems we’ve tested.

Since I back up a lot of photos and prefer quick access to them, I use external hard drives.

(Storing them externally also keeps my computer’s internal hard drive from becoming cluttered with image files.) And because I always make at least two backup copies of important photos (in case one set of copies is lost) before I delete them from the camera’s memory card, I use two drives.

To back up my thousands of post-season shots, after each game, I copied the shots from that game to a 1.5-terabyte (TB) external hard drive. Then I copied those files from that external hard drive to a second, more portable 500GB external drive. (I have a computer at a distant geographical location, so I occasionally take the smaller, portable drive with me and copy photos to the hard drive on that off-site computer.) Only then did I delete the photos from the memory card.

This approach may not be for everybody. If your needs are more modest, an inexpensive thumb drive or writeable DVD might serve just as well.

If you have tips to share on how you preserve your photo files, post them below. —Jeff Fox

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Apple’s new iMacs: A closer look

TwitterPeek Twitter Peek mobile device

The new iMac

Amid the hoopla surrounding the release of Windows 7, Apple introduced refreshed lines of iMac computers. We took a look at the 21-1/2 inch model ($1,200 to $1,500) and the 27 inch one ($1,700 to $2,000). (See how we rated previous iMac models in our desktop computer Ratings, available to subscribers.)

Both iMacs have larger displays than their predecessors (20-inch and 24-inch respectively) and come with the latest Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system. They include a newly-designed wireless “Magic Mouse,” and a wireless keyboard, both of which use a Bluetooth connection. (For a glossary of standard computer features, see our free Computer Buying Guide.)

Magic Mouse. This has a touch-sensitive top surface that senses left and right clicks and lets you slide your finger around to scroll a window’s content in any direction. Slide your finger up and down for a normal scroll, or with the “control” key depressed to zoom the whole screen for a closer look. It takes a bit of practice and some independent finger dexterity to use the scrolling, but we were able to get pretty good at it.

The mouse also lets you use a two-finger swipe to navigate back and forth in the Safari web browser, and browse album covers in iTunes and photos in iPhoto. But we couldn’t get that feature to work on either of our iMacs. Apple’s helpline wasn’t able to help us—the products are apparently too new. But we found an Oct 27th software update for the Magic Mouse on Apple’s “support downloads” website that fixed the problem when installed.

One aspect of using this mouse that could take some effort to become comfortable with is that your palm rests on the desk surface, not the mouse. You grip the mouse with your thumb and ring finger, leaving your index and middle finger free to click or swipe. And you have to lift your left-click finger before you can right-click. Some staffers found it tricky to learn, and one commented “If you didn’t like Apple’s Mighty Mouse, you probably won’t like this one, either.”

The new keyboard. It’s the same size and has the same layout as the one on Apple’s laptops, so it’s smaller than you may be used to. There’s no number pad. The typing keys are full-size, but the cursor keys are small. The Bluetooth connection was robust in our lab, even with several other Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices working nearby: We were able to walk at least 50 feet from the computer and maintain control with both keyboard and mouse.

The displays on these iMacs are gorgeous. Colors rendered by the LED backlighting are deep and true, though only slightly more so than on the previous iMac. The 21½-inch is brighter than the previous 24-inch model. The 27-inch is even brighter: At its maximum setting, it’s a vivid 400 nits—brighter than any other computer display we’ve tested. And its LED backlight comes up to full brightness instantly, and has longer expected service life than the usual CCFL backlights. The display has a very wide viewing angle, both horizontally and vertically, making it good for collaborating with others on graphic design and gaming.

Design considerations. The new iMacs follow the trend towards edge-to-edge glass, losing the remaining thin aluminum frame at the top and sides. The entire back is aluminum, save for the Apple logo. The height of the area below the screen has been reduced, so the 27-inch is no taller than the 24-inch was. And the aluminum baseplate gets thinner towards the front, making the iMac seem to float above the desk. The keyboard can be stored almost out of sight atop the baseplate.

Apple had added a memory-card slot to the iMacs, the first ever in a Mac desktop. It takes SD and MMC cards. The Mini-DisplayPort on the 27-inch model can feed another monitor or accept digital video from a Mini-DisplayPort-equipped source, though you’ll need to buy a $30 cable to connect it.

Otherwise, the configuration of the new models is a step up from that of the old ones, with 3GHz Core-2 Duo processors (up from 2.8GHz), or a Quad Core i5 in the costlier version of the 27-inch. There is 4GB of memory, doubling that in the prior models, and four memory slots for expansion. Huge 1TB drives are in all but the cheapest model. All this adds up to slightly better performance in a line of computers that had top-notch performance already.

Coming up next: Our look at the new MacBook and Mac Mini. —Dean Gallea

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Verizon said to hike early-termination fee for smart phones

Verizon Wireless is planning to boost its early-termination fees (ETF)
as high as $350 (from the current maximum of $175) for advanced devices
like the Blackberry and its new Motorola Droid.

Following a report from Boy Genius Report, a Verizon spokesman confirmed to me that they are in fact raising the fees to as much as $350 for smart phones, netbooks and other
advanced devices.

Verizon was first to pro-rate early-termination fees, way back
in 2006, while the last to do so was Sprint in 2008.

We’ll have more on what this ETF means—and Verizon’s official response—tomorrow. —Jeff Blyskal

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TwitterPeek: “Epic fail of the week"?

TwitterPeek Twitter Peek mobile device

TwitterPeek

For Twitter addicts who relish the thought of having another expensive mobile device clunking around in their pocket or bag, TwitterPeek is for you. Released yesterday by Peek Inc., TwitterPeek looks like a smart phone with a full QWERTY keyboard but connects only to Twitter. No phone. No emails. Just Twitter. Price: $100 for the device including 6 months of wireless service. After that, service runs $8 a month. (For $200 you can get the TwitterPeek plus a lifetime service plan.)

Peek seems to be building a name for itself as a maker of single-function mobile gadgets. The company’s Peek Classic ($20 plus a $15/month service plan) just sends and receives email. The Peek Pronto ($60 plus service plan) emails and also allows unlimited texting.

You could make a case for the efficacy of the Peek Classic and Pronto, given the high cost of many data plans for smart phones. The idea behind TwitterPeek, on the other hand, is one even some of the Twitterati have trouble understanding. From the Wall Street Journal:


“On Twitter, it’s attracting its fair share of skeptics. “TwitterPeek is my vote for epic fail of the week,” Josho2001 tweeted. “I don’t see this having much demand. Two words: Smart. Phone,” wrote Marie Goltara. A third Twitter user, Nelanka, added, “TwitterPeek is the final sign that the end is near. I figured this would have come out around 2012.”

If you’re savvy enough to be a dedicated Twitterer, isn’t it also likely you’d be capable of tweeting (for free) from your cell or smart phone?

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Verizon said to hike early termination fee for smart phones

Verizon Wireless is planning to boost its early termination fees (ETF)
as high as $350 (from the current maximum of $175) for advanced devices
like the Blackberry and its new Motorola Droid.

Following a report from Boy Genius Report, a Verizon spokesman confirmed to me that they are in fact raising the fees to as much as $350 for smart phones, netbooks and other
advanced devices.

Verizon was first to pro-rate early termination fees, way back
in 2006, while the last to do so was Sprint in 2008.

We’ll have more on what this ETF means—and Verizon’s official response—tomorrow. —Jeff Blyskal

Comments off