Monthly Backups: Have you started yours?

Before I start, a friendly reminder that you only have 2.5 days left to enter the contest for a free Clickfree Transformer backup system. Tell me a backup horror story.

One thing I like to do is, at the end of every month, verify that I’ve got a full backup of what I like to call my ‘forgotten data’, the data on my desktop or laptop —  data stored on the machines I work on day-to-day.

Once you set up a process to back up your servers or NAS devices, it’s easy to get complacent and forget that some of the things that could be important to you are actually stored on your local computer not on the network; things like game progress saves, edits to photos, videos or podcasts you’ve downloaded..etc.

So near the end of each month, I look at that stuff, determine if it’s really important to me or not, then copy it to a place on my network that will be backed up (using one of my other backup systems).

How ’bout you? Are you regularly backing up this ‘forgotten data’?

Upgrading from Windows 7 RC to Retail – easily!

Well, being the cutting edge kinda guy that I am, I had the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) on my system from the first day it was released. Of course, that means that I was enjoying all the Windows 7 goodness on my system, with the knowledge that I’d eventually have to upgrade to the full retail version some time in the future.

That day hath cometh!

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’d put off installing the retail version until the last possible moment. And Microsoft forced my hand. As of tomorrow, March 1st, the RC of Windows 7 will start shutting down every two hours. Damn inconvenient, but hey, we’ve had the RC to play with for the last 4 months or so, we can’t really complain.

So tonight I’ve taken the plunge and installed the full retail version on my system. Not without minor challenges, but it’s done. I’m writing this on a full retail Win 7 install.

Which means that, yes, I will be documenting my upgrade process in the very near future! From WinXP to Win7 RC to Win7 Retail, the whole enchilada.  But not tonight.

Tonight I relish the last 2 weeks of Olympics, of Canadian Pride (what a weird concept) and of Pilsner, ‘eh!

How to easily edit home video with free software from Microsoft

Back in the day I used to be a news videotape editor. This was before cameras were digital — think back to the days of VCRs, Beta and VHS. Yep, that was the media of the day to record music and video. That was called Analog.

The reason I bring that up is because editing on tape, is significantly different than digital editing. The whole workflow for Analog editing is, well, analog. You start at the beginning and work to the end. If you need to change something you’ve already completed, on tape you have to redo everything from the change point forward, so things tended to get planned out very very carefully. And mistakes tend to take a long time to fix.

Today, the workflow is different. I’ve never professionally edited digitally, so the workflow I use is likely not a best practice, but it gets the job done for me.

And one of the tools I’m starting to use is Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker. You’ve likely seen the I’m a PC commercials with the kids making videos — well I’m about the same speed as those kids, so yeah, the tool is easy to use 😉

Editing is pretty intuitive. Drag clips into a pallet. Trim them to include only the bits you want. Place them in the proper order. Insert some transitions, maybe some titles off the top and credits at the end, and you’re done.

It took me maybe 2 hours to load, edit and publish my video to YouTube. The second one, below, took maybe 30 minutes — the hardest part was selecting the edit points and transitions.

Cue the cute puppy video.

Of course, what took the most time was transcoding and publishing the video to YouTube. Then the version processing on YouTube takes time too, but it’s automated so you’re doing something else while your movie is getting polished 🙂 But back to the software.

Microsoft Live Movie Maker comes full of all sorts of bells and whistles, some are pretty advanced too.

I’ve just started down this road of video production (as you can tell by the home movie quality of that video), so yes, I’ll be trying other video editing software in the coming months.

But for now, for me on my simple home PC, Live Movie Maker is what gets the job done.

And here’s the bonus, it’s free from Mcrosoft.

How to find good music online with social media

In a recent post over at the Future Shop Techblog I started talking about various Internet Radio ‘stations’. Today I realized I didn’t talk about one of my ‘go-to’ online music sources blip.fm

It’s not your average music service.
Blip.fm is a hybrid social media site and music discovery service, focused around the concept of Blips. To quote the FAQ:

What exactly is a ‘blip’?
A blip is a combination of 1) a song and 2) a short message that accompanies it. The way you create a blip is to first search for a song that you want to hear (or a song that you want your listeners to hear), then add a short message (under 150 characters), finally you submit it. Submitting a blip is also referred to as “blipping”, so from here on out, when you read “he blipped my favorite track” it means “he submitted a blip that had my favorite song attached”.

When you join Blip.fm, you assume the role of a DJ, running your own ‘station’ with a playlist. As you explore Blip.fm music, you’ll see that songs were ‘blipped’ by varioius DJs. Check out their playlists (here’s mine).

You’ll see a list of blips that they found interesting, likely from other DJs — a great way to see what tunes they thought were interesting.

Got Props?
If you like a tune you find on the main page, or listen to in someone’s playlist, then give that DJ Props:

What are “Props”?
On Blip.fm props are tokens of respect that can be given from one DJ to another – say for blipping a good song or being a good DJ in general. Everyone starts with 10 credits that they can use to give props to other DJ’s. As you earn props from the community, your props will increase and so will the credits you have to give. 1 props earned = 1 credit in your bank. The number of props you’ve earned can only go up, but the credits you have goes down as you use them throughout the site. Check out our blog entry for a more detailed explanation.

Social Media Integration
Of course, it’s no good to be listening to music without being able to share it. Blip.fm will send your tunes, as you listen to them, to the following Social Media services.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Friendfeed
  • Tumblr
  • Livejournal
  • Audioscrobbler
  • Ping.fm

In my case, I don’t usually ‘blip’ tunes I’m listening to my followers — it could get annoying after a couple of tunes. But, perhaps in the evening, I’ll feel like going ‘all DJ on my peeps’…hopefully they forgive me in the morning.

So check it out, check out my playlist, and let me know what you think.

How to easily convert almost any eBook to open ePub format

My iPod Touch is also my eBook reader. I use the Stanza app (recently upgraded), and the Stanza desktop application to get pdf and other formats into my iPod Touch. But Stanza can’t read all formats, and occasionally an imported file will not display correctly — the layout gets messed up.

This is where 2epub.com comes in. This online eBook converter will take up to 5 eBooks of various formats (doc, epub, fb2, html, lit, lrf, mobi, odt, pdb, pdf, prc, rtf, txt) and convert them to ePub (or fb2, lit, lrf, mobi) format.

Then it’s a simple matter to share the file with Stanza, and send it to my iPod Touch.

I’ve only converted a couple of titles so far, but the output files have worked like a charm.

2ePub is a very cool and sophisticated application, utilizing a few ‘hidden’ backend applications — according to the developers:

2EPUB relies on various open source software, including Calibre, OpenOffice, AbiWord, Unoconv and pdftohtml.
2EPUB can convert only those documents that were, intentionally or not, made suitable for automatic conversion.
So now, when I get a new eBook (in whatever format) I’ll be running it through 2ePub first, to clean it up and make it more sharable with my variety of hardware platforms

How to view PDF files on your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with DropBox

Dropbox really is an amazing computing and file sharing application. I was initially introduced to it when I needed to easily share files with various computers across the internet — and email was not an option.

Recently my wife asked me for another solution to viewing PDF files on her iPod Touch. She’d been using this process where you load the image into Stanza on a Desktop, then share it with the Touch. It works, but takes too many steps. Is klunky, she said.

Dropbox basics

On your desktop computer, when you install Dropbox, it creates a watched and shared Dropbox directory.  Anything put into this directory is shared with your online Dropbox account.

Any other computer you install Dropbox on will immediately have access to your online Dropbox account, and have access to those files  you saved on the other computer.

Dropbox has an app for that

For the iPhone and iPod Touch to access those files, you’ll need to install the free Dropbox app. Once you’ve set it up with your login credentials, viola! You have access to those same files you dropped into the shared directory on your desktop computer. Including media and document files.