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’?

How to keep your travel communications costs down, easily.

Wheth­er you’re on vaca­tion or trav­el­ling for work, tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions costs are a pain, and can really impact your the cost of your travel. Recently I’ve star­ted using two tools that let me call home or the office, talk as long as I want, and not break the bank. …more



This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techb­log. Check out the full post here.

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.