Episode 18: Back It Up and Do It Again

It’s okay to have a deep attachment to your computers, tablets, and smartphones just make sure to back them up! J.D. tells us what to do in the event of a hard drive failure, Pedro ponders the mysteries of “iPhone Love” and we have a biggie-sized helping of news…but since we’re in New York City the soda pop is tiny.

Episode 18 News: X Marks the Spot. Or Not.

Another iPhone hitting stores isn’t big news, but an Apple FAIL does tend to generate some buzz. As many users complained, the new iOS 6 Maps app still seems to be a work in progress with entire towns and cities missing, duplicate islands, misplaced location pins, incorrect names and stores that have long been out of business.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak even commented on the situation at an Apple event in Australia. If you’re an Apple Maps user and find a mistake, you can report the problem to Apple in hopes of getting it corrected. And/Or you can post a funny picture to the Amazing iOS6 Maps Tumblr. While Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Apple would have to approve a new standalone Google Maps app in the App Store, the company is said to be working on it. While the iOS Maps app may take a few months to arrive, Google did find some time in its schedule to update its own Google Play Books app for Android this week.

Samsung continues to pester Apple with TV and print ads touting its Galaxy S3 smartphone over the iPhone 5, but according the The Next Web, a security researcher has found a bug in certain Android smartphones. If exploited, the flaw may allow an attacker to perform a factory reset on vulnerable devices, just by embedding a link on a website or sending a text message. A video shows a phone running the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android displaying the flaw. (Malware has also popped up in Twitter direct messages, so be on guard from friends who send a link about you being in a Facebook video.)

And speaking of The Social Network, Facebook is working with the data-mining firm Datalogix in the hopes of showing to marketers that consumers who see ads on the social network actually buy the products advertised. Facebook users are automatically included in these Datalogix advertising studies, and cannot directly opt out through their Facebook settings. Instead, they must go to the Datalogix privacy page and opt out there. And in other Facebook Paranoia news, reports from France earlier this week claim the site is posting private messages from 2009 and earlier on users’ public timelines; Facebook denies these claims. (Still if Facebook annoys you and Google+ doesn’t thrill you, hey, there’s always Myspace —which is getting ready to bust out a redesign.)

Also hoping for a comeback: Research in Motion. The BlackBerry 10 system is going into another beta. BB10’s new features include the ability to have separate personal and work profiles—with the ability to run apps from both simultaneously while keeping the data from each profile separate.

Barnes & Noble isn’t letting Amazon and Apple have all the Big Tablet Fun, and introduced its own new Nook HD tablets this week, along with a streaming video service. Like video, videogames may be bypassing the console streaming directly to your television sometime in the near future, too.

And finally, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that NASA officials would like to construct a “gateway spacecraft” that would hover in orbit on the far side of the moon. The project is still a long way off from becoming a reality, but when it does, Google will probably map it first — and more accurately.

Crash! Boom! *Bah!*

It may be fresh out of the box, but assume right now that your hard drive is going to crash and take all your files with you. It may be 10 days or 10 years from now, but odds are, that drive is going to fail at some point. You should be prepared for this inevitability by having some sort of a data backup plan in place.

Why do hard drives fail? There are several reasons, from mechanical parts burning out to electronics issues. Even solid-state drives have been known to fail. So if your hard drive fails, what do you do? (Besides, you know, cursing and stomping.)

If you haven’t backed up and you totally need that stuff on that drive, you have a couple of options. You may want to start by taking the computer to a repair shop and having a technician remove the drive and try to revive it. If the demise was due to a logical failure, a repair shop can sometimes insert the drive into a new enclosure or a hard drive dock connected to another computer and pull the data off to a new machine — where it can be burned to a disc and put back in your eternally grateful hands. Disk repair software (like DiskWarrior) may help get files back sometimes, too.

If the drive went out in a flaming blaze of clicking and grinding glory and the hardware shop can’t revive it, you may need to resort to a data recovery service to salvage your files. DriveSavers is the big nationally known outfit here, and most cities have local services as well. Just be prepared to pay some big bucks because data recovery is usually way more expensive than that backup drive you never bought.

However, if you were backing up all along, you can have the technician swap out your deceased drive for a new one so you can restore all your files to the computer from the backup system. Apple’s free Time Machine software in Mac OS X makes this particularly easy. Windows 7 has its own backup software, and there are plenty of Windows backup programs that simplify things as well. If you’re feeling particularly do-it-yourself, you can also buy the new hard drive from a parts site or a storage-and-recovery shop, install it yourself, reinstall your operating system and files and pick up where you left off.

Because backup hard drives can also fail, some people are going the belt-and-suspenders route and now backing up to the cloud or burning comprehensive sets of DVDs to archive their most important files as well. No matter how you do it, though, just do it: Get a backup system in place and let it go to work. If you do ever suffer a fatal hard-drive crash, your photos, documents and music will be safe and maybe you can even recycle the dead drive into a little bit of tick-tock art.

 

Episode 17 News: Reach for the Stars

Microsoft is having a busy fall with new Windows Phones, the Surface tablet, a colorful overhaul of the flagship operating system. But wait, there’s more: a new security hole in Internet Explorer, versions 6 through 9. If you don’t feel like trying the suggested workarounds, there’s another option a few people have pointed out: Ditch IE.

Meanwhile, over in Applestan, the iPhone 5 broke a pre-order sales record and Twitter redesigned its iPad app ahead of the iOS 6 release on Wednesday. Open Internet and public-interest groups are complaining to the FCC about AT&T’s plan to make users switch its mobile-sharing plan to use Apple’s FaceTime videochat service over a cellular connection. Also complaining: Samsung, which continues to keep up the defense in its legal war with Apple over patents, pointing out on its company blog that the iPhone 4 sure looks like some of their old MP3 players.

The iPhone 5 wasn’t the only geek goodie flush with preorders this week — the first batch of Nintendo Wii U consoles is reportedly sold out in many places long before the system’s November 18th release. (No word on when preorders might be available for the bling-laden Hasselblad Lunar camera announced this week, but since it’s not due out until February, frugal photographers pining for a 24-megapixel camera with a sculpted wood handgrip have a few months to pinch together 650,000 pennies for it.)

While the Lunar camera is quite a luxury, if you want to talk big pixels in space, the Dark Energy Camera wins — with 570 megapixels and a mission to photograph 8 billion-year-old rays of light finally reaching Earth from distant galaxies. (Hopefully, all this intergalactic travel will get a speed bump if the physicists can get warp drive figured out.)

So we’re waiting around for that, an Android version of the Snapseed photo-editing app now that Google has bought Nik Software, and a Firefly reunion (besides the panel at the Comic-Con panel last summer). While we’re cooling it, we can always kill some time poking around the Internet Archive, which just announced its new collection of 350,000 broadcast news programs that cover the past three years of events. If you like TV news, check it out. Even if a massive video record of world events since 2009 isn’t your cup of tea, the Archive holds millions of other bits of history and has been dubbed “Alexandria 2.0” by Wired magazine. And you don’t have to be quiet in this library.

Episode 17: Faster Than Light, Baby!

The Fall TV season is here and J.D. helps us use our mobile devices to look for what to watch plus Pedro has a new Tech Term. In the news, a new security vulnerability affects almost all IE browsers; blinged out cameras; the world’s most powerful camera; and warp drives may make the leap from science-fiction to science-fact.

Hey, What’s on TV?

Now that we’ve got al the fall gadget announcements underway, it’s time to turn our attention to another season ritual: the new TV season. Granted, this is not as definitive as it used to be, thanks to the influx of cable and specialty channels on their own schedules, but the traditional broadcast networks still tend to launch the majority of their new shows and seasons in September and October.

And what better way to keep up with all the new eye candy than with your smartphone? There are a variety of TV-listings apps out there, including Zap2It and the TitanTV programming guide, but there’s one app that has a bit of brand-name recognition, especially if you grew up in the United States in the late 20th century.

Yes, we’re taking about TV Guide. That once overstuffed little digest full of weekly listings and program log lines, printed in black-and-white on pulpy paper, has gone digital. The app is free and when you sign in, you can use it to check much more than the program grid. You can set up a Watchlist for your favorite shows, filter your listings, share your viewing habits over Facebook and Twitter and keep up with news and videos. There are versions of TV Guide Mobile for both Android and iOS.

If you get your TV piped in from a cable company, check with your carrier for any custom tablet or smartphone apps they may offer. Some of these apps include special bonus features like the ability to watch live TV and set the DVR to record shows from your phone or tablet; TiVo has an app for this, too. The major carriers with some kind of app action include:

Hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago we’d be sitting in traffic somewhere having an internal fit because we knew, deep down, that we forgot to set the VCR to record Deep Space Nine. Yay, technology!

Episode 16 News: The World Is Flat

Well, the first flurry of Apple fall product announcements finally hit this week with the revelation of the iPhone 5, a revamp of a few iPods and a sneak peak at the next version of iTunes. The iOS 6 software and the phones will be out next week, but everything else isn’t available until October. Google, wasting no time after Apple removed the built-in YouTube app from the iOS Home screen, released its own free standalone iPhone YouTube app.

Amazon certainly wasn’t waiting around for Apple to hog all the limelight either, announcing big updates to its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers last week. (While all the new Kindle Fire HD tablets were going to include spam — whoops — Special Offers on the Home screen, Amazon says users can now opt out of that for $15.) A slight upgrade to Amazon’s original Kindle Fire tablet is now selling for $160. This is just $10 more than the new tablet-for-kids announced by Toys R Us this week.

Also on the Apple front, as a follow up to last week’s story about 12 million Apple device ID numbers that were not hacked off an FBI computer — it turns out the compromised machine belonged to the Florida-based app developer BlueToad, which assured and apologized to its customers in a company blog post. (GoDaddy, the domain-name and site-hosting service was thought to have suffered a hack attack itself earlier this week that took many of its sites offline for hours, but the company said it was an internal glitch that keelhauled all those Web sites.) When it is not defending itself from false hacking claims, the FBI has found time for a billion dollar upgrade to its biometric identification technology systems, although some privacy advocates are feeling a whiff of the Orwell on this one. The FBI has some info about its Next Generation Identification technology here.

Now then, contrary to popular reports, other hardware besides smartphones and tablets is headed to stores this fall. Pentax announced new mirrorless and DSLR cameras. And thin is in at Western Digital — the company has just launched a super-skinny 5 millimeter thick hard drive for ultrabook laptops.

Hey, remember the Bookmobile rolling library coming to your neighborhood? It’s the 21st century and now there’s a Digital Bookmobile sponsored by OverDrive making the rounds;  check the calendar here.

Housed in an 18-wheel tractor trailer, the Digital Bookmobile travels around the country and shows people how to use e-book lending services from their local libraries with instructional videos, interactive workstations and a gadget gallery with all the popular e-reader models. There’s also a section for audiobooks inside the truck. Remember kids, reading is fundamental, no matter how you do it.

 

Episode 16: The Woz is Always First in Line

Apple announces a new iPhone and new iPods and Amazon keeps adding kindling to their Fire. Turns out the FBI wasn’t hacked but GoDaddy was and Toys R Us releases a tablet aimed at kids. J.D. tells us how to take your data with you if you decide to bail out of Facebook and Google Plus.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Do-It-Yourself Data Delivery

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to leave a social network because you have privacy concerns – or Facebook Timeline has really peeved you — what do you do? You do, after all, have a lot of personal stuff up there, photos, videos and so on. You’d hate to leave those memories behind…

In the case of two big social networks Google+ and Facebook, it turns out, you can take it with you — your data that is, all the stuff you posted, uploaded and shared with others. Both sites allow you to download an archive of your data, including photos, to your computer before you start deleting accounts. Here’s what to do for each site.

Downloading your data from Google or Facebook has its advantages, even if you’re not bouncing from the site altogether. The data archive can be useful as a backup, or to retrieve photos form a lost phone or dead computer. Downloading your archive does not delete your info from either service so if you do plan to bail, grab your stuff and then go back and properly delete your Google+ or Facebook account.

Now then, who’s craving a little meeting with General Tso after the liberation?

Episode 15 News: Paging Dr. Gordon Freeman. Your New Phone is Here.

It’s the first week of September and everyone is getting back to business and getting their new gear ready for the holiday season. The annual IFA Berlin consumer electronics fair, also known as the Berlin Radio Show, had a whole bunch of new stuff to ogle, including the ultra high definition (and ultra high price) 4K television sets. Mmmm, pixels….

The Web is also filling up with announcements of new smartphones this month.

Nokia? Check.

Motorola Mobility? Check.

HTC? Check.

Apple? (Oh, you finally confirmed that September 12th event?) Let’s say: Check.

If the iPhone 5 does land this month, the reign of Samsung’s Galaxy S3 as the best-selling smartphone will probably come to an end. (Preparing for a big event doesn’t seem to have slowed down Apple from filing more patent infringement complaints against Samsung and trying to get even more of the Galaxy products banned from stores.) And Team Cupertino can bask in the glory of Mac OS X beating at least one version of Windows in market share, even if it is the much-maligned Windows Vista.

Meanwhile, hacking group AntiSec says it’s grabbed 12 million Apple unique device identifier numbers from an FBI computer. (The FBI doesn’t think so.) At any rate, the news that 12 million UDID numbers (and whatever personal information associated with them) have been grabbed up is a tad disturbing.

Looks like that story from the U.K. about actor Bruce Willis suing Apple over the bequeathal rights to his iTunes library was wrong, but as several media organizations pointed out, just who owns your digital media after you’re gone? (Speaking of gone, it sounds like Nicolas Cage is not — from the Kick-Ass movie franchise, anyway — and will be back with Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl and Jim Carrey as The Colonel in a sequel next year.)

Remember webOS? Anybody? (Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?) Even if it doesn’t ring a bell, HP announced it was releasing a beta version of webOS for both a desktop edition and one that runs on mobile devices.

Mobile devices in the Nordic lands will soon be getting something unique: a standalone streaming HBO service that doesn’t require you to have an existing cable subscription to use. Let’s hope Nordic HBO À la carte  is a raging success so maybe they’ll do it here in the U.S.

And finally, if Half-Life changed your life back in the late 1990s, set an alarm in your calendar program for September 14th. A new version, dubbed Black Mesa and crafted by fans of the original game for the PC, is due out next late week. Who knows, maybe in a few years, they’ll do a console version that looks killer on a 4K television set.