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Thoughts on Cloud backups

By |October 22nd, 2015

I’m seeing a lot of posts these days about which is the best offsite backup system to use, and a lot of people are going for the obvious choices of Backblaze, Carbonite and Crashplan. But there are definitely some things you need to seriously consider when looking at your backup options. Here’s my own thoughts on cloud backups.
1. It should never be your only backup
This, in my opinion, is the most important thing to bear in mind. Cloud services can, in theory and practice, come and go. If your ONLY backup is with a cloud service, you don’t really have a backup.
2. How large is your backup, and how long will it take to copy to the cloud?
Cloud backup services typically take a copy of all your data at day one, and then they’ll copy any changed files thereafter. If you have a large amount of data to copy, that first backup is going to take a looooong time. And if you’re creating new, and potentially large, files all the time (photographers, videographers, designers, I’m thinking of you here, but not exclusively those people!) will your backup be able to keep up with the ever changing data?
“Oh, I’ll be OK, I have fast broadband”…..if I had a pound for every time I’d heard that! If you’re in the UK, there’s a good chance that your broadband speed is reasonably good. But what most people are looking at with broadband speeds is the download speed, which is (almost) totally irrelevant when it comes to cloud backups. What you need to look at is your upload or upstream speed. I normally describe this in terms of pipes. Coming into your house (the downstream speed) is a […]

iOS9 Content Blocking – should you use it?

By |October 2nd, 2015

There’s been a whole wealth of controversy over iOS9 content blocking (sometimes called ad blocking), a new feature in the latest iPhone/iPad operating system, and I was unclear where I stood on the debate. That is, until I ran some tests.

Many Web site owners make an income from showing adverts on their sites (some make all their income this way). But in the past couple of years, the size, quality and sheer invasive qualities of ads has grown to be annoying. I won’t pick on any particular advertisers, but we’ve all seen them – huge ads that have a tiny close button on them (somewhere you don’t see initially is the usual form). Or lots of ‘promoted stories’, or ‘clickbait’ as it’s often known (gossipy/sensational stories that have you click into them to be presented with more ads than story).

What you need to remember is that the ads don’t come from the actual Web site. Each site will ‘sell’ space to one of a limited number of web ad agencies, and have limited or no control over the ads served through their site. So when you go to that site, it will then send your browser off to many other domains to pick up content to display on the page you see. A good content blocker knows which of these other domains are known advertising networks, behaviour analysis and tracking sites…..and prevents your browser from referencing them. The advertising networks pay the actual site owner a small fee for every advert that gets loaded into your browser.

The arguments against content blockers is that it removes this source of income from site owners. There’s also the ethical argument that some content blockers may begin to […]

Apple Mail problem

By |October 1st, 2015

This afternoon I wanted to show you a quick tip to avoid an Apple Mail problem I’ve seen a lot, particularly for people with btinternet.com email addresses, over the past couple of years.

Apple Mail has a trick up its sleeve, which when it works is great. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work! There’s a setting which attenpts to amend the settings for your mail account whenever your mail provider changes its settings so that you continue to be able to send and receive mail. More often than not, the call I get is that a BT mail user now can’t send email, and when I look into it, Apple Mail has amended the settings for the outgoing mail server to the incorrect details (I have also seen a couple of people with incoming mail settings incorrectly changed).

There’s an easy fix for this, and that’s to turn the setting off before it goes wrong. It doesn’t matter if you use BT Mail, gmail, Outlook.com or something else…..mail settings rarely change (and if they do, the changes are usually well publicised in advance). So for my money, this setting is pretty pointless. I’d rather have it fixed in stone, so that when incoming or outgoing mails stop working, I know it’s something else that’s wrong.

To find the setting, go into Apple Mail/Preferences/Accounts and click in the Advanced tab for each of your Mail accounts. The first setting (‘Automatically detect and maintain account settings’) should be turned off i.e. unticked.

If you find you’re in a situation where Mail suddenly stops working for you, check if this setting is turned on, and then you’ll need to double check the incoming and outgoing servers are set correctly for your account. […]

About todays release of OS X El Capitan

By |September 30th, 2015

Today, September 30th, marks the release of OS X El Capitan, the latest version (10,11) of OS X. As always I strongly recommend holding off installing it for a little while until any last minute bugs have been discovered and fixed. As always, I expect most Mac users to completely ignore that advice and go ahead anyway! So I have a couple of thoughts for you before you upgrade.

This latest release is a traditional minor upgrade to Yosemite(similar to how Snow Leopard was to Leopard, and Mountain Lion was to Lion). There are plenty of new features added (see here for more info), and minor tweaks to how things are done, but its not a complete reworking. As such, the chances are that it won’t create any significant problems to Mac users on release. But if you use your Mac as a major part of how you make your income, let other people find that out for you – there’s nothing in El Capitan that you can’t wait a couple of weeks for!

If you’re still desperate to go ahead…..please make sure you do a backup of your entire system before performing the upgrade. If the upgrade causes you problems, at least you’ll be able to go backwards and carry on working. I’ve written plenty of stuff about backing up, the most applicable being this one.

And whenever you do the upgrade, I strongly recommend you create installable media for your own use. This will save you downloading the whole 6Gb again should you need to reinstall the new OS on any of your computers. You’ll need to stop the upgrade happening and run a manual process before going ahead, and I did document this for an […]

Backup before upgrading to iOS9

By |September 16th, 2015

OK, for those of you who are about to ignore my earlier advice saying that you should wait a short while before upgrading to iOS9, PLEASE read the following!

If you have to, absolutely, must install iOS9 as soon as it releases there’s one thing you need to do before you go ahead. The chances are that everything will be absolutely fine and you won’t reget it, but on the off chance that you are unlucky (and Apple have released some duff updates previously – see this for example), you’ll be happy you’ve followed my advice below.

Make sure you have at least one good backup of your device today. See below for more details

Carry on with the update if you really insist (but I’d rather you waited 72 hours, honestly)
How to backup
The best way to backup is by connecting to a computer and using iTunes. If you don’t have a computer, do you have a friend that does? Failing that you’re reliant on iCloud (good luck with that!).

1. Connect your iOS device to the computer with your lightning cable.
2. Just below the play controls you’ll see an icon for your device, click on that.
3. Go to the summary section and check that your iPad is backing up to this computer.
4. Select ‘Encrypt local backup’ and enter a password you will remember. This ensures that all confidential data (health data and passwords being the prime examples). Miss this step out and when you restore you’ll be prompted for all your passwords again.
5. Click backup now.

That’ll take 5-15 minutes or so depending on the capacity of your device, but it’ll mean that if the upgrade goes wrong, you’ll be able to go backwards. Trust me, you’ll […]