My portable storage solutions

July 17th, 2013

Can we – or at any rate, I – ever have 'enough' storage? I don't think so.

My renewed – and somewhat vigorous – interest in photography has put pressure on my storage needs. This is amplified by the fact that I use my retina display MacBook Pro for processing. While the machine is super fast and can churn through the toughest Photoshop tasks, its 256GB SSD (solid state drive) quickly became pretty cramped.

The best solution was to shift my photos – fortunately I have them stored in Adobe Lightroom, so the job was easy – to an external drive.

Actually, I use two external drives. Well, three if you count the NAS (Network Accessible Storage) box back at the PC Doc HQ, but I'll leave that out of the equation for now. I carry two because I have one that acts as primary storage, and another that I use to back up the first to, so my photos are in at least two places at any one time.

The first drive is a small, pocket-sized 2Tb Western Digital My Passport drive. This is essentially a notebook drive in a USB 2.0/3.0 compatible housing. The drive draws power from the USB port so there's no adapter to work about, and means I can use it when I'm on the road.

USB 3.0 support means that this is blazing fast when used on USB 3.0 ports, such as those found on the MacBook Pro.

The second drive is a Seagate STBV3000200 3Tb desktop drive. This is a full-sized drive, which means it needs a separate power supply, but this is fine because I use this when I'm back in civilization. This again is USB 3.0-cpmpatible, which means that it is super fast, and the 3Tb of storage is ideal for my needs at present.

I use two drives because I know that hard drives can fail, and I've gone with two different brands because I want to limit my exposure to a bad batch of drives. So far these drives have been with me when I'm out and about and they seem to be putting up with the hard life quite well. That said, I also back up my photos to my NAS box, and I put my best up on cloud storage for safe keeping.

How to keep gear charged up when off the grid

July 16th, 2013

I spent a week off the grid, without access to either fresh running water or electricity. However, despite there being no power outlets, I managed to keep my iPad and iPhone charged up the whole time.

Want to know how I did it? No problem! I documented it over on Hardware 2.0.

I had some pretty cool gear, including a couple of Powermonkey Explorer packs, a Powermonkey Extreme pack, and a 7W Portapow solar panel.

Great fun both being off the grid, and being able to use my devices. Check out the full piece.

Why the iWatch will need to be stylish, not nerdy

July 16th, 2013

Everybody is going nuts over the possibility that Apple is working on a wrist-mounted device, dubbed the iWatch. But while it is all too easy to geek out on the possibility of having an iPhone companion close to hand, Apple will have to nail both the tech and the style of the thing.

But it's also easy to overlook the fact that 'smartwatches' already exist. One such example is the Pebble. The Pebble started life as a Kickstarter project, but it is now a real product that you can pick up at Best Buy.

But one thing that stands out about the Pebble – it's far from being a stylish piece of kit, as Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, discovered.

My wife nailed it when she saw me with Pebble and asked, "so is that the nerd watch?"  As I recovered from the "nerd slap", I thought about it, and the watch really isn’t very stylish. In fact, it’s nerdy.  It is shiny and feels cheap and plasticky, like a watch you can win as a prize in a machine in an arcade.

Mrs. Moorhead is spot on with her assessment of the Pebble. It isn't something you'd expect to see Tony Stark wearing. Yes, us nerds get all excited by all the cool things it can do, but to normal people, it looks like an ugly, nerd watch.

Apple is – assuming it is working on an iWatch – is going to have to put a lot of effort into the styling, and yet make it both geeky and robust enough to handle daily life.

Stop your Mac from going to sleep

July 16th, 2013

As my regular readers over on Hardware 2.0 will know, I've now got a Mac. It's a Core i7-powered, Retina display MacBook Pro, and it is amazing!

It's a great portable system, and I use it for work, and for processing photos and videos.

Because the MacBook Pro is a portable system, Apple have optimized it for battery use, and this means that it goes to sleep whenever it thinks that you're not using it. This is great if you are trying to get the most from your battery, but at other times it can become a bit of a pain in the rear.

While I could dig through the settings and tweak them whenever I don't want the Mac to go off, this is hardly a handy set up, mostly because I forget to undo the changes, and then I hose the battery.

A simple solution I've discovered for this problem is a simple app called Caffeine. This is a freeware app that puts an icon in the right side of your menu bar, which, when you click it prevents your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen, or firing up the screen saver.

Very simple, yet very effective, and well worth downloading.

I’m baaaaack!

July 16th, 2013

Wow! How time flies … and how I've neglected this blog!

It's amazing how life, work, other writing commitments, and a whole bunch of other stuff has come between me and writing for this blog. But no more!

I'm back, and things are going to change!

Expect a regular stream of posts on this blog. If you don't see them, bug me!