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Comment Re:Don't (Score 1) 350

I've struggled with this for my own family picture/video/audio library. I have thousands of digital pictures going back to 2003, some of which are irreplaceable (long gone friends, honeymoon, kids etc). So without really coming up with a strategy I just maintain a lot of redundant copies. Here is how I currently do it.

Camera dump goes onto my wife's Macbook which is sort of the 'master'. I have hourly incremental backups on that going to my Mac in the basement office over wifi. Occasionally we rsync her laptop to mine so I have another backup. I have my laptop setup to do hourly incremental backups to my Mac at the office when I'm there. In other words I have at least one backup of everything both on site and offsite and a lot would have to go wrong to lose everything.

My last piece is I recently picked up a Drobo to go on the MacMini on the TV. I'm thinking that will become the new hub since it's not being lugged around like a laptop and has RAID. So we'll start there with camera dumps and then fan out to everything else. All the other solutions I could think of just had shelf-life/durability problems, not to mention going stale quickly. Physical prints are especially problematic, as others have covered, but DVDs or dry-docked hard drives are also questionable in the long run. Maybe I could go with tape but that means buying a fairly expensive drive and media and having to roll my own incremental system (plus tape tensioning, head cleaning and all that jazz). For now I think I've got a fairly resilient solution which didn't require a lot of setup/thought/hardware to implement. It also just worked out since I had all these other places to stash stuff already deployed.

And, yes, I did mention a lot of Macs but the idea should be platform agnostic. If you have a house and workplace full of Windows or Linux boxes I'm sure you can do the same thing there.

Comment Re:What (Score 1) 123

AOL still exists? Wow.

AOL has been riding the profits from its dying dialup business to relaunch itself as an internet content and advertising business. They actually have a fairly large stable of brands besides their own Autos or Shopping channels. Poking around their corporate site, here is a list of sites they operate: 5min, advertising,, adtech, AIM, autoblog, cambio, citysbest, comicsalliance, dailyfinance, engadget, everydayhealth, gadling, games, giseleandthegreenteam, goodnewsnetwork, goviral, holidash,huffington post, joystiq, jsyk, kitchendaily, mapquest, mmafighting, moviefone, noisecreep, patch, pawnation, pictela, seed, shortcuts, shoutcast, slashcontrol, smckids, spinner, streampad, studionow, stylist, theboombox, theboot, techcrunch, tuaw, tuvozentuvida, winamp, wow and probably a bunch of others I couldn't find. While some of these might not be top of mind, combined they represent a huge pile of pageviews and traffic. There is also a nice set of investments in new sties tracked on crunchbase:

Comment Re:Thunderbolt? (Score 1) 437

Its only/main real use will be DisplayPort.

That and high-def low compression video recording. Pretty much have to use some kind of PCI card to do that today which limits options. One interface for all: video in, out and storage rather than a hodgepodge of connection types.

Comment Unplugged for two years (Score 2) 697

Did this about two years ago. After experimenting with different things on my laptop I finally went with a MacMini. Just works and my wife can operate it without much trouble. Did a BlueTooth keyboard and mouse for couch operation. EyeTV with the USB digital tuner and a cheap $30 antenna in the attic for off-air. Tried live streaming of sports as that was a requirement from my better half and found the NFL offerings were weak at best at any price. Only option was hundreds of $ to DirectTV which seems to have a lock on streaming NFL inside the US. Off air worked quite well and with a great picture. So with the eyeTV software we have DVR which picks up all the kids shows, building a nice library or Dinosaur Train and Thomas the Train. We paid the couple $ a year for the TVGuide EPG data downloaded daily. We don't watch a lot of movies and those we do we tend to have on DVD. I threw an external Firewire drive on there for plenty of room and ripped our library to it over time. Probably upgrade to a Drobo when the current drive fills up. Not irreplaceable data but I also don't want to re-build that library again. The one bit that I especially liked was the optical outputs, available on most (all?) Macs in their headphone jack. I was able to run that right into my home theatre system to get the 5.1 decode both from DVD and broadcast. Also, as a real computer and not some simplified TV box, I've got full app usefulness. So I'm bringing up the kids right with MacMAME and classic arcade games along with a few other titles. We also can web surf or whatever else is needed as it just connects to my wireless network. We've also populated iTunes with most of our music library so it makes a nice jukebox with the visualizer running. The box is otherwise silent and unobtrusive. Still have the old sony trinitron so doing a VGA to NTSC SVideo downconvert for now. Found a nice little USB powered device to do that for $30. I'm allowed to go to an HD projector with screen once I finish the bathroom remodel :) I hauled the setup to another venue for a projected high-def superbowl party (clamped the antenna to a railing outside) and it worked really well.

Comment Re:Apple will do what's best for Apple (Score 1) 500

If the experience includes complexity that distracts from my primary purpose of using the thing, that is not a good value proposition. I like the manual transmission in my sports car but when stuck in traffic or on long drives I miss the automatic in the family hauler. So it depends on what pieces you consider to be critical to the experience. There is always a capability/complexity tradeoff and for some the compromise in not tenable. For millions of others who have voted with their wallets, the simple life is just fine, thank you very much. For me, I like being able to just do my work and have more time to play with the kids. I've done the fiddly driver config dance and could get things working, but my time is worth more than that.

Comment Re:Apple will do what's best for Apple (Score 1) 500

Sounds like Lo has some circular logic: ...Apple's closed model only worked because, in many product categories like MP3 players, "they own the market". Well, how did they become owners of that market? Maybe because people actually liked the products that a closed environment can produce. Compared to what else was out there the simplicity Apple could enforce by controlling the whole purchase, sync, play chain was unmatched. Sure some like manual transmissions in cars but others just want to drive.

Comment Re:Importance, prioritising (Score 1) 680

Life is too short and disk space too cheap to spend a lot of time pruning. I just keep it all sorted by date and with modern photo library managers I can usually find just about anything in a few minutes. Want those beach pictures from last summer, scroll to July 2010, done. I do keep lots of backups though. I have the entire library on my laptop (500GB drive, so no worries yet) which I sync to my wife's laptop every now and then since she also adds photos to the library. I have both laptops setup with hourly incremental backups. My laptop backs up to another machine under my desk at work where I added another drive just for backups and my wife's laptop backs up to the office computer in the basement to which I also added a hard drive just for backups. So I figure that gets me multiple locations with multiple copies.I'm also starting to think about syncing to our media computer hooked up to the TV but maybe that's overkill. Plan is to put a Drobo RAID on the media machine anyway so that would remove the singe point of failure problem with the other two backups.

Comment Accessibility and Flash (Score 1) 515

"That cloud ought to be accessible by anybody's computer and through any sort of information sitting out on the Web." Interesting that they would mention Flash's Achilles heel in that its history has been littered with weak or broken accessibility. On the Mac platform, which includes a full screen reader and keyboard navigation system built into the OS, Flash is entirely inaccessible. On Windows, if you embed flash so that it works with DHTML layers (set wmode) it also becomes inaccessible. Even if it is embedded in a page running on a Windows browser, most developers don't know about or discover how to set up attributes to, say, label a button or control as to what it does. Those options are buried in the IDE UI and turned off by default (or at least they used to be). Even if a developer cares, at some point that custom slider constructed from boxes with mouse tracking and such needs semantic markup to identify what it is - the ActionScript equivalent of the w3c's ARIA. Adobe says they are working on it but when? Sure HTML5/CSS3 is pretty green, but there are real implementations out there now in mainstream browsers. By the time Flash catches up, will it matter?

Comment Re:Real Time Text chat (Score 1) 874

Likewise AIM for Windows still supports real-time IM. It's a real boon to the deaf community as it works much like a TTY device, but without needing special hardware or relay services. Just hit control-R to get going. More detail from this 2008 article: from Gallaudet University who helped develop the technology.

Comment Re:If you want it to act like a computer hooked to (Score 1) 304

Ditto. I also use a bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I can control things well from the couch. It can output pretty much whatever video format you need short of NTSC/S-Video (at least on newer Minis which dropped those ancient formats). For that I just got a cheap $30 VGA to S-Video downconverter which is powered off one of the USB ports.
I also have an eyeTV USB digital TV tuner connected to a simple $30 antenna in the attic which gets high-def on many channels and canceled cable (at least the non-broadband internet part). Has all the usual stuff like EPG, DVR and sharing out the recorded files for various devices over the network. We just don't watch much tv so basic abc/cbs/nbc/pbs etc was just fine for occasional live events. High-def images from the olympics were really nice and many channels have the 5.1 audio as well. Everything else is movies or streaming video from youtube or hulu. I just search youtube for robots or construction trucks and the boys get all excited.
Most folks don't realize that Macs for quite a few years now ship with digital audio output in their headphone jack so all you do is get a mini-TOS-Link to whatever your home theatre optical input is cable. I picked up one cheap on newegg, plugged it in and instant great sound off the Mac.
I also got a nice wireless USB game controller to run SDLMame along with the mamepgui frontend. Want to be sure my boys learn their up/down/left/right the correct way - by playing classic video games :) Of course my old copy of 4x4 Evolution looks nice as well.
RipIt really works well so I don't have to keep hunting down the 20 Trucks DVD on the bookshelf every time the boys want to watch or worry that it might get scratched/mangled. Just put a folder in the Movies folder named Twenty Trucks, drop the video_ts from Ripit in there along with a picture called Preview.jpg and FrontRow works just fine.
Loaded up the CD library into iTunes and then loaded the free iPhone remote app to control it from anywhere via wifi. I can also use the old Apple remote I had laying around from a laptop or the eyeTV includes another remote. Bad part with the eyeTV is the receiver is actually on the USB dongle itself, usually hanging down behind the mini, and doesn't make use of the mini's IR receiver on the front. The eyeTV also has an FM Tuner but I don't make much use of it. Nice to pull that signal off the attic antenna though so it is clear when I do pull it in.
We also threw our digital camera images in iPhoto which seems to make it more accessible than dragging out the old laptop anytime we want to show a group of friends.
In general everything just works and there is enough free/OSS stuff out there to address anything Apple didn't already put in the box. I bought the machine for this purpose so I got max RAM and CPU since the thing is a pain to crack open later. I skimped on the hard drive since I can always plop an external firewire drive on it when the built-in drive gets full.
I put icons to all the major apps on the desktop and set the image size to max making nice big clickable targets when not using Frontrow. My wife finds that easy to use and easier than the multi-input multi-remote setup we had before. The old DVD player is going to a worthy charity.
Now I just need that high def projector and a motorized screen with 12v trigger so it all wakes up together :)

Comment Re:Get a Mac (Score 1) 932

I have kept my parents and brother's family on macs for years. I live several states away and while I do get calls, they are higher level application usage questions rather than fix the plumbing types of problems. My wife moved over from a Dell to a Macbook a few years ago for similar reasons. I just loaded Firefox, Thunderbird and Office on her Mac and she was right at home. It really has worked well and with used hardware the cost for my sanity has been relatively cheap. The macs are like toasters and telephones; in general they just work.

Comment Re:Dodo (Score 1) 435

My VOIP service has an automatic rollover to my cell if for some reason they lose contact with the box in my basement. Before I got a UPS this was handy for power outages. Of course that also meant I got voice spam coming to my cell for that time period. I could also leave it to just rollover to voicecmail which then gets sent to my email as a wav, so I'd still get inbound calls. I could also, via the web interface, forward the number to anywhere else. Sounds like his VOIP service was not very robust. There's a lot more than just being able to make a call over your internet connection.

One time I had to make a personal long distance call while at work and had forgotten my cell. So I went on the web, forwarded my home voip number to the long distance number I wanted to reach. Then I called my house from work which rolled over to the out-of-state business I was trying to call. When the call was over I just turned forwarding back off. Nice.

Comment Re:Dodo (Score 1) 435

Under the hood all this does is shift traffic from the dedicated routes from one handset to another to the packet switched data networks that handle voip and other internet traffic. The big telcos still charge a pretty penny for the OC-192 connections that make it all go. The difference is that before they would have to dedicate a T1 of capacity for every 24 lines of communication. Now we can multiplex lots more "channels" per gigabit. So for every 1000 canceled phone lines there is another order for x more digital capacity, but x is much smaller than the capacity canceled. So we should eventually have capacity freed up in the system because of the switch away from dedicated lines, if it weren't for that pesky non-voip internet traffic filling up all the pipes.

As for me and my VOIP I'm loving it. My paid for service has all the features I want (Voicemails sent to my email, blocking anonymous users, call forwarding all configurable from anywhere on the web etc) and is costing me half what Verizon used to charge for a 'real' line. Plus I can take the voip box anywhere and get/make calls. On a trip to Singapore my wife could call her sister in the states the same as from home. Nice.

Comment Forgotten game: Marathon (Score 1) 117

Just because it was on the Mac doesn't mean it wasn't a great series of games.
Lots of innovations made there by the Bungie folks before they were bought up my Microsoft and ported Halo from the Mac to XBox.
Halo was introduced at MacWorld expo in 1999

Comment Apple VoiceOver not relevant? (Score 1) 663

It is unfortunate that the authors chose to ignore Apple's work in this space with their excellent VoiceOver (VO) accessible technology which gives full access to the OS and applications. Because it's built in to every OSX 10.4 and 10.5 machine a blind user can set up everything themselves without sighted assistance. This also makes it a screen reader with the largest installed base; more than Jaws or WindowEyes. In a classroom setting there is no longer the need for the "special" machine for the "special" student, enabling a more mainstream approach. The on-screen feedback also lets sighted and blind users collaborate more easily because the visual user can see what the blind user is doing via the keyboard. Got a USB braille device? Just plug it in without having to install drivers. Got a lot of VO preference settings? Save a profile to a thumb drive and then instantly activate those settings on another machine by just plugging it in.

As mentioned in the article, accessibility technologies such as screen readers are not cheap. Getting a Mac with VO can easily offset the supposed premium price of this hardware. Alex, the VO speech synth is really one of the nicest sounding ones out there with simulated breathing and clear annunciation. Anyone can give it a try by hitting Apple-F5 on a current OSX machine.

"Although major operating systems usually have built-in screen readers for accessibility by the blind, they are rudimentary at best."

I guess OSX is not a major OS or VO is just rudimentary, or the writer is just wrong.

There was a nice rebuttal on

Apple's innovations are not constrained to the iPhone/iPod/MacBook/OS realms. Sure it has it's quirks and glitches, but to not even get a mention is a serious error of omission.

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