Monday, July 23, 2012

My Documents Are Backed up Off-site

Backing up files

After setting up the off-site backup service I chose (see previous blog), and testing it a bit, I decided it was time to get serious.  If this solution was going to work for me, it had to at least handle all the files I had in my Documents folder.

When I did a "Get Info" (Command-I) on my Documents folder, it said that I had a little over 30 GB in the folder.


My favorite program for backing up files, outside of the scheduled Time Machine backup, is FoldersSynchronizer by softoBe.  I have used this program for years whenever I wanted to back up an entire folder of files to an external location.  I never have used it for trying to synchronize files.  

As indicated in the previous blog, there are two major ways of getting to your files on the off-site location.  One is to access them through an FTP program.  The other is to get to them by opening the Network Drive using the Finder.

So I started by trying to use FolderSynchronizer to copy all the files in my Documents folder to a Documents folder which I created in my area on  Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS).  I went to the "Go" menu of the Finder, then "Connect to Server . . .", then entered the server address.  Once I was connected, the network server appears as a disk drive on the desktop and as a shared device in the left panel of a Finder window.  From this point you can treat the device just as any other hard drive connected to your computer, creating folders, dragging files from one folder to another, etc.

With FoldersSynchronizer, you drag the source folder to the top of the Copy window and the destination folder to the bottom of the Copy window.  When you click the "Copy" button, the program starts inventorying the files it will have to copy.  Then it starts copying the files from the source to the destination.  I got an error message almost immediately which said that I didn't have permission to access the folder on the Network drive.  I have no idea why that error was received.  That is a mystery that can wait for another day.  Instead, I tried using Personal Backup, part of the Intego suite of products, which I also own.

This worked, after a fashion.  By the time it had taken an inventory of what it was going to copy, it was predicting it would take over 3 days to finish.  I let it run for an hour.  In that time it had copied about 500 MB.  Since I had been able to copy 2 GB in a half hour the day before, I decided to quit.

Doing things manually

I decided to do things manually using FTP, or simply dragging and dropping using the Finder.  If you have a lot to do, FTP is better because if you use drag and drop and encounter an error, everything just stops and you have to figure out what was copied and what wasn't and start over from there. FTP does some error handling. 

Because I had stopped the backup that had started, I had to determine how far the backup had gotten.  Then I started dragging and dropping groups of files from that point using the Finder.  I wanted to get to a point where I could drag and drop whole folders using FTP.

I probably would have been better off just letting the backup run using Personal Backup.  It ended up taking me 6 days to complete the backup.  It actually might have been better that I did end up doing it more or less manually because some things happened along the way.

In the first place, the OLS-CS server was down for a few hours two days in a row.  The first time (on 7/18) it was down for about 3 hours.  The second time (on 7/19), it was down for about 2 hours.  After the two hours, it appeared to be up.  I could get to my files.  However, I couldn't copy files to my folders.  Later in the evening when I tried, I had full functionality back.  Hopefully this service won't experience too many outages like that.  I tried submitting a help ticket, but this time I never got a reply.

Secondly, I ran across my Virtual Windows XP machine in my Documents folder.  That one file is over 8 GB.  It is the file that is used by a program called "Parallels" to run Microsoft Windows on my Mac.  My FTP program,  Fetch, was copying it as a text file. (I had Fetch set up to automatically select the correct format--text, binary, etc., when copying files.)  Fetch was uploading the 8GB file at 34 KB/s.  It was reporting that it would take 59 hours.  Well, none of that made any sense, so I just decided to be satisfied with on-site backups for that file.  I stopped the copying of the file and deleted it off the Network drive.

One thing I observed was that the time it takes to do a backup will depend on the upload speed you are able to get out of your connection.  When I started working on Friday, the upload speed started out at between 122 & 124 KB/s.  At one point on Saturday, I was only getting 73 KB/s.  In the evening Saturday, I saw 265 KB/s.  That didn't last long.  It was soon down to the 160's range.  The speed will change while the backup is in progress.

Job completed (for now)

I finished backing up the Documents folder on Saturday.  I think I still need to back up my photos and music off-site.  But that may not be true anymore now that Apple has made iCloud available.  But I may wait a couple weeks before I attempt to figure that out.  I want to continue testing this new service I've contracted with for a bit longer before I take these additional steps.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Off-site back up solution

I may have finally found the solution I've been looking for which will provide an off-site location for backups of my laptop.

Backup, backup, backup

We are always told to backup, backup, backup. The more backups the better.

I started using computers in the olden days of the 1980's. In those days I was rescued many times by backups when a floppy disk failed or a hard drive crashed for whatever reason. Though things don't fail as often as they used to, it instilled in me a kind of obsession to make sure everything is backed up.

Time Machine, of course, is an amazing solution because you just have to set it up, and then basically, you can forget it (with some caveats, of course.)

The problem with Time Machine is that it only backs up files. If your boot disk goes belly-up, you can't get it back by using Time Machine. You have to create a boot disk from an original installation disk or disk image, and then you can restore your files from Time Machine. But I'm pretty sure you will have lost all of your settings, and those will all have to be restored.

So about once a month I try to create a bootable backup on an external hard drive. This is basically a clone of my laptop's hard drive. If my hard drive were to fail, I will be able to boot from the external backup and restore everything to a new laptop hard drive, if that is what is called for.


But we are also told to make sure we have a back up far from our house in case the house is destroyed and all the computers and disk drives with it. Since 2009 I have been using a service called NomaDesk. I got in the door early and the cost was very reasonable. And, though they emphasized the ability to share files with other people, I was able to use the service to back up my files. As the years passed, however, they seemed to become more restrictive on the types of files they would allow on their system. The first thing I noticed was they couldn't handle "packages", which is how Apple bundles programs. As time went on, I was calling their support people more and more for help. Things would work for awhile, but then I was back with the support folks.

I must say, their support was excellent--very responsive and willing to try to fix the problem.

After the last go-around, though, I finally gave up on NomaDesk. It just wasn't working for me. So I went shopping.

Comparison shopping

One of the best sites I found for seeing what is out there is . This site specializes in the field of on-line backup and storage and is an excellent place to learn about on-line backup and storage and to comparison shop. I spent a day on the site doing just that and came up with a spreadsheet which you might find helpful. You can download it from here: online backup.xls . NomaDesk is not one of those they review.

Backup vs. storage

The first thing I learned after all of that research was that I didn't want an on-line backup solution. What I really wanted was on-line file storage. Most of the reviews on the web site were of companies that provide on-line backup. They provide software that monitors your local hard drive, and whenever you make changes, it backs-up the new file, much as Time Machine does. Or the software lets you schedule back-ups at regular intervals. But all of the services have certain limitations. Like NomaDesk, most won't back up your programs or applications. Some won't back up your computer's settings. A few limit the size of the file you can back up.

Off-site file storage does not have all these bells and whistles. Automatic or scheduled backups and the ability to sync may be exactly what you want. But I'm more of a hands-on person when it comes to things like this. Off-site file storage is simply a way to store your files on someone else's server. You manage the files yourself including adding, moving, and deleting.

Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS)

It didn't take me long to find Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS). I am very excited about this service. In my testing this morning everything worked perfectly, just as I wanted it to or expected it to. Here is an image of their Dashboard:

There is no free trial. You have to sign up before you can use it or even test it. The cost is only $48 for 2 years for UNLIMITED storage! If you don't like it, you can get a full refund within 45 days. If you find out you don't like it after the 45 days have passed, they will give you a pro-rated refund.

There are no restrictions on file types or file size you copy to their service. You can use your own FTP program or backup program to copy the files. You can access their server as a network drive from the Finder. Once the files have been copied to the off-site location, you have complete control over them just as if they were on your own computer. You can set up sharing, you can define permissions. You can even play or "stream" your mp3 songs by double-clicking on them, just as if they were on your local hard drive. But only realize that there is no syncing going on here between your files on their server and your files on your computer. You have to take care of that yourself. Which is exactly the way I want things to work for my purposes.

You can use an application called AjaXplorer on your iOS or Android devices to access your files. The iOS version costs $0.99. This means that because you have access to all the files you copied from your computer to the OLS-CS servers from within AjaXplorer, that if you have an app on your mobile device that can open a particular kind of file, you can not only read it, but work on it as well. Then it is up to that application as to how you get it back on your computer's hard drive, whether you have to email it to yourself or use some other method provided by the application.

Besides file storage, OLS-CS provides web site hosting complete with unlimited domains, email, and database access. They have a few projects in beta, as you can see from the screenshot.


So I used Fetch, the FTP program I've been using for years, to copy some of my files to OLS-CS today. Copying about 2 GB took about a half hour. The FTP copying got hung up when two files were found with backslashes ( / ) in the file name. Other times the backslash was automatically converted to a colon ( : ). That was a minor glitch.

When I tried to Go to the OLS-CS service and see my files by connecting to their servers as a Network Drive, I had to contact their support for help. The only method they provide is by filling out a web form. They then reply by email. The response was received within a half hour. It turns out that there was a typo in their instructions. The instructions say to enter https://dav/ The correct entry shoul be, using a dot rather than a backslash.

It will take some time to copy everything to OLS-CS. But so far, everything is working and I think I have found a solution that will finally be what I've wanted all along.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Company Starts Gigabit-per-Second Broadband Project

Your connection with the internet may have everything to do with how fast your computer seems.  If you are doing most of your work through an internet connection, the time between the click on a button on a web page and the time you get a response can mean the difference between moving on with your life and total frustration.

A standard DSL connection to the home might range anywhere from 256 kilobits per second to 768 kilobits.  Cable modems can run ten times faster, between 2 megabits per second up to 5 megabits.  With FIOS, which uses a fiber optic cable connection, your speed may depend on how much you are shelling out for your connection.  But it can run twice as fast as cable modems, or from 10 megabits per second and higher.

Now a new Ohio start-up company, called Gigabit Squared, has raised $200 million to fund a gigabit-per-secod broadband project, one that would run 100 times faster than the typical fiber optic connection.  Gigabit Squared will work with the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U), a coalition of 30 universities focused on improved broadband.  They will select six communities in which to build the ultra-fast broadband networks, they said.

The new program has partnerships with several companies, including Corning, G4S, Juniper Networks, Alcatel Lucent, Ericson and Level 3, Mark Ansboury, the president of Gigabit Squared, said.  Funding comes from private sources.

The project will focus on creating a self-funding service that doesn't depend on government funding or subsidies, said Blair Levin, executive director of Gig.U and lead author of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2010 national broadband plan. "We're very excited about the notion that the private sector is stepping up to this, because it can build that sustainable model," he said.

The winning communities will be selected between November and the first quarter of 2013.  For more information, you can check out the Gigabit Squared web site here: .

Monday, July 2, 2012

GraphicConverter Upgrade to 64-bit and Scanning

If you use GraphicConverter, you have hopefully upgraded to the latest version.  I make it a practice to always get upgrades when they are announced.  Of course, if you don't have the latest hardware, that can sometimes cause problems.  That is what happened to me when I installed the latest version of GraphicConverter.

Version 8 of GraphicConverter came out around the end of May and was completely rewritten to take advantage of the latest 64-bit systems.  It requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher.  You can learn more about the program here: .

I use GraphicConverter every day to manage the images of the items I sell on eBay.  I was using an Epson WorkForce 600 multi-function wireless printer/scanner/copier/fax machine, which was TWAIN compliant.  That meant that I could summon the scanner using the option in the GraphicConverter menus.  After scanning the item, the image would open right up in GraphicConverter where I could prepare it for use in my eBay auction.

After installing the GraphicConverter upgrade, my Epson scanner was not recognized by GraphicConverter.

After sending an email to Thorsten Lemke, the author of the software, he suggested that the Epson scanner driver was not 64-bit compatible.  Since I bought the Epson in 2009, I was sure he was probably right.  From my point of view, it appears he went right to work and came out with version 8.1 of the software on June 4.  This new version allowed you to choose to run the software in 32-bit mode.

To do this you shut down GraphicConverter and find the application (usually in your Applications folder).  Select the icon and do a "Get Info" either from the Finder menu or by pressing "Command-I". You will find a check-box in the "General" section of the "Get Info" window pane where you can choose to "Open in 32-bit mode".

Once I did that and opened GraphicConverter, I tried to summon the Epson scanner.  I could see that GraphicConverter now recognized that it was out there, and it would work normally one time.  But after letting it sit for awhile and trying to use it again, GraphicConverter hung.  I had to force quit GraphicConverter in order to continue with my work.  Mr. Lemke concluded that the problem was with the Epson driver.

When I used the Epson scanner software that came with the Workforce 600, the driver had always annoyed me because it would time out, forcing me to quit the Epson scanner software and restart it.  My guess is that when I was using the scanner from within GraphicConverter, the scanner driver timed out and when I tried to use it the second time, it brought GraphicConverter down.  I let Mr. Lemke know that I would just use the Epson scanner outside of the GraphicConverter program and save the resulting file.  I would then have to open the file in GraphicConverter as an additional step.

If you read my previous blog entries, you know that the Epson Workforce 600 died soon after all of this and I ended up getting a Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8600 Plus, which isn't TWAIN compliant.  So it can't be used from within GraphicConverter either.