Backup Gadgets

My iPad Has iPhone Envy – I Have a Headache

A comic style crashing fistSo, I plug my iPad into my Mac Mini this morning, like most mornings, so that it gets the latest podcast downloads and tells iTunes what I’ve already listed too. It’s usually a quick process. But this morning it was taking awhile. So I take a look at iTunes and the status window is listing a bunch of application as it removes them. This is not normal. This is not good. I look down at the iPad Summary screen to find that my iPad has now switched itself to an iPhone. Those apps being removed are iPad only apps.

I’ve never owned an iPhone. Still, I haven’t had my coffee yet so I look over to verify I still have that big honking iPad. The iPhone fairy didn’t swap it over night while I slept. On the plus side I now have a shiny new ringtones tab in iTunes. Unfortunately I’ve got nothing that will ring, especially since it’s not even a 3G iPad. So, doesn’t seem like a fair trade. I don’t like my iPad’s new iPhone personality.

Next I take a look at the backups. The one from today is labeled “iPad” and it’s the one done with the sync that turned it to an iPhone. Restoring to it will probably be a waste of time. I have two other recent backups labeled “iPhone” so I won’t be using those. (I’ve never owned an iPhone so assume those were created by the iPad on the 28th and 29th as it began to lose its mind.) Then I have one labeled iPod Touch which is probably a legit backup of my sane iPod Touch.

Now a back story here is that two days ago (the 28th, coinciding with that iPhone backup that went unnoticed) I had a problem where the iPad wouldn’t sync, it said a file couldn’t be found. At that time I rebooted the iPad and synced. This time it wanted to do a restore or set up a new iPad. The restore didn’t work (literally, nothing happened when clicked) so I set up a new iPad which was relatively painless. No settings lost, no apps lost, no data lost. All seemed fine. I used a different iPad name to avoid potential issues (so I thought).

So this time around I decided to flatten it and rebuild. I deleted all the backups and told iTunes to do a factory reset on my “iPhone”. Which it did, and as a factory reset is supposed to do, all settings were lost.

From a data standpoint it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t lose anything. But I hadn’t realized how many settings and customizations I made in the little time I had the iPad. It was turning out to be a real pain settings things up again. Plus I lost one small in-app purchase. But the worst thing ones I lost all my Plants vs. Zombies history and was starting the game over.

Mr Fix it type cartoon characterAt this point I decided to look into finding my older iPad backups and seeing if I can restore one of those. Worst case is another reset and the tedious process of customization. I got lucky in that I was backing up the backups due to my paranoia and abundance of extra disk. So once I found the backups in Time Machine I decided to go back to the 27th, which was before the first sync failure.

I start iTunes and let my iPad connect and sync, and do a backup if it wants. Then I locate the backup files which are in a cryptically named subdirectory under ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ where ~ is my home directory.

There were over 3,500 files of various dates in that directory so I deleted them all to be sure I had a nice clean restore from a point in the past. Then I went into time machine and restored all the files in that directory from the 27th. I go into iTunes and make sure it sees the backup of that date. (Backups are listed under iTunes –> Preferences one the Devices tab. At least they are in the Mac version of iTunes.).  Then I do a restore by right-clicking on the iPad in the device list and picking “Restore From Backup” from the menu. From this point on the restore was straight-forward and finished with a device reboot.

After this everything was good. I had my in-app purchase back and had only lost a little Plants vs. Zombies history.

An interesting thing – the backup I did the restore from is now listed as a second backup for the device (with the full date).

Lessons Learned

Apple iPad ImageI got lucky due to my paranoia in that I had no idea only one backup was kept. I hadn’t thought about iTunes thinking all was well and overwriting that backup with bad data. I had no idea where the backups were kept. I had no idea money could be lost with a factory reset (see next lesson) if the last backup was also bad. I had time machine backing up my library folder. This is the first time I can remember that time machine was truly needed. It was only running because I had the disk, the space on it, and I’m paranoid about losing data. My other backups simply take the current snapshot.

I had one in app purchase. It was an app upgrade and the factory restored iPad didn’t see it. It was less than $5, but it still would have annoyed me to have to re-buy the app or figure out who to contact and how to restore it. From now on when I do an in-app purchase I’ll be sure to do a backup on the next sync, even if it’s already done that days backup, and make sure Time Machine gets a backup of the backup before I sync again. Even better, I’ll avoid in-app purchases if there’s a choice or if I’m not willing to lose the purchase down the road.

The backup directory is cryptically named and I had two, one for each device. I deleted my iPod Touch back in iTunes so that I’d only have one backup directory and know which one it was (after copying both to a temp location). I now have a record of that directory and will keep a record for each new device.

There’s only one backup per device in iTunes and iTunes will do a new backup on the first sync every day. Doing my restore with iTunes off simply caused it to be overwritten when I connected the iPad and it did it’s first sync. As an alternative to doing the file restore with iTunes running I probably could have turned off the automatic sync in iTunes preferences.

The iTunes 9.1.1 update was recent but I had successful syncs after that upgrade so I can’t really blame that. But there’s nothing else that even comes close to being a potential cause.

Anyone else have iPads that think they’re iPhones (or visa-versa)?

OS Quest Trail Log

The OS Quest Trail Log #49: It’s Gonna Get Messy Edition

Cartoon of Mr Fix ItThere’s been a lot going on around the OS Quest household, but mostly in small bits and pieces. One of the more involved things (at least based on the amount of my time it will take) is a change to the website design & structure. I’ve been using the Thesis theme since last October, and while I’ve liked it overall it hasn’t been as easy to make design changes as I would like. The recent upgrades, and the types of features added, also indicated to me that it was moving away from what I wanted.

So after looking and making changes via Thesis I’ve pretty much decided to go another route. I’ll leave the details for another post (or posts). Suffice it to say it’s going to be messy for awhile. While my day job requires thorough testing and analysis before moving something into production that regimen doesn’t translate well to this website. I’d rather jump right in and make the changes on the live site to see how they look. So as long as I can back stuff out quickly the changes will be in pieces. So on Saturday I put on my cowboy hat and started making the changes so if your a regular site visitor you’ll start seeing the changes. There’s no drastic change to the look of the site so far, but I’ve started to change the plumbing so it can accommodate some features I want.

My biggest problem is that the changes will go beyond just the look of the website. I’ll be restructuring the categories and will probably have to redo some of the posts. Having to redo the posts gets to another of my complaints about Thesis – several of the features I used are Thesis specific and will be lost with this change. I’ll be trying to stay as close to core WordPress features as I can.

So depending upon when you visit the site over the next week or so things may or may not be working.

Home Network Rebuild

Continuing along the messy theme of this issue, on Friday I redid the OS Quest home network which included a complete rebuild of the home wireless network. In this case I removed a mess consisting of two router/WAPs, a couple Powerline network adapters, a switch, and a bunch of cables. They got replaced them with one Netgear Router/WAP. So far performance has been good (better than expected in some cases). Much to my surprise I didn’t have any wireless connection issues. I was so sure I’d have problems that I used new network names and configs so I could just fire the old stuff back up. Historically I’ve had issues with signal strength and interference. But there was none of that so far (fingers crossed/knock wood/waving rubber chicken).

My initial goal was to just update my existing network. I’m looking to do some additions in the future. Mainly the addition of a wireless bridge to my work table. Right now I run a cable across the floor when I’m working at the table. I’m looking for the wireless bridge to eliminate that messy and slightly dangerous cable along with letting me connect multiple PCs.

Backup Changes Being Evaluated

I’ve been using Jungle Disk as my offsite backup solution. It backs up to either Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files. There’s no bandwidth related charges with Rackspace Cloud Files so I’ve been using that since it is slightly cheaper and has been reliable. While Amazon S3 or Rackspace are cheap in the beginning the costs do grow over time as what’s being backed up grows. Naturally my bill has been trending upwards and the March bill was just over $11 for just over 70GB of storage. Since this is only going to grow I’ve been looking for alternatives. I have one non-negotiable requirements (besides reliability) in that the files must be encrypted before they leave my PC and I must be the only one that knows the encryption key. This goes along with the “trust no one” philosophy although I admit I need to trust the vendor to be telling the truth if they say they meet the requirements.

So this weekend I started evaluating KeepVault. The main thing that drew me to KeepVault was it’s Windows Home Server Add-In. The KeepVault PC Connector for WHS is a nice addition to. Still too early to tell what I think of it, but with my current backup volume it was save me about $50 a year.  I already use Windows Home Server to store almost all my files. Even though I ran Jungle Disk from my desktop it was mainly backup the files from the server.

A New Printer

MP560 I’ve been cleaning up closets and file cabinets, shredding old papers and stacking papers that I want to scan before shredding. I do have a flatbed scanner but it’s use had been so infrequent it lost its space and has been thrown in a corner. I’ve been putting off setting up the scanner because I didn’t have a good place to set it up.

As luck would have it my existing printer started acting up, or more precisely, stopped acting (aka working) with increasing frequency. This happened to be at a time when I didn’t have any extra ink cartridges. So since new printers barely cost more than the ink that comes with them I decided to go for an all-in-one printer with a wireless connection. I ended up picking the Canon PIXMA MP560 inkjet all-in-one printer. I don’t do a lot of printing and this had a good mix of features and price. I’ve yet to scan on it but setting up the wireless printing on my Windows and Mac PCs was a breeze. I still need to use it more before I can really judge it.

This brings another Trail Log to an end. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going through the week and get some articles posted along with the website changes.


Yet Another iPad Post

Apple iPad ImageOk, one more iPad article. I have to admit, the iPad has me intrigued in many ways. I don’t subscribe to Apple’s slogan that it’s a  “A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price”. Especially that “unbelievable price” part since it implies “unbelievably low”. Still, the hype that surrounds it, the apps being written for it, and the competitors trying to market competing products will make for an interesting year. The good news is that I’ve started another site – Pad Chronicles – to follow along the iPad trail. So, if you can’t get enough of the iPad, head on over there.

I’ve been using the iPad since Saturday and here are my impressions so far:

  • The iPad is fun to use. The interface is intuitive and the touch interface makes sense and doesn’t seem like it was shoehorned in.
  • It’s heavy. Holding it for viewing or reading can be tiring if it’s not propped against something that takes some of the weight.
  • Despite the fun, there are frustrating walls in the UI.
  • The mail app is one of those walls. While the interface seems to make sense if I think about it enough,  it doesn’t feel right. The fact that every time I go into it a mail message is open drives me nuts. Making it worse is it’s always an old message (the last one I viewed). I have to select the newer messages. I’ve gotten a little more used to it, but it just doesn’t feel right.
  • Screen glare is a problem. It ranges from mildly annoying to completely unusable depending upon the lighting and what I’m trying to do.
  • Like my iPad Touch, the screen attracts fingerprints and grime. Maybe because it’s bigger, but it seems worse on the iPad. It does clean easily with a dry cloth (or pant leg) but it can be downright disgusting when I put that black screen down after extensive use.
  • I didn’t plan to watch a lot of video on the iPad but I gave it a try and I’ve been using it more than I expected. I’ve been watching my own videos along with Netflix streaming and it’s been good, unless I’m in a place that I can’t maneuver to eliminate the screen glare.
  • The default wallpaper seems to be a bad choice from a company usually so concerned with looks. I changed it because the stars looked like scratches or dirt which was more annoying than the real smudges.
  • The speaker is mono, but better than the iPod Touch’s. With the Touch I really need to use headphones for any audio. With the iPad the the speaker is usable without headphones. Like I said, it’s mono. It’s also not something you’d want to play music through and expect to fill a room. But I can watch video with the sound through the speaker without a problem. I predict some stereo speakers on the next model.
  • Some of the apps are buggy, probably due to the lack of real hardware for testing. But in general performance has been great.
  • The on screen keyboard isn’t going to be used to write the great American novel, but it doesn’t suck and it’s usable and better than I expected. That said, don’t buy an iPad expecting to create a lot of content. I’ve answered some emails and done some simple web forms. For that it’s fine.
  • There’s still a premium for a lot of iPad apps. Can’t really blame the developer’s. If people pay the price it’s not gouging since there’s no rule saying we need to buy them.
  • There isn’t any multi-tasking (at least for 3rd party apps) and I have no complaints about that. There is the ability to save the app state when switching apps which is what I really want. (Although some apps don’t save state due to either security or bugs). If multi-tasking is added later I hope there’s a way to enable it at the app level. Music in the background is nice at times, I can’t think of much else I want spinning CPU cycles when it’s not front and center.
  • I also don’t miss the camera others say should be there. I guess it would be OK for video conferencing. That’s if you find a way to prop it up at the right angle. As for taking pictures – the word “awkward” comes to mind. If there had been an optional camera I would have passed.
  • The “unbelievable price” claim by Apple really gets under my skin. This is not inexpensive. I’m sure Apple maintains their nice margins on the iPad.

There’s probably more negative bullet point than positive ones in my list. But still, I’m happy with the iPad. It’s a version 1 device and the one next year will be better. But that’s always true. Wait and the hardware always gets better and cheaper. In Apple’s case the price points often stay the same but the hardware improves. While I did consider cancelling my pre-order due to the price, once I got it I never considered returning it and I’ll be using it daily for a long time.


The iPad Arrives – First Impressions

Apple iPad ImageI’ve had the iPad for just under a day and a half now, here are my impressions so far. Firs off, I never bought into Apple’s “a magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price” hype. That hasn’t changed, which isn’t a bad thing. I also think the surveys that ask “why did you, or will you, get an iPad” and list a bunch of line items miss the point, at least in my opinion. There’s probably a better choice, or will soon be a better choice, for each of those line items.

It was heavier than expected. Yea, I read the specs that said it was 1 1/2 pounds, but it feels heavier. It also feels solidly built but I’m not about to drop it to find out how solid. The screen also becomes a mess of fingerprints after a little. I mainly noticed this with the iPad off and the light hitting it just right. The fingerprints didn’t bother me while I was using it. Like the iPod Touch, the screen cleans right up. The one thing that did bother me was screen glare. At one point it was so bad I couldn’t watch the video. Most other times I just had to change the angle a bit.

I had a chance to watch several hours of video on the iPad this weekend although I don’t expect video to be a big usage for me. In this case it was video I’d ripped from DVD. Syncing to the iPad was painfully slow (so is syncing to my iPod Touch). It did tell me that there was some video that wasn’t synced because it couldn’t be played on the iPad. This was video that plays OK on my Apple TV. I haven’t had a chance to look into it yet. I also didn’t try the iTunes option to convert to an iPad compatible format.

Setting up wireless networking was straight forward, It connected to my Wireless N network which is an Apple Airport Extreme. It also connected just fine to a Verizon Wireless MiFi although I didn’t get to use the MiFi very long.

There are people who say the iPad will be a Kindle killer. Well, if the Kindle is a platform to sell books for Amazon, rather than a physical device, then the iPad is a Kindle helper. I spent more on Kindle books this weekend than I did for iPad apps. The Kindle’s e-ink just doesn’t cut it for books heavy on code samples, graphics or photos. At least the small one doesn’t cut it. Maybe the larger Kindle DX is better. While they’re readable on the PC or Mac with the Kindle App, I didn’t want to be tied to a computer screen. So I’ve added a few reference books to the Kindle library. It’ll be helpful to be able to pull up the computer reference books while on the computer and not have to flip back and forth between apps. I can read Kindle books on any computer, my Kindle (of course) and now my iPad. My iPod Touch can handle them too, but I won’t do a lot of reading on that small screen. (Still, nice to have the option.)

I did do about 20 minutes of reading on the iPad without feeling any eyestrain. Still, the screen is bright and if it’s inverted to white on black then the text is bright and most pictures look like negatives. For extended book reading I’ll probably stick to the Kindle, even though it requires external lighting.

It’ll be the Apps that make or break the Kindle for me. The extra screen real estate should come in handy. In addition to running the apps that ran on my iPod Touch I added the following iPad apps:

Book Apps: Marvel Comics – I’m not a comics reader, but this app could turn me into one. The app is free and there’s a couple comics available for free to try it out. Kindle – I already mentioned this one. iBook – I gave the sample book a spin. Nothing about it would make me leave the Kindle ecosystem. InstaPaper Pro – was a fixture on my Touch and now it’s universal and takes advantage of the iPad.

News Apps: USA Today – Their website drove me away long ago, but the app organizes the news nicely. It is USA Today so there’s not a lot of in depth reporting. NPR for iPad – This is an iPad specific version of their app. I liked the iPod Touch app but haven’t had much time with this one. BBC News – Integrates web articles, video and radio. AP News – nice looking app for AP news. These apps seemed to all cache articles when connected as I was able to read some without a wireless connection.

Productivity: Evernote – another fixture from my Touch that’s been updated for the iPad. Bento – A database app I avoided because it’s Mac specific. But I gave in since I had a couple uses. Nice app that’s implemented nicely on the iPad. It’s a low cost app so this may not be much of a downside, but if you want it for multiple platforms you pay for each version. I suspect the iPhone version would work on the iPad but that seems like it would be a waste of space using a small piece of the screen.

Games & Entertainment: Civilization Revolution for the iPad – I kicked my Civ addiction a long time ago but gave it and got it for the iPad. NetFlix – Netflix released an app to stream videos. I gave it a try and found it a bit buggy but usable. Somehow I got two videos streaming at the same time. Well, one picture, two sound tracks.

There’s been complaints that the screen isn’t is a widescreen aspect ratio. I didn’t find it very annoying. I think the 4:3 aspect ratio helps in portrait mode and gives the iPad better balance than if it was 16:9. The widescreen video looked OK, but yea, there are bars at the top and bottom. There’s also the option to fill the screen top to bottom and crop out the extra on each side.

Overall I’m happy with the iPad. I’ll be using it around the house mostly. It’ll replace my netbook in a lot of cases which says more about what I use the netbook for rather than what the iPad can do. It’ll be easy to grab the iPad and check something on the Internet, check my email or check something in one of the apps. I’ve yet to try any serious typing but I found the keyboard better than I expected. Since I’m not a touch typist I don’t miss the lack of physical keys as much as a touch typist would.Still, I expect to pull out the netbook if I plan to do a lot of typing.