An Introductory Guide to Data Recovery

MacTuts+:

Data loss is something that no one ever wants to go through, but unfortunately, a lot of us will at some point. Whether it’s a lost thumb drive that we failed to back up or an accidental deletion of an important folder, potential hazards are everywhere. Prevention is your first step, but in the case that you do encounter a disaster, this guide will help you through it.

A guide I’ve written for Mactuts+ on the services available should you ever find yourself in the rather unpleasant circumstance of losing data that wasn’t backed up. I’ve been looking forward to this being published for a while, it’s a topic that honestly doesn’t get enough exposure and a lot of users genuinely have no idea what to do if (and usually when) data loss occurs.

Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars’ injuries

The Week (assisted with Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College) dissects the injuries of Harry and Marv from Home Alone:

Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.

That Kevin McCallister is a monster.

Review: Doxie One

I’ve attempted to go paperless a number of times but it just seemed so much of a hassle. Sure, scanning paperwork meant I’d have a digital archive and if I splashed out on some OCR software they could be searchable, but the main stumbling block was the scanner.

I have an ageing HP DeskJet 4580. It’s one of those early (and cumbersome) scanner/printer/copier models that could be found in most supermarkets (which is where I got mine from, incidentally). It’s fairly cheap to run for printing and produces decent results but even though it supports wireless scanning, it’s an absolute chore.

  1. Load the paper on the flatbed, careful not to touch the glass (God forbid you ever touch the glass).
  2. Spend 30 seconds trying to remember whether the paper needs to be aligned to the left or to the right, only to remember that it doesn’t matter as I can just crop it later.
  3. Launch Image Capture, make sure I remember to either check or uncheck “combine PDFs” when needed otherwise everything I scan doesn’t end up in one huge document.
  4. Dick around with the DPI, scaling and quality.
  5. Give up as I’ve got better things to do.

When Doxie announced their Doxie One, I instantly pre-ordered it. It has one purpose which it does extremely well. There’s no settings, no glass, no orientation and, best of all, it does not require a computer to scan. It’s main advantage over a flatbed is you’re not limited by paper length. If you’ve ever received an extremely long receipt you’d want to keep a digital copy off, just feed it into the Doxie and it’ll keep scanning until it’s finished.

The Doxie One is bundled with a power adapter (with UK/US/EU plugs which is great for travelling), 2GB SD card, protective cover for scanning older photos (excellent idea), calibration sheet and cleaning brush. Optional accessories include different colour covers1 and a carry case. An added benefit of the Doxie scanners is that they can also be battery operated (4xAAA).

The Doxie has no internal memory so scans are saved to an SD card. The included2GB SD card is actually more than enough for most people and can either be placed into your Mac’s SD card slot or, alternatively, the Doxie has a mini-USB port where it essentially acts as an SD card reader.

Compare it to a traditional flatbed scanner…

  1. Power up the Doxie.
  2. Place the paper in the paper feed.
  3. Rinse and repeat.

Once done (and most scans take about 5-6 seconds), you simply hook up the Doxie or SD card and launch the Doxie app. Documents are presented in a thumbnail view where you can rename documents. Unlike Image Capture where you need to specify whether you want a multi-page PDF, you simply “staple” documents and it’ll merge them automatically.

I mainly scan text documents and Doxie includes OCR for making text searchable which works astonishingly well. Granted, the last time I used OCR was the nineties, so I can’t say whether Doxie’s OCR is that good or if OCR is better overall, but for every document I passed through, it had no problems.

But above all else, Doxie makes scanning fun. Seriously. It may sound like one of the most mundane tasks imaginable (just trailing behind data entry) but once you start using it, you’ll keep wanting to use it. Before you know it, you’re scanning anything, just for the sake of it.

If you scan documents even infrequently and going paperless is something you’ve seriously considered before, invest in a Doxie – you’ll thank yourself later if you do.

You can order a Doxie One from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

  1. Don’t by the covers. They’re just like those GelaSkin stickers you get for your iPhone but nowhere near as good a fit. I bought them which includes 8 colours and found each and every one overlapped and were a little to wide for the scanner. This meant creases were inevitable but, more worryingly, because the adhesive side overhangs it means dirt just sticks to it (which is not something that does a scanner any good). 

The eMate is 15 years old

Benj Edwards at MacWorld:

Fifteen years ago, Apple released its first and only touchscreen laptop (so far), the often forgotten eMate 300. This translucent clamshell portable, which ran Apple’s Newton PDA operating system, represented a bold experiment in educational computing and a drastic departure from Apple’s traditional hardware design.

Pure nostalgia. A teacher at my high school was fortunate enough to get a loaner unit from Apple and I had the good fortune of getting to try it. I fondly remember the eMate and you can definitely see where the original iBook drew design cues from. The Newton OS was light years ahead of it’s time but Steve quickly killed the Newton line (including the eMate) to focus on core products.

Mountain Lion supports AirPlay as a device for your Mac’s sound output

Not really sure how I never noticed this (and it’s probably old news for quite a lot of you) but Mountain Lion supports outputting audio to AirPlay devices. I don’t use AirPlay often, but when I do it’s usually from my iPhone or iPad and will have video accompanying it.

It does make apps such as AirFoil redundant for users with a single AirPlay device (though AirFoil supports outputting to more than one simultaneously, like iTunes).

You can find the settings under System Preferences > Sound > Output

(Thanks to @fneb who mentioned this briefly a few weeks ago but it never registered).

Terms of Service need to drop the l33t speak

Now that Instagram has cleared up some of their more confusing wording and alleviated a lot of their users’ concerns, this whole saga has demonstrated two points:

  1. Companies such as Instagram need to start using clear and concise points to avoid losing users.
  2. Users don’t even know what rights they have in the current TOS.

Tumblr has a fantastic TOS, not necessarily in terms of the rights of the company vs user, but that they include a brief Tl;dr at the end of each major section summarising (in plain English) what it means, in case it was too confusing.

Here’s an example of Tumblr’s content licensing.

Subscriber Content License to Tumblr:

When you transfer Subscriber Content to Tumblr through the Services, you give Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), and create derivative works of (including, without limitation, by Reblogging, as defined below), such Subscriber Content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating the Services in accordance with their functionality, improving the Services, and allowing Tumblr to develop new Services. The reference in this license to “derivative works” is not intended to give Tumblr itself a right to make substantive editorial changes or derivations, but does enable Tumblr Subscribers to redistribute Subscriber Content from one Tumblr blog to another in a manner that allows Subscribers to, e.g., add their own text or other Content before or after your Subscriber Content (“Reblogging”).

And here’s their brief summary posted directly after:

When you upload your creations to Tumblr, you grant us a license to make that content available in the ways you’d expect from using our services (for example, via your blog, RSS, the Tumblr Dashboard, etc.). We never want to do anything with your content that surprises you.

Something else worth noting: Countless Tumblr blogs have gone on to spawn books, films, albums, brands, and more. We’re thrilled to offer our support as a platform for our creators, and we’d never claim to be entitled to royalties or reimbursement for the success of what you’ve created. It’s your work, and we’re proud to be a part (however small) of what you accomplish.

Sometimes the legal speak can’t be avoided but having a nice explanation detailing how this relates to the user is great.

However, it doesn’t matter how clear and concise or easy to understand a TOS is if the user doesn’t read it. The Instagram revolt merely highlighted that poor communication from a company and the lack of understanding by the user can create a mountain out of a molehill.

Instagram’s new Terms of Service is no surprise

Rights, section 2:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

Instagram was bought by Facebook. Facebook. A move like this wasn’t just expected, it was pretty much inevitable.

It seems a lot of people forgot that if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you are the product being sold.

The most understated design choice on the iPad: The volume button

You will have no doubt noticed that the volume buttons and toggle switch on the iPhone and iPod touch are on the opposite side to the iPad’s. There’s likely a good reason for that.

Between 70-90% of the world’s population is right-handed. That means they’ll use their right hand to interact with the iPhone. As the iPhone is designed to be held single-handedly, having the volume buttons on the left-hand side means the user’s left thumb can change the volume with almost no extra effort. It’s still easy to change the volume if you use the phone in your right hand, but it’s not as easy. Apple weren’t the first company to do this, indeed the Treo 650 (and most Palm devices) followed this design1.

But when Apple released the iPad, the volume buttons and toggle switch were moved from left to right. Everything else was designed to be as close to the iPhone as possible, so why move the volume buttons? This is one of those design decisions that seems trivial, yet it was a deliberate decision that was to serve quite a big purpose.

The left side of the iPad is to be thought of as a book spine. It’s why the iPad is a predominantly portrait-orientated tablet. Books, newspapers and magazines have the spine on the left and we turn the pages which flow from right to left as we progress through them. If you have a Smart Cover, turn your iPad upside down and try to use it. It doesn’t feel natural does it? Anything that jolts the user out of the whole experience is usually attributed to a poor design choice. If Apple had kept the buttons on the left side of the device, cases and covers such as the Smart Cover couldn’t exist as they’d be too detrimental to the experience.

It’s why whenever I see a tablet such as the Nexus 10 which is landscape-orientated (as in the buttons, camera and livery are all to be viewed in landscape), I imagine how much of a distraction it would be to constantly have the Google logo at 90 degrees to the content whilst I’m trying to read.

  1. The Nokia Lumia range doesn’t follow this design and has it’s volume buttons on the right.