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Category Archives: Digital Solutions

Protection for all

How many of you would say, “My life is on my computer.” ?

If you have anything at all to do with creatively getting your art out there, I would say it’s most of you to a degree, and yet the majority of people do an abysmal job of looking after the data on their machine. (I apologize if that’s harsh but for those that don’t, I’m intentionally trying to jolt you awake!)

This is one area that actually gets me slightly vexed and with good reason. Too many times I’ve been asked to save precious ‘ones and zeros’ by people I care about and for the most part I now refuse… because to even TOUCH another person’s drive is an incredible responsibility. I forewarn you now, DON’T DO IT! If that drive dies on YOUR watch… oh boy… do the owner’s get ugly at the person who last had it! It’s just not worth it.

To alleviate this problem, I’m going to give you a break down of what you should be doing with your files to protect them.
If you are a PC user, I’m sorry. I can’t document a good solution for you knowledgeably. Perhaps someone else can; feel free to do that below. My focus is going to be on the MAC owners.

1. Time Machine.

If you’re running Leopard or Snow Leopard (10.5-10.6) and aren’t using Time Machine to back up in the very least, then you should do so. Mr. Jobs kindly created the perfect solution for just about every instance of error with regards to your files. Time machine backs up your entire machine every hour from the first moment you turn it on and keeps back ups of everything to an external drive, so that if you ever lose your machine for whatever reason then you just turn on another mac and back up with the external drive. It does it ALL for you.

2. For laptops

Apple has also made TIME CAPSULE. This is a powerful wireless router solution that contains a hard drive in it, backing up your machine any time your laptop is turned on. Yes. WIRELESS BACKUP! Time machine initially got bad reviews when it came out, but it’s been dramatically improved since then and it WORKS. I have three wireless laptops that back up to this on the hour every hour when they are on, and never EVER had a problem with it. I have also had a laptop die and then backed up to where I was when the new one arrived, so it’s not a gimmick. It actually does what it says it will.

3. External drives.

Now we get a little more hardcore. Particularly for people with more data than their main hard drive can handle.
I want you to read this next part very VERY carefully.


Let me say that again. No one.. .including Apple… cares about your data BUT YOU. If something goes wrong with your machine, EVEN IF YOU HAVE APPLECARE, Apple has one responsibility… and that is to get your machine back to where it was when they initially sold it to you. The first thing any hardware company will do if they can’t get something to work is WIPE the drive (restore everything to factory settings)…deleting all YOUR DATA! It’s not personal. It’s task driven. Their task is to make your machine work. PERIOD!

For this reason, I STRONGLY recommend that you don’t keep ANY data on your machine at all! JUST PROGRAMS. I know I’m using a lot of capitals as I type this, but it’s THAT important. Saving your files to an external drive means that you can get a virus on your computer and know that formatting your machine is FINE. In fact, it’s something YOU can do yourself from your time machine whilst you hook up your external data drive to another machine and carry on working!

A machine is NOT valuableTHE DATA IS!

So that leaves two new questions. Which external drive should I get and how do I back up my external drive, because Time Machine doesn’t do that.

4. Which Drive?

First, make sure that you pick a single drive and not a raid drive. A raid is an external drive with two hard drives inside it. The reason to not get a raid drive is that you double your chances of something going wrong. You want an external drive with a single drive inside it. Here is a photo of a raid drive. This is WHAT NOT TO GET. As you can see it’s one drive but it has two hard drives in it. (Left and right.) DO NOT PURCHASE THESE.

As for which drive to purchase, well you can do the research for yourself, but I strongly advise the Seagate Freeagent 1tb, 1.5tb or 2tb drive. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE MAC VERSION, NOT THE PC. The mac version has Firewire 800 ports at the back, making for significantly higher transfer rate when you want to upload and most particularly ACCESS your files. You will probably have to order them online. Most electronic stores only carry pc versions of this drive. (meaning it only has USB 2.0 and not firewire. Again. DO NOT PURCHASE THE PC VERSION OF THIS DRIVE.)

The drive is $199 on Amazon currently.

This is a very quiet and reliable single hard drive and I can’t tell you how much I approve of this item. THUMBS UP!

4. Purchase TWO identical drives.

This is also very important.
One drive for your original documents and the second to MIRROR your first drive.

No drive is 100% guaranteed. Anything can happen at any time. A mirror is essential. What a mirror does is take what’s on the main drive and ‘mirrors’ it onto the second; a perfect carbon copy of your data. Although not impossible, it’s unlikely that your machine, your external drive AND your mirror are all going to go out at the same time and as I’m sure you can see, the odds of securing your data increase dramatically.

5. Software to move the data.

To move the files from the first External Drive to the Mirror you will need a software program to tell it to do that. Seagate has that program you can download, but I’m not a fan, especially not for the MAC version.

For the past several years I’ve been using an amazing program by a truly remarkable programmer. It’s called Superduper. by PocketShirt.

Superduper has a ‘smart sync’ feature that is similar to Time Machine for your computer. It looks at what is on your first drive.. and matches it to the second. Genius! The first time you back up, it will take a while, but it’s 100% automated and you can set it to back up whenever you like. In my case, every night at 1:30am, it backs up my entire drive to the mirror and I never ever have to think about it or deal with it for a second. In fact.. I have six external drives all together. Three drives filled with data and three mirrors… and it does it all seamlessly.

The programmer’s name is Dave Nanian and if you ever have any questions or problems, he ALWAYS responds and helps you. This is a top notch program made by a top notch programmer. I can’t speak highly enough of how satisfied I am with the product and the customer service.


One last thing. PLEASE, please get yourself a battery backup with surge protection. Don’t let a thunderstorm wipe out your ‘life.’

So there you have it. Between your Time Machine, your external drives and your mirrors, you are pretty much covers. I’ve been asked about offsite backing up too, but I have to test it more before I endorse. The one I’m looking into is Crashplan. Perhaps a later blog.

Ps: Neither Apple, Seagate or Pocketshirt have paid me to endorse their products in any way. I’m simply proud to promote great solutions that work!


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This appears to be such an odd title. What on earth can the MAC man have to do with you and your art?

This year has been a benchmark in history for the digital medium with the iPad and the new iPhone 4. (The iPad more so next year when greedy Mr. Jobs adds all the features it should have had this first time around.) Regardless of the physical medium you may work in, to get it out to the largest audience you’re most likely going to photograph, video or some how digitally document your work and that’s when this virtual relationship will begin.

Two million iPads have now been sold in just a few months. Apparently it’s at a rate of one every three seconds. To use the words of Seth Godin, this is a ‘revolution’, make no mistake.

So. What does this mean for YOUR art?

Initially of course this mean that clean digital documentation is going to be ever more important because the resolution of the new screens are now four times the quality of before. A staggering 326ppi (points per inch) This resolution is now HIGHER than standard PRINTING quality! If you’ve spent any time as a designer, you will know what a big deal this is going to be. Truly staggering, and it’s going to be very unforgiving to unfocused, blurry photos of your work.

Expect thing to go much more digital as Jobs puts the pressure on the different paper medias like books, magazine and newspaper, similar to music and movies. Consider when was the last time you purchased a CD… (I know.. I know.. some of you did it just yesterday!)
Paper products are already headed towards “generational purchases.” Children just want more interaction and they want it now. Digital books will get significantly cheaper than printed ones, with the artists getting more of the royalty too. It’s a no brainer to where it’s headed. ┬áIn time I suspect paper will become shunned upon from the environmental standpoint too similar to other products that had their day. Because of this, think about how you might present your portfolio or work in the growing digital age. Printed pieces are headed out. Pdfs (or whatever’s after that) are coming in. It’s going to happen. People. It’s HAPPENING!

Consider your viewers before you decide how to display your work. This one kills me to say it, because I love the medium… but Flash will NOT make it, not in it’s current format so it’s better to have your content that will display statically but on all three mediums (the phone, the digital tablet, the laptop/desktop) than just the one. Mr. Jobs currently has the power to steer the market and Flash does not perform well on ANY handheld media, not just iPhone. Flash is also not ‘open source’ either, (meaning with only a few exceptions, it can only be designed using Adobe’s stuff) but html5 (which Jobs is now pushing) can be designed and edited using just about anything that reads text. Open source coding for at least the foreseeable future is where it’s headed, so if you’re building a site or put your images somewhere for people to view, ALWAYS keep that in the back of your mind.

Within a few years I believe the chances you’ll be showing your portfolio to curators and customers from your iPad (some form of digital tablet) or sending it for submission in a similar fashion, is going to be surprisingly high. This is bad news for me too is 100% flash but I have to face the facts.

Before you cry out how wrong I am let me ask you some questions before we close.

  • Is your television black and white or color?
  • Do you have a flat screen television or a big old one?
  • Does it have a remote or do you get up to change the channels?
  • Is that cable you’ve got there or antenna?
  • Do you have a flat monitor for your computer or a box one?
  • or something more recent…. Do you have a phone… or a smart phone?

This revolution is going on and it doesn’t show signs of slowing up. You need to keep up… Your audience awaits!

Virtually No Fairs