Generous gift of a proper camera.

fullsizeoutput_625They do say things come in threes and my cameras are no exception. Well in fact until this month it was two actually (my trusty battered iPhone 5S and a Canon IXUS220HS) until I was gifted the Canon EOS 350D DSLR by a very generous friend who is also embracing decluttering in some small part due to my ramblings. He has a huge collection of camera gear that he has been letting gather dust and realised that he only really uses maybe three or four of his cameras so is now finding good homes for the kit that is now long in the tooth, maybe unfashionable or just unable to function as he needs them to but that is my gain.

His generosity is a bit of a blessing and a curse in that the imagery taken on the DLSR “should” be much better than I can accomplish on my other compact cameras. However the learning curve to master how to use it properly seems almost vertical. I’m not adverse to learning new things in fact actively encourage myself to push the boundaries of my knowledge base where I can, its all to easy to settle for a landscape we know and understand. Then there is the University of YouTube to help. Some very helpful channels I have stumbled over are and

It’s funny how things seem to fall into place, is it synchronicity?, as I have been thinking about trying to improve my photo taking skills having seen my friends efforts over the years. His stepping up a level over time is in part due to his kit but I find the world of camera kit daunting, confusing and looking round the interwebs there seems to be no shortage of opinion as to what is good and bad kit but ultimately only you can decide what works for you. Thankfully now I have a platform to start learning on one that I like that cost me nothing and can teach me the basics. I also can work out what I would want from a camera in the future without having made any costly mistakes. I don’t see a D1 in my future though!

On the whole I have always been a happy snapper and really only started taking pictures with the advent of digital cameras although I seem to remember having a Kodak Instamatic film camera for a bit and a throw away Supasnaps snappy snap snap plastic job but nothing rememberable and there are so few images left from those days that I can now see why previous generations had so few photos handed down as opposed to now where every hair is recorded. Proper photography runs in the family though via my father who made it a profession after the war but I was never drawn into it in the same way as some of my siblings. Even now I see it more as still taking those snaps just hopefully with a bit more quality to them. I have been trying to go back to some of the earliest pictures I took on various digital formats that I have managed to hold onto over the years amazingly, to see the arc of progress and it is just amazing to see in such a short step back in time the fledgling quality of those pictures. We take for granted now the quality of megapixel cameras images we can create but it is fun to go back and look at those pixely, blurring and low res images from time to time,

Now I just need to get out there are start using this gift, thanks D.

Data on the move

The fact that you may be reading this on a smart phone lying on a far flung beach or even up a mountain somewhere in the world is an amazing fact that we far to often take for granted. It wasn’t that long ago that calls had to be made from a telephone on a table in a hallway of ones home, or even further back in a cold draughty iconic phone box. Now with the world at our fingertips it is hard to remember a day when we didn’t have it. As a slight diatribe I am going through all my old data that is spread across a number of external disks that I have collected along the way, but the interesting thing to me is the look and feel of the previous iterations of both the tech and OSes. I still find it’s hard to believe that I have been owning an iPhone for ten years but that’s another story.

Back to the topic in hand and the collection, protection and use of the data we create. Now I have never been a full on gadget geek, more accumulating things that make life easier rather than for the sake of it. The first experience of mobile data was when I started working for a company that equipped their staff with a laptop and a mobile phone. This was not mobile working as we think of it now more a rather rudimentary form of it. It wasn’t long before progress jumped forward and email and basic browsing was doable on a phone. Then came along the first iPhone and it changed the game completely forever. However it wasn’t all roses as in typical Apple fashion they gave what the thought we needed, but still it was a tide turning point.

Why this post then? Well having spent the last couple of days going through all my IT kit and starting to sell, donate and chuck out all the stuff I know I won’t need, or have been carrying around for years in the belief I may need it or it might come in handy. I now find that I have a load of stuff that is too old to use effectively. No matter what anyone tells you, you have to keep with the times, as technologies fade into the past we don’t realise we may not have access to the data held on them. This was made clear by some files I wanted to open but the software to open them has long gone or that the latest versions wont open due to it being way to far back in internet time.

So here today I have by many standards old and yesterdays tech. For the moment it suits my needs and cross fingers it will carry on for some time more. The one thing I hadn’t thought about until I changed to my latest phone was that at some point the operating systems that run the phone are upgraded to to take advantage of all the new features of the hardware but at some point Apple decides they will no longer support ageing devices, which happened to me. As it worked out I was able to get a slightly newer model from a friend for a reasonable price and so didn’t suffer too long agonising about where to go next. Now I know its probably just me but spending roughly the same amount on a phone as a good laptop is no joke and in these austerity days one has to be careful of where ones coins go. Although ‘they’ say that we are all going to be on mobile I certainly don’t agree with that statement. I like sitting at a desk hammering away on the keyboard and whilst I love the fact I can do so much on my phone to me it is an addition not an alternative.

The title to the post really points to my desire to make my data accessible to where ever I am and this today is a possibility given the right circumstances. I am also pairing down the data so that I can get it to a point that I can store it on cloud based systems such as Dropox, OneDrive and for backup with the likes of Backblaze or Carbonite without having to splash out loads of money. The fact that most data stored on ones phones is now stored in the cloud makes this task much easier. However on the desktop front this is more onerous due to having to manage the flow of backup or copying. There are plenty of backup applications out there but my favourite and long time stalwart is Chronosync. This takes out all the guess work and also automates many of the tasks we often forget to carry out. One of the things I like about it is the feature that acts on plugging a disk in so that it checks to see if it is up to date. My strategy is to have at least three backups and more if possible. But the biggest thing you should think about once you have your data backed up is testing that it works, i.e. that you can actually recover data that may be years old in the event of an emergency. No point in going to all that effort if you never check it is workable, bit like a fire test at work. I have been caught out with this before. Many years ago I lost a lot of data as I thought because I had backed up my data to an external disk that it was all safe only to find the disk had failed. Never was going to make that mistake again. There is plenty of advice and help out on the internet, don’t be like me be the smart one.

So with the online backups being sorted I can turn to my kit needs for living a more mobile life.

Below is a pic of my current stuff which I have been using for around four years now and which has done me fine. Yes there are times when I wished I had something lighter to carry around or something with more memory in the camera but on the whole it has really served me well. All of it is show signs of wear and tear, with dents and dings but for now I am happy with what I have.

IMG_4188However that’s not to say I want or need new shiny, ahem, toys and I know at some point the phone is definitely going to need a replacement. I will however hand it down the family as battered as it is I would rather they get some use out of it than try and sell it for peanuts on a popular auction site. That leads me nicely on to selling off all the old junk is going to fund the new additions and at the moment I am trying to work out what I am going to need. I have never really been a fan of the tablet and always found them to be a bit cumbersome. A kind on halfway house but without the benefits of a laptop that I like. Not so easy to prop up in bed to consume media on, harder typing on the glass keyboard but they are minor inconveniences. Then last week I met a friend who had a new iPad Pro and I was smitten by the pencil. It is something I have tried in the past over a number of devices and there clunky pointing and writing devices and never felt that it was a natural process. Handling the Apple pencil that perception changed and the ease and speed of use was amazing. It made me think that this was a workable solution for general day to day operations. Yes it still isn’t build to handle the really heaving work but then as I say I would much rather sit in front of a desktop workstation to do the more long winded stuff but certainly way adequate for my needs. I also really took to the drawing potential and although I in no way think of my self as an artist I do love doodling and the fact that it can be done anywhere and that it can all be revisited rather than trying to hunt down scraps of paper really appeals to me and some of the things that have been done with it are truly amazing.

On the phone front one thing I am not going to do is rush out and get a plus thousand pound phone. I really don’t see the benefit of getting one so I am going to stick to the iPhone 8+ as I want as much screen real estate as possible as my eye site is not as good as it was. But I have always liked the smaller format phones, much easier to handle and to carry around but I am going for the experiment this time. I do love the fact that you can pretty much run your life from your pocket and having now got sucked into it I really don’t want to give it up. I do limit myself to social media sites as there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with but there is so much more to experience. Now if there would bring out a phone that works with the pencil I would be all in.

As for the camera stuff I have deliberately kept it small partly due to compactness and then cost but also I was only ever into taking snappy snaps. I have always like Canons and the IXUS 220 HS was just what I wanted at the time and fitted the budget. Step forward a number of years and I know find myself thinking it would be so much more fun if I was able to take some grown up pictures but the cost of this aspiration is not cheap. Delving into the ocean of digital photography makes me realise that this is even more of a geeky pastime than an computing hobby. So much so that every time I dip my toe in I feel like I am immediately drowning in complexity and choice and again I feel that my efforts would certainly not push anywhere near the cameras capacity and would it then just be a waste of money.

Then there’s a selection of memory cards that I cycle around the camera and always have a spare as if I had a pound for every time I ran out of space… there also good for offloading data temporarily in a tight spot. Lastly I have an original Joby not the current Joby tripod but it still works with the iPhone and compact cameras. I love this bit of kit and have had it for more years than I care to remember. It is so versatile and makes for so many more interesting shots and videos. It comes in different formats and there are plenty of copycats but for me the Joby wins out every time.

I write this post also as a memoir to myself so in time to come I can look back at the gear I was sporting in 2017 and think wow, how antiquated and how did we ever manage on that stuff. Pretty much like some of the pics and videos I took off my Nokia N73, which at the time I thought was light years ahead. I also have the plan to only pay for these things with things I have sold. A kind of step back to childhood where if you wanted something you saved up for it. It also means intentionally purchases you really need(ed) to think about what you want. Some might say why bother but actively thinking about what you want makes for better decisions… Least thats the plan…