Backups

Some Options for Backing Up Your Google Reader Subscriptions

Well folks, this is it — the last weekend before Google reader shuts down for good. By now, you've probably already chosen a new RSS setup to get you through this tragic time, but you should still go ahead and back up your Google Reader data while you've still got a chance.

Luckily, there are several ways to do that:

On Dropbox and iCloud

Ben Brooks:

"Dropbox is a power user tool/service/feature — a damned good one — just not something the average user is going to leverage in the way that others do. iCloud is a consumer level feature. It’s good enough for power users if they are willing to relinquish control and trust Apple, but mostly it’s a drop-dead simple solution for everyone."

[...]

"In that light I truly believe that Dropbox is the past and not the future of cloud based file storage. Managing files is just not something that a user should need to do any longer."

I think Ben is onto something here, but I have reservations about this idea going around that Apple will build iCloud up to the point that nobody needs a service like Dropbox anymore. People have been saying the same thing about other Apple services for years.

Safari's Reading List, Podcasts.app, iOS camera improvements, Apple Maps, iMessage...these are all products that were expected to put entire swaths of 3rd-party services out of business, but it hasn't panned out that way because Apple isn't trying to cater to the same niche markets as those services. They want to reach the broadest possible audience, a tactic that works very well for them, but there will always be a group of people that demands more features and greater control than Apple likes to provide.

I think a key word Ben used in his piece is "trust". Users have to trust that their data is safe with another company, knowing that they have absolutely no way of interfacing with any of it outside of specific apps. iA Writer, an example used by Ben as a fully self-contained solution, could go out of business someday. What happens to that data? Does Apple allow you to export it for use in other apps?

Of course one could say the same about Dropbox, but at least those files exist in a place where you can see them, such as your computer. They're easily copied/pasted elsewhere, and can be backed up in the manner of your choosing. Most users may not care about this, but the aforementioned group of demanding power users will always care about it.

If Apple is really going to put Dropbox out of business, they'll need to allow users more direct control over their files, and that's simply not going to happen. One of the big selling points of iCloud is that it does away with all that muss and fuss.

iCloud and Dropbox are simply two products for two different crowds, and that's okay. There's plenty of room for both to exist.

'How I Got My Digital Life Back'

People who follow the same types of blogs I do will probably have already read about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the hacking of Mat Honan's online accounts a couple weeks ago. These weren't minor services either, but stuff like iCloud, Amazon, and Gmail. If you haven't heard about this saga yet, click that link and go read it, because it might change the way you look at online security and privacy. I know it did for me.

As scary as the entire situation sounds, nothing hit me as close to home as the part where he said that the entire collection of photos taken in the first year of his daughter's life had possibly been erased forever. As a fairly new father, the thought of losing all of the records of my son's life these past 8 months terrifies me, and I was incredibly saddened to hear about this part of Mat's situation.

As promised, Mat has released the story of how he managed to rescue some of his lost data. I was curious to know how he did it, but mostly I wanted to know: did he get those photos of his daughter back? Well, as it turns out:

My data came back to me on an external hard drive, organized by file types. The thing I cared most about, above all else, was my photo library. And there, in a folder full of JPGs, was photo after photo after photo that I had feared were gone forever. Subfolders were organized by the year, month and day files were created. I went immediately to the folder that bore the date my daughter was born. They were there. Everything was there. We were floored. I nearly cried.
Transient

I'm not ashamed to say, I teared up a little myself. I've never even met Mat, but I'm incredibly happy for him.

Throughout all of this, I've become a big believer in backups. I already use Dropbox for certain things, but I plan on investing in some external hard drives and setting up an automated online backup too. I don't want to see my data become compromised, nor do I want to be put into this kind of situation. I hope you guys take the same thing away from this story.

Mat Honan | How I Resurrected My Digital Life After an Epic Hacking