Category Archives: Misc.

UPS update: What’s new, what to remember

There are several products every computer owner should have, to protect their hardware, software, and data. On the software side, this includes anti-virus/anti-malware, a firewall, and other security software.

On the hardware side, a UPS — Uninterruptible Power Supply — to protect against power glitches and outages.

(And a backup, in case something does happen.)

UPS update: What's new, what to rememberProblems with electric power can do everything from scramble the data on your hard drive or interfere with current work to causing your hardware to wear out faster — or even destroy key components instantly.

And even in the best locations, the quality of electrical power is subject to events that can send bad power to your computer. It doesn’t have to be a lightning strike; big-motor gear like an air conditioner, or other devices, on the same circuit, can reduce the power or send noise down the line. Or something can cause the circuit breaker to trip, resulting in zero power to the outlet.

A UPS includes a surge protector to guard against “bad” power — surges, spikes, and noise. And it also includes a battery, allowing the UPS to provide power (“run time”) to your computer even when not enough, or none, is coming in.

In general, small office/home office (SOHO) UPSs are intended to let your gear keep working throughout brief power interruptions of a few seconds or less, and give you the time to close files and shut down the computer in an orderly fashion if there’s a longer power outage (minutes to hours). (A UPS may then keep your cable modem and router going for an hour or more — or it may not. But it’s not good for the UPS battery to be drained all the way down.)

Buying the Right UPS

For desktop/SOHO users, UPSs are available for anywhere from $50 to $200.

UPSs come in several main “topologies” (types), and also vary in two dimensions of capacity.

To vastly oversimplify, for SOHO users, the types of UPSs available are Standby, Line-Interactive, and On-Line.

A Standby UPS, a.k.a. Off-Line UPS, switches over the battery only when the wall current voltage falls below a certain level or goes out completely. This is the least expensive type of UPS, it’s what most people get.

A Line-Interactive UPS can supplement low power levels from the battery.
Affordable; a good choice.

An On-Line UPS is the most expensive — and best — type of UPS, always providing clean power at the right voltage level. Good if your power is subject to lots of interruptions, micro-outages, sags, or surges and spikes.

For most SOHOs in places where daily power quality is good, a Line-Interactive UPS should be sufficient.

In addition to “type,” to buy the right UPS, you need to:

  • Know how much power all the devices you want to provide backup power to would use, for example your a desktop, a flatscreen, cable modem, and home router. Many UPSs will detect if you are plugging in more devices than the battery can power and will refuse to work – so you won’t have the illusion you’re protected when you’re not.
  • Know how long you want device(s) to run.

Once purchased and installed, a UPS for home or office needs close to no upkeep — but there are few important things to know and do.

Taking Good Care of Your UPS

  1. Test the UPS. Once the battery is charged up, plug in a desk lamp or a radio, turn it on, and (gently) remove the UPS power cable from the wall outlet. Does the lamp or radio stay on? Now test again with the computer gear you intend to plug into the UPS.
  2. Make sure the UPS is well ventilated. Like any electrical device, a UPS gives off heat. Don’t leave paper next to it, make sure it can get good air flow.
  3. Label the UPS with when you bought it.
  4. If it includes USB monitoring software, consider using it. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never done this — so far.)

UPS batteries typically are good for two to four years. They don’t just fail all at once; over time — and the more your UPS is asked to provide its backup power — they’ll have less capacity (run time) — be able to power gear for even fewer minutes. You may be able to get third-party replacement batteries for a good price, but shop cautiously!

UPSs themselves should be replaced — there’s no standard answer, but the consensus is somewhere between five and seven years. Mark your long-term calendar! (And update the UPS label — and your calendar — when you replace the battery.)

Buying a good UPS or replacing the battery every few years translates to about a dollar a week. The cost of a problem — lost productivity or replacing hardware — for even one event during this time frame would be many, many times that — and the likelihood of at least one such event is high. So don’t be a misplaced optimist — go get that UPS today!




Reminder, basic quick fixes for troubled gear

Reminder, basic quick fixes for troubled gearEven the best of computers and other electronic gear hiccups occasionally. You want to save your electronics, but you don’t want to throw good money after bad with expensive new parts or paid support. Before you junk that old gear, here are some tips for spending ten or twenty minutes addressing the issue before asking yourself the “repair or replace” question.

While there’s a lot that we as end users can’t or shouldn’t do — or even attempt — to fix them, there’s still often a fair number of things we can try, and problem we can fix or otherwise make go away.

This isn’t new to computers. If you’re old enough and have lived in cold climates, you may remember hearing your car fail to start, instead making an odd clicking sound — which, if you were knowledgeable and lucky — could be fixed quickly with a few whacks of a hammer, wrench or other solid object. How? If the problem was that the solenoid (relay switch) on the starter motor had frozen stuck, whacking it often unstuck it. (For dramatic effect when helping a friend, you would tell them to turn the key before you strike.)

With electronics, physical force is rarely the solution. Instead, there’s other things to try — obvious things in theory, but easy to lose track of if you haven’t had to do it to a given device lately.

1.) Check the power, power cord, and power switches.

Is the power cord fully plugged in at both ends? For example, the router in my home office is placed such that it’s easy to unseat the power cord and not notice — which in turn whacks wireless connectivity.

Is the wall outlet on? Some are connected to light switches; it’s easy to forget this. Check by plugging in a radio or light or something.

Are all the power switches on the device on? Many computers, printers, and displays have a power rocker-switch in the back, where it isn’t visible. This includes many computers that have a front-side on switch.

Ditto for any intermediary UPSs, surge protectors or power strips — are they plugged in and powered on? Again, check using a light or radio or some other device.

2.) Check the fuses. (More common with stereo and home theater gear.)

This may involve opening up the chassis — don’t do this if you don’t know how to do it safely! And make sure you use the correct fuse to replace one that you think has blown.

3.) For battery-powered devices, check the battery.

If you have a spare that you know has a charge, try that. If you can recharge the battery, try that.

Also, if you can, take the battery out and look at the battery contacts. If they’ve become corroded (typically from a leaky battery), for example, have green or white powdery gunk on them, clean the contact off (carefully).

4.) Check all the non-power cables.

It’s easy for a cable to have come loose — or be damaged. Unplug and replug them. If everything was previously working, the odds are low that a cable has gone bad, but keep this possibility in mind if other fixes don’t work. And sometimes it’s one of the connectors.

5.) Power device(s) off, wait 30 seconds, and reboot.

This works astonishingly often. As my friend and colleague Michael Dortch said years ago, “If rebooting fixes it, it wasn’t a problem.”

6.) For Windows devices, try booting to SAFE MODE.

Sometimes you need to reboot several times, first two or three times to Safe Mode, and then one or two times to regular mode. From SAFE MODE, you may then want to try rolling back to a previous RESTORE POINT.

Here are some other quick tips that I have found helpful:

  • For devices with a backup battery you can access, check, and if possible and necessary, replace.
  • For devices with a BIOS, boot to the BIOS, and check the configuration.
  • For computers, if it boots but you can’t use it, try a spare keyboard and mouse, if you have any (which you ought to).
  • For WiFi problems, if there’s a physical switch on your device, check that. Either way, also check the settings in the BIOS.
  • Leave the device alone for an hour or two.

And of course, invest the money or effort to have a professional look at it. Often, like with cars, it will work fine when you try to demonstrate the problem to somebody else.


Mozy Stash


Making your important info available to you online

We’ve all got personal information that we don’t carry around with us but regularly or occasionally need to find. Often it’s also information we are concerned that we don’t lose, e.g., in the event of a computer crash, house or office fire or theft, etc.

For example:

  • A copy of our driver’s license, passport, or other identification documents
  • Copies of credit cards
  • Passwords for key online accounts, including account numbers for financial ones
  • Key personal documents, like Power of Attorney documents (our own, or one giving us PoA), Health Care Directives and Proxies, wills, marriage license, etc.
  • Medical history, including current prescriptions, health insurance, and list of physicians
  • Inventory list of computer, camera, phone and other gear, including serial numbers
  • Software license keys
  • Travel itineraries.
  • Photos of yourself, family members, pets.

Some of this information is important but not “sensitive” — meaning that when you need it, you need it, but if somebody else were to get hold of it, no big deal. My guess is that software license keys might fall into the “less sensitive” arena. But even where information isn’t inherently sensitive, it might lead to some other aspect of your work or personal life being compromised, through savvy “social engineering” (phishing or other personal identity attacks). Some file types allow themselves to be individually password protected, such as PDF and ZIP files (depending on the tool being used to create it).

Secure Your Important Information OnlineOnce digitized, it’s possible to put this on your smartphone, tablet, or on a USB flash drive on your keyring — carefully protected, of course, by an encryption tool like TrueCrypt or 1Password. But this assumes you have the device or your keyring with you — which, depending on circumstances, may not be the case.

Fortunately, with the ever-greater accessibility of the Internet, you can park one or more copies online, often at no cost.

Two quick tips, first:

  1. Include an inventory document of what documents/information you’ve put together.
  2. Make a list of where you do end up parking copies — so when the master set of information gets updated, you can propagate the new version to all the places you’ve parked copies.

Ways and Places to Park Your Data and Documents Online

  1. Email them to yourself. Leave them in your INBOX, or in a mail folder that you can get to from web browser. This requires remembering your email password, but that’s the one you’re most likely to remember.Caution: If you use a mobile device or notebook to check your email, include encryption on the attached document(s), and/or other safeguards, like requiring the email password for each session.
  2. Park them in a password-protected directory in your web site.
  3. And don’t forget the directory name or password. Consider putting a hint in a file that you can find to bootstrap you in.
  4. Park them in a password-protected directory on your cloud storage space. (Again, be sure you’ve encrypted the actual files, individually, as well).
  5. If you have set up remote access to your computer, meaning you can access it from another computer, tablet or smartphone, e.g., using a remote desktop tool like GoToMyPC or LogMeIn.
  6. Send them to a friend or family member (again, as encrypted attached files) — pick someone who’s online often enough that they’re likely to respond quickly to a “Please send me those files ASAP” request.

And I’m sure there are lots of other places, ranging from social 2.0 accounts to “online safety deposit boxes.” Do a web search for “online safety deposit boxes,” for example, and, in addition to ones intended for your own immediate use, you’ll find ones designed to provide access only in the event of your death.

One final suggestion: Even if you do park the data online, you might still want to carry a password-protected encrypted copy with you — for those times when you’ve got your wallet, smartphone or keychain, but don’t have Internet access.




Cloud Roundup and Links of Interest – June 26

Retina MacBook vs. PC Laptops: The Battle Begins

At its recent Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple introduced the MacBook Pro with Retina display, its latest laptop. This appears to confirm that Apple will eventually merge its Air line with its MacBook line, a move long expected by Apple watchers.

Now that Apple has taken the wraps off its next-generation device, where does that leave the rest of the PC industry? PC World asks, “Can Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro rain on the PC laptop or Intel’s Ultrabook parade? Or will Apple, once again, inspire another flood of PC clones as it did with the MacBook Air and the ensuing Ultrabook onslaught?”

Ultrabooks and other Windows-based laptops headed your way in the coming months are bound to be interesting once Microsoft releases the touch-friendly Windows 8, expected in October. Read more about it here.

Being More Productive With Mobile Tech

Businessman on mobile phoneThere’s no doubt mobile technology has changed our lives and the way we communicate. But it’s also a great way to keep ideas from fading away forever. ZDNet’s James Kendrick writes about the importance of having a mobile device handy at all times, and the benefits of being able to capture that great idea before your attention is pulled in another direction.

“Mobile technology plays a major role in my work, as it lets me capture ideas when they occur no matter where I am. Gadgets have evolved to be powerful information capture tools and also make content creation easy,” writes Kendrick.

“In the not-too-distant past many ideas would end up lost, but no longer. I grab information as it becomes available, and I use it to lay the groundwork for writing projects whenever a few minutes presents itself. I can leverage mobile tech to maximum effect, no matter what gadget I am holding.”

Seton Hall University Offers Lumia 900s to Give ‘Freshmen Experience’

Seton Hall University is going the extra mobile mile with an unusual initiative. It’s paired with AT&T and Nokia to distribute units of the popular Lumia 900 LTE Windows Phone to new incoming students in the class of 2016.

University faculty say the phones will help students have 24-7 access to Microsoft’s Office suite. They say the phone giveaway will provide a “more engaged and integrated learning experience,” according to DailyTech.

The phones also include an exclusive piece of content called the “Freshmen Experience”.

Something like a mini-social network, the feature “adds customized social media integration and direct communication channels with [students'] freshmen peers, peer academic advisors, housing information and roommates.”


Mozy Mobile Apps


Small Businesses Driving New Hires: Stats Show Online Jobs Are Hot

Small Businesses are Creating Online JobsWhen it comes to U.S. employment stats at mid-year 2012, there’s tough news and then there’s news that suggests one sector is starting to get better.

The tough news: businesses created only 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in 12 months, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Signs of hope: when it comes to new employment, if there are heroes in our midst, they may be among the small businesses that are seeking an online workforce.

According to a recent small-business survey conducted by Elance, a leading global platform for online employment, 73% of the more than 1,500 small businesses polled in May 2012 said they planned to hire more online workers this year than in 2011.

That could drive a thriving online job economy. So, let’s take a deeper look at what’s happening with small businesses in the online hiring sphere, consider why, and think about what it may mean for the future.

The 1-in-3 Equation: Small Businesses and Online Talent as a New System

The snapshot of the survey suggests that small-business owners are not only flexing their hiring muscles but also turning to the cloud for job creation.

Why is this happening?

One reason for the increased attention to online workers may be that qualified professionals are increasingly making their talent available online.

Evidence: 40% of the companies surveyed claimed that they could already find better talent online than what was available locally.

“These results  . . .  support our prediction that 1 out of every 3 people hired in 2020 will be hired online,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. 

Cloud’s Edge: The Future of Employment Competition

If Rosati is correct, his numbers suggest that job-seekers would do well to pay attention to what small-businesses are saying about new and future hires.

Eighty-four percent of businesses surveyed stated that online hiring gives them an advantage over competitors. They talked about significant improvements in flexibility, meaningful cost savings, and increased productivity.

Furthermore, nearly 70% of the businesses polled indicated that they experienced faster times-to-hire and 55% said they are able to access talent not otherwise available.

It may be that the next half-decade is the determining timeframe, when it comes to the cloud and how job-seekers find new work.

In the survey, more than half (54%) of the businesses that answered the questions said that the majority of their workforce would soon be comprised of online talent — meaning everything from Web programming to design and content.

And this is just in the United States. Numbers in Europe skewed even higher, when it came to questions about online hiring and the next five years.

It’s the wave of the future, said Rosati, and it’s happening as close-by as the keyboard.

“As more companies realize the tremendous benefits of working with flexible, on-demand professionals,” he said, “online employment will expand as a core business strategy for businesses around the world.”

That could be great news, and a prompt for would-be members of the next-gen workforce: get into the cloud, and get busy with small-business. Good luck, job hunters!




Obsolete tech accessories to keep one of: A short list

As computers, home stereo/theater, and other technology products continue to change, so do the accessories they use, and the tools involved in fixing and maintaining them.

This means adding some new accessories and tools — but that doesn’t mean getting rid of all our old inventory, just pruning them. After all, many of us still have older devices we’re still using — or are asked by family and friends to help them with their older devices. (Or we buy them at yard sales, or get them from friends and family.)

Floppy DisksFor example, I’m still working on helping somebody do a full save from his old desktop computer, which is running Windows 95 and has a parallel port but no USB ports. I also have several similarly old notebooks from friends that are potentially salvageable and my own not-yet-resaved archive of hard drives and of floppy backups.

Things I’m hanging on to for fun projects like these include:

  • USB cables: These pile up, but it’s good to have a bunch, especially with USB now the way that many mobile devices charge. Also, many printers that require USB cables don’t include them, and store prices are often whacky-high, so I hang onto the extras that accumulate. My pile currently includes “Type B” ones for connecting to printers, and cables or adapters for the smaller-size (mini and micro).
  • VGA video cable(s): Two or three, since sometimes I get/find monitors that don’t have any; having spares makes it easier to find new homes for these displays.
  • Computer power cables: Ditto — having several spares makes sense. Also some of the two and three-connector ones used by many stereo components.
  • Ethernet cables: A bunch, from short to medium long.
  • Parallel cable: One of these is plenty.
  • USB floppy disk drive: One should be enough, but it’s nice to have a spare to lend out. And some floppy disks.
  • USB CD/DVD drive: I occasionally need it myself, for use with my new 3-pound Lenovo ThinkPad, which doesn’t have a built-in optical drive., Similarly, I’ve lent this out to a friend who needed to install software on a netbook.
  • Adapters: I’ve got a box of video, USB, PS/2, serial, and other cable/port adapters that I’ve built up over the years, from buying sprees at computer stores, and from yard sales. My computer stash includes “gender-menders” (male-to-male, female-to-female), type adapters (e.g., USB-to-PS/2), pin adapters (e.g., VGA 9-to-15). I almost never need these adapters — but when I do, it was worth every penny to have the right one at hand (or several from which I assemble the right combination).
  • OS disks: I’ve got a shoebox full — licensed retail copies often turn up at yard sales for a few bucks — ranging from Windows XP back through DOS, along with a Linux or two. Again, rarely used, but invaluable when needed.

I also have a mouse, keyboard, and small LCD, along with video and power cables, for my “testbench” to check out notebooks and desktops.

And I’ve got a few old hard drives, some “sanitized,” some not (yet), for possible re-use.

Things I don’t hang onto, since I’ve got my limits as a tech geek, include hard drive ribbon cables or power supplies. I enjoy disassembling computers, but I’m not interested in building or rebuilding them. I’ve also recently discarded printer and SCSI cables, among other things.

The same logic applies to stereo gear. I’ve got a modest handful of RCA cables, sundry plug adapters, radio antennas, and power cords, plus a small tin of stereo fuses, and a meter to check speaker impedance.

In general, if anything needs anything more complicated than an adapter, cable and fuse, it goes off to tech recycling, or to somebody else who wants to play with it.

I try to periodically — every year or three — go through my stash, and cull the triplicates and the so-obsolete-I-no-longer-care stuff.

But even the old stuff — and the knowledge of how to use it — comes in handy still, for helping people with computers that are way old, but not ready (or their owners aren’t ready) to be disposed of.


Mozy Stash Free


Inventorying and IDing your tech stuff: quick tips

Inventorying Your Tech StuffLike all material possessions personal or business, tech stuff accumulates. It doesn’t actually multiply (except, perhaps, for the calculators) but it doesn’t take long to end up with a pile of stuff.

None of us want to end up on Hoarders. To keep A&E cameras from showing up in tyour driveway, it’s essential to be organized — which includes IDing and inventorying what you’ve got.


One reason is simply so you know what goes with what. Increasingly, power and data cables are near-universal — thankfully, nearly all manufacturers have moved to USB. Even Apple has standardized its device-side connector, so you can pack one Apple cable (“i-cable”?) for use with both an iPhone and iPad. But some devices still have proprietary data cables and AC adapters. Many battery chargers for digital cameras, for example, remain unique.

This means it’s easy to end up with a box — or boxes! — of AC adapters, wires, and assorted cords, and not be sure what goes with what.

Not to mention being able to find software CDs that went with devices. Yes, most of this is available online — but not always, or not always as usefully. For example, I’m trying to set up a Dell printer, and the file I downloaded from Dell was Zip files within Zip files, and seems to be “turtles all the way down,” never resulting in actual install files I could run.

Fortunately, I found the CD — amazingly, in the first place I looked. It’s easy to claim that a success for my organizing system, but there were at least three other places it could legitimately have been, not to mention somewhere within a foot or two of where the printer has been resting.


Another reason to ID and inventory your tech gear is for insurance purposes.

If you’re covering through a computer rider on your home policy, or getting a separate Business Office Policy (aka BOP), part of the policy cost depends on how much coverage you’re looking for.

And that, in turn, means knowing how much the stuff you’re insuring cost. Of course, if you do have a loss — easy to do, when you’re toting mobile devices around — it’s easier to make a claim if you have the item name, serial number, purchase price and date, etc. Tech support is yet another good reason — and one you’re likely to run into — to have this information easily at hand. Typically, the first product information you’re asked for when you contact Tech Support is the product name, serial number, and maybe when you purchased it.

For larger objects like desktop computers, printers, and flat screens, that information is often at the back or bottom, hard to get to without a fair amount of effort. That’s why I recommend copying this to a label or small piece of paper you then stick on front or side of the machine where it’s visible.


Being organized starts at the beginning. Part of the challenge will be that, like travel luggage, over time, the stuff you’re organizing evolves, and so will how you do it.

Create a document or database to record acquisitions. I’m use a simple Excel spreadsheet with an easy-to-search-for name, since I only need to access it every few months. For example, mine is called DERN_INVENTORY_OFFICEGEAR.

The data I record for each item is:

o Item: Vendor/Product Serial/Key Number Purchased from

o Date of purchase

o Cost

o Estimated current value (updated every so often)

o Tech support phone number

o Warranty

o Misc notes

I’ve separated my items into Computers, Cameras, Audio/Video, and Phone/Mobile. . Give your insurance company a copy.

When you get a new techno-toy (or business purchase), once you’re sure you’re keeping it, add it to the list; when major updates happen, send a copy to your insurance company.

Consider printing this out, for when you need it and your computer isn’t working. If nothing else, make sure a copy gets stored in an off-site backup (such as a cloud backup). One of my friends puts his information into an email message and simply leaves it in his inbox.

For insurance purposes, you might also want to take (digital) pictures of your gear — being sure, of course, to save copies off-site or on the cloud.


Nothing beats a label to help you keep track of what the heck something is — and to help identify it as yours.

If nothing else, once you’re sure you’re keeping something, label its AC adapter. If this is the only tip you act on, you’re already ahead of the game.

If it’s just an AC cord, label that — so you can tell what’s plugged in on your power strip or UPS.

For the main device, put a label with the serial number (again, while it’s easy to get to), date you got it, and maybe also the main tech support phone number. This is particularly important for printers.

For any accessories that you don’t expect to use most of the time, put them in a baggie — and label that baggie, perhaps by putting some of the packaging with the product name in it. And then put that baggie into a labeled box, like “iPhone stuff” or “Digital camera stuff.”

And if you’ve got the storage space for it, consider saving the box and packing for your monitor — because if you do have to send it back to the vendor (which I did, for one of my flat screens), it will be difficult and/or expensive to get alternate packaging.


Now that I’ve got an iPhone, which should be able to work as a bar code scanner, I’m considering trying to use that as an inventorying tool.

The challenge is to find a bar code-driven database, either for my iPhone/iPad, or for Windows. It’s worth doing — not just for my tech gear, but also for stuff like my books and CDs and comic books.



How to Get the Best Price for an Old Device

How to get the best price for an old deviceIt seems hardly a week goes by without some must-have (or must-avoid, depending on one’s allegiance) mobile device clamoring for our attention. Apple continues to garner the most publicity every time it releases its latest and greatest product, but let’s not forget about the arsenal of Android devices that have proven their worth in the mobile battlefield.

Add some BlackBerry and Nokia devices doing their best to stay relevant, and there’s a good chance that once you get comfortable with your current smartphone or tablet, you’ll be tempted to upgrade to your company-of-choice’s newest offer.

So what do you do with your perfectly functional yet slightly outdated device? You can relegate it to that bottom drawer in your office, keeping it out of sight from polite company and small children, kind of like how the Fratellis kept Sloth chained up in the basement in The Goonies. You can use it as a device for listening to music or snapping photos, essentially employing it as a specialist, like a lefty middle reliever in baseball or a punt returner in football. Or you can cash in before the product becomes grossly outdated.

Cashing in is the practical choice, as it can add some coin to your pocket while the device goes on to live another day in someone else’s pocket. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your old gadgets and early smartphone iterations.

Good Resale Value Is Key

If you’re not sure how popular a device is, a good place to start is looking on, or to gauge interest.

You could also scroll through the various trade-in sites, according to an article in The New York Times. There are many such sites out there, but here are a for Android devices; for gadgets and games; for Apple products and Android, BlackBerry and other phones; for Apple products (including broken iPhones); or for all electronics; and for phones, cameras, tablets and games.

Apple products are the most popular on many of these sites. In a recent study, found mobile phones lost much of their value right away, and then continued to lose value more gradually over time. The exception was the iPhone. After 18 months, the iPhone retained 53 percent of its value, compared with 42 percent for Android phones and 41 percent for BlackBerry, according to The Times.

It Pays to Keep Your Device in Good Working Order

It’s sound advice to protect your from physical damage with cases and covers. Another smart move is to buy an extended warranty from the maker — for example, Apple Care+ for iPhone — or from a third party like SquareTrade. When it comes time to sell, having a warranty that you can transfer has value.

If the screen is cracked, replace it yourself with a kit, or send it to a professional service like or A flawless iPhone can be worth $60 or more over the value of one in good condition at trade-in time, according to The Times.

Timing Is Everything

Like any other market, it all comes down to timing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t employ some crafty tactics., a website and mobile app that tells when to buy electronics, sifts through millions of pieces of data to guess when a new product is coming out. Decide advises shoppers to buy or wait, using proprietary price and model predictions, according to The Times.

Based on observations of the market for used iPhones and iPads, “the best time to sell is a few weeks before the new iPhone is announced,” Josh Smith of GottaBeMobile, told The Times. “It is possible to get a great price for a used iPhone right now, but many users aren’t willing to go without an iPhone until October.”



Toy Story 2 and Why Backup Matters

Pixar’s Toy Story 2 was almost inadvertently deleted due some careless key strokes and a bad backup. Check out the nerve-wracking video on

Like many of you, I have also lost data from time to time as a result of stupid decisions, or a misplaced command (as with the Pixar folks) or even worse circumstances. It is worth recounting some of those tales to show you how important it is to start thinking about your backups.

Backups usually only matter when you lose something, and then you go into a panic state trying to figure out what you actually lost and where you can retrieve the most recent copy of your files. A survey from Mozy found that a mere 15% of small companies actually use cloud backup to protect their business. So why not take some time now and come up with a solid backup strategy for all of your data? Obviously, using a cloud-based backup service such as Mozy is one part of the picture, but you should also consider some other things. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my past mistakes.

Files Aren’t the Only Thing to Back Up

One of the most important things that I do is write a weekly email newsletter to my clients and potential clients. I have been doing it for 16 years or so. The LISTSERV was once maintained by a friend of mine, on a machine sitting in a second friend’s basement. Well, that arrangement wasn’t working for me when the basement flooded and the machine had to be taken offline. I realized that the only thing that I didn’t have a backup copy of was the actual email names on the list itself, which were easily obtained by sending the listserv a simple command. Luckily, the server was eventually brought online and I could get the names from it. Now I send that command every week to get a fresh copy of my subscribers. This could happen to you: part of a good backup strategy is remembering things such as my email list that don’t fit into neat categories or simple files that are on your own hard drive.

Keep Backups of Backups

Another time I lost my laptop from the trunk of my car: I was in a suburban shopping mall and someone saw me put some packages in the trunk before I headed back for some more shopping. Luckily, most of what was on that laptop was backed up, or so I thought. My emails were using Lotus Notes, which automatically backs up the entire stream on my company servers. When I got a replacement, some of the email addresses were missing. Where did they go? No one knew. This shows that you should never take anything for granted, and have backups of your backups.

Don’t Trip Up on Trips

As a result of losing my laptop in this way, whenever I travel I think about what happens if it were to be stolen or lost? I try to always have a backup of the new work that I created when on the road on some other device: such as in the cloud or on a USB stick that I carry separately.

How often have you been working on a document, only to have the computer freeze up and lose some work? This is a minor nuisance, and most modern versions of word processors have auto-save features, but still. Be prepared.

Test Your Systems!

How did it end for Pixar? Luckily, one team member had made her own independent backup copy and took it home. This gets across my final point: always test your backups to make sure they are actually current and you can restore something from them.



Cloud Roundup and Links of Interest – May 31

Another Chance for Idle ElectronicsAnother Chance for Idle Electronics

More than 278 million mobile devices lie idle or deactivated in the United States, and nearly half are smartphones, according to consultants at Compass Intelligence.

Most of those devices are destined for the recycling heap, but as for the others, that’s cash sitting neglected in drawers, according to an article in The New York Times. Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones that sell for $270 new could be worth $200 used. A Wi-Fi-only 16-gigabyte iPad 2 costing $400 new could fetch $300 or more. See how to sell them for the highest price.

Hope for Innovation Is Found in the Cloud

Innovation isn’t dead, it just moved to the cloud, according to GigaOM.

Cloud computing has made innovation something anyone can do, said GigaOM’s Derrick Harris.

“Somewhere in between Pinterest and biotech, startups are using the cloud to make enterprise software available as a service and disrupt the business models of the very companies that helped build Silicon Valley,” Harris writes.

Even though social media companies may dominate the startup landscape, they’re part of a fundamental change in the way people communicate with each other thanks to cloud-based computing resources and the ubiquity of powerful mobile devices.

GigaOM plans to talk more on this subject at the upcoming Structure conference in San Francisco.

President Wants Government Agencies to Focus on Mobile Apps

President Barack Obama has ordered all government agencies to offer more of their services in the form of mobile apps, according to Mashable.

A new memo called “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People” requires each agency to make at least two services, used by the public, available on mobile devices within 12 months.

“For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need,” says the memo.

“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement.

Mobile App Bump Can Now Push Photos to Your Desktop

Bump Technologies launched a new website feature, allowing Bump’s mobile app users the ability to share smartphone photos to their computers by physically bumping the phone against the PC keyboard, according to AllThingsD.

The photos are hosted online, and users can choose to download the images to their hard drive or share them using a short URL. Previously, Bump’s mobile app allowed for sharing photos and contact information between mobile phones, but not directly to a computer. Find out more about it here.