Let’s get backing up this New Year!

So another year is gone and a new one is upon us.
Many of us have received or purchased new computer systems for personal use, work or school or will be soon.
Nowadays many of us have a great deal of our lives – pictures of family, personal and legal documents and more stored digitally on our computers. And many do not have any backups of said systems.

I continually preach the benefits of using system images for backing up your computers. With imaging you can restore entire systems in case of hard disk failure, restore individual files and folders, upgrade/migrate to newer larger and faster HDDs (usually SSDs) and even move to completely new systems.

One of the first things everyone should know is that your digital system(s) WILL fail. And can at anytime. And if you have no recoverable backup your data will be gone forever. Please don’t let this happen to you.
One thing I do – because I am such a stickler on having my own stuff backed up, is have TWO full backups on SEPARATE disk drives. This allows for me to keep the two seperate full images in two different locations. And should one backup drive fail, I have another to go to. The likely hood that both would fail (along with my primary system) is remote and if I had that triple whammy I’d have to assume God needed me to lose it all.

External Hard Disk Drives can be had very inexpensively. For example here is a good deal on one from Amazon. And the cost of imaging software is under $100.00 US (often way less too). A VERY small price to pay for peace of mind and the security of knowing you’ll be able to recover your important files, pictures and entire system.

Here is a previous article I’ve written. All points valid still.

Here are the tools I regularly use:

Acronis – Acronis works on Mac and PC. I prefer the 1-time purchase option because I like to OWN my stuff and not ‘rent’ it. Check that out here. They have loads of tutorials in their knowledge base.

For Mac only there is Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), my favorite. Or another good alternative SuperDuper.

Of course on Macs, you can use Apples built in Disk Utility to create an image but it is more onerous. And you can’t really make incremental backups. You can of course, create an image and use TimeMachine backups to make up the difference I guess.

As a free alternative for Windows 8.1 and 10 there is the built in backup utility which includes and imaging option. However I’ve had issues restoring images to differing hardware. Here is a very good article on how to do that.

Another very good option for PC is Macrium Reflect. They even have a free version (here) that works very well. I’ve used the latest version successfully a few times.

One more way I use to augment my backups is with the "Cloud".
Cloud storage sounds very nebulous, but is really just utilizing large storage pools made available by numerous internet service providers to augment their offerings and services.
Cloud storage is GREAT for storing a large amount of ‘nonproprietary’ information; things like most pictures many documents and files etc. I just make sure to not put up to the cloud any critical/personal/financial documents or other highly private information.
I pay a little extra to Google to have loads of extra Google drive space that I upload many pics and files to. [and of course Google provides for free unlimited photo storage with some gotchas on the having to do with photo size and quality].
I have Microsoft’s One Drive that came with my purchases of Microsoft Office and some Windows 10 devices; but that storage size has been cut down recently.
With my Amazon Prime account I also have unlimited picture storage too. 
And I also even have Dropbox.

So for plain mundane data storage you can see I use many of the available options in the cloud. But the ‘cloud’ does NOT enable you to recover your entire system should the drive or other major component fail. Or worse – burn up in a fire or get damaged by some other catastrophe.
So no matter what I store in the cloud I ALWAYS have copies on my own personal systems somewhere.

I may be a more than a little "tight" about keeping data. But decades of dealing with data losses in the corporate and personal world has made me so.

I hope that some of you take some time in this New Year to do some digital safe guarding. Like a fire extinguisher you need to have it on hand and ready before you have the fire.

Delete all trash in Google Voice

Delete all trash in Google Voice

I’ve have been using Google Voice since its inception in 2007. I have plenty of spam rules and other delete immediately rules.

This has all led to a massive trash folder.

Google’s method to delete the trash only allows for you to select 10 items at a time, then delete them then select another and so on. For me this was 3000 pages of crap!

I went on a search or method to empty this garbage once and for all. The responses from Google on their forums were pretty much ‘tough luck’ we’re not going to add that functionality. Even though for them that would be, programmatically, an INCREDIBLY simple adjustment.

I finally found a simple and working method!! Thought I’d share.

Here’s how to delete all Google voice messages in trash!

Install Tamper monkey extension in either Chrome or Firefox.

[I had best luck using Chrome for this instead of Firefox]

http://tampermonkey.net/

Then grab the script from here:

Download the script .zip and extract the file "gv-delete.user.js"

Then Open with text editor and copy all.

OR

Copy the entire script in the github script window.

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Open Tampermonkey interface from Chrome browser (it’ll be on the tool bar)

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Click on the ‘+’ next to the ‘Installed userscripts’

Copy over (or backspace over) any code

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Paste the copied script into the window

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Then press Save

Now

Navigate to your Google Voice page (stay on the Inbox – don’t go to the Trash folder) :

https://www.google.com/voice

And you’ll now see a two new buttons.

One says “Delete ALL” the other “Empty Trash”

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Clicking on the Empty Trash will kick off the script and begin emptying all of the items in your Trash folder of Google Voice. It will take some time if you trash is large BUT it will finish. Just minimize the window and have a cup of tea or coffee or whatever.

And viola’ all gone!

Google Reader replacement RSS/Feed Reader

With the demise of Google Reader fast approaching I went on a search for a good ‘Feed Reader’. And it turns out there are plenty. In this article I’m going to concentrate on Windows and Android platforms and support for what is called ‘OPML’ supported readers/structure. You can read more if you wish here about that. The beauty of using OPML is that you can export and import you feeds/subscriptions to multiple platforms and devices.

I’ll have to fire up the Mountain Lion box and see what works best there; but that is for another article or addition to this one at a later date. Suffice it to say that whatever I end up with on my Macs must also support OPML.

In my searches and trials I found that most of the supposed ‘top rated’ readers actually relied on Google Reader feeds! What? If that is going to be shuttered it would seem moronic to recommend a feed reader based on an extension/application that is going to be shuttered. To be fair most of those using Google Reader’s API said they were going to ‘adjust’ and get around this but I thinks it’s just stupid to invest effort and time or worse even money into ‘vaporware’. Others were Browser ‘Plug-ins’ that wouldn’t allow for importing and exporting of feeds across platforms. AND I chose mine based on the fact that I’m not required to enter ANY account or password infomation such as Facebook login, E-mail Login, Twitter Login etc. I just want access to the information that I could readily get if I was searching the web.
I do NOT use ANY service that uses another service to access their service – this is just one more vector to be hacked and have my information stolen, used, sold or worse. (so sorry Spotify and all you other folks keeping tabs on me..)

I found a simple to use, and pretty powerful RSS reader to get most of my stuff in one spot. It’s a great tool. I use to get all my current news articles in one spot and at a quick glance can read article headlines and summaries and then decide on what I’ll dig into. It’s called FeedDemon.  I use the freeware version – here is the window free application. With it I can read the articles right in the application’s browser or open them up in a full Web Browser.

Install is simple; download and run then walk through the process. I didn’t subscribe to ‘News Gator’ option and skipped that step. I already have way too much info to process and I am capable of searching and finding content on my own though you may find it quite useful.

Subscribing to a new feed is very easy by hitting the Subscribe button which pulls up a window to enter in the feed URL.  You can also enter in keywords and do a search for a topic.
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You can also preview the feed to make sure it is what you’re looking for.

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Sometimes there are options as to additional separate ‘feeds’ within that website. You can select them for a more refined feed. Then just click finish and you’ll have a newly subscribed feed.

On thing I am asked is about the unread/read posts. How come my articles are ‘disappearing/being deleted’. Well that’s just an option in the ‘view’ settings. Go Here and read about that.

Another thing I do is to change the ‘default external Browser’ option for security reasons – I use Firefox with high security plug-ins, but you’re just as safe if use Chrome too instead of the default of IE.

Go to Tools>Options>Feedemon Options and select the second tab and click on the ‘Open external links in default browser instead of FeedDemon’

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Once I had all my feeds subscribed and set up on my main workstation I exported them all to an OPML file. That can be used to import my feeds onto another system or device with ease.

I then used that to import all my feeds into my laptop and Android phone RSS Reader – On my phone I use RssDemon News & Podcast Reader.

Tip: How to get an RSS feed from a Facebook page

I also found a good trick to generate an RSS feed from any Facebook page. Facebook, being the closed arena that it is. may soon figure out how to disable this, but for now it works.

First you need to identify the numeric ID of your page or the ‘front page of the profile you want to follow.

To find the public/front page just go to Google(or Bing or whatever) and search for what you’re looking for. Here I searched “Rush band Facebook” (no quotes by the way)

Then you can use this service: http://findmyfacebookid.com/ to find the actual ID number. [There are other services too. You can search for those if you wish; this was just dead simple]

Once you’ve copied the number, just add it at the end of this string

http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?format=atom10&id=YOURID/PROFILEID

Eg: this URL generates the RSS feed of one of my all time favorite bands.

http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?format=atom10&id=53385812061

Now it’s possible to subscribe the feed of interesting pages, without a Facebook login. Smile

Hope this helps. Peace.

Android App List Backup

Here is a very good app to use to install/re-install applications from phone to phone. It’s called appropriately enough, App List Backup.
It saves a list of your installed applications (Market/Play only. It does not list ‘Non-Market’ applications!) so you can re-download them from the Playstore/Market later (on the same or another device). This way apps will show up in Downloads(PlayStore) and receive updates.

The idea is NOT to physically back up your applications and their settings or to save you from re-downloading apps. For that I use Titanium Backup Pro (root required for Titanium; read my articles on rooting for more information).

This application creates a list that just let’s you VERY easily re-download one or all of your applications.
Great for sharing links of your applications with others. Or duplicating your installed applications on a new phone or one that is ‘reset’; either by wiping or installing new or different ROM version.

Simply download and install the application from the Playstore. Then run it to create a back up list.
OR
Once installed navigate to a list you’ve created and copied over or that someone has given/sent you, and then restore. You can choose which to ‘reload/restore’ individually if you wish too. Now your applications will  show up in the Playstore on your phone and you can then install/update them.
Bam dead simple.

Have fun and be safe. Peace

Get your Cloud Data down to your machine

Here are some ways to get your ‘cloud data’ backed up locally.

I know most people look to the ‘cloud’ for their secondary backups (if they even have a primary one) but few people ponder what will happen if their information is lost or compromised in the cloud or the terms of service of the provider that holds that information changes to your detriment.

I am going to provide some information on how to get your data out of your web email, Facebook and some other services.

One thing I see quite often is that people cannot access their online/web mail service at an important time to find information or they lose or have deleted the information they need and have no way of retrieving it.

So let’s start with web mail services. Today most people have very important information stored in their email; from plane reservations, business communications all the way to payment receipts. So in my opinion this is the first and most important place to start.

Get your mail downloaded locally.
For GMail. [My personal favorite!]:
Before you do anything, you’ll need to enable POP3 and/or IMAP in Gmail, which will let you access your accounts on the desktop. To do this, head into Gmail’s Settings and go to the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab. Scroll down to the IMAP section and enable IMAP. Then save your changes, and open up your desktop email client of choice to set it up using the following instructions.

I use Outlook 2007/2010.

If you don’t have Outlook you can also use Thunderbird (an open source application by the Mozilla folks)

There are also a number of other mail applications you can use to get your information – Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook Express, LiveMail etc..

I like using the POP3 connections over IMAP for most of my connections.
POP mail service has been available MANY times when IMAP has NOT – for my Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo. If the ‘webmail’ is not available online because of a service interruption then IMAP will most certainly too. This is not usually the case with POP. HOWEVER there is a big caveat with POP – you must make sure in the advanced settings or your mail client that you choose "to leave a copy of the message on the server"!!

But IMAP does have its advantages too.
So pick what will provide you with the most features you feel you will need – I suspect that would be IMAP probably be best for most people.

To set up POP with Gmail look here,  and find your client and follow the steps.
For IMAP go here.  and find your client or device on the list and follow the instructions.

If you’d like to read further about the differences between IMAP and POP you can read this here.

For Yahoo mail it is a little harder if you live in the U.S..
Yahoo wants you upgrade to a "Mail Plus" paid account to get POP and IMAP access directly. But you don’t have to! The best option is to use an application called YPOPs. I’ve used it in the past to get my Yahoo mail connected to Thunderbird and Outlook with out any issues.

If you have Window Live Mail or Apple Mail the client itself downloads your Hotmail/.Live or MacMail/MobileMe data to your machine by default. BUT remember this is an IMAP connection so if you delete something from you Live Mail client on the desktop it will be deleted on the server!

One important thin that may people miss is to get their CONTACT data out/backed-up from their mail clients. Something I also feel is very important.
For virtually all web mail clients that is as simple as going to the ‘Contact’ section and finding and choosing the ‘Export’ option. Those can then be exported into a format that virtually any Email client can import.
That should get you going with your mail.

Now to Picasa.
Simplest way is to install the latest version Mac or PC and then simply go up to the menu and use File ==> Import from Picasa Web Albums ==> Select All.
And Flickr
You can use Flickr’s Flash based web app here  just click on the ‘start now’ and follow the instructions.
Or you can use the open source application Downloadr . Downloadr is a photo downloader for Microsoft Windows. It provides a simple interface to download large sized images from Flickr to your computer.

Now to Facebook.
If you have Yahoo you can easily download/copy all of your contact out. You can follow this tutorial here.  One tip is that I would suggest setting up a ‘temporary’ Yahoo alias with NO contacts in it so that you do not end up with duplicates or mismatched merges. Then export those and import them into any application you choose.

Also Facebook now allows you to actually export YOUR data to a file! Following this VERY well written walk-through right here. I’ve done it and it works great! You may have to wait a while before you receive your ‘confirmation email’ and link but you will be able to get your stuff.

Finally there is an open source application Called MyCube Vault. MyCube Vault Backs Up Your Facebook and Google Data Regularly
Once installed, the app requires you to authorize it to each of the services you want to back up. From there you can tell the service where to store your backups and how often to save your data. If you’re concerned about downtime or just wary of keeping your data in the cloud, it’s worth a look.

I checked it out and it works well.
Windows version here

Mac version here

Well that is a long winded post and I hope some people will put it to use. Like backing up your local data don’t be the person who loses precious information because you were too lazy or couldn’t be bothered to learn something new.

Peace.

Security news – Gmail spear phishing attack

There are some very splashy news stories going around saying ‘Google was Hacked".. Oh no sky is falling.

Let’s be clear. GOOGLE WAS NOT HACKED!
What happened is that many ‘targeted users’ were ‘Phished’ – the users where ‘conned/tricked’ into giving up their security information and passwords. This is called ‘spear phishing’

Essentially Gmail’s login screen was mimicked, and people were tricked in ‘re-entering their information, and hundreds of Gmail accounts, including those of U.S. Officials were then compromised in this very targeted Phishing attack. You have to read a little bit into these articles to actually find the true nature of the supposed ‘attack’.

To be clear – Hacking is done by a very skilled person on whatever his target is, phishing is done by almost anyone to anyone dumb enough to let themselves be tricked!

Here is one headline

and another

Google’s blog page has more details here

The simple thing to take a way from this is to be ever cautious of where, when and how you enter in any information online – to ANYONE.
AND use strong passwords.

The way this attack was carried out can be seen in this analogy I used with someone.

Suppose you went to the bank ATM, put in your card and entered your PIN. You then carried out your transaction; looking up your balance and making a withdrawal. After you are finished you take your cash, receipt and card and prepare to walk away.

At that moment someone comes around the corner wearing a shirt with the bank name – looking ‘all official’ and asks to look at your card because the bank is ‘tightening up security for it’s special clients.

You hand it to him. He then asks for your PIN; you know just to make sure you are who you say you are. He writes down your name, card and PIN number and hands back your card and says, "thanks, we just have to be extra cautious nowdays…"

In this scenario you just handed that person everything they need to know about how to royally screw you.

This is the same thing that happens with these ‘phishing’ and other types of ‘social engineering’ cons and scams.

People – please use extrodinary caution when dealing with personal information.

Google has an awesome security protocol called ‘Two Step Authentication’ and it is well worth the extra time and effort to set up.

You can learn about Two step authentication in this video:

[Remember about Application Specific passwords if you use Gmail on your Smartphone or desktop (Outlook, Thunderbird etc.)]

Backup your Facebook Profile Information

I am going to show you two (2) methods of obtaining your Facebook contact information; Names and email account information. One via a browser extension/add-on and another via using an ‘intermediary’ email account – in this case Yahoo.

As I have written many times I love me my Firefox browser. With the add-ons/extensions and tweaks I use, I am able to make use of my Browser as my most important productivity tool. With Firefox extension/add-ons and Greasmonkey extensions I have been able to do just about everything I’ve ever needed to with a browser.

I do also use Internet Explorer for some of my Microsoft sites where it is needed and Google Chrome – though primarily a portable version and/or on my Linux builds. It is also good to check any site building/scripting in all these browsers for differences in behavior.

One reason I don’t use Chrome that often is that although I love many things Google (Gmail and Google Apps in particular), I don not like the fact that just about EVERYTHING you type into Chrome address bar gets sent back to Google! AND the ‘google updater’ is constantly running in the background.

For this reason I use Chrome portable. You can pick up the latest version here. [For a Standalone Installation – To install a portable app by itself, or manually, just browse to the location of the [AppName]_Portable_x.x.paf.exe file you downloaded. Double-click the file to start the installation. Follow the on-screen prompts and select the location you’d like to install to. Within the directory you select, an [AppName]Portable directory will be created containing the portable app.]

Method 1 – Chrome Extension:


Now for the fun! I just found a Chrome extension that is totally awesome but so far is not available or does not have a like kind for Firefox 4. Get a copy of Chrome and install this extension – It is called the
"Facebook Friend Exporter", get it here. 

This extension allows for exactly what it says. You can install this plugin, log into Facebook, go to your ‘Friends’ page and then export all of your friends profile information that is contained in YOUR Facebook profile page(s).
This extension will allow you to get your friends information that they shared to you:
– Name
– Emails
– Phone numbers
– Screen names
– Websites
– Address
– Birthdays

Two methods of exports
– CSV file (if you have many friends, greater than 500, it will be very slow)
– Gmail Contacts (It will place them into a folder called "Imported from Facebook")

Notes:
– An "Export" button will appear on Facebooks toolbar on the top.
– Click on it and it will open a screen to start processing.
– Depending how many friends you have, this may take a very very long time to complete.
– For example: Exporting 100 friends will take at least 30 minutes!!

Additionally I may upload a copy of my portable Chrome build with all the extension already packed in; but that will have to come later.

Method 2 – Via Yahoo:

Another simple method to get Facebook contact information is to use a Yahoo email account.

· Import Facebook Contacts into Yahoo Mail

  • Step 1

Create a free email account at Yahoo Mail if you don’t have one or a use a new one to keep your contacts separate. Make sure you can send a test email out – to ‘verify’ your account. Log out of the Yahoo Mail account, once created. Close all open browsers.

  • Step 2

Open a new instance of a web browser and enter the URL for Yahoo. Log into your ‘general’ yahoo account. [make sure if you have the ‘redirect remover’ Firefox add-on installed in your browser to disable it temporarily]

  • Step 3

Click the "Facebook" button usually down on the lower left hand side. A login prompt will appear requiring a valid Facebook user ID and password.

  • Step 4

Log into the Facebook account where the contacts reside you wish to get. Open a new ‘Tab’ in your browser and type in Yahoo.com (you should still be signed in there too.) As soon as you logged in through the Yahoo Address page, the Facebook contacts will be available in Yahoo Contacts. Open the Yahoo ‘Contacts’ and choose to ‘get/import’ your contacts. A Facebook icon will be displayed and you will be asked if you are sure you wish to import them. Say yes of course and in a few moments all your Facebook contacts (names and email addresses contained in Facebook address book) will now be in your Yahoo Contacts! That simple!!

Contacts that are in Yahoo can then be exported for use in many other email applications. You can choose to export in a few different ‘.csv’ file formats, a single Outlook file format or a zip file containing all the individual files in an ‘address book card’ files format (.vcf). .VCF files can be imported into many applications – Gmail being one, not just Outlook.

· Export Facebook/Yahoo Contacts as a CSV File

  • Step 1

Click on the "Address Book" tab in Yahoo Mail.

  • Step 2

Select "Address Options."

  • Step 3

Click "Import/Export." The Export dialog box will open.

  • Step 4

Click the button labeled "Export Now" next to the email client the export will be imported into. For example, if the exported CSV file will be imported into Outlook, select "Outlook."

  • Step 5

Type a file name for the CSV file into the input box, when prompted and click the "Save As" button. Save the CSV file. The file is now ready to be imported into the specified email client or utilized as data. Super simple!