After sitting in front of two large displays at work for 8 hours straight, the last thing I feel like doing when walking in the door at home is sit down in front of another screen. Instead, I'll usually take a couple of hours to switch off, spend time with my wife and enjoy some quiet time in the garden, walking our dogs, or cooking dinner before settling down at my desk or in front of the TV.
Three days into my experiment and I'm yet to find a reason to open the lid on my MacBook Pro. I haven't missed the OS X environment at all. I've also found myself neglecting my iPhone once I step in the door, instead leaning toward picking up my iPad mini.
I've taken the iPad to work with me each day this week, yet I've only used it once to read in iBooks during my lunch break earlier today. I already feel slightly constrained by the lack of LTE connectivity, I'm tempted to head down to a local store and swap the Wi-Fi only iPad for the Wi-Fi + LTE variant.
It's not that I can't get online while out and about, given the iPhone's ability to become a Personal Hotstop. The issue is the hassle involved in connecting the two devices together.
I find leaving the Personal Hotspot turned on rarely works, when I pick up the iPad expecting to continue where I left off, I have to fumble around for my iPhone, turn the Personal Hotspot setting off and then back on, then reattempt to connect on the iPad.
With the LTE mini, I'd simple need to pick up the device and I'd be good-to-go, albeit at a $200 price premium (NZD $599 vs $799 for 16GB).
When the iPad mini with Retina Display was announced on the 22nd October, the sole reason I decided against picking one up was the lack of Touch ID as I'd become so accustomed with the feature on the newly released iPhone 5S. Once I started reading reviews and initial impressions, I couldn't ignore the itch and decided after having no iPad for over 12 months, that it was time to give the mini form factor a go.
Come the end of November when the device finally hit the shores of New Zealand, I was frantically checking in to my local technology stores every day waiting for one to arrive. I finally found one after 4 days of searching, just hours before departing overseas (but sadly not in Duty-Free).
After previous experience with the full size iPad's, I knew I was looking for the 32GB LTE version. The iPad mini I walked away with was the 16GB Wi-Fi (in White), which was the only one available in the store. Nether-less, my wife (who purchased the non-Retina iPad mini at the same time) and I wandered back to our hotel and promptly set-up our devices and started downloading apps.
I've been iPad-less for the past 12 months. I found once the novelty of the device wore off, I'd regularly pick up my iPhone or MacBook Pro rather than reaching for the iPad.
I never purchased the first generation iPad mini as I had become so accustomed with the Retina Display on both the iPad's I had owned, and the current iPhone & MacBook Pro. I felt like owing an iPad without a Retina Display wouldn't be utilised as much as one one with a Retina Display.
I'm extremely glad I waited the extra year. After just two weeks of constant use I've become attached to the mini. It's small enough and light enough to carry everywhere, yet powerful enough to 'power' through any task I throw at it. It may be 'new toy' novelty, but I find myself reaching for it as much as possible for anything and everything.
I've given it a good 'real-world' test over the first two weeks of ownership. So far it's been taken on two international flights, spent five days been used around a resort in Fiji, spent a couple of hours in a doctors surgery, every evening in bed as a 'book replacement', and countless hours of use on the couch in front of the television.
I've found myself consuming an awful lot of content, especially in iBooks, Pocket, and Tweetbot (which I'm eagerly awaiting an iOS 7 update). However I believe the iPad mini is perfectly able to be used for content creation, with the correct tool-kit of applications, which leads me to my next point.
The 100 Day Experiment
"Why can't an iPad be used as a sole computing device?" - I thought about this on the three hour flight back to Auckland, New Zealand from Nadi, Fiji. While I had been on holiday for just 5 days, I had spent over two weeks without feeling the need to touch my MacBook Pro.
While I don't expect to get rid of my OS X machine at the end of this test, I do think this is a perfectly viable case for a number of people. For one, I know my grandparents and even parents could more than likely not need to replace their desktop machines once they're past their use by date/s, instead computing solely on an iPad.
The plan is to use my iPad mini for all computing needs over the next 100 days, documenting my thoughts and findings along the way. I'll still be using my iPhone 5S on a daily basis, and a horrible PC running Windows 2000 at work, however I'll be closing the lid on my MacBook Pro and not opening it for a shade over three months.
Here's how the home-screen on my iPad looks on day 1 of 100.
I'm sure you've all read review-after-review of Apple's latest iteration of its mobile operating system - iOS 7, and many of you will have already played around with it extensively. Given these two points, this is not a review, nor an detailed overview. These are simply my initial thoughts of iOS 7 on an iPhone 5 in no particular order.
The refreshed Lock Screen is impressive. I'm currently using it with one of my old 'Desktop Friday' wallpapers which I've had as the background on my Mac for the past 5+ years.
Speaking of the Lock Screen, it took me a couple of days to realise you can slide to unlock anywhere on the screen, not just on the pulsing text. This seems a little strange to me.
Newsstand still can't be deleted, however it can finally be hidden in a folder.
Notification Centre's Today view is outstanding. I can't wait to see what third-party developers bring to this screen in future releases. Another tidbit I picked up on is the fact you can navigate between the Today, All, and Missed tabs by swiping diagonally rather than tap on the icons.
I love the new auto-update feature on the App Store. I was particularly happy to see an option to only perform these updates when connected to a Wi-Fi network to save 3G (or LTE) data.
I use my iPhone at two different brightness levels - maximum and minimum. I switch to the lowest brightness setting in just two circumstances. When I'm getting into bed at night, and when I'm running low on battery. No longer do I have to waste time delving levels deep into the Settings app to make this adjustment.
I love having quick access to the flashlight in Control Centre. This has allowed me to delete my prior go to flashlight app 'Light' and stop spending 99c over and over on each new flashlight app that hits the App Store.
I wish the iPhone was aware of your location and would automatically switch off things such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth depending on whether you're on-the-go, at work, or at home.
The fade-in/fade-out animation when locking/unlocking the phone feels awfully slow. It looks great, however I feel this animation needs to be cut in half (or sped up to 200%). In some instances it almost makes a modern iPhone 5 feel sluggish.
The iPhone 5S
Without going into too much detail before seeing the new phone in the flesh, I'm extremely excited to see what Apple has in store for us with their Touch ID technology in the future. I predict we'll see this feature later this year in the next iteration of both the full size iPad, and the iPad mini.
I've decided to purchase the 5S in Gold, in either a 32GB or 64GB variant this time around. I'm thrilled Apple silently reintroduced the Dock alongside the new 5S/5C. I'll be ordering at least two of these - one for my bedside table, and one for my desk at work.
According to Wikipedia, April 4, 2011 was an eventful day. Some may remember it for the record number of American storm reports in a 24-hour period, others may remember the day for the 6.7 magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Java in Indonesia. I remember April 4, 2011 differently - the day Shawn Blanc started writing full-time.
Shawn Blanc is a writer that I've grown to have immense respect for. In quitting his job and becoming a full-time, self-employed writer he's displayed courage in doing something that many will dream about doing. Becoming their own boss, creating their own path.
I've watched Shawn's writing improve tremendously since he started publishing his weblog on June 28, 2007. He's now among some top names including John Gruber, Marco Arment, Benjamin Brooks, and Jason Kottke who I instantly click through to when a new article appears in Reeder.
Shawn took some time over the past few weeks between writing for his weblog, producing his daily members-only podcast 'Shawn Today', and looking after his son Noah to answer some questions covering all aspects of his freelance lifestyle.
Glenn Wolsey: At what point did you believe you could take your writing full time?
Shawn Blanc: There wasn't so much a moment or a metric where I looked at my website and said, "now is the time". Rather, it started as an internal dialog about if writing for shawnblanc.net was something I truly wanted to do as my full-time gig.
When I decided that yes, I did want to write full time, I brought it up with my wife, Anna, one evening. She was extremely encouraging and supportive of it. So I then went to work on projecting some numbers and spitballing ideas to see if it would actually be possible and how I'd go about making enough money to keep on writing.
At the time, my website was already earning a little bit of advertising revenue. It was great for the part-time endeavour that it was, but the income was nowhere near what I'd need for a full-time gig. But my gut told me that if I could put the time in, I'd be able to turn it into a sustainable, respectable job.
I figured if I could spend 6 months as a full-time writer on the site, giving my best hours of the day to my writing, then the site would raise to the level of energy I was putting into it.
And so, with the support of my wife, and the hunch that my leap into full-time writing could pan out, I decided to go for it.
Glenn: Was there a decisive factor involved in the decision to quit your day-job and start publishing your weblog full time?
Shawn: A big factor had to do with my wife and I wanting to have children. It was important to me that I be home and around my kids as much as possible. Also, I want to be a father who leads by example. If I want my kids to feel empowered to take risks and pursue their dreams, then I figured I'd better be willing to do the same. So that's a big factor for what prompted me to.
Glenn: I'd imagine you would have been anxious taking a seat in your home office that first morning. What have been the biggest challenges you've faced over the course of the previous two and a half years?
Shawn: Oh man, I was extremely anxious.
My first "official" day of writing the site full time was on the tail end of a month-long membership drive, but I'd still been working full-time with my old job up until that point. There was all this anticipation and excitement leading up to the day I would be quitting my job and writing full time. And so here it was, my first day at the keyboard, and I was there just staring at the blank page.
Since then, my biggest challenges have been staying focused on the big picture. It's extremely easy to get caught up in the little, seemingly urgent matters, and then lose momentum on the bigger projects.
Glenn: Some would view your work situation as almost perfect. No boss to answer to, no mandatory wake up call, and no long commute.
Shawn: Yes, I love my job. There are a lot of wonderful perks that come with the territory of working for yourself. For one, I can work from anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection of some sort. Of course, the downside is that I can work from anywhere - going home for the holidays means I usually take work with me.
Working for myself is incredibly fun, but it's also quite challenging. For one, I can be a horrible boss to myself. I'm demanding, overbearing, and unforgiving. I also miss the community aspect of working with a group and leading a team. I thrive on community and group discussions and brainstorming and teamwork, etc. I've been sure to set some things in place so that I have as much community as possible - I meet with some peers every week for lunch, I work from my local coffee shop once or twice a week, I connect with folks on Twitter and app.net, and I have a small group of trusted advisors whom I send my biggest ideas and projects to -- but it's not a complete replacement for working with friends in the same office space day in and day out, and pulling long weekends together and spitballing ideas over coffee every morning.
Glenn: Your wife Anna recently gave birth to your first child - Noah. How has he positively impacted your working routine?
Shawn: Well, Noah's impact on my work life has been a mixed bag. It's been challenging because Anna and I share responsibilities, and so just about every day I'm in charge of Noah for at least 3-4 hours, and that's usually in the mornings. Also, with a one-year-old upstairs, working from home can be quite far from a "distraction free" work environment. And so there are some days where I never quite get in a "groove" and knock out tons of awesome work.
On the other side of the coin, however, is that I've learned to work when I can. I value the ability to get little things done here and there and know that I'm making progress towards a bigger goal. I consider it a great asset to be able to not underestimate even the small amount of work I can do in a short amount of time.
Glenn: What's your biggest source of inspiration to continue publishing content on a regular and consistent basis?
Shawn: The relationship with my readers. By far and away the most engaging and inspiring thing behind the work I do day in and day out is getting feedback from the people who read the site. Whether that be as simple as a quick shout out on Twitter saying thanks for a link or an article that I posted, to someone writing me a long email explaining why they disagree with something I said.
That feedback is so helpful, because, I mean, I write these words so they'll be read. And it's great to hear back from people who did read them.
Glenn: Tell me about some of your favourite things to read to keep this inspiration flowing?
Shawn: I get a lot of inspiration from The Great Discontent and I read pretty much everything Seth Godin writes. I also check in on Minimal Mac, The Brooks Review, Kottke.org, Daring Fireball, and Marco.org just about every day.
Right now I'm reading this book from 99u called, Manage Your Day-to-Day. And I enjoy the Offscreen magazines which come out about once a quarter.
Glenn: Shawn, I can't conduct an interview with you without delving into the geekier side of things. What setup are you working with right now, and how does it work for you?
Shawn: My one and only computer is a 13-inch MacBook Air, circa summer 2011. It's the specced out model: 1.8 GHz Core i7, 4GB memory, 256 SSD, Mountain Lion.
Since my iPad has become my "laptop", these days I mostly use the MacBook Air in clamshell mode. I've got it hooked up to a 27-inch Korean grey market IPS display I bought off eBay; I type on a Filco Ninja Mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches; and I use an Apple Magic Trackpad.
Speaking of the iPad, I have the 3rd-generation (Retina, 30-pin) with Verizon LTE. I often leave the house without my laptop and just my iPad and bluetooth keyboard. It's a great combo and I can do pretty much all my day's work of reading, writing, and posting.
For audio, I've got a pair of Audyssey speakers which I love (they look great and sound fantastic). And then a Blue Yeti USB mic for recording my daily podcast, Shawn Today.
Glenn: I know you've always been a great fan of the old-style Apple Cinema Display - especially the 23-inch variant. What made you decide on the Korean grey market 27-inch display over say, the more aesthetically pleasing Apple Thunderbolt Display?
Shawn: Ironically, it's my affinity for the nice Apple hardware that led me to get the grey market Korean IPS display.
You see, about a year ago, my aluminium 23-inch ACD went on the fritz and stopped working regularly. It needed to be replaced and my gut told me that new Thunderbolt Displays were probably just around the corner and so I decided I'd wait for the new ones before buying.
But I knew it would probably be a few months at least. Since I work at my desk for hours a day, I didn't want to just wait it out and work from my 13-inch Air's display only during that time.
So I had heard about these displays from Jeff Atwood's site, and I figured that spending a few hundred dollars on a high quality IPS display that didn't come in a pretty hardware casing was a great stop gap.
Well, it's now been over a year now and the cheap IPS display is still kicking and Apple's Thunderbolt displays still haven't been updated.
Glenn: I know you're a great advocate of Byword, what other apps are involved in your writing and publishing workflow?
Shawn: All my notes, ideas, and rough-drafts of links and articles usually start out in Simplenote / nvALT. I love having these documents synced between my Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
I do almost all long-form writing in Byword on my Mac. Or, if writing long-form on my iPad I use Writing Kit. From my Mac, all links get posted using MarsEdit. From my iPad or iPhone, all links get posted using an app called Poster which, alas, is now no longer available because it was bought by the guys at WordPress.
Glenn: You've developed a particular writing style on a wide range of topics. What do you most enjoy writing about, i.e. reviews, interviews etc?
Shawn: The long-form reviews are the hardest to write but they are also the most rewarding. In that regard, looking back at all the things I've written for the site over the years, I suppose the reviews are my favourite. But I don't know that I enjoy them more than other pieces. Really, there's no one particular type of article or post or link that I enjoy writing more than another beyond when I'm writing about whatever I'm most energised and excited about.
When my head is down and I'm in the zone working on a project or article, then that is when the joy of writing comes out the most. Some days I get to experience that, and some days it feels like trudging through the mud.
Glenn: When inspiration strikes and you're out and about, what's your go to tool to capture that idea/thought/paragraph?
Shawn: My iPhone. Most quick capturing is done with Scratch because it opens in about one second to a blank text field ready to go. And then I'll leave it there for the moment or else send it to Simplenote where it then is synced to my iPad and Mac.
Glenn: Obviously a number of apps on your iOS devices are work related. In one of the rare times you're using your the iPhone/iPad for pleasure rather than work, what are your favourite go-to apps?
Shawn: I don't play any games on my iPhone, which means there's a lot of crossover between my personal "fun" apps and my "work" apps. Instapaper, Twitter, Riposte (for App.net), and Instagram are all, in a way, work-relevant apps. But also they are the ones I go to when I have down time.
I guess Rdio is the most entertainment-centric app on my iPhone that doesn't have a direct connection to my day-to-day work. (Though I do now listen to music quite often when I'm writing.)
Truth be told, however, over the past year or so I've been intentional about leaving my phone in my pocket as often as possible. If I have down time at the auto shop or the barber, I like to just sit there and let my mind think and wonder and be bored for a while. I even wear a wrist watch in part just so I have one less excuse to pull out my iPhone.
Glenn: Along with writing your weblog, you've been heavily involved in podcasting. First through the B&B Podcast with Benjamin Brooks, and also through a number of guest appearances. Are there any other projects you'd like to pursue in the future. Say for example, and eBook?
Shawn: Absolutely. Two big ones in fact. One of which is an Audio / eBook that I'm working on right now and will be for people who build and design things.
A Little More About Shawn Blanc
Shawn resides in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife Anna and son Noah.
Shawn started publishing in June, 2007, before focusing his efforts on the weblog full time in April, 2011. Since its inception, he's published over 520 full-length articles to his weblog, along with recording and publishing over 400 episodes of his (almost) daily podcast, Shawn Today.
His writing style has evolved over the years, while remaining witty, fun, personal and educative with his content. Some of my all-time favourite pieces of Shawn's writing include his mammoth MarsEdit and NetNewsWire reviews, his rare interview with the extremely talented John Gruber, and more recently, his thoughts on user interaction on Flickr and Instagram.
Shawn's income is garnered by the way of three main streams. By advertising networks Fusion & The Syndicate, and by the support of Members. His site can be joined for just $4 per month.
Shawn can also be found on Twitter, or App.net.
I tend to tinker with software installed on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad more frequently that I should. I'm extremely interested in playing with new applications and testing if they could fit into my workflow.
One of my favourite categories to explore on the iOS & Mac App Stores is Productivity. The App Store is literally littered with hundreds of apps in my favourite sub-genre - task managers. I've got a soft spot for well designed, clean and simple task managers which sync over the air.
Thankfully - I'm spoilt for choice in this genre. With Things, The Hit List, and OmniFocus all fitting the bill. Now there's a newcomer to the party - Cheddar.
Cheddar's lack of features and settings is its top selling point. You're not presented with an area to attach notes, schedule your tasks, or any other 'clutter.' You're presented with a simple type-based (supporting Markdown) interface allowing you to create lists, create tasks within those lists with minimal detail, mark them complete, and archive them. That's it.
Cheddar recently changed hands. Sam Soffes, the original developer for Cheddar, sold off the service to Josh Long. Initially, I was a little disappointed when hearing about Sam's plans to unload Cheddar. Sam was attentive, open, and honest with his users about the current, and future state of Cheddar.
I've been pleasantly pleased to see Josh Long continue to regularly update Cheddar's Twitter account and keep users in the loop. Software wise, not much has changed since the takeover.
Where Cheddar Fits In
Cheddar is essentially the iA Writer or Byword of task managers. There's no settings, no due dates, no recurring items - just your lists, tasks, and tags. Oh - and Cheddar supports Markdown.
You've got three different ways you can interact with your lists and tasks. Via the excellent and clean web interface, on iOS on either the iPhone or iPad, or using the native Mac application available on the Mac App Store.
I haven't found myself launching the Mac application on a regular basis as in its current state (1.0.1) it lacks the same level of polish I've become used to in the iOS version. The application essentially feels like a blank slate, a direct port from iOS if-you-like. Instead - I prefer to interact with my tasks using the web interface or strictly using the iOS application.
I've been a huge fan and relied on Cultured Code's Things as my go-to to-do manager for the past few years. Most of the time I'll tinker and promptly delete task managers I download, however Cheddar changed that. It doesn't replace Things, instead, it complements it quite nicely the way I'm using it.
I'm make good use of the excellent scheduling built in Things, something that's been purposely left out of Cheddar. This means all my recurring tasks and projects are stored in the Things database. Cheddar on the other hand has found its way into my workflow, as a place to write 'daily' task lists of things I need to do, or get done looking ahead at the current day.
Each morning I fire up Cheddar and start ticking away at my list of any tasks I need to complete that said day. At the end of each day I'll archive the completed tasks, and enter in the tasks I need to complete the following day in a list named 'Today.' As this list is emptied and re-written on a daily basis, I've got no way to reschedule tasks the way I can in Things, this has put extra pressure on me to complete these tasks in order to complete the daily list.
It's easy to put too much emphasis and spend too much time entering, tagging, dating, and arranging tasks, rather than just getting things done. I'm often guilty of this practice in Things. I like an organised to-do list (call it my OCD GTD), complete with tags and dates. Though more attractive than a good looking to-do list, is an empty to-do list. Spending a little more time completing tasks, rather than tinkering around tagging and scheduling them, has immensely helped my productivity.
What you can do is create lists, create tasks within these lists, format your tasks using Markdown, while tagging them using hashtags - Twitter style.
An extremely bold move by Sam Soffes, the original developer of Cheddar, was the decision to provide an API from the outset, and make the source code completely open-source.
Obviously for a third-party developer to invest time into creating alternative software to access your Cheddar data, their needs to be something in it for them. I don't think Cheddar has the user base for a top flight developer to make that sort of investment in time/money yet. As of the 22nd June, it was reported there were 45,725 users signed-up with 1,090 third-party apps.
Your only limitation on the free version of Cheddar is the inability to create more than three lists. You're not bugged by protruding ads, there's no limitation to how many tasks you can create, speed of sync, or a limit on the amount of devices you can access your tasks on.
Upgrade to Cheddar Plus for just $1.99 USD per month, and you unlock the ability to create more than three lists. I'm not constrained by this limitation, however it hasn't stopped me becoming a 'Plus' user. At a monthly cost of less than the 250mL Red Bull I drink on a daily basis - it was a complete no brainer to lodge my support to the development.
I'll support any independent developer creating software of this quality without any VC or angel investment, as long as the developer has a clear business model. IE: Let me pay for your service/software - simple as that! Benjamin Brooks has been hugely focal over the years for this old-fashioned way of running a business. Let us pay for your product/service, because I'm not, and refuse to be the product.
Cheddar's business model is based around Cheddar Plus. The software is free (with the aforementioned minor limitations) across all four platforms, charging third-party developers for accessing the open-source API and building their own software which interacts with your database.
Josh is counting on users like you to fall in love with the simple interface, beautiful typeface, blazingly fast sync, and superior support to fund his business.
I'd like to see the ability to delete tasks in a future release. At this present point in time, once you've created a task the only way to make it disappear is to archive it. Tasks can optionally be automatically archived after one day via the preferences screen.
You're not able to delete anything permanently. Create a task by mistake? You must archive it. Created a task in the wrong project? You must archive it. You get the picture.
As I'm accustomed to Things where the 'tapping zone' is just on or around the checklist box, I've found myself a little frustrated that tapping anywhere on the line of a task in Cheddar will mark the task as complete.
These are all minor niggles in the grand scheme, but details like this matter. Ideally - the 'perfect' Cheddar would look almost, if not exactly the same as it does today. While there are a few tweaks I'd like to see added/changed, Cheddar does what it's designed to extremely well.
I’ve been a die-hard fan of Things since day-one. While I’ve tested numerous competitors over the past few years, nothing has replaced my tried and true Things workflow. Cheddar isn't a replacement, it's an addition to an already tried-and-true workflow.
Aside from my concerns during the implementation of Cloud Syncing to Things, I've been a diehard fan since day-one. In saying that, Cheddar has claimed its spot on the home-screen of my iPhone.
I'm most impressed with the sheer speed of the sync between multiple devices, across different platforms. This is blazingly fast. I'm yet to run into any issues with slow sync, lost data, or duplicate tasks/lists. Check out this demo video for an idea of how swiftly syncing happens.
Cheddar really is as bare bones as it gets with tasks management software which is an extremely bold move to make in the world competing with products such as OmniFocus and Things.
I've had a few emails asking me to explain in a little more depth how I'm using Arq to backup a portion of my files to Amazon Glacier, as explained briefly in "The Backup Strategy."
The files I've got backed up to Amazon are in my opinion, the most safe, secure, and important files in my entire backup system. Should a major disaster strike my machine, my house, my city, or even my country - these files will remain safe. Stored remotely on Amazon's servers in multiple facilities and on multiple devices within each facility.
This gives me peace of mind knowing that any kind of theft, fire, or natural disaster could strike and my most important and precious data would be available for download to a new machine.
Amazon S3 vs Amazon Glacier
Amazon S3 was launched on March 14, 2006. Almost 6 years later, on August 21, 2012 - Amazon Glacier launched. This gave customers an option for their backup storage, depending on case-by-case usage and access needs of the individual. Both services redundantly store data in multiple facilities and on multiple devices within each facility.
In a nutshell - S3 is excellent for data which is accessed frequently. Glacier is a more long term, hands off solution. Naturally, Glacier is the cheaper option of the two, storage speaking.
Amazon S3 is designed to provide 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability of objects over a given year. According to Amazon, S3's design aims to provide scalability, high availability, and low latency at commodity costs. S3 offers 99.999999999% durability of your data. It's designed to withstand the concurrent loss of 2 data centres without losing your data.
Amazon Glacier is an extremely extremely low-cost, pay-as-you-go storage service that can cost as little as $0.01 per gigabyte per month. It offers the same 99.999999999% durability. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimised for data that is infrequently accessed. Initiating retrieval from Glacier typically takes 3-5 hours, and Amazon charges for retrieving large amounts of data from Glacier.
How Arq Works
Arq is a fantastic menu-bar application made by Haystack Software which acts as a window to your Amazon S3 / Glacier account and provides an easy-to-use interface to manage folders and files that you want to backup to the cloud.
Arq essentially interlinks with your own Amazon Web Services storage account. You're able to encrypt your backups with a password, if you're that way inclined. Encryption is performed locally on your machine rather than using Amazon's server-side encryption.
Arq stores backups in an open, documented format. Haystack Software provide an open-source command-line utility called arq_restore that's hosted at GitHub. This gives me peace of mind knowing that if Haystack Software stopped developing Arq, I'd still have access to my data.
If you're replacing your machine with something new, you simply install Arq on the new Mac and you can adopt an 'old' backup set. This means when upgrading your machine, you don't have to go through the initial backup process again. Arq will continue to backup your files periodically at your set time interval like it was backing up the old machine.
There's nothing to think about. The only preferences you're left to play with is the ability to set a schedule for backing up, hourly, daily at a pre-defined time, or manually. You're also able to set a storage budget for S3 storage, pre-defining a maximum amount you're wanting to spend monthly. Arq will automatically purge old backups (think Time Machine) to keep you within this set budget.
Once Arq is setup, you can completely forget it's there. It'll periodically do its thing in the background (you can even disable the menubar icon for complete transparency).
How I Use Arq
Arq is essentially an easy interface to my Amazon Web Services account. With an interface designed with the sole task of backing up, it provides an interface much cleaner and streamlined than accessing the same account through an FTP application like Panic's Transmit.
At this stage, I don't backup all of my local files to Amazon Glacier. This is due to the current DSL connection I'm working with at home. This will change late-2014 once my street is connected to the new fibre network. Then - I'll be backing up 100% of my local files to Amazon for redundancy.
Currently, Arq is set to kick in every hour and backup these files.
- Dropbox Directory
- Aperture Library
- iPhoto Library (Masters)
- Documents Folder
Arq is smart and works out for itself when drives are connected/unplugged. For example, the Aperture library listed above is stored on my WD Passport drive which is only plugged in from time to time. If Arq picks up that the drive is connected, the backup is updated. If it's unplugged, Arq will simply skip over this portion of the backup without annoying me with any notifications.
The data stored on Amazon's servers is my absolutely worst case backup. I'd only need to spend the time, and few dollars to access the data if my MacBook Pro was stolen or destroyed, along with my local Time Machine backup, and my two external off-site drives.
Arq can be purchased directly from Haystack Software for $39.99. This includes a license to run Arq on one machine, if you're wanting to use it across two machines (desktop + laptop), there's a 2-license discount which can be purchased for $69.99.