Have you backed up recently? Time Machine and MobileMe

Posted: April 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: equipment | Comments Off on Have you backed up recently? Time Machine and MobileMe

Computer crashes, hardware failures, outages, obsolescence, theft, breakages — we don’t plan for any of these unfortunate situations to throw a wrench into our research and writing, but they do happen.  Perish the thought that the work that we’ve sweated blood into disappears without a trace.

So have you backed up recently?

I have two backup systems in place for use on my Macbook, both of which work very well and neither of which requires much attention at all.

  1. At home I have an external hard drive assigned to Time Machine.  Time Machine is a beautiful piece of work.  Once you set it up it will automatically back up your files at regular intervals. Even better, it preserves this information hour by hour, day by day, archiving rather than overwriting each subsequent back up.  Let’s say I want to see my system as it was saved on March 29, 2011.  It’s simply a matter of entering Time Machine, scrolling through the archived dates, and clicking on the one I want.  Maybe I want the 12:01 PM save or the 8:55 PM save? Not a problem.  (Hence the name “Time Machine”.)  When I’m at home working I back up every 15 minutes or so.  When I come home from a day of working away, I simply connect my laptop to the external hard drive and do one back up for the entire day.  Of course, if something happened to this external drive (if it was stolen, say, or violently shoved off the desk by my cat) I’d be in trouble so…
  2. I also use MobileMe in combination with MobileMe BackUp to store data in the cloud.  The particular MobileMe account that I have gives me a limited amount of space, so I’ve only earmarked a few important files (my dissertation, for one) to be stored.  Every day at the appointed time, my laptop connects to MobileMe and pushes my files out to the cloud, where these files overwrite the ones from the previous back up. For this to be accomplished my laptop needs to be switched on at the appointed time, and it needs to be connected to the Internet.  This solution is much more limited than Time Machine, of course, but it provides me with a back up to my back up, if you see what I mean.

I recommend both Time Machine and MobileMe, just as I strongly recommend having multiple back up solutions.  Multiple solutions are especially important if you work in the field.  In my case I never travel with my external hard drive, so having a cloud-based back up for those periods when I’m collecting data is especially useful.

What back up tools do you use?

Audio recording equipment

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: equipment | Comments Off on Audio recording equipment

When you are in the field what equipment do you like to use for making audio recordings of interviews and interactions, and why?

My all-time favorite piece of equipment was a Sony Electret condenser microphone, which I used in combination with a Sony MP3 player.  I liked the Sony Electret condenser microphone so much that I’d almost go out of my way to use it now.  (Almost, but not quite.  Other factors such as simplification and minimizing equipment win out with me these days.)  The Sony Electret was compact, lightweight, totally reliable, and produced excellent sound quality every time.  It was also durable and traveled easily from continent to continent without me worrying about it breaking.

The next recording device that I used was an Olympus DM-10 digital recorder, which came with me to India and Turkey.  The Olympus is small and portable, and it’s very easy to transfer your digital recordings to your laptop.  (You simply hook it up using the USB cable that comes with it.)  I liked the quality of recordings that the Olympus produced, and it traveled well.  What I didn’t like about the Olympus was its peculiar folder system for sorting recordings, and its limited memory.  However, the real catalyst to the end of my working relationship with the Olympus was that it’s made to work with Microsoft programs, and is not easily paired with a Mac.  You can get around this with additional tools (MPlayer is one), but I eventually opted to go with a more Mac-compatible recording device.

Now when I go into the field I take along an iPod Touch paired with a MityMic external microphone.  I use the iPod’s Voice Memos functionality to record.  To transfer the files to my laptop, I hook up the iPod and sync it with iTunes.  The voice memos appear under the “Playlists” menu.

So far I’ve had good results with this setup.  The sound quality has been very good, and I’ve captured clear interview recordings, even when those interviews took place in noisy settings, such as crowded cafes in Beijing.  The Voice Memos software itself is very easy to understand, and the display shows you a sweet little VU meter to indicate your recording signal level.  (Whether it’s accurate or not, I have no idea.)  Since now all my devices are made to be compatible with one another, there is no hassle in transferring files. There are, however, some limitations.  One is that there’s only one jack on an iPod touch, which means that you can either connect the MityMic or your headphones, but not both at the same time.  Because of this you can’t monitor your recordings at the moment that they are collected.  Instead, you have to stop the recording, unplug the mic, plug in the headphones or earbuds, and then play it back.  Furthermore, I’ve done most of my work in stable settings, with me sitting across from my interviewees at a table, with the device laid out in between us.  I haven’t yet tested how this equipment would perform on the fly if I was doing participant observations or on-the-spot interviews.