Backing up my Google Data

Preface

After 10 years of heavy-lifting, my Gmail and other Google services combined to fill up my free Google storage. Primarily, I am addressing Gmail, Drive, and Photos.

I looked into third-party solutions to back up the data, to my own storage (which is in turn redundant, as I need multiple drives and media to ensure backups are retained).

Email

In the old days I would have just installed Thunderbird, let it download my mail, and archive that store locally. However, I have way too many messages, and trying that, Thunderbird could not handle it. It would download 25 messages and crap out.

Sure, I could use Outlook, but then I am constrained to using Outlook should I ever need to access the data.

Fetchmail seems like a great option for a guy like me. But then, I understand how to run a Linux instance, on my Windows PC, and go all command(0) line…. The resulting text file it creates is usable by a variety of email client applications, including Thunderbird, so that would be one way to go.

However, those options only address email. It does not address my Google Drive files or Google Photos files.

Everything Else

Enter…Google itself.

Visiting https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout, I discovered that I could choose from any of the listed Google services there, asking the system to compile the items into a zip file, and await an inbound email, from Google, announcing the archive is ready. This is similar to Facebook’s method.

Last night I requested Gmail and photos, so I will see what happens and report back to the blog regarding the results.

It is worthy to note that Google Photos consumes no space at all if one allows Google to shrink the photos to smaller sizes. These smaller sizes are not all that small. The free-storage size of videos is 1080P, for example. I got myself into trouble by insisting on the real files syncing up there, which quickly consumed 7 GB of my total 17 GB of space. Drive files consume zero space if they are Google docs; other “real” files consume all the space. Thus, if you write something, in MS Word, and upload it, that consumes space, but if you write the document, as a Google doc, it consumes zero space. Same thing with Excel files vs. sheets, etc. Once I bring all this data down I will change my settings to store only the dumbed down pics, out on Google, since I sync the files directly from my phone or camera outside the Google channels anyway. I have already changed to constructing most documents within Google’s suite of offerings.

Results

I will let you know how all this turns out. Bookmark this page, set an alert, etc. As soon as the data download is ready and I get a chance to look at the data I will update this section of the post.

Useful links

Manage your account preferences: https://myaccount.google.com/preferences

Interesting post on Lifehacker regarding Fetchmail: http://lifehacker.com/235207/geek-to-live–back-up-gmail-with-fetchmail

Merging Two Phone Numbers into One Phone (device) Courtesy of Google Voice

I found myself in the position of having both a work phone and a personal phone. Aside from being the butt of many a meme, it was a pain in the arse lugging them both around, and the redundancy of the substantial added expense irked me. My company allows us to use our work phones, for personal use, if we limit our data usage and do not exceed our allotted minutes. Since I almost never talk on personal calls, and because the vast majority of my data usage is via WiFi, I felt it was time to look into making the move.

What had held me back was I did not want to part with my personal phone number. I’ve had it for years and it is linked to numerous account-recovery routines, where an SMS message will generate, if asked, to convey a code that allows one back into their account. In addition, should I ever change jobs, and lose access to the work phone — and the phone number it has, which belongs to my company — I did not want to have to go through the process all over again, of logging into every account linked to one phone number, changing it, sending messages to my contacts, letting them know my new number, etc.

Then I got to thinking. Back in 2006 or so I switched over to Google for my mail, tired of switching my email provider every time I switched cable TV services. In this way I got a single email address FOR LIFE. Why not do the same kind of thing for my PHONE NUMBER. A telephony provider or similar service seemed perfect.

Enter Google Voice.

I’d had a Google Voice account for years. I’d primarily used it when working or playing, in my basement, where cell coverage is spotty. Prior to Google Hangouts I would also use it as an alternate means of voice contact while playing old school PC games that did not contain their own voice engines. I hadn’t really utilized its features, but Google Voice always has held a dear place in my heart.

Long story short, here are the steps I followed to save my beloved phone number AND not screw with my work phone and its phone number:

  1. Obtain a free Google Voice account [In my case, this was done years ago].
  2. If multiple phones exist on your personal phone plan, change the primary phone number on the account. Because my family had more than just my [personal] phone on our account, I contacted my provider (Verizon) to disassociate my phone number as the account’s primary phone number. [This action is only possible via a phone call to Customer Service and is not available via their account tools online]. After doing so, I re-enrolled, on the provider’s web site, and associated my wife’s phone number as the account’s primary number. I did this so we would not lose access to our online account after I removed my [personal phone] from the account.
  3. Via Google Voice’s settings I ported my personal number into Google Voice. I PAID $20 for this, a ONE-TIME fee. The number is then forever — until I port it out, which I hope never to need to do — associated with my Google Voice account. [This action will wipe out my previous Google Voice number after a 90 day grace period. I do not care about that number, as no one really had it anyway, but if I wanted to keep it I could shell out another $20 and keep that one on the Google Voice account too.]
  4. Also in my Google Voice account, I added my work phone’s phone number as a ‘Forward calls to…’ destination. I opted to still be able to take calls on my other devices too (PC, for example).
  5. On my work phone I installed Google Voice and Google Hangouts (Hangouts is optional).
  6. In Google Hangouts’ preferences I turned on messaging, because I like Hangouts’ messaging over Google Voice’s messaging. It’s SMS and MMS. All good.

I can now:

  • Receive both work and personal numbers’ phone calls on my work phone.
  • Receive personal calls on my PC.
  • Work-text messages function normally on my work phone.
  • Personal-text messages function via Google Hangouts, on my work phone, Google Hangouts, on my PC…or any PC/Mac into which I am logged onto and upon which I want this to happen.
  • Voicemail messages to my personal number can be received in any of these same places.
  • Work-voicemails arrive on my phone in the usual fashion.

Bottom line: For $20, it was a no-brainer to save my personal phone number, as it will save me about $60/month, getting rid of my old personal phone (which I will sell), and I didn’t have to change everything that is associated to my personal phone number.

If you found this post useful please share it, and thank you for reading.

Follow me on Twitter via this link

Switching from Android to iOS for Phone

I’m switching over to having just the one phone versus having a personal phone and a work phone. When I go my new work phone (iPhone SE), a month or so ago, I realized its capabilities are sufficient enough to warrant saving the $60/month from maintaining my aging, but still lovely, Samsung Galaxy s5.

Because my s5 contract had a bit over a month until expiring, I had the luxury of being able to take my time moving accounts and finding analogous apps.

Android to iOS:

  • Google Inbox – Essentially the same experience on both devices
  • Chrome – Essentially the same experience on both devices
  • Podcasts – Podcast Addict -> iPhone Podcast app – The stock iPhone app is not as feature robust in its feature set. I’d like to tailor how many episodes I keep, by default, and also to customize each ‘cast’s settings. I’ll likely switch to another app when I get the time. Please comment below if you have suggestions.
  • Authenticators
    • Google – Essentially the same experience on both devices
    • LastPass – Essentially the same experience on both devices
    • Glympse – Mostly the same but I think I prefer the Android version. It’s probably just experiential bias at this point.
  • Google Cast – Better on Android, but I’d expect that.
  • Google Maps – Haven’t played with it yet.

Summary:

There is definitely no reason to spend the $60/month for the tiny nuances that make me favor a few Android features. The smaller screen is annoying, but that’s not a function of the OS; it’s the model of the phone. Perhaps I’d feel different if I had a larger iPhone.

I am interested in revisiting these thoughts after I’ve been solely iOS for six months when Android will seem like more of a distant memory.

A shift in my sociality

I’ve been active on Facebook since 2006. Super active. Addicted active. I think that’s run its course.

A month or so ago, just prior to the holidays, the deluge of knee-jerk negativity, manifested by manifesto-length, all-caps tirades, hit me like they’d not done so before. I like discussion, not binary good versus evil, sister against brother, yer either wid me or agin me ultimatums.

Also, for Christmas I received a Sony Playstation 4 (PS4), so I’ve been socializing in-game now as much or more than I did in the late 90’s and early 00’s. It’s been a blast.

I kept Facebook Messenger on my phone, and I do find myself checking the site when I’m on my personal laptop or desktop, but I deinstalled the app from my phone.

I’ve come to realize Facebook is like being a member of a sub-reddit I accidentally joined. The trick will be to make sure I still expose myself to alternative opinions. Among podcasts, radio, reddit, and my RL friends, I think I’ve got that covered. But I’m watching myself, be assured. The moment I get certain of something I’ll seek out another opinion.

I’ve laid off FB before, but this time it feels the romance is truly over.

We shall see.

The Jury is still out…wait…it’s not.

The phrase “The jury is still out on [insert subject here]…” is silly if used by inattentive court spectators who have not noticed the jury has indeed entered the room. So let us be clear.

The jury is in on global warming. The jury is composed of scientists. The scientists have ruled. This does not precluded the concept of long-term natural changes. This is not a binary topic, with either ‘this’ or ‘that’ being ‘true’.

The jury is in on evolution. Same thing. Scientists agree. This does not preclude the possibility of divine intervention. This is not a binary topic, with either ‘this’ or ‘that’ being ‘true’. The one can be said to be scientifically proved, the other can scientifically said to be non-provable. All is thus good. Those who value science, above superstition, have a bit of closure with still more questions to wet their appetites. Those who seek the solace of divinity can remain there, knowing no one will ever prove they’re wrong. These two camps can then have a hearty meal together and discuss common interests, like football and Adele.

Jury composition
Out of hundreds of thousands of scientists, will there be individual examples of nay-sayers? Sure. I hope there always will be dissent and improvements on any scientific discoveries. There should always be tweaking and refining, using the scientific method. Details will come to light. This thing will have been found to be 10 million years old versus 125,000 years old (example: the peach). That thing will be found to impact such and such more, or less dramatically than previously calculated, etc. However, the general gist of things pretty much remains once the group consensus has been reached.

So, if you say “The jury is still out on…”, regarding scientific matters, ask yourself how you came to utter that phrase. Did you arrive at it via an examination of the body of scientific evidence, or are you basing your opinion on the sound bites of pundits who are basing their own opinions on their beliefs and biases versus an examination of the data. Have you heard the same thing uttered, so many times, by do many people (possibly with the same employer), that it simply must be true?

You owe it to yourselves, and the rest of us, to at least make an effort to fact check.

It is with this in mind that I post very little regarding my views. I know a lot, and have read a lot, about some things, while other things, about which I may have strong FEELINGS, I do not have strong DATA — because I’ve not put in the time — and thus I consider myself unqualified to make pseudo fact-based proclamations. This is not to say I will not voice my opinions, but I will state them as opinions and not as facts.

Thoughts on the tendency toward thinking of issues in binary terms

The idea of a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, an ‘on’ or ‘off’, the ‘this is the answer, and not this other thing’ also disturbs me. Ideas and opinions are being based on a game show-like mentality, with people reaching for the big red buzzer like they’re on a timer, vomiting forth opinions before exerting much thought. Usually…hopefully…issues are more complex than that.

For me, this single tendency is, more than anything else, and explanation for the grid-lock we see in congress, much less our own holiday tables. If one takes an absolute stance — a binary choice — one cannot compromise. Without compromise we get some winners, but mostly everyone ends up losing, in the end.

What next?

All I ask is you consider what you positions you support and whether your stance is fact-based or opinion-based. Both are fine, but one should know oneself, and one’s motivations. Embrace them. Modify them as needed. More forward. Rinse. Repeat. Grow. Evolve.

But that’s just my opinion…with no facts to back any of it up.

I guess it’s time to go do some research.

Update:

If you are still reading this, some part of you is still thinking. Don’t waste those neurons. Go check out this interesting piece by Dr. John Duffy (pointed out to me today by my friend Lisa), about the importance of being available. When you are done reading it…go be available to someone.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-duffy-psyd/to-an-available-december-_b_8734384.html

Podcast Apps for Android – Podcast Addict Yay, Stitcher a Reluctant Nay

For podcast listening, I’ve been running both ‘Podcast Addict’ and ‘Stitcher Radion for Podcasts’ alongside each other, for a few months now, and this morning I disabled Stitcher’s offline downloading, relegating the app to a live-streaming app, for my phone, versus a file-player. Its lack of settings to restrict the number of downloads, at all, much less for specific podcasts, was the clincher for me.

Stitcher’s interface is prettier, with a tiled, smooth scroll, featuring a nice graphic sampling of the content. Note however that choosing the setting to ‘limit downloads to WiFi only’ had no effect, in my testing, in preventing a live-stream/live-play of a show. The distinction of a ‘download’ being limited to an off-line file listening session, versus a live-stream, is an important one. I consider any download — file or live stream — to be a download, because a download costs bandwidth allocations on my Verizon account. The app only considers a download to be a file. For my test I streamed a cast, disabled my WiFi, and the feed continued uninterrupted. I let it continue for one minute, just in case it had cached the audio, while connected, but it appeared to still be streaming using my mobile data connection. I will return to this and try it again the next time I’m able. I.e., do not take my word for it, that the app behaves this way, but be wary until you know for sure, lest you spend your mobile data unintentionally.

Podcast Addict’s interface is a bit clutzy. One needs to click the upper left corner and navigate among the primary areas via clicks. I would rather have an active drag interface where I can navigate where I wish, without raising my finger, and release on what I want. This would make the 30 traffic-light time stop more useful. Nonetheless, the app provides sophisticated storage features allowing both an app-wide and ‘cast-specific settings for the number of downloads to initiate, the number of downloads to keep, and auto-cleaning/purging. It also offers many sorting options.

I come at this with some bias. 99% of my podcast listening is off-line (non-streaming), in my car, during my commute. I am stingy with my phone data usage. For those of you who prefer live-streaming your radio and podcasts, Stitcher is wonderful and a good choice.

Test Rode an Indian Chief Vintage

2015-06-13

A year later, and I’m still eyeing up the Indian. See TwoWheelObsession’s ride review of the 2015 Scout here. He did a really fantastic job of describing the nuances of his ride.

2014-06-29
A friend of mine and I trekked to Madison, Wisconsin yesterday and test rode a couple of Indians. I took out the Chief Vintage while my friend rode the Chief Classic.

Upon mounting the bike, its amazing balance was immediately apparent and striking. Swaying it side to side made this 111 ci bike (roughly 1820 cc) feel like a 350 cc, making me feel my ’06 102 cu Roadstar is a bit top heavy. The balance must have been designed by a master Katana sword-maker’s gentle yet oh so precise hand.

Indian_2014 Chief Vintage

[Pictured: 2014 Indian Chief Vintage, and me, with my shirt over my left thumb making it look like I’m cramming my hands down my pants. Picture by Anthony Sadowski.]

The acceleration was electric smooth with each gear stage instantly responsive. It actually seemed to gain torque as the revs and gears increased upwardly. Changing gears seemed a teeny bit clunky at first, but that may have just been me getting used to the difference between it and my own bike. By the end of the ride that too was smooth.

Slowing down, for a roundabout, to a momentary stop, inspired no wobbling feeling; the bike wanted to stay upright. I turned the fork and proceeded on with the turning-ease of a scooter. Later, coming to a full stop for a moment prior to going through a stop sign, I repeated the process, not putting my foot down nor feeling the need to do so.

We journeyed out in the country and really throttled them up, to higher RPM’s. I never ran out of oomph. The bike just wanted to keep giving. It was a phenomenal experience. Even the slow city driving was fun.

Will I be getting one? Not any time soon. I am still loving my 1700 Road Star Silverado and I do not need two cruisers, but if it’s ever time for me to replace her, one of these will be at the top of my list. The bar has just been set awfully high.

Added a Craftsman 1/2 hp Liftmaster Garage Door Opener for the 3’rd Bay

This past weekend I installed a Craftsman Liftmaster 1/2 hp garage door opener (Sears item number 00953915000), in my third bay, to compliment the 3/4 HP unit that has served me so well for the past ten years in the main bay. I bought it so the remotes could open either door, because the current opener has been virtually maintenance free (lubing of the track every three years), it is a belt drive (about $15 more than the chain model), and thus a bit quieter, and because aesthetically it looks similar to my pre-existing model.

I’m thinking the technology changed, over the past decade, because my older, visually identical units will not operate the new opener. This doesn’t bother me much, but it is mildly annoying. No one other than me needs to open that door anyway, and the interior and exterior wall-mounted openers will allow them to do that just fine. I’m not home right now or I’d dig up the manual or model number, of the older unit, and see if there is anything I can do. I haven’t tried to use the new openers, with the old opener, but if that works, I’ll swap out my and my wife’s openers and let our kids use the older opener only, only opening the main door. None of this is of any interest to you, my random reader, but you were forced to read it by virtue of your odd stumbling upon this blog.

Installation was more than simple, albeit time-consuming, as these things tend to be for me, what with triple-reading the instructions, reading ahead, reading upside down, reading with coffee, reading with Diet Dew, etc. It’s a process.

All the parts were included as well as a few spares for those pieces one is likely to damage the first go ’round of trying to piece them together. The instructions were great. There was just one section where it would have been helpful to know that a connection had to be oriented a certain way, and of course, I installed it the other way. That was a 90 second mistake to correct, so no big.

2014-06-22 12.06.19

I completed the operation myself, without aid. I mounted the one end to the garage wall, propping the motor on a step stool (shown below)…

2014-06-22 14.51.01

 

… after which I swung the other end up and propped it atop my ladder (shown below).

2014-06-22 15.00.35 2014-06-22 15.00.53

 

From there it was quick work to attach the struts and attach them to the ceiling…almost. I needed to nail a 2×4, in between the ceiling joists, else make a run to the hardware store for strut extensions. Total add to the project: 15 mins.

2014-06-22 16.22.12

Running the interior wall-mount opener and optical-sensor wires was fun. I accidentally tacked in one of the [included] metal tacks too tightly, which penetrated the wire and caused a short, causing the door control not to function. This was easily trouble-shot using the legend for “what does the blinking light mean”, in the trouble-shooting guide. I clipped out the offending length of wire, patched in six inches of new wire (left-over from the installation), and all was well. I already own an electrician grade wire cutting tool, so stripping the ends was painless.

I recommend this model to anyone needing to open a single-wide door. For the double-wide doors I recommend the 3/4 horse model.

Why did I switch from RoboForm to LastPass?

Some of you asked me why I switched from RoboForm to LastPass, over a year ago. It is due to its (LastPass’) support of duel authentication via Google Authenticator. In English, this means I use the Google Authenticator app, on my phone, to generate a key that I have to enter, along with my password, to access my secure online password vault. This means that my account cannot be hacked unless someone knows or can hack my password AND they have access to my phone, all simultaneously.
It was simple to switch from RoboForm, as I was able to export my existing passwords and safe notes. They have import options for several other password vaults too.

For more information on Google Authenticator app, see http://goo.gl/sbBxn . It also supports Google logins (of course) as well as Dropbox logins.

Update 2017-01-28
More friends have asked me for details over the years, so here goes:

Authentication Objects can be shared across aaccounts

One can share any login object with any other LastPass user. In a work context, one could allow one’s staff log into a domain account but not allow them to see the password. Then, when the employee quits/gets terminated, one could revoke the shared object, and they would be locked out.

Password Generation
I generate ALL passwords for sites, via LastPass, setting the generation attributes (number of characters, which characters/symbols can be used, whether it should be pronounceable, whether to avoid ambiguous characters, etc.). It is sometimes necessary to change these attributes based on a given site’s rules. For example, I might need to dumb down the generated password from 16 characters, to 12, if the site only supports 12. Other sites do not support special characters ($, or ^, etc.), so I have to turn them off for such sites. For the most part I just leave everything dialed up, to the most complex, because I do not know, or care to know, passwords for my sites. I just need to know my LastPass password, and my PC (or domain, if at work) password, and I’m good. Hell, I don’t even know my Google password. No need.

“Not A Problem” is Sometimes an Uppity Response

The “Thank You” Scenario

I have noticed the tendency the past few years, for someone to respond “Not a problem” instead of “You’re welcome”, when someone says “Thank you” or “I appreciate the help” to them.
 
Being sympathetic to the thanker in the conversation, I look at the “Not a problem” response as if the person is telling me, “Our interaction was not all that horrible. You didn’t bother me as much as one would think. You annoyed me only a little bit.”
 
I wonder why folks don’t just say “You’re welcome. It was my pleasure,” instead. I would think “Not a problem” would be appropriate if a person first said, “I am sorry to have bothered you,” or “I apologize for causing you more work.”
 
Do with it what you will.
 
The “Giving Direction” Scenario
 

More tolerable is saying “No problem” or “Not a problem” after receiving direction, but it still annoys me.  Example:

Boss: “I need you to have your re-writes done by Tuesday.”

Employee: “Not a problem.”

While the employee might be accurate, that performing their job duty is not an undue stress on them, the boss typically has that consideration low on her list.  She simply wants her document completed and turned in so she can move it forward.  The employee is not doing the boss a favor.  He is doing his job.

 
 
In both scenarios above, I am seeing a tendency to be less respectful to others, less thankful, less responsible for one’s actions, in favor of using diffusing language.  Perhaps it is an attempt to remove oneself from the moment, or perhaps it is just dynamic dialect in action.


[Author’s note: This posting was originally posted back in the summer of 2007, but I edited it, in 2013, to separate the two sections for readability.]