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Category: Tech Fixes

This Mistake will Doom your iPad’s Photos and Videos

Are you backing up the media files you want to iCloud? I wasn’t, and I didn’t know it. And then the unthinkable happened. Here’s how to avoid my iPad’s fate.

Once upon a time, backing up the content on my iPhone and iPad used to mean regularly tethering them to my iMac. It was something of a laborious process, but necessary. Then iCloud showed up, and everything started to back up magically on its own. It was easy.

Set it and forget it. That’s progress, right?

But removing the chore of physically backing up my digital life also eroded my awareness of the details needed to ensure that my precious data was being properly backed up in the background.

Over the past couple of years, I must admit I haven’t thought about this much. And during the same period, my 11-year-old son effectively became the primary user of the family iPad.
(Minecraft, photo taking, videos of our cat)

How I Lost all of my Son’s Photos and Videos
Everything was working great, until it wasn’t, and the family IT guy was called in to help the iPad out. I quickly realized the iPad needed some real support and brought my iPad’s problems to the experts. It was decided to wipe the iPad, give it a fresh start… and then reload all of its data that was safely backed up in iCloud.

Easy.

Except all of the iPad’s data wasn’t being backed up. When my iPad completed its restore, all of my son’s photos and videos from the past few years were gone.

You might imagine I was a tad disturbed by this. And I may have become slightly catatonic when it was determined that the little setting to back up the iPad’s Photo Library to iCloud had not been activated.

It’s a rookie mistake. And while a huge part of me wanted to push blame elsewhere, it was ultimately my responsibility.

My son handled the loss much better than me. (He immediately began shooting new photos and videos of our cat.) He was also especially relieved that his many Minecraft worlds survived the iPad’s wipe.

Simplicity and Complacency
So, life goes on in the Lester home. My son hasn’t complained about his lost photos and videos. All seems normal.

I tell myself that this cautionary tale is a good lesson for my son to help him understand the importance of properly backing up his future digital files.

And it’s a painful reminder for me how simplicity can create complacency.

On the positive side, I’ve got better backup systems for the content in the remainder of my Apple hardware.

All this said, it’s probably a good idea to occasionally check any device’s settings for its iCloud backup plan. (Don’t just set it and forget it.)

Here’s how to do that.

How to Back Up Correctly to iCloud
To create a full backup of what’s on your iPad via iCloud, you first need to pay for enough iCloud storage to handle it. My family’s Apple devices are collecting sharing the 200 GB iCloud+ storage plan. ($2.99/month)

Then, you’ve got to tell your iPad what to back up. This is how to find the right setting for your Photo Library:

  • Tap “Settings”
  • Tap your name and face on top
  • Go to “iCloud”
  • Tap “Manage Storage”
  • Tap “Backups”
  • Tap your device’s backup
  • Tap “Choose Data to Back Up”
  • Look for “Photo Library” on top…
  • Slide the digital switch to the green setting!

Then, do the same for everything else you want to back up to iCloud.

Easy, right? But, you’ve got to do it.

Finding Peace with my Mistake
It’s been a few weeks since the ‘Lester iPad Incident’, and I’ve remained unsettled. Sure, I can attribute my error to the flaws of humanity and this human in particular. But I know I would feel better if it made more sense.

And then I figured it out…

A couple years back, I wasn’t paying for an iCloud storage plan. So, of course, the free 5 GBs of iCloud storage wouldn’t be enough for my son’s photos and videos. And so they sat there in the iPad, unprotected.
(Bad daddy)

When I finally upgraded to the 200 GB storage plan, I didn’t consider my son’s media on the iPad, and I didn’t update its iCloud storage settings to finally include the iPad’s Photo Library. (Forgetful daddy)

I had also chosen not to activate iCloud Photos, which would sync the photos to mirror images in iCloud as opposed to generating a backup file. That’s because I had wanted to keep my son’s digital media in a separate ecosystem from my own.
(Shortsighted daddy)

Looking to the Future
I think it’s time to properly recognize my son’s digital media creation and generate a child account for my son to use on the iPad. He needs his own digital space.
(Better daddy)

Yes, my son is growing up, and I need to keep up with all of his developing interests.
(More present daddy)

But it’s not only about flicking a couple of digital switches and paying for cloud storage. You’ve really got to own, organize and properly back up your digital content.

It’s a life-long endeavor and an important reminder for children of all ages.

How iCloud Photos Saved my Family’s iPhones

If your iPhone is running out of storage, it may be because it’s housing too many photos and videos. Here’s why iCloud Photos can help.

My wife and I have been happily shooting and collecting thousands of photos and videos on our iPhones over the years. But there’s a problem. We’re running out of storage on our devices.
(As we upgraded from one iPhone to the next, the digital files simply ported over, and our huge visual libraries kept on growing.)

On one level, it’s nice to have access to every photo and video you’ve ever taken on a smartphone. But it’s entirely impractical. It’s way too many files, and more importantly, any iPhone probably can’t handle that much content without being overwhelmed with the storage need.

Sooner or later, your iPhone will become hobbled. And when you find yourself deleting apps to try to free up precious memory, you really know you’ve got a problem.

Yes, I’ve been there. You need a better solution.

Fortunately, Apple’s got one.

iCloud Photos
To access more storage, you have to look to the cloud. You simply activate Apple’s iCloud Photos, and all of your photos and videos will sync to your iCloud account and across all of your other Apple devices.

How does this help your iPhone? Well, just be sure that “Optimize iPhone Storage” is checked in the settings for your iCloud Photos. That’s the magic step.

When you activate this setting, your iPhone will generate and hold onto smaller versions of your photos and videos while the full-resolution versions live in iCloud.

With just the compressed versions of your photos and videos on your iPhone, you’ll suddenly have a whole lot more available local storage.

Plus, you’ll have all of your media backed up in iCloud.

There is a Cost
Of course, there’s a price for this iCloud ‘upgrade.’ (The measly 5GB you get for free will barely cover a week’s worth of content.)

50GB costs 99 cents/month, and 200GB is $2.99/month.
(2TB goes for $9.99/month, but that’s much more data than your iPhone can generate.)

Before your turn on iCloud Photos, you’ve got to upgrade to an iCloud plan that will cover your needs.

I decided to go with the 200GB plan and share it with my wife’s iPhone through Apple’s Family Sharing feature.

No Finish Line
iCloud Photos is a simple solution to solve for the problem of your ever expanding library of photos. Paying a few bucks a month to activate this capability is definitely worth it.

But simply maintaining a disorganized library of imagery over the years isn’t going to do you any favors. You’ve got to eventually go through your photos… choose the best ones, organize them and then delete the rest.

You need to do the work and curate your best images. Otherwise, they’ll get lost in your sea of countless photos.

Sure, they’ll be safely stored in iCloud. And your iPhone will have more storage.

But that shouldn’t be the end of the story.

Good luck as you continue this life-long photo and video project!

How to Power your Smoke Alarm for a Decade on One Battery

If you’re tired of having to feed new batteries into your smoke detectors, you may want to consider this solution…

It was 2:15am last Wednesday. An annoying electronic chirp tore me out of sleep. Of course, one of my smoke detectors was proclaiming that it needed a new battery. I stumbled downstairs and waited impatiently for the next chirp to identify the cranky smoke detector.

“Chirp!”

Wait a minute… Didn’t I just replace the battery on that one less than a month ago?

Still half asleep, I ripped the battery out of the unit’s innards, threw the mess on my desk and went back to bed.

The next morning, I sat down with my cup of joe with the intention to order more 9-volt batteries. But something didn’t feel right. I picked up the plump disc and looked at the fine print. It was manufactured back in 2010. Oh… That’s not good.

It was past its 10-year life span, and still going?

Time for a new unit.

10-Year Battery that’s Baked into your Smoke Detector
As I performed my research, I quickly realized that there’s a whole smoke detector product line that features a 10-year lithium battery sealed into the construction. No need to ever replace the battery. One and done!

Some states require this type of smoke detector, but this upgrade seems like a no-brainer for anybody to buy.

I found some chatter online that these 10-year batteries may not actually last you the full decade. I think that’s still okay. If I can get 7 or 8 years of peace at night without ever having to hear a chirp again, I’d say it’s still a huge bargain.

There are any number of 10-year battery models to choose from. I went with a basic unit for my hallway:

Why this one?
(Wirecutter liked it.)

Click.

Don’t Forget my Google Nest Protect
For those who are paying attention to my previous thinking on smoke detectors, you may recall my passionate commitment to my Google Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm. (In fact, I recently replaced my original unit which had reached its own end of life.)

So why am I still dabbling in old-school tech, even with an upgraded battery design?

Yes… my Google Nest Protect is our main line of defense, standing guard upstairs outside our bedrooms. I feel that’s the key location in our house, especially for a carbon monoxide detector.

I just haven’t yet committed to converting all of my smoke detectors over to the Nest Protect line. (It’s a bit of a costly project.)

And a twenty-buck solution from First Alert that should last us the better part of this decade felt like an easy move.

An integrated, multi-unit/smart-home set up will need to wait for a future post. Yes, I just bought myself another 10 years. But knowing me, I also don’t think it will take until 2031 to get there!

Stay tuned…

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