At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: 2017 iMac

CrashPlan is Breaking Up with Me

If you prefer the occasional peace of mind as the ‘IT Guy’ at home, well… guess what? Here’s another reason why you might not get that anytime soon. If you’re a CrashPlan customer, you’ve got some work to do…

I’m crushed.

CrashPlan for Home has been wonderful as a Cloud backup solution at home for disaster recovery. We’ve had a great relationship for the past five years. The cost was $60/year for my iMac for unlimited backup. It was pretty much… set it and forget it.

Done.

But recently, I received a little email from Code42’s CrashPlan service. In fact, we were done. CrashPlan is breaking up with me!

The email explained that over the next 18 months, Code42 will exit the consumer market for online backup. Instead, Code42 will focus on its “enterprise and small business segments.”

But I’m only getting three months, because my renewal is coming due.
(Customers get an additional two free months to help with their ‘transition.’)

I guess it was good while it lasted.
(sniff)

So, what are the options?
Whatever, I do, I’m still looking for a long-term relationship.
(I know, I’ve already been burned once. But, you can dream, right?)

CrashPlan for Small Business
As a current CrashPlan customer, I can migrate to the CrashPlan for Small Business plan.
That’s $10 per device each month for 5TB of storage.
So, $120/year for my iMac.
(Double what I was paying)

But, CrashPlan is offering me 75% off for the next 12 months.
That makes it only $30 for the first year.
(Half what I was paying)

Not bad… but remember, I’m looking at the long-term costs.
And I’m not longer getting ‘unlimited’ backup anymore.
Hmmm… That’s okay.
5TB is plenty.

Bottom line: CrashPlan will cost me twice as much moving forward.
(The first-year discount aside)

The Carbonite Choice
Code42 has struck a deal with Carbonite as CrashPlan’s ‘exclusive partner for home users’ with a 50% discount when switching over to Carbonite.
(How ironic that they were competitors once upon a time.)

When I clicked on the link in my Code42 email, I was sent to the following Carbonite offer:

Carbonite Core
It’s for unlimited computers. (Nice!)
With only 250GB of backup (What?!)
And costs 134.99/year (50% off the $269.00 price)
I don’t know if this discount holds after the first year.

You can purchase additional storage in chunks of 100GB
$79.99/100GB (20% off $99.99)

Whoa! This is way more expensive.
Plus, I’m only starting with 250GB? That’s a deal breaker right there!
The ‘unlimited computers’ piece is cool, but there’s not enough storage in the plan to make it worthwhile.

Why is Carbonite in the mix at all? I must be missing something…

Carbonite for Home
So, I went back to Carbonite’s website to look around as a ‘new customer.’

What I found was confusing…
Just showing up as a new customer and not attached to all of my CrashPlan baggage, I found an alternate Carbonite universe…

It’s called Carbonite for Home. And in this universe, you get unlimited backup for one computer in three flavors:

  • Basic for $59.99/year
  • Plus for $74.99/year (on sale from $99.99)
  • Prime for $149.99/year

The differences have to do with the features.
Plus provides external hard drive backup and automatic video backup.
Prime includes a courier recovery service.

The Plus plan seems like it would be the best option for me with its flexibility on including external drives.

Something’s Not Right
If you’re shopping for price, just showing up as a new Carbonite customer gives you the best deal.

But I was still confused why Code42 was giving me such a bum ride with Carbonite.
The Core plan really stinks.

Then, I ran across this TidBITS! article, which mentioned that CrashPlan ‘family’ users were only being offered a discount off of Carbonite’s business plan (Core) as opposed to Carbonite’s ‘Home’ plans.

Did that mean I had a family plan?
No… I checked.

So, was I being offered the wrong discount?

If so, then Carbonite for Home would be an even better deal.
(Assuming the 50% discount held more than the first year)

Looks like I’d have to reach out to Carbonite to investigate.

Rebound Options
So, the way I see it, I’ve got three choices….

  1. Stick with CrashPlan and pay double. ($120/year)
    But remember, “The devil you know…”
    (And only get 5TB vs unlimited… which is actually fine with me.)
  2. Move to Carbonite Plus and pay $75/year.
    (Or try to convince Carbonite to give me the 50% discount off of this plan as a CrashPlan reject)
  3. Start all over and look around for another choice.
    As it turns out, Joe Kissell from The Wirecutter doesn’t like Carbonite for Macs.
    He prefers Backblaze for an Apple ecosystem.
    And Backblaze only costs $50/year.
    (Here’s Backblaze’s invitation to CrashPlan customers.)

Back in the Game
Wow…I thought I was done with all of this.
Guess not.

I’ve got a little time before my CrashPlan breakup is official, and I need to pull the trigger on another choice.

Any relationship advice out there for Cloud backup at home?

Best USB 3.0 Hub with Card Reader for Your iMac

Does anyone else feel that having to stretch behind your iMac to reach the card reader is something of a drag? The same goes when you’re trying to connect a USB flash drive. I think it’s time to get ahead of the problem…

Message to Apple designers: I don’t like struggling to reach to the back of my new iMac to access the SD card reader slot for my camera card and USB 3.0 ports for my various devices. And while I’m kvetching… I want more than four USB 3.0 ports. Just as importantly, I need one or two of them much nearer to my keyboard to plug in my iPhone, thumb drives and such.

Earth to Barrett: You’re on your own to find front-facing ports.
Fortunately, the easy solution is to buy a little USB 3.0 hub/card reader combo that can sit elegantly within fingers’ reach.

The question is which one?

So Many Choices!
After doing a little research, I found five companies making devices to address this need:

  • Alcey
  • Cateck
  • Sabrent
  • Satechi
  • UNITEK

Most of these combo units are silver, reflecting the Apple design aesthetic, and I focused on the smaller models, offering only 3 USB ports:
(I don’t need more.)

And all of the choices are backwards compatible to earlier USB protocols.

Alcey
Alcey Bus-Powered USB 3.0 3-Port Hub with SD/TF Card Reader Combo
$14.99 on Amazon

Cateck
Cateck Bus-Powered USB 3.0 3-Port Aluminum Hub with SD/TF Card Reader Combo
$19.99 on Amazon
(Looks exactly like the Alcey)

Sabrent
Sabrent Premium 3 Port Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub with Multi-In-1 Card Reader
$19.99 on Amazon
It has three different card reader slots as opposed to two.
(I don’t really need the extra one.)
The orientation of the ports are top/down as opposed to side to side like the Alcey and Cateck.

Satechi
Satechi Aluminum USB 3.0 Hub and Card Reader
$29.99 on Amazon
The two card reader slots (Micro and SD) are side to side as opposed to one on top of the other.
Note: It’s also ten bucks more than the competition…
The specs mention the cable being ‘shielded.’
(More on this later)

UNITEK
UNITEK 3 Ports USB 3.0 Hub with Multi-In-1 Card Reader with 5V 2A Adapter and USB 3.0 Cable
$21.99 on Amazon
4-in-1 card reader
It’s black instead of silver.
(Looks like something out of a “Terminator” film)

USB 3.0 and Bluetooth Devices Don’t Play Well Together
Before we continue, please note that each of these choices comes with a warning listed in the marketing materials…
You see, Bluetooth-connected keyboards and mice (like I have with my new iMac) can have a problem with USB 3.0 hubs that aren’t properly shielded. The resulting interference can cause your wireless devices to malfunction.
(Nice! Right?)

So, if you place these hubs too close to your iMac wireless transmitter in the back corner, you might run into problems.
(If you’re connecting to a laptop, you’ll be fine.)

That said, you shouldn’t forget that the Satechi unit claims to have a ‘shielded’ cable. I don’t think that’s any kind of guarantee, but it couldn’t hurt…

Which One?
At the end of the day, the choices all seem similar, except for the UNITEK ‘Skynet’ box, which didn’t appeal to me at all. I just didn’t like the design. Plus, I didn’t need all of the extra card slots.

And what do other reviewers have to say?
The Alcey, Cateck and Sabrent units all had a similar split of Amazon reviews.
Many folks gave 4 or 5 stars, but enough gave 1 or 2’s.

Hmmm…

Satechi received better overall Amazon reviews, but there were only eleven of them.

Both Macworld and The Gadgeteer liked the Satechi.
But MacSources liked the Sabrent.

Still, no clarity…

Then, I went to the websites for each of the manufacturers.
I know you shouldn’t judge a product based on the marketing quality of a website, but image does matter.

Satechi blew away the competition, and Alcey came in dead last.
The rest were perfectly fine.

So where does this all point to?

Hello, Satechi!
Short of saying “Eenie meenie miney mo…”
I say, “Get the Satechi!”

Yes, it’s more expensive, but it appears to have a more unified fan base.
(Plus, the cable is apparently ‘shielded’ and may play better with wireless devices.)

That’s my choice, and I’m sticking with it!
At Home with Tech says…
“Click.”

Any other suggestions out there?

Do tell!

How to Save an Old RAID and Connect It to Your New Mac

Stop! Don’t retire your old RAID external drive. Though technology has moved on, and it doesn’t look like your new Mac can talk to the RAID, there could be a way to save your external drive from the trash pile.

Would you like to know how spending $27.29 can save you $650?
(I thought this might peak your interest.)

I might have mentioned that I just bought myself a new iMac. Last time, I blogged about opening up my wallet to the digital gods to bring home some extra peripherals. When it comes to external drives, I think I suggested that money was no object.

That’s up to a point.

Once upon a time, I dropped a boatload of money on a G-Technology G Speed Q 4TB 4-bay RAID storage solution to protect all of my home video files and also have enough speed to serve up those videos for editing in FCPX.

And it was great working with a FireWire cable. I haven’t cared that Apple has since moved on to Thunderbolt.

The Curse of Newer Ports with Faster Transfer Speeds
The problem was I wanted to use that same RAID drive with my new iMac, and as it turned out, there was no apparent way to hook it up. My new iMac is generations beyond FireWire technology and only uses USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

My old G Speed Q does have a USB 2.0 port, which could connect to my new iMac. But USB 2.0 is slower than even rusty FireWire.
(Pass)

But upgrading to a new G-Technology product is wicked pricey:
I’d go for the G-RAID with Thunderbolt 3 8TB External Drive.
($649.95. on Amazon)

That’s a sweet unit with blazing-fast Thunderbolt 3.
But I don’t need the pricey upgrade yet. My old RAID works just fine.
(And for those of you who would remind me of my mantra to “always side with newer drives,” I will remind you that this is a multi-drive RAID, which can survive when one drive fails.)

So this time, I’d prefer to keep my credit card in my pocket.
Now, what’s a tech geek to do?

Activate your inner MacGyver and figure out a workaround!
So that’s what I did…

Don’t Try This at Home (Really)
The very concept of wanting to adapt a Thunderbolt port to a FireWire cable is an absurd idea, because FireWire is so darned slow.

But that’s where I began.
I Googled “FireWire to Thunderbolt adapter.”
Bam!
Apple makes one of those!
Sweet!
Click!

The adapter came in the mail, and I almost ripped it out of the box in anticipation. I did the Cinderella glass slipper maneuver, and
Screeeeeech….

Wait a minute…. It didn’t fit!

What?

I did a little more Googling.

I had bought myself a Thunderbolt adapter.
My new iMac has Thunderbolt 3.0 ports.
They’re physically different!

I need a Thunderbolt 3 connection.
Not Thunderbolt….
Nor Thunderbolt 2!
(D’oh!!)

This adapter is… old!!
And useless for my needs.
(Bad Barrett for messing up his research. #Don’tRushYourTechDecisions.)

Life moves pretty fast in the tech world. If you blink, you could miss it.

But wait. There’s got to be a workaround to the workaround…
And there is…

It’s Apple’s Thunderbolt 3.0 to Thunderbolt 2.0 adapter.
The Thunderbolt 2.0 side could then connect to the Thunderbolt part of the original adapter. And that creates a Thunderbolt 3.0 to Thunderbolt adapter.

But it’s an adapter, connected to another adapter, connected to a cable.
That ‘Franken-solution’ doesn’t feel so solid.
I found a few conversations online about this, and nobody supported this plan. At best, it would be glitchy solution. Some said it didn’t work at all.

Hmmmm.
Pass.

So what was left to try?

eSATA to the Rescue
My old G Speed Q also houses an eSATA port, which I’ve never touched.
Honestly, I’ve never paid attention to eSATA anything.

Turns out this is a 2nd generation eSATA port that boasts 3Gbps speed.
(Faster than FireWire, but slower than USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt.)

All right… so is there a way to get from eSATA to Thunderbolt?
I couldn’t find one.

eSATA to USB 3.0?

Yes!

It’s made by StarTech.com and costs $27.29.
3ft USB 3.0 to eSATA Adapter Cable

Their tag line is “Hard-to-Find Made Easy.”
Hope so…
The reviews on Amazon were overwhelmingly positive. So I gave it a shot.
Click.

The package came in the mail. I ripped open the… yada yada yada…
And…

It worked. My old RAID mounted on my new iMac!

Snatched from the Grip of Obsolescence
So I spent 27 bucks to keep my old G-Technology drive in business.
Now, that’s a big win!

Is my solution as beefy and speedy as a new Thunderbolt 3 drive?
Of course not.

But does it work?
Yep.
(Thank you StarTech.com.)

Did I save $650?
Affirmative.
(Technically $622.71)

Are my files safe?
I think so. It’s a RAID, right?
(Not trying to invoke the wrath of the tech gods)

Done.
(For now)

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