At Home with Tech

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


Gift Ideas for Your Geeky Husband

If you’re out of time to figure out what to buy your partner for that special day, don’t panic. I’ve got a few ideas that could help save your universe…

I admit it can be a challenge buying a gift for a geeky partner. Unless you’re nerding out with him on the exact gear he’s coveting, it’s probably too big a gamble to blindly choose an expensive piece of tech.
(“You bought me which model?!!”)

So, I recommend you look at accessories to support his existing gear…

It’s not the amount you spend… it’s the thoughtfulness, right?
(Besides, tech accessories are not always so inexpensive.)

I should probably admit at this point that I’m not writing this post for entirely altruistic reasons. You see, I might have a birthday coming up. So, yes, I’m targeting these suggestions to a certain family member…

Let’s begin…

Tame His Earphone’s Chaotic Jumble
If your husband is still living in a wired earphone world, he really needs an “easy wrap” solution. Otherwise the cable becomes a tangled mess, especially if it’s traveling along with his smartphone. One solution:

This little pocket organizer is a tiny, squeezable snapspring-closing pouch made out of canvas and cotton. It’s perfect for a pair of ‘EarPods’ or earbuds on the go…

Yes, this may be a bit too basic a choice as a gift, but it does say, “I understand your quirky, geeky needs.”

Create a New Look for His Apple Watch
I’ve been slowly warming to the idea that my Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Series 4 is designed to easily handle an endless supply of different watch bands. Apple essentially created a new product market to accessorize its watch, and thousands of third-party choices have also materialized over the past few years.

I’ve been happily wearing the original Black Sport Band that came with my Apple Watch, but I also feel that I should probably also own a leather strap that’s a little less sporty….

You can find any number of inexpensive leather choices on Amazon for not much more than ten bucks.

Alternately, Apple sells its leather bands for $149.
Beyond the sticker shock, Apple’s color choices are a little radical.
(I was thinking about a more traditional brown or black…)

I then came upon the ‘Nomad’ brand, which is known for its quality leather products…

Nomad’s ‘Traditional’ strap has a little more heft than Nomad’s other strap designs.

While I like this bulkier ‘Traditional’ look, that also makes it a little more expensive.

Alternately, there’s the flatter Nomad ‘Modern’ Strap.

Amazon has the brown leather version for $59.97.

As one of only a few accessories that men typically switch up, I think splurging occasionally on a great watch band is well within normal parameters.

And I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with being both geeky and a little fashionable at the same time.

Feed His Never-ending Need for Portable Storage
If you’re still finding yourself stuck in your quest for the perfect gift, you can always go with the tech equivalent of “buying him a tie.”

But I guarantee he’ll like this option much better…
(And who wears ties anymore?)

What not buy him a stylish portable hard drive?

Look, everyone who carries the ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ identity card needs more storage for their files. And if they don’t now, they will soon enough…

You really can’t go wrong here…

I’m a big fan of portable drives made by G-Technology, which are targeted at Mac users.

No, buying your partner a portable hard drive isn’t the most creative or romantic choice, but in a pinch, it will get the job done.

You can get more inspired next time…

Decode His List of Geeky Gift Ideas
I know this is hardly an expansive list, but you’ve got to start somewhere. I hope it’s a useful beginning to your own decision-making process.
(Any other gift ideas out there for geeky husbands? Please share!)

And on the opposite side of this equation, there’s nothing wrong with leaving a few bread crumbs that lead to your own gift preferences…

Guilty as charged.
(Happy birthday to me.)

A Glitchy Drive Can Ruin Your Trip Back in Time

This is the steady glow of your digital life. If it starts to flicker, you’d better be paying attention! It contains Time Machine, the portal to your digital past!

This is the steady glow of your digital life. If it starts to flicker, you’d better be paying attention! It contains Time Machine, the portal to your digital past!

Face it: You can’t go back in time if your gear gets glitchy.

Time Machine is wonderful software to back up all your precious content on your Mac, but you also need healthy tech to support it.

Last month, my G-Technology external hard drive was running its regular Time Machine backup, and something very odd happened.

The 2TB G-Drive ‘quit’ unexpectedly, and of course the backup failed on my iMac.  I stared at my tech companion, unaccustomed to this kind of problem.

So I rebooted the drive and tried again.
This time, the silver box behaved, and the backup completed without incident.

Was this a one-time glitch or a sign of things to come?
I tried to erase the unpleasant episode from my head.

But as we all know, little tech glitches rarely just go away…
(and eventually, they turn into “The Terminator!”)

Last week the glitch came back.
And this time my failing G-Drive did a number on my Mac and froze it up quicker than you can say ‘Flux Capacitor.’

I couldn’t bring my stunned iMac back to life without performing a hard power shut down via a Vulcan neck pinch to the back power button.
(It doesn’t get much worse unless you yank the power cord out of the wall!)

Yes, the third time was the charm, and Time Machine completed its backup.
But it was clear I had a problem with my external back-up drive…

Countdown to Disaster
I mentioned my little story to a couple of colleagues last week, and I swear their faces turned slightly white. It was like I was holding a time bomb in my hand.

In a manner of speaking, I was.

After a few moments of uncomfortable since, one whispered, “You’d better do something about that.”

The other one simply looked away as if I was a Morlock…

I’ve talked before about the importance of backing up your data.

Yes, I’ve got both local and cloud-based backup solutions in place.
But you can never be too careful when you’re talking about your digital life.

Now it was clearly time to practice what I preach…

I’m a big fan of G-Technology drives.
(I’ve been running this particular G-Drive for over 3 years.)
But no drive lasts forever.

So let me repeat this a different way…

Every drive you own will eventually fail.
It’s just a matter of when.

And when that happens, your personal portal to your past disappears…

The fix:
Time to buy a new backup drive…

How Big a Backup Drive Does Your Computer Need?
So another problem with my failing G-Drive drive is its storage capacity.
I’ve got a 2TB hard drive sitting in my iMac, and my G-Drive is also 2TB.

Common logic says your Time Machine drive should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the size of your computer’s internal drive.
That’s because Time Machine is capturing more than what’s on your computer right now. The whole point is to save older versions of your existing content in case you need to go back to it…

I’ve always known that when I got through more than 50% of my iMac’s internal drive, I would start to stretch the limits of my G-Drive.

I’ve already crossed that threshold, and even though I haven’t specifically run out of space yet, that problem is waiting in the wings… ready to pounce.

I’d rather avoid that little fire drill all together…

So as I started shopping for a new Time Machine drive, I focused on 3TB and 4TB sizes.

Checking Out Glyph
Even though I’m a longtime fan of G-Technology, it’s always a good idea to review the competition when buying anything, right?

Remember those colleagues who treated me like the plague after they heard about my tech woes…?  They both suggested Glyph drives as a well-regarded (though expensive) solution.
Glyph also offers a generous warranty as well as a limited data recovery service when you buy one of their drives.

All very nice!

I took a look online, and Glyph has a new 4TB GPT50 coming out with USB 3.0.  But it’s not being released until later this month…

Sticking with G-Drive
The new Glyph GPT50 looks interesting, but I really needed to address my Time Machine crisis right now.
(It’s not wise to tempt the Fates of Tech.)

So it was back to another G-Drive for me.

Their 4TB model with USB 3.0/FireWire is listing for $320, but you can pick in up from Amazon closer to the $300 mark.
(I don’t need the pricier Thunderbolt model, since I have an older iMac without Thunderbolt.)

Yes, $300 is expensive compared to the competition… but this is your digital life we’re talking about…
(“Don’t cross the streams,” and never skimp on your drives!)


Should You Transfer Old Backups to Your New Drive?
So my new tech pal showed up on Friday via Amazon Prime, and I quickly introduced it to my computer.

Then I faced a choice.

Should I start from scratch and do a full backup with the new G-Drive or first transfer over the old backups from my failing drive?

My first instinct was to transfer all the files over from the old drive, but I ran across a dissenting opinion online from
(This website from James Pond is a treasure trove of Time Machine goodness.)

He suggests that first transferring the old backups would take a “very long time.”

And with my old drive in its weakened condition, perhaps an extended transfer session would be too much of a stressor…

I figured the time spent saving my precious data was better focused towards completing a brand new backup…

(Granted, I wouldn’t have access to my old backups… but I’m thinking/hoping I don’t need them…)

Let the Massive Backup Session Begin!
So I powered up my hungry 4TB protector, selected it as my new Time Machine drive, and then I went to bed.
(Initial backups also take a wicked long time.)

I quickly slipped off to sleep, because my mind was clear.
My soul was cozy, believing all my beloved personal digital content was again protected…

  • My hundreds of home movies, thousands of family photos,
    and my future blog ideas (all three of them)

Is it all a dream?
(I’ve only got two ideas in the cue.)

When I awoke the next morning, I checked out the progress of my backup.
My iMac glowed wearily, ‘About 19 hours’ to go.


$300 and 19 more hours?!
This part was definitely not a dream.

But if you want to keep your personal time portal to the past operational, and you don’t happen to have access to an Omega 13 device from another galaxy,
that’s the price you pay to protect your digital life.

You’re Going to Need a Bigger External Hard Drive

Even if you have faith your hard drives can withstand the forces of fate, they’ll eventually weaken under the load of all those home videos you’re shooting.

Even if you have faith your hard drives can withstand the forces of fate, they’ll eventually weaken under the load of all those home videos you’re shooting.

I was at Staples recently, trying to handle a work-related emergency that required the immediate acquisition of a 2 terabyte external hard drive for a video project.

It was such a crisis, I didn’t have the time to schlep to the nearest Apple Store to pick up one of my preferred brands of hard drives. (more on that later)

But I figured the Easy Button shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I just needed a drive to transport some extremely large video files.
The drive wasn’t destined for workhorse service in an edit suite.
So I figured most any brand would probably do.

I mean, most new drives should work for at least a few days, right?
(Heck, they should last for a few years!)
This drive needed to live for twenty-four hours.

After that, it could self-destruct into a gelatinous mass of green ooze.
(It would still be forever known as the drive that saved my project.)

But I couldn’t bring myself to simply grab any drive off the shelf and join the charge of the Light Brigade.

I’ve got the mutant ‘shopping-for-tech’ gene hard-wired into my ‘techdentity.’
So it forced me to review my options in a quick but orderly attempt to identify the best drive available.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
I stared through the locked panes of impenetrable plexiglass, guarding the legions of hard drive boxes. I struggled to read the fine print.
(Like when you’re shopping for jewelry… The price tag always frustratingly turned just out of view!)

Then I noticed a guy in his 30’s standing next to me, staring at the same pane of plexi as he gripped a frayed sales circular.

We both spent a few minutes in silent solidarity, confused by the choices in front of us.

He finally picked out a box after Cerberus came by and opened the locked fortress. My fellow nerd held up his new box and stared at it.
I looked at him. He looked at me.

“What do you think?” he asked.

It was a 500 GB drive.

“Why such a small drive?” I responded.

“Well, it’s on sale.”

“You can get a drive four times the size for just a little bit more.”

“I don’t need much. I’ve just got some photos to store.
And this one is on sale. What do you think?”

I didn’t know what to say, because explaining the facts usually takes more than a few minutes when it comes to At Home with Tech.
(inside joke)

He continued his confessional.
“My wife sent me out to get a hard drive, and I’m not sure which one to buy.”

I really felt for the fellow.
He was the family IT guy, and he didn’t even know it.

I smiled and nodded.
“You’ll be fine.”
There was nothing more to do.

He returned the smile, unconsciously recognizing our ‘IT Guy Solidarity’ and walked away.

Like Greek Mythology, All Stories Don’t Have Happy Endings
I hope my friend had good luck with his tiny drive when he got home.
However, I suspect it will eventually turn into a Medusa when it runs out of storage space.
No one ever has just a ‘few’ photos to back up.
(If that were all he really had to worry about, a $9.99 thumb drive would have done very nicely.)

As for me, I made my selection between two lesser known drive manufacturers used by Apple geeks, and then sped off on my rescue mission.

I delivered my precious package in time, but there was one little problem.
Hades must have tried it out first and then returned it.

My shining drive was dead right out of the box.
When plugged in, it was just a hockey puck.

Fortunately, my project ended up surviving this little setback.
It’s a long story, but fate simply gave me a pass that day.
(deus ex machina)

And Staples provided a refund on the hockey puck too.
(I declined the replacement offer.)

One Way or Another, You Will Pay
So what can we learn from these two connected tales of tech woe?
Well, I think we can glean two truths:

  1. Don’t mess around when it comes to buying hard drives to back up your precious digital content. All drives are not created equal.
  2. And don’t think you’re doing yourself a favor saving twenty bucks for a drive on sale. If its storage capacity is so small, nobody else probably wants it.  In time, neither will you.

Video – There’s the Rub
My friend doesn’t know it yet, but he really should have supersized his purchase.
Sure, his 500 GB drive will handle lots of photos, but I predict there will also be some home videos to back up in his future.

Come on…
Everyone takes digital home videos these days.
Smartphones. Digital cameras. Camcorders… they’re everywhere!
I bet one day soon you’ll find a device that can record video in the bottom of a cereal box!!

Even if you only occasionally take videos on your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, it’s just a matter of time till you’ll need a big hard drive to store them on.

Video files are huge!
And most home tech gadgets today can shoot video in glorious HD.
A short 4K video clip can easily grow larger than 1 gigabyte.

Whenever I shoot some video, I usually shoot several clips ranging from one to three minutes each.
For example:

  • My boy is doing something cute
  • My father tells a story from the old days
  • A family event requires a little documenting

That’s 3 GB right there.

A sub-terabyte external hard drive just isn’t going to cut it for long.
You do the math.

“Wait a minute!” you say.
“My computer’s hard drive has plenty of memory to handle my videos.
Why all the fuss?”

Yes, but you’ve got to back them up somewhere, right?
(You do back up your computer’s hard drive. Hmmm?)

Barrett’s Home Tech Rule #1:

No matter how big your external hard drive is right now, you’re always going to need a larger one.

G-Technology or LaCie?
Even though we’re all locked in an inevitable hard drive upgrade cycle, it still makes sense to buy the best drive you can afford.

You don’t want to wake up one day, and all your precious home videos and photos are suddenly trapped in a hockey puck.

There’s no shortage of opinion out there on the best hard drives to buy.
For me, the main criteria for a good hard drive is reliability.

I started buying LaCie hard drives years ago.
I never had one crash on me.
(though one did start acting kind of funky)
I still happily use my portable LaCie “Rugged” drive with its telltale orange rubber bumper.

But enough video editors I’ve spoken with over the years have shared their LaCie horror stories. Plus the web is filled with angry LaCie owners.

That said, since every hard drive has its own unknown expiration date, you’ll find ugly stories about every drive manufacturer.

Then, I heard a lot of good press on a company called
Their G-Tech drives are more expensive than LaCie’s, but the consensus
(if one can call it that) is they’re better.
So I made the switch.

Since then I’ve been a G-Tech man.
And I’ve been very happy.

I own a 6 TB G-DRIVE for my Time Machine backups and a G-RAID to store and edit all my home video files.

RAID Drives
Though every hard drive will eventually die on you one day, there’s one general exception.

They’re called RAID drives, which stands for ‘redundant array of independent disks.’
A RAID is essentially one big hard drive made up of linked, smaller disks.

If one of the hard drives in your RAID fails, the others have enough redundant data to maintain the integrity of all your files.
The downside to this solution is it shrinks the effective size of your hard drive with all that duplicated data.

So your overall hard drive ‘unit’ can theoretically live forever.
(Assuming you replace the expired individual drives)

There are many complicated ways a RAID drive can be formatted or ‘striped.’

The one essential rule to remember is RAID 0 doesn’t provide any back up security.
It does give your drive a big performance boost for video editing, but that’s not what we’re looking for right now.

You’ll need at least a RAID 1.
For more detail on RAID technology, this is a good article from Gizmodo.

Be forewarned…
RAID drives are a lot more expensive.
(Are you sitting down?)

The G-Technology 8 TB G-RAID with Thunderbolt 3 (with two drives)
goes for $599 on Amazon.


But if you could afford it, wouldn’t you pay more for a little peace of mind on the home tech front?

You Don’t Always Need a Bigger Piggy Bank
Of course not everyone will jump at the opportunity to drop six hundred clams on their home video projects.
You could easily go to Staples and buy a basic 8 TB drive for only $199.99.
But it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

The good news is the ongoing forward march of technology makes heartier hard drives cheaper by the day.

Plus, you may never need a RAID.
I needed to raid my piggy bank to buy a RAID, specifically because I wanted it to safely house my ever-bulging collection of HD home video clips.
They would otherwise max out my iMac’s hard drive.

If you’re able to simply store all your video files on your computer’s internal drive and only need a Time Machine back-up drive,
I recommend G-Technology’s ‘G-DRIVE.”

You can pick up a 6 TB G-DRIVE USB 3.0 for just $169.98 on Amazon.

Now, that’s not so painful, is it?

Release the Kraken!
These days, there are any number of ways to summon the wrath of the tech titans.
A hockey puck could be the least of your problems.

If Perseus were around today, I bet he’d have a large G-Tech drive in his bag of tricks.

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