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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-06-30

Photographer's Toy Box: In the Olympic Tool Bag
By George Bridges, McClatchy Tribune Photo Service

With the Olympic Opening Ceremonies rapidly approaching it's time to get those last few items ready for covering the games.

The Games promise to be exciting and challenging and the big time difference will make for a few more hurdles to jump through in dealing with being away from home for so long. Thankfully technology steps in to make the photographer's life a bit easier.

System Backups
Photographers should make, and take, backup copies of their system in case of dire emergency. Apple users have the bonus of being able to create a bootable backup of their system on a portable external drive. This will allow you to work off the external in case of a drive failure in your laptop or completely restore your system in case of drive corruption (or viruses).

Using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner you can easily create a bootable backup on a portable drive. You can then do incremental backups that will only update changes since the last full clone. This is more than you get from Time Machine or a disk image as SuperDuper and CCC create a way you can boot from the external drive and keep working. Older Apple Power Books require a Firewire connection to boot from an external drive while Intel-powered machines can boot from USB2.0 as well, but I prefer the speeds available on Firewire, especially FW800.

To boot from your backup, when you start the computer hold down the Option key and you will be able to select which system you want to start from, the one on your internal or external drive.

I would even create a clone that you leave at home. That way in case the warnings of viruses being put on your computer in China come true, you can wipe your disk and return to the state you were before leaving for the Games. You will lose some data, but you don't have to recreate everything from scratch.

Creating a backup from a typical 160GB drive will take you about 2 hours the first time and then less time each time you run an incremental backup.

Carrying a backup with you brings us to:

External Hard Drives
Since a typical photographer can be shooting upwards of 10 gigs a day of still images without counting audio and video, it will be critical to keep everything in order while keeping your computer hard drive from getting bogged down.

Burning DVDs is almost a must, but can take time and usually won't hold enough for raw video.

There are many highly portable drives available such as SanDisk's Firelite, Seagate's FreeAgent Go, LaCie's rugged series and Western Digital's My Passport drives. But the storage size leader currently is On-The-Go drives from Other World Computing. OWC has recently introduced a 500GB drive in a nearly pocket-sized enclosure. The On-The-Go also has the speed of Firewire 800 available which also powers the drive from the computer instead of only USB2.0 offered in most other portable drives.

External drives up to a terabyte are available but not in portable models. But the price is coming down for these larger storage amounts if you don't mind leaving the drive in the MPC or in your room. And, frankly, it's not a bad idea to have a backup of your system locked away.

If you have upgraded your computer's hard drive you can quickly turn your old drive into an external by installing it in an external enclosure kit.

500 gb drive:
http://tinyurl.com/65hxhf

Other OWC portable drives:
http://eshop.macsales.com/search/on+the+go

VOIP
With most news organizations getting very budget thrifty these days and calls from China to the U.S. not being the cheapest thing on the Olympic phone plans, getting a voice over Internet (VOIP) service makes sense, and saves cents per minute. Skype is free as long as you are talking to someone else on Skype and plans can be purchased for a few cents per minute that let you call regular phones. Skype also has a video chat feature.

MagicJack does it a similar way but you pay about $50 for the device which includes a year of free calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada and after the first year it's about $25 per year. MagicJack differs from Skype in that it is a USB attachment that you can plug a regular phone line into and use a handset. If someone calls you on your MagicJack number the phone rings and you answer in the normal fashion. They say it is compatible with headsets but I've had trouble making it work with mine on a Mac and their firmware is a Beta version on Mac - for which they don't offer much technical support.

The MagicJack also allows someone else to use the phone on your computer while you still work away and in that sense it could be used as a base office phone set up on a common computer.

Having a VOIP also gives you an actual number people can call and offers you a way to make calls when you are in the depths of an arena with spotty or non-existent cell coverage.

Of course, you also have audio and video chats available through software such as Apple's iChat and other services. But VOIP will let you, for a cost, call someone who is not on a computer such as elderly parents or grandparents and means you can call someone on their office phone when the company firewall blocks their voice or video chats.

Being able to actually see your family helps cut down on the feeling of being so far away but you may have a tough time explaining to kids under 10 how Mommy or Daddy got into the computer.

Slingbox
If you are a traveling photographer and don't already have a Slingbox you need to get one.

This fun device takes your home TV signal and zips it through the Internet to you wherever you are in the world to watch on your laptop -- as long as you have a broadband connection at home and a router to plug it into. They even have mobile software for several smart phones and have been promising a version for Blackberries and it is rumored they will be offering one for the new iPhone 2.0 firmware as well.

With Slingbox you can fill some of the downtime at events by watching your favorite shows live. Something critical if you are interested in seeing who is being eliminated on "Top Chef." Or is that just me?
http://www.slingmedia.com


(George Bridges is the managing editor of the McClatchy - Tribune Photo Service based in Washington D.C. You can see his work on his SportsShooter.com member page:
http://www.sportsshooter.com/gbridges. McClatchy - Tribune Information Services website: http://www.mctdirect.com.)

Related Links:
George's member page

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