Using Time Machine to back up an external drive

Whether you are working with thousands of photos, hours of video or semesters of lesson plans, securing and backing up your data remains critically important. If you have all of your data stored on the hard drive in your computer, this can be as easy as plugging in an external drive and setting up Time Machine (on a Mac). More likely, if you work with a lot of photos and video like I do, you have most of your data on an external drive. In an ideal world, you would back these up using some sort of Network Attached Storage RAID array. Coming from a newspaper environment, I know this isn’t always a reality. Sometimes all you have are a few externals lying around. Did you know that you can also set up Time Machine to back up one external drive (a media drive or capture scratch for example) to another external?

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To do this, we will first go to our Apple Menu Items in the top left, and select the System Preferences. From there, open up Time Machine. Once in the Time Machine preferences panel, click on “Select Disk…” and choose the drive that will serve as the Time Machine backup.

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Next, click on “Options…” in the lower right corner. This will bring up a window showing you what drives are excluded from the backup process. By default, your external drives will be here. Your backup drive is automatically excluded from the backup process, as it wouldn’t make sense to back it up to itself. However, we DO want to backup the Media drive, so let’s remove it from this list by selecting it and hitting the minus symbol as shown below.

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As currently configured, Time Machine will try and backup the Media drive along with any internal hard drives. But we only want to backup the external Media drive, so let’s add our internal drives to this exclusion list. Click on the plus sign next to the minus sign you used earlier, and then find and exclude your internal drives.

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In my case, I have two internal drives that I needed to exclude from Time Machine backup. Once complete, you can hit “Save” and then turn on Time Machine.

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Streamlining reporter iPhone video with Dropbox

We are always looking for new ways to use our iPhones. Earlier, I wrote about how News Journal photographer Suchat Pederson started to use his iPhone, paired with an Eye-Fi card, to send images directly into our photo server without the use of a laptop.

While this has worked well for our photographers, one of the major draws to adopting iPhones in the newsroom was the prospect of reporters shooting videos of breaking news and interviews when videographers and photographers can’t make it there. While this has been met with varying degrees of success, the biggest hurdle remains transmission.

Reporters would email video from their camera roll, severely compressing the file to the point where a 100+MB file would come in under 10MB. While these clips were still viewable … and viewers are often more forgiving of visual quality when watching clips on the Web, they stood out like a sore thumb next to footage from our Sony HXR-NX5U’s or Canon 7D’s.

When we looked at the majority of our reporter video, we saw that most of it was from our sports reporters as well as from our reporters downstate, where we have only one photographer and no videographers. These were reporters who had easy access to a Wi-Fi connection, either in the press box, or back at their home after an assignment.

Our solution to this transmission issue was to have all of these reporters create Dropbox accounts and join one shared folder. The main account received storage bonuses for each new account that signed up, allowing it to handle the influx of video. Sending in video through Dropbox, as opposed to mailing it in to an address that goes to ten different people, also has made it easier for video editors to be able to tell when something has been grabbed, as it will disappear from the shared folder. Of course, the greatest benefit to this process is that reporter video now gets to editors in full HD, as opposed to compressed beyond recognition (we did try Google Drive, but those videos came through compressed as well).

Below is the video we made to show reporters how to set up and use their Dropbox accounts.

A grand experiment

The new year will bring about a lot of changes to many Gannett properties, not the least of which will be outfitting our reporters and photographers with iPhones, iPads and other accessories. Of course, this move has been met with mixed reactions within newsrooms, mine included. The usual qualms about being asked to do too much with too little … fear of the unknown for those that are less tech-savvy (will Gannett be able to read all of my personal communications seems to be the most prevalent concern).

Even a digital-first journalist such as myself has a few reservations, such as if the money used for the accompanying iPhone rig could have been better spent elsewhere. The allure of the iPhone is its portable, do-it-all nature … but hand a reporter the OWLE and a cheap tripod and suddenly the iPhone doesn’t feel like the freedom inspiring tool it is, and more like a ball-and-chain dragging slowing them down from the work they feel they should be doing.

In general though, I am all for our staff having smartphones. Reporters (hopefully) can begin to treat their Twitter account like their notepad, adding observations on the scene and returning to their stream when writing their stories (one of our reporters, Beth Miller, is already adept at this, and I hope that she can spread her knowledge to some of the more skeptical members of our newsroom). As a photographer/videographer, I can use the phone as a hotspot to send both video and photos back to the office wirelessly (currently I think we have two working wifi cards to spread among both reporters and photographers). And, as the main emphasis for this push seems to be a focus on breaking news, everyone can shoot video and upload it directly to our Brightcove account via a related app.

I have no idea just how this experiment will end … On it’s face, it seems like a no-brainer … replacing pen and paper with something smaller that can also act as a camera, video camera, audio recorder, radio scanner, etc. But perhaps it will end up as Gannett’s previous video initiative did, with only a few properties actively using smartphones. Follow-up to come in a few months…