How to Back Up Your Google Tasks

A set of tasks

A set of tasksOne of the the main concerns people have about trusting their data to a cloud service is whether or not they can get their information out of a  particular service. Some services do a good job. Others … well, not so much.

Google is trying to make backing up your data easier, with both Google Takeout and the Data Liberation Front. Both are good initiatives, but they don’t cover all of Google’s many applications. One that’s missing is Google Tasks, the to do list that’s part of Gmail.

But a third-party developer has filled that gap. Using Google Tasks Porter, you can download your to do lists quickly and easily.

Let’s take a look at how to do just that.

Getting Started

Head over to the Google Tasks Porter site. You’ll be asked to give the site permission to access your tasks. That permission is in effect until you revoke it.

Once you’ve granted Google Tasks Porter the necessary permissions, you can take a snapshot of your tasks. A snapshot represents your to do list as it stands at this moment. That includes the tasks you’ve completed and the tasks still on your plate.

Google Tasks Porter main page

Click the Take Snapshot button. It can take some time to build the snapshot. Depending on how many tasks you have, it can take a few seconds to a couple of minutes.

List of completed snapshots

Downloading Your Snapshots

After you click the Take Snapshot button, you’re taken to a page that lists your snapshots. There are four links that you can click:

  • HTML with microformat, which creates a nicely-formatted HTML file
  • iCalendar, which downloads a file with the extension .ics that you can import into most Web-based or desktop calendar application
  • Outlook, which downloads a comma-separated values (.csv) file that you can import into Microsoft Outlook
  • Remember the Milk, which lets you email your task list to a popular Web-based task management application

If you click Remember the Milk, you’ll be asked for the email address that you use to log into Remember the Milk and the name of the Remember the Milk task list to which you want to send the information from Google Tasks.

Exporting tasks to Remember the Milk

Anytime that you want to review your snapshots, just go to the main page of Google Tasks Porter and click the View Snapshots button.

Final Thoughts

Google Tasks Porter provides a much-needed service for anyone who uses Google Tasks. Whether you want to back up your data or have decided that Google Tasks isn’t right for you and want to move your data elsewhere, Google Tasks Porter makes it easy to do just that.

Photo credit: xololounge

Recover Lost Files with Disk Drill for Mac

Have you ever been looking for a file and then realize you trashed it? If this has happened to you recently, you may be in luck. You can download Disk Drill from Cleverfiles Software for the Mac. Disk Drill can scan your hard drive drive for recently deleted files and can restore the lost files or folder.

Disk Drill is free for now, but pricing points for the full release have not been set yet. Cleverfiles software wishes to have it released in February 2011. If your interested and free is more in your budget, hurry up and get the beta builds!

Main Screen

Setup is easy

Open the app, hit protect, pick your drive and don’t worry about Disk Drill until you need it. To get the most out of Disk Drill, enable the “Recovery Vault” on the drive you wish to save. Disk Drill becomes your friend when a file goes missing and time machine is not in place to save the day.

What Happens Quote

Restoration

Open the app and choose Recover, pick your drive and hit undelete from recovery vault. If that doesn’t find your file, Deep Scan is an option. The deep scan can take an hour or more but depending on how important that file is to you it may not matter as to it iss your only choice.

Deep Scan

Testing

With Disk Drill closed, I copied a folder full of pictures I had to the desktop. I then proceeded to delete the folder with 250 MB or so worth of pictures and continued on with my night. The next day I opened up Disk Drill and did the recovery vault and did a quick scan that took less than 5 minutes. It recovered every single one of the pictures perfectly.

Results will vary due to hard drive use. For example, if you deleted a file and copied 30 gigs worth of something before the recovery attempt, the results may not be as good.

Resources

Disk Drill is light on computer resources. You may think an index of your hard drive would take a large database, but according to Cleverfiles Software:

Generally, for every 2-3 low-level data writing tacts, Disk Drill does 1 modification of its protection database. It means that, your hard disk speed changes within 1-3% when Disk Drill is doing internal Recovery Vault routines. Nothing to worry about at all. This caused no visible slowdowns of your system on our regular tests.
Additionally, speaking of disk space required by Recovery Vault, it’s only 6 KB of written data for every single entity Recovery Vault monitors (files, folders). In a regular scenario Recovery Vault will monitor 5000-7000 of files. With 10000 files protected, Recovery Vault’s database will be just ~60MB in size.

Basically if you have a new intel mac computer, and you will have to for this software, you will be fine. if you have a large high speed hard drive you will not notice a thing except for the scans are more fast vs other software.

Alternative

Apple’s own Time Machine may be an alternative, but that requires an entire external hard drive and none of the external drive’s space can be used to store personal data; it is all devoted to the computer backup. Time Machine also only runs the backup every hour on a USB drive which may not catch that file you just lost.

Summing it up

Disk Drill is still in beta so take that with a grain of salt. From the testing I have done the software has shown no effect on my system performance or speed. I have not “needed” to use it yet, but with some tests it works well for its intended purpose if you catch the fact the file is missing in the first place. If you wait too long, your chances for recovery go down with every file written.

Note
This product is still in beta testing. While it is in beta still it is currently free. Future pricing is unavailable at this time.

A Personal Appeal from Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales to Read This Blog Post

If you’ve checked out Wikipedia lately, you’ll notice that there’s a large, dramatic picture of a man named Jimmy Wales at the top of each page.  This guy is the founder of Wikipedia, and he wants you to give the Wikimedia Foundation some money to keep the lights on at Wikipedia.

So why does this squinty, temple-veined, bearded man want your money?  Wikipedia is completely free, with no advertisements or sponsorships.  Wikipedia needs donations to keep running, and since almost a third of the Internet-connected world uses Wikipedia every month, it needs a decent amount of cash to stay free.

Aside from what is, in my opinion, a very genuine and valid call to action for donations, Jimmy Wales really offered himself up for the internet’s endless humor with this latest marketing move.  But you know what’s crazy?  Wikipedia has seen 15 times as many donations with the Jimmy Wales “personal appeal” message compared to their next most effective fundraiser!

Wikipedia provides data from their fundraising campaigns publicly, and David McCandless of informationisbeautiful.com created this fantastic infographic to show the difference in effectiveness.

And in case you were wondering, Wikipedia’s least successful fundraising campaign in the last year was their “Thanks for the brain massage.” campaign which resulted in only 19 donations.

Wikipedia’s Fundraising Committee puts a lot of thought into each campaign, and they’ve documented the details of their many campaigns on their What we’ve learned so far page. They’ve conducted focus groups, surveys, and have continued to improve their results by making data driven conclusions (very cool for us data nerds).

But of course, the best part about Wikipedia’s newest fundraising campaign is what the internet has done with it.  You can add Jimmy Wales’ terrifying visage to any website with the Jimmy Wales Google Chrome extension (with some great pictures at TechCrunch).  Dustin already did the honors of christening Techerator with Mr. Wales.

And finally, I’ll leave you with what I found floating around Twitter:

(Image courtesy @yesthatkarim)

I'm convinced Jimmy Wales spends money he raises on more headshots.
@joeyellis
Joey Ellis
heard the wikipedia ads do better with jimmy wales' face on them... so i'm adding jimmy wales to my business cards.
@joshu
joshua schachter
Still no Beatles songs in the iTunes top 10. If the current promo isn't working, maybe they should put Jimmy Wales' face on top? #WalesFace
@anildash
Anil Dash
If you look up "hubris" in Wikipedia, you get a picture of Jimmy Wales. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris
@doncruse
Don Cruse
personal appeal to jimmy wales: stop staring into my soul
@r3volve
R3volve
CEILING WALES IS WATCHING YOU NOT DONATE
@joshmillard
Josh Millard

Visualize Your Digital Relationships with Facebook’s Friendship Pages

Despite frequent privacy concerns, the tremendous amount of data stored in Facebook actually has a lot of positive uses.  One of those is utilized in Facebook’s newest feature, Friendship Pages.

If you’ve been on Facebook for awhile, you’ve unknowingly built intricate digital relationships with your friends on the social network.  Friendship Pages lets you visualize those connections to your friends by combining all of your interactions in one place.

Accessing Friendship Pages

This feature was announced a few weeks ago and has been gradually rolling out to all users.  To see if you have it, check out any wall posts on your Profile page.  Under a post, you might see the link See Friendship.

2010-11-09 21h12_57

If you can’t find the Friendship Page you’re looking for, there’s a pretty easy trick to access the page for two people.  Simply identify the username or Facebook ID for each person (you can find this by visiting their Profile page and looking at the URL, it will either include a user name or the string id=NUMBERS, where NUMBERS is their unique ID).  You can then put it into the following URL:

http://www.facebook.com/?and=

So for my imaginary friend Mike Jones, whose username is mikejones11010 and my other buddy Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook ID# 57137347121, the Friendship Page URL would be:

http://www.facebook.com/mikejones11010?and=57137347121

If my second buddy had the username potatolover68, the URL would be:

http://www.facebook.com/mikejones11010?and=potatolover68

Not too complicated, right?  Once you’ve reached a Friendship Page, you can easily search for other relationships using the built-in Browse Friendships feature at the top right.  These fields will also display a list of your friends as you search.

2010-11-09 21h19_09

I can only assume that access to Friendship Pages will be simplified in the future.  And if it already is, let me know in the comments!

Friendship Page Features

Now that you’ve figured out how to access Friendship Pages, it’s time to take a trip down memory lane.  Friendship Pages work best for people you’ve had longstanding, interactive relationships with on Facebook, but it can still show you some connections you weren’t aware of with others.

Friendship Details

First off, you’ll see details about your relationship to the person at the top of the page.  By default, it will display how long you’ve been friends on Facebook and the networks you share, but if you’re in a Facebook relationship with that person or have a sibling it will include more unique information.  Friendship Pages will also let you know if you’re living in the same city.

2010-11-09 21h22_26

The Friendship Page will also include a picture of you and your buddy as the “profile picture”.

2010-11-09 21h23_07
Life in the fraternity was full of hugs. (I'm the guy getting crushed in the front)

A list of mutual friendships will be listed beneath the profile picture.

2010-11-09 21h25_24

Mutual Wall Posts, Photos, Events, and More

In the main section of Friendship Pages, you’ll see the posts you’ve written on each other’s walls.

2010-11-09 21h26_59
The day Dustin joined my wolf pack.

Below that, you’ll see any photos that both of you are tagged in, as well as any events you attended together.

2010-11-09 21h28_10

And finally, you’ll see comments you’ve posted on each other’s shared items and things you both like on Facebook.

2010-11-09 21h29_44

Conclusion

When I first heard about Friendship Pages, I was really excited because I’ve always known something like this could be done, I was just surprised it hadn’t been done yet.  Back when Facebook was just starting to explode in popularity in 2004 and 2005, Mark Zuckerberg would mention how his goal was to visualize friendships and relationships.  It took more than 5 years, but we’re finally at the point where we can start appreciating all the intricate data stored in Facebook.

And what exactly is that data?  It’s our real life friendships, and being able to see it in one place is a pretty cool thing.

Image courtesy: Scarleth White

Cross-platform SyncMate Lets You Sync Files with All Your Devices

SyncMateWith everybody being so connected digitally these days, keeping basic information synced to all of your devices can be a nightmare. The nightmare can be even more difficult if you are the owner of an Apple computer and have a Windows or Nokia phone (and even worse if your understanding of network sharing is limited).

SyncMate by Eltima Software may be the key to solving this problem. SyncMate allows multiple computers to synchronize contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, iTunes / iPhoto, folders, and more. SyncMate runs on Windows or OSX, and also connects to Google accounts.

What will most people use this software for? Synchronizing contacts, bookmarks, and notes possibly between work and personal computers (if allowed by your employer). Others will enjoy the folder synchronization between a desktop and a laptop in the home (which I found most useful).

User Interface

The UI is fairly straightforward, but not as intuitive as most software put out for OSX. The large “Add Connection” button leads you to step one of the process where you will find a list of devices to use with SyncMate. I struggled a bit to setup the folder sync for close to a half an hour, and I am an IT person who likes to setup networks the hard way. After you complete the initial setup, however, it becomes much simpler.

Automatic reminders to sync can get annoying but are easy enough to turn off. The sync may vary depending on network speed and amount of data to be moved.

Device List
Some of SyncMate's supported devices

Windows Mobile

SyncMate appears to be an Apple substitute to Active-sync for the owners of a Windows Mobile device. We all know Microsoft and Apple don’t always play nice, but thanks to this third party software they can.

Using SyncMate

With automatic sync enabled, you really don’t have to deal with the software often. Contacts and calendars will be synchronized with ease. SyncMate also handled file duplication during folder synchronization very well. If the same file was changed on both computers, it will prompt the user and ask what to do. This will easily save a term paper from going down the drain.

Substitutes

With a Google account, things such as contacts and calendars can be synchronized with the applications in OS X. Google Chrome and Opera also have built in synchronization of bookmarks and themes built in.

iTunes has a nice home share feature. If both computers are linked to the same Apple account you can synchronize from iTunes itself.

Conclusion

Give SyncMate a try for yourself. I found it to be a nice tool that can help a new user keep multiple computers organized, but it might not cut it for more advanced users.

Synchronize and Backup Your Files with SyncToy 2.0

synctoyAre you tired of trying to keep up with synchronizing files on more than one computer or external storage device? SyncToy 2.0, a free application from Microsoft, solves this problem by allowing you to copy, move, rename, and delete files between storage devices or computers quickly and easily.

Getting started with SyncToy is very easy:  Simply download the application and install it.  Once you’ve installed SyncToy, open it from the Start Menu and you will be brought to a welcome screen.

synctoy_2_welcome

To create a folder pair (which means the folders will synchronize files together), click ‘Create New Folder Pair’ at the bottom of the screen.  You will then be able to select the folders you want to synchronize.

synctoy_2_pickfolders

Once you’ve selected the left and right folders, you will be able to choose the type of synchronization that will be used:

synctoy_2_echo

Synchronize – This should be used when you want to edit files in both folders and want the changes to be made on both ends.  Therefore, if you add a folder on one drive, it will be pushed to the other.

Echo – This means folder pairs are going to be exact copies, and it will use the left folder as the source.  Any changes made to the left folder will be copied to the right folder, but if changes are made on the right, they will be over written by the files on the left.  This is nice for backing up due to it overwriting anything different on the back up drive.

Contribute – This option is the same as echo, only added or modified files will be synchronized (no deletion will occur).

After you’ve selected the type of synchronization you would like to perform, you will be shown a summary screen with the option to change settings.  You will also be given the option to preview the synchronization, which will show you exactly what files will be moved, updated, or deleted.  You should always preview the sync before running it the first time to make sure your settings are correct.

synctoy_2_summary

synctoy_2_preview

Once you think your sync is ready to go, click ‘Run’ at the bottom of the screen.  The speed of the synchronization process will depend on the amount of files being synchronized as well as the speed of the media you are using.  When it is finished, the program will display results and shows you any failures that may have occurred.    If all is well, you are done!

SyncToy is an excellent tool, but you have to remember to run it manually.  If you want to make SyncToy to run on a schedule (which is a great idea to ensure consistent backups), check out this guide.  Data redundancy is the key to surviving in the computer world, so keep up on your backups!

SyncToy 2.0 is a free download for Windows and can be downloaded here.

How To: Securely Erase Your Hard Drive Using DBAN

DBAN-thumbnailIt’s likely that at some point in time, you will either sell your computer or install a new operating system on your current machine.  In either situation, it’s recommended that you wipe your hard drive clean of any and all information.

Most people will tell you to format your computer because it deletes everything from the hard drive, but while formatting does in fact remove information and prepare your hard drive for something new, it doesn’t completely remove traces of your private information.

If you only plan on upgrading your current Windows installation (i.e. Windows XP to Windows 7), then formatting your hard drive will certainly do the trick.  If you want a more thorough clean, however, you should consider the open-source application DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) as an alternative.

Warning: DBAN will erase ALL data on your hard drive(s).  Do not attempt this unless you have a backup of any important data!

When To Use DBAN

When you format a hard drive it deletes all your information, but it does not securely delete that info by overwriting it like DBAN does.  DBAN uses the Department of Defense 5220.22-M secure data erasing algorithm to overwrite all your files three times.  This is the grade of security the government trusts to destroy classified data and prevents all known techniques of hard disk forensic analysis, so anybody looking to spy on your information will be left without a trace to follow.

If you are just going to throw away a computer and think that taking a hammer to your old hard drive is a good idea, you should think again.  A snoop with a certain level of technical knowledge could still recover sensitive information from the partially ruined drive, and possibly steal your identity.

How To Use DBAN

Using DBAN is easy:  Visit the Darik’s Boot and Nuke website and download the stable release for CD and DVD media.  Once you’ve downloaded it, use your burning program of choice to write the ISO file to the disc.

When the burning process is complete, put the DBAN disc in your optical drive and restart your computer.  Most modern computers will boot to the optical drive by default, but if not you will need to change this setting in your BIOS.

DBAN will begin running with a blue screen and a warning message about the usage and a few erasing options.  Below the warning and options you will see text that reads ‘boot:’

DBAN-3

The safe and easy way to run DBAN is by typing “autonuke” (without the quotations – as seen above) after the ‘boot:’ prompt to begin running the program and wiping any hard drives that are part of your computer.  Keep in mind that the larger the hard drive, the longer the wiping process will take.

If the DBAN completed successfully, you will get a success message after the program has finished.  You can eject the disc and strike the power button to power off the machine.

Congratulations!  Your computer has now been cleaned and is ready for a new owner, operating system, or the trash.  You can feel confident that nobody will be able to recover your sensitive information from that hard drive in the future.

Have you tried DBAN or an alternative to wipe your hard drive?  Let us know your opinions in the comments below!