How Big Data is Revolutionizing the Music and Movie Business

Smart for these artists and movie studios to find ways to use the data to not only make them more money, but deliver the product people want.

 

World Backup Day

Have you backed up your data recently? Every day people and businesses lose huge amounts of
valuable data because they fail to run a backup of their files. World Backup Day is set aside
as a reminder to back up those important files.


If you have files that are important to you and can’t be easily replaced or recreated, you should have some sort of regularly scheduled backup. Hard drives can crash. Computers can be infected with malware and viruses. And your smartphone can be damaged, lost or stolen. Losing irreplaceable and valuable documents or photos with no way to recover them is a nightmare scenario.

pcoverhaul-files

No matter how new or secure your smartphone or computer is, it’s important to back up your
files, because even new hardware can fail. Some polls have shown that almost 40% of people
don’t have any type of backup at all, and another 15% only backup 1-2 times a year.

Malware and viruses infect roughly 1/3 of the world’s computers. There’s a whole class of
viruses that will lock your files and hold them for ransom. In most cases, even paying the
ransom won’t get your files back. If you have a current backup, you can completely wipe your
computer’s hard drive to rid it of the virus and restore your files from your backup copy.

The hard drive on your computer can also fail or crash. In those cases you may be able to recover the files by sending them to a professional data recovery lab, but that type of service is expensive. Depending on the exact problem, the cost could be anywhere from $300- $2000 and you may not even get back 100% of the data.

This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.
This laptop was damaged beyond repair in a house fire, and all the data was lost.

Any natural disaster that strikes your home or business can damage or destroy your computer and with it, your files. Fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes can eradicate your data permanently with no chance of recovery.

Computers can be stolen, whether they are laptops, desktops, or even servers. Your data may or may not be valuable depending on who the thief is. In many cases, they wipe the hard drives to conceal who the original owner is before they sell the computer, so even if you can recover the system, your files may be gone.

More than 3 million smartphones were stolen last year- that’s more than 100 smartphones stolen every minute, each day. Another 1.4 million phones are lost every year and never recovered. Smartphones are prime targets for thieves because even more so than computers, smartphones hold loads of personal information like banking and credit card info, photos, emails, and even your whereabouts thanks to GPS location. The thief may be after your
identity or financial information and not your documents or photos, but you’re going to lose them regardless of the motive. Phones are also small and easy to conceal in a pocket or handbag, and they have a high resale value. And the first thing they will do is wipe it clean of all traces of your files.

There are dozens of other things that can happen to your files. A regularly scheduled backup
gives you peace of mind in those situations. There are several methods you can use to backup your files.

An external hard drive.
An external hard drive.

If you’re backing up a computer and have a relatively small amount of data, you can use a USB flash drive. If you have larger amounts of data you probably want to use an external hard drive. External drives are portable so they can be thrown in a laptop bag or backpack. They also allow quick access to all your files at once. There are downsides to external drives though. The drives are affected by all the same things computers are- they can be lost, stolen, damaged by natural disasters, get infected by malware and viruses and they can have mechanical failures. If your data is very valuable you should use more than one external hard drive.

Cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive/Google Photos are popular for both smartphone and computer backups. They give you a small amount of space for free, and can be
accessed from anywhere on any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, PC, MAC). The problem is, one glitch and your files are gone, because there’s only one copy of your files there. If you accidentally delete a file, that deletion gets synced up to the cloud and there’s no way to get it back.

If you have an iPhone, you can back it up right to your computer using iTunes. This is nice because you only get 5 GB of space in iCloud so all your files may not fit there. Your computer probably has a ton of free space, and an iTunes backup is a complete backup of all your photos, videos, music, documents, SMS messages, call logs, contacts and apps. If you ever lose your iPhone or upgrade, just plug the replacement into your computer, open iTunes and you can restore your entire configuration from your last backup.

A Cloud Backup Service is different because it offers the ability to keep multiple versions
of your files, so if Tuesday’s backup is corrupted or encrypted from a virus infection, or
deleted by mistake, you can get the files back from Monday’s backup. You do have to pay for a
backup service like that, but if the data is important or irreplaceable, it’s well worth the
cost. If you have a large number of files to back up, you’ll find cloud backups are slower than backing up to an external hard drive. And if you ever need to retrieve a large number of files it may take hours or even days to pull them down from the cloud.

A sound backup solution would combine all these methods.

The accepted rule for backup best practices is the three-two-one rule. It can be summarized as: if you’re backing something up, you should have:

  • At least three copies,
  • In two different formats,
  • with one of those copies off-site.

    pcoverhaul-google+photos
    I use Google Photos to automatically back up photos from both my smartphone and my wife’s phone whenever we are in WiFi range.

I have multiple external hard drives for my most important files, which happen to be photos. These are backed up daily. Everything is also backed up to the cloud via Google+ Photos and Amazon’s Prime storage service. I also burn Blu-Ray discs so I always have a “negative” that can’t be deleted, and store a copy of these with a relative. Both my smartphone and my wife’s smartphone are set to automatically backup to Google and Amazon whenever we have WiFi access.

Whatever method you choose, please be sure you backup your files. If you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start, I’ll be happy to help you out.

 

 

How safe is your online data?

You may have heard about the latest celebrity phone hacking scandal involving stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Kate Upton. The photos were stolen from Apple’s iCloud service, and not the phones themselves. Many of the celebs had already deleted the photos and videos from their iPhones, some of them a year or more ago, but they still had those files backed up on iCloud. Hackers use a variety of methods to get into iCloud accounts, from brute force attacks to trying easy to guess passwords, since iCloud would not lock you out if you guessed wrong a certain number of times.

screen shot 2014-05-19 at 9.54.52 am-1

In the case of these particular celebrity photos, they have been floating around on the “dark net” for quite some time before they were finally leaked publicly.

Though it hasn’t yet been confirmed that the pictures came from iCloud accounts, reports have speculated that the hackers used a recent tool called iBrute, which can repeatedly try different combinations of passwords on Apple’s Find My iPhone service until one of them works. Once Find My iPhone is breached, it is possible to access iCloud passwords and view images and other data stored in a user’s iCloud account. Apple had previously allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on the Find My iPhone service, but it has since limited it to five attempts, making the iBrute tool ineffective. [TheVerge]

You may or may not have intimate photos and videos you want to protect from prying eyes. Even if you don’t, think about all the sensitive information you may have in your email and private messages on Facebook and other social media sites. There’s probably some stuff in there you’d rather keep to yourself.

So what can you do to protect your private files and conversations online?

First, accept that virtually everything we do now electronically can be hacked or compromised. It may only be  a curious spouse, but it could be an ex, a co-worker, or a professional hacker.  The best way to keep someone from gaining access to sensitive data  is not to put it online in the first place.

For data that you DO share, the first thing you should do is have a complex password that nobody can guess. “Password”, “123456” or your telephone number are not going to cut it. As this Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe demonstrates, substituting numbers and symbols for letters is still easy for a sophisticated software prgram to crack. 

Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe

For example, Bruins?Win?Habs?Lose! will not be easily cracked by hacking software and is easier to remember than Bru1n5W#nH4B5L0s3. Phrases make a password more complaex without being too hard to remember. And if remembering is an issue, try a free password manager like LastPass.

Another thing you can do is enable two step verification. This means in addition to knowing the password, the person trying to get into the account has to have access to some kind of device like your phone. where a code may be sent to verify your identity.

ZDnet has this great info on how to set up two step verification for some of the most popular services:

Apple iCloud

  1. Login to My Apple ID.
  2. Pick “Manage your Apple ID and sign in”
  3. Select “Password and Security”
  4. Under “Two-Step Verification,” select “Get Started,” and follow the instructions.

Note: Be aware that when you change your Apple ID to two-factor authentication, it’s a one-way journey. You can only change your password afterwards by using the two-factor method.

Dropbox

  1. Sign in to Dropbox.
  2. Click on your name from the upper-right of any page to open your account menu.
  3. Click “Settings” from the account menu and select the “Security” tab.
  4. Under “Two-step verification” section, click “Enable.”
  5. Click “Get started” and follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to re-enter your password to enable two-factor verification. Once you do, you’ll be given the choice to receive your security code by text or to use a mobile app.

Google Drive

  1. Login to Google from this link.
  2. Enter your phone number.
  3. Enter the code that you’ll get from either a text or a voice phone call.
  4. Follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to get a new code for each PC or device that uses any Google services. For some services, such as Gmail when accessed on an Apple device or by a mail client or some instant message clients, you’ll also need to set an application specific password.

Microsoft OneDrive

  1. Login to your Microsoft Account.
  2. Go to “Security & Password.”
  3. Under “Password and security info,” tap or click “Edit security info.”
  4. Under “Two-step verification,” tap or click “Set up two-step verification.”
  5. Click “Next,” and then follow the instructions.

Note: Microsoft may require you to enter a security code that the company will send to your phone or email before you can turn on two-step verification.

Many other services now offer two-step authentication. Here are ZDNet articles detailing how to set it up onFacebookTwitter, and Google.

 

The Best Of….

This gem of a website will show you the top 10 songs from an artist. This can be great for introducing someone to a new band or artist you really like. Also handy if you want to quickly hear the best songs from an artist you already know and love.

Here my friend is recommending Pop Evil. I like it. No need for more cowbell.
Here my friend is recommending Pop Evil. I like it. No need for more cowbell.
 

Songza

I am the type of person who would have music playing all day every day if I could. It improves my mood and my songzaproductivity and tedious work is easier to do with the right playlist. And the playlist is the key. I have a huge library of music (over 300,000 songs) and sometimes the hardest thing to do is decide which existing playlist will work, or what songs to put on a new one. If I’m going to shovel snow for 2 hours, my “workout” playlist really doesn’t fit. And I don’t have the time or the energy to create a playlist at 5 am when I have to clear the cars and driveway to get everyone off for the day.

 

Over at Songza they have a solution for me. Just tell Songza what kind of task you’re doing (housework, cooking, working in an office) or what kind of mood you’re in and you’ll instantly be served with playlists created by experts based on your specs.

The Songza main screen.

 

I chose Decades for this example, and then browsed through until I got to 80’s rock. ON the right you can see the different pre generated playlists to meet my hairband fix.

songza 80srock

You can create an account or sign in with Facebook. I really think this is a better way to listen to music online, and if you think so too, check out  Songza on the web.

 

VLC- The only Media Player You Will Ever Need

At some point, everyone runs into a problem opening a multimedia file (usually a video) . VLC player can solve most of these problems. It has a simple interface that’s very user friendly, but also enough extra features to keep you happy if you’re an advanced user. You can drag and drop music or videos into the player, use the file menu to open them, or click on them in Windows explorer once you have selected VLC as your default player for that file type.

The basic VLC interface. You can drag and drop any audio or video file right into the player or use the File menu.
The basic VLC interface. You can drag and drop any audio or video file right into the player or use the File menu.

 

Multimedia files are coded a certain way when they are created, and your multimedia software decodes them. This is done using software called a CODEC, which stands for CODE/DECODE. Widows comes with some codecs by default for the file types most used by windows. As you install other multimedia software, like CD and DVD burning software,  Itunes, or other media players,  you pick up new codecs and expand the file types your computer knows how to open and play.

There are all-in-one codec packs out there on the internet that try to provide all the codecs you will ever need for every possible file type, but they often come bundled with toolbars and other unwanted software. You don’t want that junk cluttering up your computer.

VLC player comes with a slew of codecs built in, and no configuration is needed to get them to work. VLC will open all the common audio and video filetypes and includes support for subtitle files.

A list of video file types VLC will play for each Operating System. Courtesy of videolan.org
A list of video file types VLC will play for each Operating System. Courtesy of videolan.org

 

VLC includes support for subtitle files if your video includes them. Even if you’re not going to watch something in a different language the subtitles can be useful. I’ve used them when my infant son was asleep and I couldn’t have the sound at my normally preferred earth shattering volume. They can also be used to decipher the dialogue in scenes that are just plain hard to hear.

Turning on subtitles is easy. Right click on the video and navigate the menus to Subtitle->Sub Track-> and then your language,
Turning on subtitles is easy. Right click on the video and navigate the menus to Subtitle->Sub Track-> and then your language,

 

One of my favorite features is the equalizer, under the extended settings button. There are separate controls for both audio and video tweaking.  I use this for brightening up older videos or home videos that are not the highest digital quality, but there are dozens of options starting with the basic brightness, contrast, saturation, hue and gamma controls. But it was also let you make the image negative, turn it sepia, rotate it, and even add a logo or watermark to it. Not bad for a free program!

Before the equalizer is used, the picture is fairly dark.
Before the equalizer is used, the picture is fairly dark.

 

The above image is before using the equalizer on the video. You can see the difference below after a few minor tweaks to brightness, contrast, gamma and saturation.

The red arrow points to the equalizer button. You can see a notable difference once I've tinkered with the settings.
The red arrow points to the equalizer button. You can see a notable difference once I’ve tinkered with the settings.

 

In the event that your audio and video are not matching up, there’s a submenu here for synching them together.

Easily fix audio and video that are out of synch
Easily fix audio and video that are out of synch

 

And VLC player give you the option to take a screenshot of any part of your video. Just go to the video menu and look all the way at the bottom.

Capture an image of the screen by using the Take Snapshot option in the Video menu
Capture an image of the screen by using the Take Snapshot option in the Video menu

 

You can set the default save location, file type and naming scheme for your snapshots under the Tools -> Preferences -> Video menu, shown highlighted here.

Snapshot settings
Snapshot settings

 

There are literally hundreds of other features to explore if you are into that sort of thing. Or maybe you want to simply watch a  movie and not have to do anything but click and drag. Either way, VLC player is the best free media player to suit your needs.