Gazelle Matching Carrier and Apple iPhone trade-in Prices Until September 9th

You've probably heard me talk about Gazelle before on Mac Power Users, full disclosure, they're a sponsor of the show. But they're also the service that I use to trade in my old iPhones when I'm not handing them down to friends and family. I use Gazelle because they're a trustworthy company that will pay cash for used iPhones, iPads and other Apple technology without any of the hassles. I've also had several friends and colleagues buy used iPhones and iPads from Gazelle with great results.

Could you get more selling your used iPhone yourself through services like eBay or Craigslist? Probably. But those services also add hassle and risk. I've had a couple of bad experiences and I personally prefer to do business with Gazelle.  

Gazelle is now giving users another reason to do business with them. Between now and September 9th, the date that Apple is anticipated to release a new iPhone and possibly a new iPad, Gazelle is offering to match other carriers  trade-in prices on iPhones. Here are the details from Gazelle's blog post:

Gazelle’s Best Price Guarantee offers the best trade-in price on your old iPhone – paid out in cash, not credit. This special promotion, valid until Wednesday, September 9, guarantees that Gazelle’s cash offer for the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus will beat the trade-in credit offered by your wireless carrier (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint) or Apple. Terms and conditions apply.

If you think you might be interested in trading in your old iPhone, I'd suggest you go to Gazelle.com and lock in your price now. You can lock your offer for 30-days and have a little additional time to shop around and make a final decision about a possible upgrade.

Disclosure: Gazelle is a sponsor of Mac Power Users

Review: Ring Internet Connected Doorbell

I’ve had my eye on Internet connected doorbells for a while. In addition to my hobby of experimenting with new home automation technology, I’ll regularly have packages, sometimes unexpected ones, delivered to my front door when I’m away. Since I enter my home from a garage I may not see a package at my front door and occasionally have had packages disappear. Additionally, as a single woman, I was also interested in the video doorbells from a security standpoint. I decided to check out the Ring doorbell a $200 Internet-connected doorbell that incorporates a fish-eye video camera, speakerphone and optional cloud recording service. While the idea and technology behind Ring is promising, I was ultimately left feeling a little disappointed.

The idea behind the Ring Doorbell is that when someone rings the doorbell at your home, it will send a notification to your smartphone to allow you to initiate a one-way video chat with the visitor regardless of if your home or not. This allows you to give the delivery person permission to leave a package, or tell a solicitor to buzz off. It also can offer a safety feature of allowing you to see who is at the door before actually coming to the door, or giving the appearance that someone is home when they may not be. Ring also offers an optional cloud service to record audio and video of an event for later review.

Ring can be installed as a standalone device and paired with an optional speaker inside the home for the alert chime. But it work best if installed with a standard wired-doorbell. I chose to replace my wired doorbell with the Ring and found the process of removing the old doorbell and mounting the Ring fairly straightforward. Simply remove the old doorbell, connect two standard wires and secure the Ring to the home. 

In the box, Ring includes everything that is required for installation, including spackle to patch up your old holes. It’s a nice touch. Prior to installing the Ring you’ll want to charge the unit via micro-USB. Ring says the battery will last about a year and will provide low-battery warnings via the companion App. In order to discourage theft, once attached to the mounting plate Ring is secured by two proprietary screws and Ring says if the doorbell is ever stolen they’ll replace it. Personally, I’m more worried about losing the proprietary screwdriver when it comes time to charge the battery next year. You’ll want to make sure that where ring is installed (presumably outside near your front door) is within Wi-Fi range of your home’s router.

Once installed Ring is fairly easy to pair with a companion App on a smartphone that’s available via free download in the App store. Then, will notify the user when the doorbell is pressed or when it senses motion in the area. Motion detection is a fairly new feature and in my testing was not particularly accurate. First, motion detection has to be fine tuned, which is a process of trial and error, so it’s sensitive enough to catch someone as they’re walking up your drive, but no so sensitive as to alert with false alarms every time a car or pedestrian walks by on the public street. 

Even after using the Ring for a couple of months and adjusting the motion sensitivity, I’m still finding that I’ll get a couple of false positives a week, generally when a large truck drives by on the street in front of my house. I’ve also found that Ring will often take 30 seconds to a minute or more to detect motion, even motion directly in front of it. If a delivery person doesn’t ring the doorbell (which happens frustratingly often) I’ve found on many occasions I’ll only catch them as they’re walking away and almost back in their truck. Not helpful if you’re trying to catch someone’s face. On multiple occasions I tested the ring by walking up my driveway, standing at the door (but not pressing the doorbell), peeping in the window in my door, and then walking away. Several times Ring generally only alerted and caught the activity after I turned away. While this may be fine for a delivery driver dropping a package, not so great in the case of someone with less honorable intentions. Notifications seemed to come much faster when the doorbell button was actually pressed. 

Ring is supposed to capture and record motion, but I've found many times there can be a significant delay. As you'll see in the video, the Ring Doorbell will often several seconds to detect motion and start recording. Here, the delivery driver pulls up to my house, walks up and drops a package, but does not ring the bell.

When the doorbell is pressed a few things occur. First, ring emits a long doorbell-like chime to let the visitor know it’s doing something. I personally found this annoying and wish there was a way to disable it. Standard doorbells don’t chime outside the home and I personally find the Ring chime awkward. If the Ring is wired to a existing doorbell, the doorbell chime in the home will sound just as it would with a traditional doorbell. What make the Ring unique is that it will send a notification to the paired smartphone(s) notifying of a guest at the door. Ring can be paired not only with the owner’s smart phone but with other smartphones that the owner has given permission, this is great for families so anyone can answer the call. Opening the Ring App brings up a live video feed where you can accept or reject the call from the Ring. If you accept the call the speaker is activated and you can talk to the person at the door. Overall I was impressed with the video quality, though I’m not sure you could successfully identify someone if they weren’t standing within reasonable distance facing the door. 

If you aren’t able to answer a call immediately, Ring offers optional cloud recording. Cloud recording is only included for the first 30 days as a free trial, thereafter is $3 a month or $30 a year. While I understand this from a business perspective, it would be nice to give users the option to record locally on my iPhone or my own cloud storage events that are occurring live. To get full functionality out of the Ring, such as reviewing motion events cloud storage will be required. Another disappointment is there currently is no way to activate the video feed remotely from the App unless the doorbell button is pressed. So you can’t activate the feed if you were away and just wanted to check in. Ring says this feature is coming.

The idea of the Ring is a great one, but its implementation still has something to be desired. Hopefully most of the shortcomings can be addressed in future software updates. While I’m very excited about the idea, I’m not sure Ring ready for prime time. 

This article first appeared in the June Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly via Newsstand on the iPad. You can find out more at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/

ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine - Backing Up: If you Only Do One Thing

This month’s issue of ScreenCasts Online Monthly Magazine is now available in Apple’s Newsstand App. In the September issue you’ll find an article from me about backing up your data. This isn’t a new topic for me but I decide to tackle a different angle based on a conversation. If you could only convince someone to do one thing to backup their computer - what should you advise them to do?

The monthly magazine is packed with streamable versions of Don’s excellent video tutorials as well as articles, reviews and tips from authors including David SparksAllison SheridanWally Cherwinski and more. The magazine is free for ScreenCasts online Premium Members or available as a separate subscription or you can pickup individual issues. You can download it in the AppStore or find more info at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/

Backing up Network Attached Storage

I use a Drobo 5N (a Network Attached Storage Device) connected to my local network for a variety of purposes. I store a complete copy of my iTunes library, original source material for old projects, installer disk images, archived material, and more. Since I only have a 256 GB SSD in my primary machine I have to be judicious with my use of disk space I find myself more and more relying on my NAS for archival.

You can archive data to a number of places, but I choose a NAS because it allows me to archive all my data to one single place rather than having a number of various hard drives with different pieces of data scattered across them. I also feel that a NAS gives me an additional layer of security because most NAS, are configured with some type hardware redundancy such that if a single hard drive should fail (the most common failure) the drive can be replaced without loss of data. 

However, there are a couple of major disadvantages to a NAS. The big one is that it is still a single point of failure. You are still susceptible to the device itself failing and having a catastrophic loss of all your data. Therefore it’s absolutely critical that data be backed up as well. Second, they’re not necessarily the easiest devices to backup and they store some of your most critical data.

I’ve adopted a two-step approach to backing up the data on my Drobo.

Step 1: - Clones to a USB Hard Drive

Thankfully the amount of data on my NAS is still small enough that I can buy a single USB Hard Drive that will store all the important data. Over the years I’ve had to increase the size of that drive, but thankfully hard drive sizes have kept up with my data needs. 5TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive that can be bought for around $130 and still gives me some room for future growth.

This drive stays connected to my primary computer (I actually keep it in a rack mounted under my desk) and I’ve setup a weekly job with Carbon Copy Cloner that kicks off in the early morning hours to clone the contents of my Drobo’s Data partition to the USB Drive. ( I specifically choose exclude a few items from the backup such as backup disk images of my other computers - but you’ll have to choose what’s right for you.)

The first backup will take a while to complete depending on the amount of data you have to backup, but incremental backups will occur thereafter. If your NAS should ever die, you’ll have a local copy of all your data that’s no more than a week old. You may choose to increase the frequency of your backups based on your needs. Sometimes after archiving a major project I’ll manually run a backup but I generally find a week works based on how I use my NAS.

Step 2: Backup Hard Drive to Cloud Backup

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Most cloud storage providers, notably Backblaze my provider of choice, will not allow you to backup network attached storage devices. However, many will allow you to backup direct connected hard drives. Now that you have created a clone backup of the data on your NAS to a USB direct connected hard drive, you can now begin the process of adding this data to your cloud backup. You’ll simply want to make sure that the USB drive with the clone of your NAS is selected for inclusion in your cloud backup regularly connected to allow the backup to be completed. The first backup will likely take some time, but thereafter backups should be faster.

Now you should not only have a local backup of all your data on your NAS to allow for fast restore, but also a cloud backup as an extra layer of protection in case of disaster.