A Backup! A Backup! My kingdom for a backup! Service, that is.

With my discovery yesterday that my Carbonite backup did actually include any video, I rushed to include all my video in the backup. Carbonite the calculated I had an additional 240GB of data to backup! This was in addition to the 94GB that I have already backed up to Carbonite over the past eighteen months. I have a lot of data. Well, okay, maybe not that much. I’m sure there are people out there with terabytes of data. Bully for you. For me, I have just over 300GB of data.

Anyway, let me not dwell on size 😉

Faced with 240GB of data to backup, I quickly realised that Carbonite might not be the solution for me. Why, you ask? It’s because the backup speed I get with Carbonite is low. Really low. In an eight hour period, it will backup about 1GB of data. As a Plusnet customer, I have a data cap so I like to upload during the hours of midnight and eight A.M. This way, any data transferred doesn’t count against my cap. It’s considered off-peak hours. To this end, I have Carbonite scheduled to run between those hours and I just leave my PC running overnight.

Given the volume of data and the upload speed, you can see where I’m heading with this post. At the current speed, it would take roughly 9 months to upload my current data. Assuming I never downloaded another song or movie. Not good. I did some research on the internet and found a lot of people confirming the poor upload speed. Carbonite do throttle the upload speed based on the amount of data you have already uploaded, but I was seeing people getting as little 35KBps. People were talking about their backup times in years. This seemed to confirm my poor upload experience.

Some quick “Binging” (I know it’s not a real verb yet) provided me with some alternatives, Mozy being the most frequently mentioned one. The only bad thing I could find was that Mozy was useless in an OS Reinstallation situation. I spend some hours this morning checking out some of alternatives to Carbonite.

Provider Storage Upload Speed Cost Comments
Mozy Home Unlimited (2GB free) 8.4 mbps £4.99 a month Awesome upload speeds. Nice UI. Doesn’t support reinstallation or migration.
BackBlaze Unlimited 100 kbps $5 a month The UI to choose what to backup is rubbish as it assumes you want to backup everything!
CrashPlan Unlimited 600kbps £4.99 a month Beautiful UI and supports migrations. Slow upload from UK, but I’ve read people getting excellent speeds in the US.

All of the four solutions (including Carbonite) have their pros and cons. I think the biggest issue is that I’m in the UK. London to be precise and as a result, I’m trying to backup files to US data centres. Mozy has a UK data centre and that is reflected in the upload speed. In the time it took me to shower this morning, I had backed up 2GB of data. Mozy offer 2GB of storage absolutely free, whereas the others offer a time based trial.

Given I have about 300GB of data to upload, Mozy is the obvious choice. I reckon I can do about 25-30GB a night, so should be backed up in about two weeks as opposed to 9 months with Carbonite. If I every have to restore my machine, Mozy requires some tom-foolery to get the backup working again, but with the speeds they provide, this shouldn’t be a major inconvenience.

I’m going to sign up to Mozy on a monthly basis and see what the situation is again in a months time. I’m interested to hear from anyone with experience doing online backups here in the UK. Please leave me a comment describing your backup solution!

Carbonite not backing up my videos!

I was shocked to find out this morning that the online backup service, Carbonite, doesn’t automatically backup videos anymore!

According to their GetSatisfaction page, they claim that user’s requested this feature as it was the reason for huge backup files. That’s fine and given that I now have 127GB of video to upload, I understand the issues. People might have slow connections and want to get the important stuff done (family photos etc.). However, I signed up for Carbonite over two years ago and at the time they backed everything up!

Buried in all that text however, is a method that will allow you to actually select the file types you want and Carbonite will then back them up.

Just right click on a file of the type you wish to back up and select Properties. Open the Carbonite tab and you should see this screen.

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You can now check the “Back up files of this type” option and hit okay. If a file of that type then resides within a folder you have marked for backup, it will include all of them. Useful for videos and other files that you have a lot of that Carbonite doesn’t automatically include.

I now have an extra 165GB of data to backup which is going to take quite-some-time!

More email woes!

As some of you know, on Saturday, I accidentally deleted an email regarding a review of my iPhone app, Caffeine Club, by emptying my spam folder.

I sent emails to all the review sites again, apologising for my mistake and asking that they get in touch with me again.

This morning, however, I noticed that I hadn’t received any emails since Saturday, which is very odd. Not that I’m that popular, but usually there are some general emails from Monster.com and other sites that I’ve subscribed to. Even my spam folder was empty. It was only this morning that I remembered a recent domain transfer has occurred.

I logged in to check my domain and discovered, to my horror, that none of the MX records had been transferred! This basically meant that Hover.com were receiving my emails, but there was no corresponding account to delivery them to! What a disaster. I’ve hopefully rectified the issue and should start receiving email before the day is out.

I’m not one-bit impressed by this development. I spend several hours submitting my app for review and it’s very possible that NONE of the sites have been able to email in the past 24 hours. Hover are supposed to take care of everything. How could they have missed domain records?

The moral of this story? I should have just stayed with GoDaddy and not listened to Leo Laporte telling me how great Hover.com is.

Introducing Caffeine Club video

Today, I worked through my first little “intro” video for Caffeine Club. I did it using Apple’s Keynote and iMovie applications. Took about four hours all in all. I got the inspiration from the GiveABrief introduction video (an app that never made it to the App Store!) and some music from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra that I heard on Master Chef last week rounded it off.

You can check it out on YouTube here – http://youtu.be/jG4KKkuABfM?hd=1

Tip-o-the-day: Don’t delete spam!

Yesterday, I submitted Caffeine Club to four app review websites yesterday morning.

This morning, I logged into GMail and automatically hit the “delete all messages” in my SPAM folder and as Gmail was “working” to complete my request, I noticed an email regarding my app. Of course, a split second later it was gone.

Face-Palm

GMail doesn’t allow the recovery of emails you “delete forever”, so I have no idea who sent the email, other than the name Jon. I’ve gotten in touch with the four sites again and hopefully they’ll forgive my rather large email fail and get in touch with me again. That will teach me.

My Netduino .Net microcontroller board has arrived

Having only ordered it on Thursday morning, I was surprised to find that my Netduino microcontroller board had arrived. This is a controller that uses the .Net Micro Framework. It’s somehow not as big as I imagined!

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I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but I have a block of holidays, thanks to Kate and William, coming up so I will have plenty of time to experiment!

UPDATE: I found a book on programming with this microcontroller, but unfortunately it’s not quite finished. http://oreilly.com/catalog/0636920013037. Luckily I can read it on Safari Books Online here http://techbus.safaribooksonline.com/book/web-development/9781449301972. If you have an account and are interested, you should check it out.

Starting game development for the Windows Phone 7 Platform

Since I’ve tackled getting up and running on the iOS platform in my previous post in this “Developing a game for the iOS and Windows Phone 7 Platforms at the same time” series, I’m now moving onto getting started with Windows Phone 7 game development. Like the previous post, the aim of this one is to have you up and running with a basic skeleton that we will build upon over the coming weeks.

Getting the tools

Unlike iOS development, the tools for WP7 are free. You still need to pay Microsoft money to have your app published on the app store, but to actually get started, you don’t need to spend anything.

  • Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone Microsoft have made a special version of their excellent Visual Studio IDE available to download for free. This version doesn’t come with all the tools and features of the commercial versions, but we don’t need anything like that. To make live a little easier, Microsoft has a full package called Windows Phone Developer Tools, which you can download. This contains almost everything you’ll need. It’s a small download that will download and installed the tools.
  • Farseer Physics Engine – The Farseer physics framework will provide us with a powerful physics engine needed to drive our game. Download Farseer Physics Engine 3.3 XNA, the current stable release. Install it once you’ve installed the Windows Phone Developer Tools

I’ve got it all installed

Once you have everything installed, launch Visual Studio and start a new project (File->New->Project). In the New Project dialog, select the Windows Phone Game (4.0) project under the XNA Game Studio 4 Template group. Name the project “Windows Phone 7 Game” and change the location if you wish. I typically keep all my code under a directory called “Development”. It makes things easy to find.

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You’ll end up with a new Solution and the very basic elements for a Windows Phone 7 Game.

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Hit F5 to build and run the project. If you see an error dialog popping up, check that the Error List. If it says “Zune software is not launched. Retry after making sure that Zune software is launched.” then ensure that “Windows Phone 7 Emulator” is selected and not “Windows Phone 7 Device”. This setting is in one of the toolbars along the top. This setting controls how the game is executed. We’re using the Simulator tool for now.  If you’ve had to change this, hit F5 again.

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The WP7 simulator will launch and you’ll be presented with a blue screen. Don’t worry, this is all it is supposed to do right now.

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Adding some physics

We will now include the Farseer framework into our project and stop there. Once you’ve downloaded the Farseer Physics Engine 3.3 XNA zip file, open it. It will contain a folder Farseer Physics Engine 3.3 XNA. Copy this folder from the zip file and paste it in the same location as your Visual Studio Solution file. In my case, this would be D:DevelopmentWindows Phone 7 Game. By copy the framework here, it lets us keep all our code together. Very important when we add this solution to source control.

Return to Visual Studio, which should still contain your Windows Phone 7 Game solution. If the Solution Explorer, a tree view showing all the projects and files in your solution, is not open within VS, open it using the menu View->Show Solution Explorer. Within the Solution Explorer, right click on the Solution at the very top and choose Add->Existing Project.

An Explorer windows will appear. Simple navigate to where you pasted the “Farseer Physics Engine 3.3 XNA folder”, open it and find a file called “Farseer Physics XNA WP7.csproj”. Select this file and choose Open. It should now load this project into your solution.

Visual Studio might prompt you with Security Warning.  Since we trust this Project, click Okay. In future, Visual Studio might display the same prompt when you open your solution, but just click okay.

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Now that the project has been added, your Solution Explorer should look like this:

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Hit F6 to build the solution, or use the menu Build->Build Solution. Everything should compile successfully.

Finally, we will include a reference to Farseer Physics project in our Windows Phone 7 Game. This basically lets one project use the classes and information in another. Right click on the Windows Phone 7 Game project and click Add Reference. Use the Projects Tab in the window that appears.

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Choose the Farseer Physics XNA WP7 project and hit okay.

Hit F6 to build one final time and, if you wish, you can run the project again. The Simulator should still open with the same blue background since we haven’t really changed anything. However, we have now got a skeleton Windows Phone 7 project with a physics engine that we can build upon!

The next article or two will cover the construction of a physics world within the game. Stay tuned. Same bat time, same bat channel!