Oh, dear, God…do enclosures even matter?

I need to buy an enclosure for one of the 2.5″ drive mechanisms that have been rattling around my desk for the past couple of weeks.

This morning, I got a press release announcing a new enclosure from Other World Computing. There it is. Twenty bucks. I’ll probably buy it.


Because I really just don’t care.

At times like these, I truly despise the Web. There are indeed some truly great enclosures on the market. I suppose. I dunno. I seem to remember that OWC also has a pretty keen combo enclosure that does USB 2 and FW800. But I wonder if I can muster up the motivation to actually look for it?

Okay, fine, here it is. And it’s a real dilly. I have the predecessor to this one, which does USB and FW400. I like its construction, it seems to be nicely shock-equipped, and it’s heatsinked as well.

I’m just not sure I care enough to spend more than eighty dollars on a top-of-the-line pocket enclosure.

Have I communicated the theme yet? I don’t care. I want a box that I can slide the mechanism in. I want to spend, I dunno, maybe twenty bucks. I like that the enclosure I heard about in my morning mail is cheap, I like that I can get it in black, and I like that the access light is on the top so I don’t have to lean my head down to desktop-level to peep out the activity status of the drive.

But other than that?

Right. You’re way ahead of me.

Here’s where the Internet fails you. If you search Amazon for enclosures, you’ll turn up dozens of models, all of which look pretty much identical, most of which have the sort of names that make you wonder just how much of the OEM price lands in the pockets of Croatian organized crime figures. I like saving money but can I trust my data to an enclosure that costs less than a Big Mac Extra Value Meal?

There are times for benchmarks. There are times for projections of performance and convenience. There are times to scrutinize tables in tech sheets, and ask very, very close questions about the USB controller chip and is it a Revision B or a Revision C?

And then there are the times when the phrase “To hell with it” is scarcely sufficient. A pocket hard drive enclosure?

Tell me it isn’t made from Rice Krispies Treat material and that I won’t need to hook it up to a lantern battery to make the drive work. Other than that, I’m good.

Oh! And make it black. I want it in black.

Please read and adhere to our comments policy

MYDL.ME is sponsored by Drobo.

Put a link to http://www.mydl.me on your blog or website to enter a drawing to win a Firewire Drobo.

Elgato Turbo.264 HD

The more HD video I shoot, the more I like this little $149 hardware video encoder from Elgato. It looks like a USB thumb drive but contains hardware accelerators that greatly (can I say “grievously” and trust that you’ll take that as a compliment?) speeds up any sort of video conversion.

See, I’m pleased that my AVCHD camcorder shoots such nifty, prosumer-ey 1080p HD video. Honest. What a miracle of the modern age. It’s practically as powerful as a ten-year-old professional studio camera in an affordable, palm-sized package…and it’s a big step above those little pocket cameras you can buy for under $200.

But a $150 Flip Video camera records in a format that’s instantly useful. I can drag many of these files straight into iTunes, or upload them directly to YouTube. The use video formatsthat work with almost any media player and practically any device. My “real” camcorder records in AVCHD, which for all intents and purposes can only be imported (slowly and laboriously) into a video editing app.

And this big, high-quality format gets in the way in other ways, too. Sometimes I don’t really have the time to immediately process the day’s videos. I’ve just returned to my hotel after a jetpack tour of the vineyards of Manitoba. I need to change out of my flightsuit and into my tuxedo for a formal reception at the Ministry of Information. I have no immediate need to really import and edit my video; I just want to clear space on the memory card just in case Prince Philip gets drunk at the reception and tells the joke about the showgirl and the performing flea again.

I don’t have time do the import. I could simply copy the files directly from the card to my hard drive but crimeny! That takes up eight gigs of space!

Enter the Turbo.264. I plug this little accelerator into a USB port, mount the camera card on my desktop, drag it into the Turbo’s desktop app…and it’ll crank all of its content into full HD H.264 MP4 files in no time flat.

Actually, why bother with full resolution? They’re just going up onto YouTube. Instead, I can have them converted into standard-resolution video files. Or I can just take a few of these shots, do some simple edits to cut out the shaky-cam starts and ends, and throw them directly onto YouTube. I can take any other video file (multiple formats are supported) and downsample them into something appropriate for the screen size and limited storage capacity of my PSP or my iPod Nano.

Yup, the app handles all of those features. It can even convert video directly from the VIDEO_TS folder of an unencrypted DVD.

(Wouldn’t it be nice if it also worked with encrypted commercial DVDs! Alas, that isn’t possible with just the Turbo.264 app alone. Oh, well.)

In a nutshell, it takes a whole mess of unwieldy video files and turns them into something more practical.

So far, all we have is a lovely little video conversion app. Ah, but we’re overlooking the hardware acceleration. The USB plug accelerates the conversion by a factor of Wow. With a strictly software-based solution (like Video Monkey or Handbrake), I’m used to a 2:1 ratio of video running time to conversion time (two hours of video might take about an hour to convert. The Turbo.264 can do it in half or even a quarter of the time, depending on the content.

Here’s a crop of the desktop app in action. I’m in the habit of recording my favorite shows onto DVD-R as I watch them on my TiVO, which means I have spindles and spindles of random TV sitting around, cut off from my home media server and unwatched. There’s eight hours of video per disc. The Turbo.264 can convert the whole thing in just over an hour. It’s painless enough that I’m determined to grind through those hundreds of discs in thousands of MP4 files just as an ongoing project.

And because the USB fob is shouldering so much of the processing burden, my Mac remains quite usable while the app grinds away in the background. When I rip DVDs using strictly software-based apps, I often find myself wishing I’d saved that little job as the last button I intended to click before heading upstairs for bed.

But yes, there’s that price. $150 is a lot of dough if you rarely find yourself banging your head about video file formats. If on the other hand you deal with this sort of problem so frequently that your forehead has buffed a certain spot on your desk to a mirror-bright finish, it’s short money.

Please read and adhere to our comments policy

MYDL.ME is sponsored by Drobo.

Put a link to http://www.mydl.me on your blog or website to enter a drawing to win a Firewire Drobo.

Finding Music On The Web And Getting Away With It OK

Don’t ask me why I was trying to find a recording of the 1910 Tin Pan Alley chart-topping smash “I’ve Got A Pain In My Sawdust” (aka “The Plaint Of The Little Bisque Doll”). Why does anybody look for anything on the Internet?

Huh? Oh. Yes, good point, but this had nothing to do with naked people.

I search for the song title on iTunes and Amazon MP3. No, and no; I also searched under the names of the two women who charted with that song twenty years apart: Kitty Cheatham and Mae Questel (the original voice of Betty Boop, by the way). Still no dice.


Searching on Amazon and iTunes are often the same search; they have similar licensed libraries. So the next step (because I want to keep this legal) is to check out Zune.net and Rhapsody.com. These subscription services often have a broader reach than the Big Two.

(With unpredictable results. I searched Zune for Billy Connolly comedy records and came up dry…but it did turn up three of his music albums, recorded before the comedy thing took off.)

No. No Plaint, no Pain.

Since the song was originally recorded nearly a hundred years ago, there was actually an excellent chance that it had fallen into the public domain and thus was available on The Internet Archive. That’s the place you go for a wide range of freely-downloadable music: from interminably-long Grateful Dead concert bootlegs to ancient music that nobody cares about to Grateful Dead concert bootlegs that go on for so long that you will actually want to dig up Jerry Garcia body to see if they buried him with his guitar and if so, if he’s still plonking away on that heroically pointless and self-indulgent solo 14 years after his death.

No?!? Okay. Well.

Pandora? Rarely worth a try, but this service is usually my last stop before I jump headfirst down the rabbit hole.

Still no dice.

The Rabbit Hole to which I refer are a couple of music-specific search sites that return a list of specific media types and also embed the results page with playable samples…or links to the entire track, if it’s downloadable.

First stop: Jogli.com. And we have our first hit!

…Sort of. I like Jogli because it tries very hard. It did indeed turn up the song. But not as an MP3. Apparently the tune was used in an episode of “CSI” and Jogli found the relevant clips on YouTube.

Close, but no cigar. Onward to Songza.com. No dice. Skreemr wasn’t any help, either.

Well, this is how it goes with music searches. A music file’s content can’t be searched and indexed the way a webpage or a PDF can. So the only real solution it to keep a wide range of search engines on your bandolier at all times, and keep shooting until the T-1000 robot finally drops. Each service uses a different algorithm to find music files; one of them has to come up a winner, right?

It was The Hype Machine that finally came up trumps. Their big idea is to keep an eye on lots and lots of music-related blogs, and index its links. Hype Machine linked me to…this track.

It couldn’t find either of the earlier recordings. No, it turned up a novelty version recorded by Tiny Tim.

Oh, dear.

There are other tricks I could have tried. A direct search of YouTube and other video sites often works, and there are tricks for using Google to hunt for MP3 and AAC files and the like…even files downloadable from private users who aren’t aware that they’ve enabled Web Sharing on their computers.

(But that’s a little bit naughty.)

I’m amazed I couldn’t find the early versions. I bet it’s out there, waiting for me to find them. But frankly, after hearing Tiny Tim plinkle his way through the song, I really lost a lot of my will to ever hear this song again.

I shall find the courage at some later date, I hope.

Please read and adhere to our comments policy

MYDL.ME is sponsored by Drobo.

Finding Music via a Google Power Search

I did leave one thing unsaid with yesterday’s post about searching for music: using advanced Google search mojo to locate .MP3 files.

That’s for good reason. By the time you resort to that sort of thing, you must be pretty desperate. You try the online music stores, then you try a straightforward Google search and hope you can turn up a link to a stream or a download. Then you try music search engines and if you zork out there…well, you’re at the stage where (in coffee addict terms) you’re rooting through last night’s bag of kitchen trash to retrieve a filter full of used, soggy grounds.

Advanced Search is hit-or-miss — mostly the latter — and often finds tracks on webservers owned by people who don’t know that the buttons they clicked in System Preferences actually made their Music folders viewable and visitable by the whole world…and visible to Google indexing.

It’s pretty simple. When web servers display a file directory, it builds a simple HTML layout for its contents. To move up in the directory structure, there’s a link named “Parent Directory.” Search for a keyword that would likely be in the filename, search for the extension of an audio file, and exclude common filename extensions of no interest.


“parent directory” sawdust mp3 -htm -html -php -txt

…Will likely return a list of public webdirectories that contain MP3 files which also contain at least one file with the name “sawdust” in its name.

Like I said, it’s very hit and very miss. In my case…still no luck. I found lots of Sawdust tracks but not the one I wanted. And it’s a bit creepy to think that among these legitimately public file servers there’s at least one link to some random dude’s Dell.

Please read and adhere to our comments policy

MYDL.ME is sponsored by Drobo.

Managing Your Digital Life Podcast Episode #6

Episode 6 of MYDL.ME is now in the feed. Thanks for visiting.

Listen to this episode

Managing your Digital Life Episode #6
In this episode Scott and Andy talk about Scott’s photo backup strategy and an interview with Dave Nanian of Shirt Pocket Software, maker of SuperDuper backup software.

Hosts: Scott Bourne and Andy Ihnatko

Show notes prepared by Tom Newman at Fogview Podcast, Fogview Photos and twitter.com/fogview

MYDL is a show about storage, backup, and managing your digital life. The show will be produced three times a month: 1st, 10th, and 20th.
Send your thoughts and suggestions about the show to BourneMediaGroup @ gmail.com

Scott discusses his photo backup strategy with Andy.
Scott: I have over 600K photographs.
Andy: I really wondered how you keep tabs on those things.
Scott: I keep my Aperture libraries limited to 100K photographs. I have six libraries so that’s how I know I have 600K. The most recent work goes on my may Drobo and when I see that library starting to fill up, I pull out that Drobo and install a brand new Drobo.
Andy: You just don’t pull out the drive and archive it?
Scott: I’ve told that I need to spin them up. Is it a waste of time to spin them up?
Andy: I don’t know. The downside to guessing wrong is losing your data.
Scott: I generally spin up the drives every 30 to 90 days. On my main desktop I just keep four Drobos. The Drobos serve the following functions: The main Drobo is my Aperture library. The second Drobo manages the Aperture Vault which is a backup of the Aperture library. The other two Drobos are for generic data (non-photography). Now, thanks to Dave, I’ve added a fifth Drobo that is my SuperDuper backup and it’s bootable. Dave taught me all about this in a interview we will get too in a few minutes.
We have all this tied though a wide area network to another set of Drobos that which sits at my house. My logic is if this building burns down, the backups (on site) will not help me. I have this thing called NetRadio I bought years ago and it has a number of servers. We back up any changes over night to those servers in Minnesota. Andy, do you see any holes in this?
Andy: No I don’t.
Scott: I do have a couple of other things I would like to throw in here. I always have a couple of photo projects that I’m working on that is key and need to get access to it even if I’m on the road. That is where I use BackJack (which is also a sponsor). I put the key files in a special folder on my desktop and BackJack monitors that folder and back it up to the cloud whenever there are changes. I can be anywhere and grab that.
Andy: The only problem I can see if you have a virus on your desktop machine that can affect your entire backup system. Being on the Mac does help (with not getting viruses).
Scott: About a year ago I write an article that I disconnected my main machine from the Internet and I got a lot of comments about that. When I need to update my computer I disconnect the Aperture library, connect to the internet, do my update, disconnect from the internet and reconnect the library drive.
Andy: Yes, you should assume the worst and protect yourself.
Scott: Do you do anything with your current columns for off-site backups?
Andy: The only really hole that I had was if I’m away from the office and my Macbook crashes and my backup is 3,000 miles away. I wrote an Automator action in the Mac OS that uploads any files that have changed in the past three days to my network storage on my .Mac server. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »