Monday, December 17, 2012

Which is cheapest, Seachem Prime, Alpha or Safe?

seachem logo_Large
Sometimes in life the problem isn't too few choices, it's too many.  I started keeping fish within this last year and I'm always looking for the best and the cheapest way to do anything.  I had settled on Seachem Prime to treat my tapwater for my freshwater tank.  I've been using Prime for months and loving it.  I'm about to replace my first bottle and I discovered that Seachem has two alternatives to Prime, Alpha which is sold mostly for saltwater tanks (and seems to be a more concentrated Prime) and Safe- which is Prime super-concentrated in a dry powder form.

Based on the reviews I've read and how much Prime does (removes chlorine, chloramines, makes ammonia safe, reduces the impact of nitrites and nitrates and improves slime coat without adding sugars to the water), I have been very comfortable with Prime.  It's so concentrated it turns out to be way more economical than the treatments that appear to be cheaper because they are cheaper per ounce.  A 500 ml bottle (about 17 ounces) treats up to 5,000 gallons of water.  I thought my bottle would last me for years (that is until I started adding tanks to my house).  

So, if Prime, Safe and Alpha all effectively neutralize all the bad stuff in my water, the choice comes down to price and convenience.  It seems Safe is no more difficult to use as it doesn't have to be pre-mixed, just added to the water as I do my water changes.  I always treat for the full volume of the tank, even when I'm doing a partial change.  I ran some quick numbers based on the prices of each product on in December 2012.  They are pretty heavily discounted on Amazon and all are extremely cost effective costing well less than a penny a gallon (the most is about 0.30 CENTS per gallon) at recommended doses. 

So, which is the least expensive (cheapest), Seachem Prime, Safe or Alpha?  I based my numbers on the size I was most likely to purchase. 

First Prime- a 500 ml bottle sells for $14.62 right now.  It'll treat 5,000 gallons.  Price per gallon is 0.29 cents (not dollars).  This time around I'd probably buy the 2L bottle, making it 0.17 cents per gallon.  The two liter bottle of Prime is $34.96 and would treat 20,000 gallons

Second- Alpha- a 1 L bottle of Alpha is selling for $25.42.  Alpha treats 50% more water than the same volume of Prime.  The recommended dosage of Prime is 5ml/50 gallons.  So, this bottle will treat 15,000 gallons.  Price per gallon 0.17 cents.  About the same price as the 2L bottle of Prime.

Third Seachem Safe- according to a Q&A on Seachem's website normal dosage is around 4 measures per 20 gallons with a a measure being 100 mg (it comes with scoop that is a "measure") .  The bottle on I looked at is 8.8 ounces or 250g.  It sells for $14.77  That'll treat 12,500 gallons for a cost of 0.12 cents per gallon.  

All three, Seachem Prime, Seachem Alpha and Seachem Safe would seem to be just as effective and easy to use.  In fact, I'm wondering if Safe might not be a little easier to use.  I started using a 5 ml syringe to draw my Prime out of the bottle. But, as the bottle got low, I used the cap as a 5 ml measure and I just estimate for my 10 gallon tank since the syringe won't reach far down into the bottle.  If I get the 2 L bottle, I won't be able to use the cap as a measure.  Safe comes with a dosage spoon and an 8.8 ounce jar would be a lot easier to handle and measure small amounts from than a 2 liter jug.

I'm going to try Safe.  It's not a huge investment, it's the cheapest and maybe the easiest and most accurate to use for small tanks (I have (2) 40s, a 10 and a 75 gallon tank). 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meritage Restaurant- Glendale, OH - Review

Last night I had one of the best dining experiences I've ever had.  Good food at a restaurant is important, of course, but of as much importance is the ambiance and the service.  Meritage didin't disappoint in any of those areas.  Meritage used to be the Gas Light Cafe which was nice. But, the new owners have kicked it up a notch. Meritage is a converted house in historic Glendale.  The decor is contemporary but cozy.  There was a guitar player performing in the bar area where we had a short wait while waiting for a booth.  The dining room is small but doesn't feel overly crowded and isn't noisy.  

My wife and I were celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary and wanted to splurge a little.  We started with the scallops which were prepared to perfection.  I don't know why so many people have trouble sautéing scallops which should be quite easy.  But, they are often overcooked or don't have enough color on them.  Ours were prepared to perfection, not overly done, and with a wonderful chili sauce.  The general manager recommended an excellent bottle of wine that I was not familiar with and we loved it.

My wife had the wedge salad and I had the Caesar salad.  The wedge salad was great, if you're a fan of bleu cheese (which we both are).  It was loaded with bleu cheese dressing with crumbles of bleu cheese a bit of a balsamic vinegar reduction.  I'm a traditionalist when it comes to Caesar salad.  I did notice the menu said it came with bacon. But, I skipped over the fact it came with red onions, too.  In my opinion, it wasn't really a Caesar salad.  But, it was good.

For the main course, my wife had a fish we can't recall the name of.  It was from South America and was really good. It was most similar to grouper. I had been to Merigae for lunch once and had a fish sandwich, I do recall that fish.  It was golden tile and it was the best fish sandwich I've ever had.  So, if you go to Meritage and you like fish, try the fish of the day even if you don't recognize the name of the fish. My wife's fish was pan fried and served over a bed of rice with asparagus.  I had the prime rib which was done to perfection.  That came with a loaded baked potato.  

For dessert, we were both stuffed.  But, we had to try to the creme brûlée.  Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of creme brûlée except for the caramelized sugar on top.  When it came we both sighed because the portion was huge.  But, we ate the whole thing.  I think it was the best creme brûlée I've had anywhere.

The service was excellent.  I like the little things like they kept our water glasses full and our server, instead of telling us to keep our forks between each course, brought out new silverware for every course.  The prices are reasonable for such good food and a wonderful atmosphere.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Proof Of Heaven- Book Review

I've read several books on NDEs. With the ambitious title Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife and the quotes on Amazon from Ray Moody and Pim Van Lommel and the fact that it was written by a neurosurgeon, this book set very high expectations. I've been around the block enough times to suspect that the use of the word "Proof" in the title was hyperbole, just like when I read Karen Armstrong's "Proof" of God. Again, I was right. There's no proof of anything in this book. It it well written although short. It's a very quick read and it drew me in right away. There is quite a bit about Eben Alexander's life before the NDE and that is quite interesting. Almost as fascinating as the NDE itself is the fact that he contracted the type of meningitis he did (a 1 in 10 million chance) and that he survived the type of brain trauma he experienced as a result. The fact that the guy is upright walking around and talking is a miracle. So, you could say there are three miracles that happened to him that week.

As another reviewer noted, I was left wanting more of the NDE itself. Dr. Alexander talks of great insights he received while unconscious in our world. But, what he gives us in the book are generalities that most NDE experiencers seem to bring back. Those being that we are all greatly and unconditionally loved and there is a purpose to all of this madness. One of the unusual things about his NDE is, while in that state, he has no recollection of Earth. I had a friend a few years ago who had two Out of Body Experiences that sound very similar to Dr. Alexander's. He talked of places like the Core and the Gateway (mentioned in the book) and of being in a state where he had no language, no real thoughts and was just experiencing things. I haven't heard any other NDErs describe things that way.

Overall, the book is good. But, if you're looking for "proof" of heaven, I'm afraid you'll have to keep looking. I've read of other NDEs where the person experiencing them, who should have no knowledge of what is going on on Earth, has been able to describe things he could not possibly know. There's no such proof in Dr. Alexander's experience. Dr. Alexander tries to explain why his experience couldn't have been produced by his brain. I wanted to believe and I do.  But, while I believe him, I don't think he proves beyond any doubt that it could not have been created as he was coming out of the coma. We've all had dreams where seconds in that dream state seem like minutes or even days.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cichlid Stones by Underwater Galleries- Review

I just got my 75 gallon tank a week ago and decided to stock it with African Cichlids. More specifically, Lake Malawi Mbunas- which, I've been told, are very aggressive and need lots of hiding places.  I looked at several alternatives to provide a backdrop for the aquarium and hiding places for them and decided to go with the Underwater Galleries Cichlid Stone Bulk Pack .  They arrived yesterday.  So far, the little guys love 'em and I do too.

The other alternatives I considered were:

  • Texas Holey Rock- a natural limestone with holes worn through it.  Pros- looks great and provides natural holes.  Con- expensive, heavy, displaces a lot of water and how many holes is dependent on the piece since each is naturally formed.
  • An artificial Texas Holey Rock- there's a company that makes modules that look like Texas Holey Rock but are more lightweight.  Pros- more lightweight and has more holes then natural Holey Rock might.  Cons- still expensive.
  • Clay pots-some people just break up clay flower pots and/or drill holes in them.  Pros- cheap.  Con- looks anything but natural
  • PVC pipe- you can use PVC pipe, gravel and aquarium silicone to create caves. Pros- they look pretty natural, inexpensive.  Cons- not as natural look as I would like, requires some work, not very stackable- takes up a lot of horizontal space.
  • Build my own from stones- either buying rock locally at a landscaping store or going out to find rock.  I live in an area with a lot of limestone (which naturally raises water pH and hardness- something Malawi cichlids love).  Using some rock and aquarium silicone, I could build caves.  Pros- inexpensive and natural looking. Cons- some amount of work, heavy, displaces a lot of water.

After considering all of the alternatives, I decided to go with the Cichlid Stones from Underwater Galleries.  They weren't too expensive.  They ended up being about $70 for the 15 pack- no matter the source.  In total, the 15 pack only weighs about 15 pounds.  The equivalent amount of any type of stone would weigh several times that.

Here's what I like about them:

  • They are ceramic, not plastic- eco friendly. Fired stone.  I'm assuming/hoping they'll be good for the water chemistry as well as being good for the planet.
  • They are lightweight- I don't have to worry about the silicone failing, them falling and having a cracked tank or dead fish.
  • They are easily installed, rearranged and/or removed- because they are completely separate, you can arrange them any way you like. Scatter them around the floor or stack them up.  When I first got them I thought the tops should be flat so they could stack easily.  A few of the medium sized ones do have flat tops. But, I realized they look more natural not being flat on top and bottom.  To get them to stack, I just rested the pile against the back wall of the aquarium.
  • They don't displace a lot of water- Because they're hollow, they fill up completely with water.  My 75 gallon tanks still has about 75 gallons of water. An equivalent amount of stones would not only be much heavier, they would displace much more water giving me smaller amount of water to carry oxygen, etc.
  • They provide a LOT of hiding spaces for the volume they take up.  Any other alternative other than the pots and possibly the PVC piping would provide less hiding spaces and room for my cichlids.
  • They look pretty realistic- the paint job is good and the shapes look very natural.  Of course, you don't see natural rocks with holes in them and hollowed out. But, this is a good trade-off to get so much space for the fish.  As they get some algae on them, I think they're going to look even better.

I've only had them for a day.  But, unless the finish wears off and they turn white, I can't see why they would just get better over time.  I'm very happy with my purchase.
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Margaret's Ark- Book Review

Even though many of us were taught the story in Sunday school, Noah's Ark is not a children's story in my opinion. We tend to think of the story from the perspective of Noah and his family surviving and being spared by God, rather than think of the millions of men, women, children and animals that drowned because they were all so evil. Because that story has such moral problems- like why did God have to kill every living thing? Couldn't he have been a bit more selective? For those reasons, I read a book In the Shadow of the Ark which looked at the flood from the perspective of those not on the Ark. It's a story that disturbed me the older I got and the more I thought about those outside the Ark. And that's why I was interested to read Margaret's Ark. I wondered which perspective the writer would take.

I could not figure out whether the author intended this book for devout fundamentalist Christians, who might not have a problem with the literal interpretation of Noah's Ark; or for more progressive Christians who might think of the story as allegory or for just general fiction readers. By the end I still hadn't figured out the audience for this book. There was some pretty rough language, which will offend some Christians. The angels who visited th Ark builders were quirky at best. There was unnecessary violence, not as bad as Stephen King. But, too much for many Christians. The author realized that In the Bible God agrees not to destroy the Earth by flood again and indicates it's different this time. God is not destroying all life on Earth, but instead saving those who choose to be saved from a natural disaster. But, apparently God, while having the power to give dreams to people all around the world, the power to give a foreshadowing of what is to come in the way of a not-so-natural worldwide rain as a warning shot, does not have the power to stop this "natural disaster". And this God is a god of playing hide and seek. He only gives the dreams to certain people. He only gives the dreams to those not in positions of power or authority. He is a god many fundamentalists might be able to relate to. But, as I said, I would expect they would have a problem with the unnecessary language and violence in the book.

The books's chapters are numbered in descending order and skip numbers. I thought the Kindle version of the book might be missing chapters. Then, I realized the numbers of the chapters were a countdown to D-Day. I read with great anticipation to see if there would be an actual flood, how it would be pulled off to come at a certain time, since rains would take days to drown people in high places. The people given the dreams were given a time on the day to expect the flood. I thought maybe the "twist" would be the people in the Arks would die and the others would be spared. I love a good twist. There was a twist- sort of. But, I felt the twist here was a cheat.

I was disappointed when I finished the book. The payoff was disappointing to say the least. I felt almost as if the book could have started at the point where it ended. I don't know if the author plans a second part. But, it felt like the first book in what should be a two book set. The book left me feeling far less than satisfied.


There is an actual flood. The device used to create it was clever. But, it is far from a "natural" disaster, defies the laws of physics and thus was an act of God. So, God broke His promise. I expected a twist at the end. In fact, I hoped for one. But, it makes me angry when the twist "cheats". God once again destroyed the Earth by flood, against His promise and once again indiscriminately killed billions. People who behaved the way most normal people,would behave were executed in a horrendous flood. However, this time, I'm not even sure why they were killed. One of the people given the dreams isn't even given instructions to build an Ark. The book ends with some of our main characters on Margaret's Ark. But, we don't know where they are going to land or what kind of world they'll discover/create when they do. An epilogue would have been nice. This book has gotten great reviews. But, I don't get it. I was not only disappointed when I finished it, I was a bit angry.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Oxo Good Grips Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer- Review

I'm a gadget guy.  Alton Brown may not be fond of unitaskers, but, I am.  The right tool for the right job is my motto.  Our family loves fresh pineapple and I'm always the one assigned to carving them up.  I've perfected my technique over the years. I wouldn't have sought out the Oxo Good Grips Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer.  But, when I was offered one to try, I decided it was worth a try.

I decided to record my experience with it because with a device like this you want to know if it's easy to use (easier than using a knife) and if it actually works. The answer to both is an unqualified "Yes!".  On the video you'll see me using it with no rehearsals and having only glanced over the instructions. It probably looks a little harder than it is. The next time through I'd do it a little differently.  For example, I realized I was pushing down while turning the device.  That probably isn't necessary because it has a corkscrew design that will pull it through the pineapple if you just twist the handle.

I ended up with a nice need cored pineapple spiral.  There was very little waste, I think no more than if I had peeled, quartered and cored the pineapple the normal way.  As a bonus, you end up with a nice pineapple "hull" that you could serve drinks in, if you had small pineapples.  Or you could serve a salad in at a party.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Zip-It Drain Cleaning Tool

I've been using the Zip-It Drain Cleaning tool for several years now. Having two girls with long hair, I found the drain in their bathroom backing up to the the point where the bathtub wouldn't even drain.  Because of the way the drain is made (the plug screws in and there are four small openings around the center where it screws in), there is a very small opening and a normal drain snake wouldn't fit.  Even if it did, I'm afraid it would just push the hair clog further down the drain.  I didn't want to use chemicals if I didn't have to. One day, while at Lowe's I found this little piece of plastic with hooks on it.  It's an extremely simple device. It goes in, pushing through the hair, and when it comes out, the barbs grip the hair pulling it out.  The device is disposable. But, I'm cheap. I'll use them several times before throwing them out even though they're less than $3.00 each.  No chemicals to harm the environment, your fixtures or your pipes.

Here's a picture of the clog I just pulled out.  This is only about two months worth of hair.

Philips Sonicare Toothbrush Review- Won't Live Without It

I have used the Philips Sonicare Toothbrush for close to 20 years now.  My dentist first recommended it to me because I build tartar quickly and it was threatening the health of my gums.  I've been through several generations of the Philips Sonicare toothbrush.  It's expensive. But, it's well worth the money. I believe that because of my use of the toothbrush I have saved hundreds of dollars in "planing and scaling" (deep cleaning under the gum line) of my teeth and possible gum surgery.  The toothbrush leaves my teeth feeling extremely clean, that just came from the dentist clean.  I will never go back to a manual toothbrush again.

The latest version of the Philips Sonicare I just got a couple of days ago from Costco. It's now called the Platinum Edition Philips Sonicare HX6733/90 HealthyWhite 3 Mode Platinum Edition Rechargeable Toothbrush 2-Pack Bundle (2 Power Toothbrushes, 2 DiamondClean Brush Heads, 1 UV Sanitizer with Integrated Charger, 1 Travel charger, 2 Travel cases) and it came with (2) handles, a charging base with a UV sanitizer for the heads, a travel charger and two travel cases.  While the system is kind of expensive, retailing for around $150, as I mentioned above, it may save you that or more on dental bills.  I've found that, on average my handles seem to last around 3 years.  The system I just replaced I had bought just over three years ago and Philips replaced one of the handles, under warranty, last year.  That same handle just went out on me again. This time Costco came to the rescue.  Since I had bought the system there, I simply returned it and they gave me full refund which I used to purchase my new system. 

Click here to see the system I bought.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Does my iMac need more memory?

Activity Monitor
Activity Monitor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Problem

I had my previous iMac for about 5 years.  It kept running slower (and slower and slower).  It went from being a screaming, stable platform that I loved to work on to something almost almost as bad as my Windows machine with the spinning beach balls all the time.  I had maxed it out on RAM, 4 GB.  So, I decided it was time for an upgrade, trotted down to the Apple Store and plopped down my money for a 27" iMac with a 2.7 GHS Intel Core i5 processor.  I asked the Apple salesperson about additional RAM and she asked me what applications I was running.  Just the normal stuff, a couple of browser windows, iTunes so I could whistle while I work, iPhoto on occasion, MS Word, Powerpoint, etc.  She said that 4 GB of RAM would be more than sufficient for me because none of the applications I was using would take advantage of more memory. Boy was she wrong!  Yesterday, I upgraded to 12 GB of RAM and I immediately fell in love with my iMac again. It's the best $50 I've ever spent on computer hardware Here's how to tell whether or not you need to upgrade too.

After months and months of going through this experience I realized something.  The beach ball was popping up, not when I was within an application but when I was switching or launching a new application.  If I were working in iPhoto for example, it would run fine.  But, when I tried to switch over to check my mail or take an order from a customer over the phone in Safari, the beach ball would stop me dead in my tracks.  After getting the new machine, I made the mistake of buying MacKeeper reasoning that I had legacy software on my system from my first iMac bought almost 10 years ago and maybe all that stuff was clogging my system up.  That's a story for another day.  Just don't do that.  I finally ran across some articles that showed me how to scientifically determine if I needed more memory.  After just a few minutes, it became VERY clear that I did.

How to Know If You Need More Memory

What you'll want to do is go to the Utilities folder and open Activity Monitor.  In Activity Monitor, there is a tab called System Memory. This will show you exactly what is going on with your memory on your Mac.  You might want to do a restart before you try this to reset Activity Monitor.  Open it up first with no other applications running. You'll see the processes you have running the percent CPU they're using and the amount of real memory they're using. But, what you really want to look at is at the bottom of this window.  On the left, you'll see Free, Wired, Active, Inactive and (Total) Used memory.  With no other applications launched, you should see a fair amount of Free Memory (Green on the pie chart to the right).  Wired and Active Memory should be relatively low and Used should be a fraction of your total memory.  As you perform activities on your computer, the RAM gets allocated and used by applications.  The operating system pages out to your hard drive when it runs out of space in your physical RAM.  This page out (represented in the right hand column) can severely slow down your computer.  The total amount of space allocated for paging in and out is Swap used.  You'll want to keep an eye on the Page Out and Swap used numbers in particular.  They should be relatively low.  Before I made my memory upgrade, Swap used was actually approaching 4 GB at times and the Page outs were in the multi-GB range also.  Free memory would often dip to just 30-40-50 MB and this is when the beach ball would pop up.

With Activity Monitor open, start to open up applications and go about what you would normally do while working. Here's where the salesperson at the Apple store was wrong.  She was right that none of my applications are true memory hogs. I don't work with very large files or do a lot of hardcore video editing.  But, because I work from home, I'm on my computer all day and I don't shut down on thing when I move to the next.  I typically have at least iTunes, Mail, iCal, Safari (with 5-10 tabs) open.  And, it's nothing for me to launch iMovie and/or Excel while all of these other things are still open.  As long as I was working within an application, everything would be fine.  But, if the phone rang while I was creating a video and I switched over to take an order, my machine would lock up, just when I needed it most.

So, after just a few minutes of this testing I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt that a memory upgrade would help me.  I read that the amount of Swap used would give me an indication of how much more memory I needed.  In my case, the Swap used would max out around 4 GB.  If you've bought memory, you know that while it's a LOT cheaper than it used to be, the dense DIMMS are still relatively expensive.  So, the decision I had to make was how to utilize the two open slots Apple had left me.  In the previous iMacs, you only had two memory slots. So, any memory upgrade meant throwing out what you had already paid Apple for.  But, the new iMacs have (4) slots and ship with (2) 2 GB DIMMS.  I decided to keep those and add (2) 4 GB DIMMS taking me up to a total of 12 GB.  The guy at, where I bought the memory, tried to convince me that I might want to go to 20 GB.  But, adding 8 GB DIMMS was going to be about three times the just twice the total amount of memory. Having looked at Activity Monitor, I was pretty sure that 12 GB would be more than I need.  Better to save the money, add just what I need for now and upgrade later, if I need to.

I installed the additional 8 GB yesterday.  As you can see from my screenshot above, now with all my normal applications open, I still have almost 7 GB free (almost twice the total amount of RAM Apple shipped my iMac with).  This now truly feels like a new machine.  Application switching is now smooth and seamless the way it should be.  And this only cost me $50 and took about 5 minutes to install.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Animoto- Slide Presentation Software

I've been trying for a couple of months now to find a way to take a PowerPoint presentation and save it as a slide show video that I can post on my website. I thought I found the perfect, inexpensive, easy-to-use solution with Animoto. I was wrong.

I found Animoto doing a Google search and I read this article about it.  The article makes the application sound pretty good.  But, read the comments below.  In spite of the reviews, I tried Animoto. If you're considering it and haven't bought it yet, I have one word for you- DON'T!!! Or at least try the free version more than I did before you plunk your money down.  I did a quick test of Animoto a few weeks ago and it seemed decent.  In theory, Animoto should have been perfect for what I needed to do.  I just wanted to put a few slides down with some royalty free music and have some cool transitions.  I chose Animoto rather than doing it myself in iMovie because of the ability to use their music tracks and cool transitions. I knew I'd need more than 30 seconds so I ponied up the $30.00 to upgrade my account to Plus for a year. I exported my slides from PowerPoint to jpgs (just like their tutorial said to do). I can view the slides fine on my Mac. But, Animoto takes FOREVER to upload them even though the file sizes are less than 100K each. And that's if it uploads them at all. Of the 10 slides I'm trying to upload the most I ever get uploaded is 3 at a time. The others simply disappear.

Animoto's support is via email only. They have been responsive, but not helpful. They are getting back to me.  But, they are telling me to try things I've already tried. I saved the files again using PhotoShop Elements. I tried them as gifs. I even took a screenshot and converted that to a jpg. I tried uploading some other jpgs. Really small ones upload perfectly and immediately.  Larger ones go into the black hole my PowerPoint slides have fallen into.   Great promise. Lousy delivery. I have asked for a refund of my one year subscription.

Monday, February 13, 2012

iCloud Backup Keeps Asking to Verify Password (over and over again)

Image via Wikipedia
After having an issue where the "Other" storage on my iPhone grew to over 5 GB and doing a restore to fix that problem I had another problem with my iPhone where the automated backup to iCloud stopped working.  I'd plug in my phone to charge and when I picked it up later, I'd have a notice saying something like "iCloud backup requires that you verify your password".  I'd enter my password and it would be accepted fine.  But, apparently the backup was never happening.  The really weird thing is iTunes was showing my phone was last backed up this morning.  But, the iPhone was showing it was last backed up last week (when I did the restore).  I don't know which was true.  After a week of this and not finding any answers by Googling the problem, I got fed up.

I called Apple Support and I did some research on steps to take.  I then did a better Google search and found a couple of simpler steps I could have tried first.  Here are the steps that have worked for other people and the one Apple Support gave me.  They are in order of easiest to hardest first (Apple started me with the hardest).  None are very hard and after doing this your phone should be running backups smoothly again.

1.) Go to Settings-->iCloud-->Storage and Backup
2.) Click on Back Up Now to force a backup from your phone.  This seems to work for many people and is simply forcing a manual backup from your phone.

If that doesn't work do step 1 above and turn off and then back on "iCloud Backup".  This might be enough to reset the iCloud backup app.

Last ditch effort (this is what Apple Support had me do)
If that doesnt work go to Settings-->iCloud and then Delete your account. Before doing this make sure you remember your ID and password because you'll have to re-enter them.  Choose the option to leave the data on your phone.

Then, add your iCloud account back.  Again go to Settings-->iCloud.  When prompted, you'll choose the option to merge your data with iCloud.  You'll have to go back in and turn Backup on again and turn PhotoStream back on again (assuming you want PhotoStream on). After doing this I forced a manual backup (see First above) and now my iPhone and iTunes both show the same time for the last backup to iCloud.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to delete the "other" storage from your iPhone

I was syncing my iPhone yesterday and noticed the "Other" storage showing in iTunes had grown from a few MB to just about 5 GB.  I did some research and found many other people had this same problem. I found several fixes many of which didn't work and some I just wasn't going to try.  I then found a great fix that should work for you if you're having this problem.

A search of the Apple Support Boards turned up a way of backing up and restoring your iPhone which seemed to work for many people who tried it. The problem is it doesn't work for everyone and it takes a LONG time because you have back up your phone, restore it to factory settings and then do a complete restore from backup.  This method seems to get rid of corrupted files which can often make up several GB of "Other" storage on your iPhone.

I did this and found it did not work for me.  So, I was off to find another method and came across a method that uses a product called DiskAid.  The iPhone' file system is completely closed to you the user.  Other than some really crude tools in the phone itself and the bar in iTunes, you don't know how much storage is being used for what.  And, you certainly don't know what files are on the phone or how big they are.  

Here are the steps I took:

Step 1: Back up your iPhone.
Before you go messing around withe the file system in your iPhone, make sure you have a current backup.  Plug your phone into your computer, go to iTunes, click on the iPhone's icon in the left column (under Devices) and under the "Summary" tab back up  your phone. This way, worst case, if you really screw something up you can at least restore your phone back to the way it was.

Step 2: Turn of sync music in iTunes
Now go to the Music tab and uncheck "Sync Music".  This will delete all the music from your iPhone (synced from iTunes) on the next sync.  Don't worry. You've already backed up your phone.  

Step 2: Install DiskAid on your PC/Mac
DiskAid is a fantastic product that allows you to actually see the files installed in your iPhone.  You can then add or delete files just like you do on your computer. I was able to do everything I needed to do with the free version which was really, really easy to use.  No hacking and no jail breaking necessary Several fixes I saw required me to me to jail break my phone.  I am NOT going to jailbreak my phone.
Make sure your iPhone is connected with the USB when you open up DiskAid. You'll see a file system structure of your iPhone. Be careful when messing around in here because I believe DiskAid shows all files, including ones needed to operate your iPhone.  You'll want to go to the File System part then the folder that says Media.  

Step 3: Go into iTunes Control folder and then the Music folder

In the Media folder, you'll see "iTunes_Control" and under "iTunes_Control" you'll "Music".  In music you'll see several folders all starting with "f".  I see a total of 50 every time I open this up.  You'll delete all of of those folder.  You can select the first one, hit and hold "shift" and select the last one.  Then, delete them.   

note: when I did this the first time it got rid of about 2 GB of the "Other" I had been seeing in iTunes.  Additional steps were necessary to clean all of the other out.  This step should work for most people.

Step 4: Open iTunes and sync your iPhone
With the “music sync” still turned off in iTunes, sync your iPhone.  You should have been warned when you turned off music sync the the next sync would delete all the music from your phone.  It will. 
Step 5: Unplug iPhone and reboot it
After the sync has completed, unplug your iPhone.  Now, hold the power button at the top and the Home button on the front of your phone until you get the option to shut down the phone.   Completely power it down by sliding the switch that will appear.  Now turn the phone back on using the power button on the top.
Step 6: Reconnect your iPhone to iTunes and recheck “sync music”
This will sync your music back onto your iPhone.  Check "sync music" and just sync your phone again.
Step 7: Additional Steps May Be Required

Reading through the blog where I found the tip on DiskAid, I got the feeling this one step works for most people.  But, it didn't work for many others. For me, this got rid of a bunch of the "Other" taking up valuable space on my iPhone- about 2GB. But, I still had about 3 GB of other.  I tried the procedure again this time unchecking the "movies" from the sync.  To do that, I just did the same thing but instead of looking for the "music" tab under iTunes, I looked for "movies".  That took off about another 1 GB.  Then, I tried the same thing with Photos.  That didn't actually do anything.   

One cool thing about DiskAid is that if you right click on a file or a folder you can click on "Get Info" and see how big it is. I did this on all of the folders in the Media folder and realized the "Recordings" folder was 2 GB.  I looked inside there and found dozens of Voice Memo recordings I had done.  I had deleted these recordings from iTunes and iTunes told me it was deleting them from my iPhone. That turned out not to be true.  I deleted them using DiskAid and my "Other" was now down from 5 GB to under 1 GB. The strange thing is some of these recordings continue to pop back onto my iPhone and I have no idea where they're coming from. But, now I know how to get rid of them.