AirTag

I’ve purchased a handful of Tiles over the past few years. I keep them in each of my bags so they are easily findable when I’m traveling. There hasn’t been as much use for them lately, obviously, but I still like the product quite a bit.

I’ve even purchased a couple for my father-in-law after an incident where he lost his keys in the yard while mowing. It took him a day or two to eventually find them. If he had a Tile on his keys then, it would have only been a few short minutes using the chime to hone in on them.

These little finder gadgets are a great idea for a product. And I think Tile has a pretty good implementation. But there’s nothing like something integrated into the system. Tile got Sherlocked. At least until they add Find My support to their devices.

In addition to integrating with the system’s Find My app, Apple one-upped Tile quite a bit on the technology end of things. With help from the U1 chip, when locating an AirTag, the app displays a delightful arrow pointing in the direction of the device.

And of course, it can play a chime too.

But if you’re even further away, AirTags communicate with nearby iPhones, iPads, and Macs to phone home, so-to-speak. This could have privacy concerns, but Apple addresses that on their product page:

Only you can see where your AirTag is. Your location data and history are never stored on the AirTag itself. Devices that relay the location of your AirTag also stay anonymous, and that location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it.

In terms of battery life, Apple claims that they can last more than a year, but they also use standard, user-replaceable CR2032 batteries. It’s been a while since Apple shipped a product with a replaceable battery – I think maybe the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad that took AAs was the last one to ship like that.

You can order AirTags starting on Friday for $29 a piece or $99 for a four-pack. And they offer free engraving for each one. It’s limited to just four characters, but that’s likely enough to identify which one is which.

It’s not all good news, though. The biggest omission with AirTag compared to Tile is the lack of a hook mechanism. There isn’t anything built-in to the AirTag that let’s you attach it to something else. Sure, you can just drop it into a pocket or pouch inside of your bag, but if you want to attach it with a loop or keychain, you’ll have to buy an accessory.

And these accessories aren’t cheap. They take, what appears to be a reasonably priced $29 AirTag and turns it into a pretty expensive kit. Every single Apple-made loop and keychain is at least as expensive as the AirTag itself. Belkin has some options that are less costly, but they’re still a bit more than I’d prefer.

Still, I expect I’ll end up with at least one of these. I can throw it in my bag and have a slick interface for finding it if misplaced. But I’m not sure if I really want to spring the $99 plus the cost of accessories to replace my existing Tiles. Although, maybe I can find a much cheaper way to attach them to things.

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My Backup Strategy

Time Machine Preference Pane

We all know backups are important, but they’re not as flashy and interesting as the next Apple Silicon Macs or nifty new piece of software. So they don’t really get discussed as often as they should. But in honor of World Backup Day, which I didn’t know existed and just happened to conveniently take place while I was already working on this piece, I thought I’d share my current backup strategy.

Macs

We have three Macs currently in use in our house — my work MacBook Pro, my wife’s MacBook Air, and our Mac Mini home server. The Mac Mini has an OWC ThunderBay 6 connected with a handful of drives inside — an SSD boot drive, a couple of 4TB drives for storing media, and a couple of 8TB drives for storing backups.

The Mac Mini shares the backup drives over the network as Time Machine destinations. And every Mac in the house backs up over Time Machine to these drives. So all of our local backups and media are stored in a single box — the ThunderBay.

We use TimeMachineEditor to have a bit more control over when our Time Machine backups take place. I have the Mac Mini setup to backup in the middle of the night and the MacBook Pro setup to backup at lunch time on weekdays.

The Mac Mini and my MacBook Pro are also setup with Backblaze to continuously backup all relevant data to the cloud. We will likely setup Backblaze on my wife’s MacBook Air too, but she only recently started using it again and we just finished the initial Time Machine backup.

iOS Devices

I pay for a 2TB iCloud storage plan that is shared with my wife. Our iPhones and iPads all backup to iCloud nightly. We store all of our documents on the service too.

We don’t use iCloud Photo Library, though. Instead, we use Google Photos — the primary reason being their excellent Partner Sharing feature. The feature automatically shares each photo and video to each other’s library. This means we don’t have to worry about who took a given picture or where the full version is stored — we both have access to all of the.

And seriously, Apple, get that feature figured out so I don’t have to maintain an additional service.

But Google Photos doesn’t give us the option to store local copies on the Mac, so a few times each year we manually backup photos from our iPhones and iPads to the Mac Mini server using the Photos app.

So every single photo we take and video we record is stored in six locations — the original device, Google Photos, the iCloud device backup, the Mac Mini’s media drive, backup drive, and Backblaze. It might seem like overkill, but our family photo library is almost certainly the most important data that we have and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Overall

The pillars of my backup strategy are Time Machine, Backblaze, iCloud, and Google Photos. As I mentioned above, it would be nice if Apple finally introduced a solution for family photo libraries. Then we could eliminate Google Photos from our setup and we’d no longer need to manually backup photos to the Mac Mini, since the Photos app offers the option to store full size local copies of everything in your iCloud Photo Library.

But in terms of locally stored backups, I’m pretty happy with the setup. Since everything is stored inside the OWC ThunderBay 6, if there was ever an emergency, I could grab my iPhone and the ThunderBay. Those two items contain all of the important data in my life.

iPhone Home Screen


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