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Traveling Mac-less
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May 12, 2013, 10:17 PM
 
After a couple of decades of carrying various PowerBooks or MacBooks every time we left town, we're ready to try going Mac-less on our next road trip. The plan is to only use iOS devices (an old iPhone 3Gs, a new iPhone 5 and iPad mini) and our trusty Canon camera. This sounds easy until you try to only use iOS devices AND still maintain two backups of all the photos taken by the Canon camera and iPhones even when we are out of cell tower range, let alone WiFi range. Forget external hard drives, SD cards, thumb drives as backup devices.

So here's our plan….
* Use the iPhones primarily as phones (when within cell tower range) a camera (iPhone 5) , and various apps that work anywhere (e.g. iBird).
* Use the iPad Mini primarily for navigation in the car and email, web browsing, etc in hotel rooms.
* Use Apple's Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader cable to upload the Canon's SD card each night to the iPad.
* Use the PhotoSync app ($1.99) to wirelessly sync the photos on the iPhone and iPad, creating two complete copies on two physical devices.
* Use iCould to backup both the iPhone and iPad whenever we happen to have WiFi access.
* And OBTW carry our Airport Express to be able to sync the photos on the iPhone and iPad (using PhotoSync) when we don't have any other WiFi access. This can be done via Bluetooth but it may be painfully slow if we take a lot of photos that day. Note: some hotels restrict WiFi access to a few ports that only support web and email.

What do you think? Will this work? Is there a way to travel Mac-less and keep two backups of our photos with less hardware?

Thanks in advance -- asxless in iLand

p.s. Apple's 'solutions' for traveling Mac-less leave a lot to be desired. iCloud is a non-starter for creating backups without internet access. Apple's Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader cable only transfers photos one way and only to the iPad not to the iPhone - DUH! AFAIK Apple only provides a way to transfer photos from an iPhone to the iPad (without a Mac and/or internet access) via a physical cable. And once again it only works one way -- from the iPhone to the iPad. So Apple's solutions can provide us with a way to get all our photos onto one device - the iPad. And what happens if the iPad gets stolen/damaged before we get back to WiFi access and iCloud? OOPS!
( Last edited by asxless; May 12, 2013 at 10:41 PM. )
     
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May 13, 2013, 09:55 AM
 
Seems complicated. Are you taking pix with the mini? If not, why do you need to sync the mini back to the iphones?

If your hotel has wifi, upload to icloud or dropbox etc at night. You'd be surprised how many places have wifi, if you look. download the wifi finder app. McDonalds, Panera, public libraries, lots of restaurants have wifi.

Have you tried a USB card reader? Can you plug in one of those to the ipad and offload to a card?

You run the same risk of losing/damaging the ipad as I do with my regular camera with no access to any cloud.
     
asxless  (op)
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May 13, 2013, 11:30 AM
 
Thanks for your reply.

Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
Seems complicated. Are you taking pix with the mini? If not, why do you need to sync the mini back to the iphones?
It is my understanding that there is no way to import the photos from the Canon's SD card directly into an iPhone. But Apple's SD reader cable does allow importing to the iPad. So the syncing of the iPad back to the iPhone is to get two copies of all the photos on two physical devices.

If your hotel has wifi, upload to icloud or dropbox etc at night. You'd be surprised how many places have wifi, if you look. download the wifi finder app. McDonalds, Panera, public libraries, lots of restaurants have wifi.
You might be surprised how much of the US west does not even have cell phone coverage let alone wifi. Cell Phones, Cell Phone Plans, & Wireless Accessories from AT&T For example, from the Big Bend National Park website -- "Big Bend is a very remote park far removed from many of the trappings of the communication networks you may be used to. Don't Depend on your Cell Phone Cell phone coverage in the Big Bend area is extremely limited. There are few areas in the park where your cell phone may work. Lower elevations and mountains often block signals; do not depend on your phone to work in the Chisos Basin or remote portions of the park." And Big Bend State Park is even further off the beaten path. So our travel plans assume that we will be outside of cell phone and/or WiFi range for several days at a time during the trip.

Have you tried a USB card reader? Can you plug in one of those to the ipad and offload to a card?
This was our first choice for backup. We have a USB SD card reader. So I assumed all I needed was a Lighting <-> USB cable (e.g. Apple's Lightning to USB Camera Adapter or Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader). But I was unable to confirm that either cable allowed me to backup photos TO an SD card FROM either the iPhone or iPad. In fact, when we were a the Apple Store looking at the iPad Mini we were told explicitly that both Apple cables only worked one way (e.g. to import photos TO an iPad).

Perhaps there is a 3rd party app that enables photo export functionality. We would be very grateful for someone to post a product name, link or personal experience that this actually works.

You run the same risk of losing/damaging the ipad as I do with my regular camera with no access to any cloud.
Yes and we have never taken that risk when on long trips. We have always uploaded the SD card each night to a PowerBook/MacBook and then copied the photos onto a 2nd physical media: e.g. SD card, thumb drive, etc. that we could store securely.

Thanks again - asxless in iLand
     
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May 14, 2013, 03:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by asxless View Post
* Use the PhotoSync app ($1.99) to wirelessly sync the photos on the iPhone and iPad, creating two complete copies on two physical devices.
I can only say good things about PhotoSync. Highly recommended. .
     
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May 14, 2013, 03:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
I can only say good things about PhotoSync. Highly recommended. .
Thanks for the recommendation. I've installed PhotoSync on the 3Gs and have transferred photos to-from the 3Gs and a MacBook. It worked fine. But I can't test the iPhone<->iPad transfer because we haven't purchased the iPhone 5 or iPad Mini yet. FWIW I'm holding out until after WWDC in case there are some upgrade announcements.

asxless in iLand
     
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May 14, 2013, 06:41 PM
 
Why not take a bunch of extra SD cards for the Canon? They're pretty cheap right now.
     
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May 14, 2013, 06:43 PM
 
It does not make any sense to back up your digital pictures from SDHC card to your iPad. The SD cards are so cheap nowadays, I don't understand why not just buy extra cards for sorting and storage. All iPad have limited storage space, unless what you want to do is only to transfer those pictures onto some sort of clouds.
     
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May 15, 2013, 01:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Susan View Post
Why not take a bunch of extra SD cards for the Canon? They're pretty cheap right now.
Originally Posted by powerbooks View Post
It does not make any sense to back up your digital pictures from SDHC card to your iPad. The SD cards are so cheap nowadays, I don't understand why not just buy extra cards for sorting and storage. All iPad have limited storage space, unless what you want to do is only to transfer those pictures onto some sort of clouds.
I may not have made it clear that we will be using both the iPhone 5 and the Canon to take photos. So carrying around a bunch of SD cards for the Canon only solves part of the problem. Not to mention the issue of not having 2 copies of the photos taken by the Canon, let alone the iPhone.

I know many people are happy to have a single copy of the photos they take on a trip regardless of how irreplaceable they may be. We did this when traveling overseas with film cameras in the 1970's because we had no real choice. But this is not the 1970's. In the era of digital cameras, having only one copy of the photos taken on a trip is as negligent as not having a backup of your Mac when your hard drive fails. Because it is, or at least it should be, so easy to maintain at least two digital copies of every photo taken. And one of those copies should be able to be securely stored.

Apple provides a free mechanism to have a secure 2nd copy of all photos taken with an iOS device via iCloud. BUT iCloud depends on readily available/inexpensive cellular/WiFi networking, which just happens to be in short supply in much of the western United States.

Many families in the west only have a choice between dial-up or satellite internet access with significant bandwidth limits and/or draconian usage caps. For these families, and travelers in the remote areas of the western US, iCloud is just a bad joke. And you don't have to be in very remote areas. We live within 40 miles of our state's capital. And until recently our choices for internet were dial-up or satelite.

I've been an exclusive Apple user since our first Apple ][e. I still own a Lisa, Mac II, PowerBook Dou w/ dock…. So I realize that it is painful for Apple aficionados to admit that Apple's solutions are not perfect. But Apple has a serious blind spot when it comes to providing hardware and software that addresses the needs of Apple users who are not blessed with unlimited internet access. If you don't believe me just try doing your next software update via dial-up.

asxless in iLand
     
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May 15, 2013, 06:56 AM
 
I just downloaded and tried PhotoSync on my iPhone 4, uploading all my photos to my Box account over Wifi - it works like a breeze. If you have a decent connection, this will work well for you.

I remember years ago there were portable hard drives with SD card slots. If you can find them, that might work too.
     
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May 15, 2013, 09:38 AM
 
I agree with Susan, SD cards for the canon sound like a good bet.
Options:
Sync Canon to ipad, do not delete from card. Ship cards via UPS to your house. Bring pre-paid envelopes or such.
Sync iphone to ipad. I can't find anything that says you can offload from iphone to usb thumb drive or such...
this thread hints it's possible...
Best workflow for using iPad without laptop for photos?: Mobile Photography Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

If you can, then mail some thumb drives home with your sd cards. Or do the John Pierce workflow (near end of page).

This thread seems to have some external options, that would at least work with the canon. JOBO?
Photo storage devices - whats new? - FlyerTalk Forums
     
asxless  (op)
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May 15, 2013, 11:44 AM
 
Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
...
Sync iphone to ipad. I can't find anything that says you can offload from iphone to usb thumb drive or such...
this thread hints it's possible...
Best workflow for using iPad without laptop for photos?: Mobile Photography Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review.....
This is the fundamental problem -- Exporting photos from the iPhone an/or iPad to any physical media (CF card, USB thumb drive, etc.) without using a Mac or a PC where you have access to the file system and software that supports exporting to physical media.

The product descriptions on the Apple Store for any lighting cable with a female connector (e.g. Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader - Apple Store (U.S.) or Lightning to USB Camera Adapter - Apple Store (U.S.) ) glaringly omit any mention of exporting any data. And worse yet, they don't even list the iPhone as being compatible with these cables.

I had hoped that someone on this forum knew of a way to export photos from an iPad to some inexpensive physical media (e.g CF cards, USB thumb drives, etc.) using Apple or 3rd party lighting cables for when we are out of reach of WiFi. As it stands we will probably go with the plan in the OP, using PhotoSync to transfer photos between the iPhone and iPad to create two complete copies of all photos and then upload the photos to some variant of the cloud (e.g. iCloud, DropBox, Google Drive, etc.) whenever we have WiFi access.

asxless in iLand

p.s. I really do get the idea of using CF cards to backup the photos taken on the Canon. But our trusty Canon is a 10 yr old 6Megapixel point and shoot. It will be our backup camera on this road trip. Our primary camera will be the new iPhone5. So any backup solution that does not work for the iPhone5 is interesting but not very useful for us on this trip.
     
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May 15, 2013, 11:49 AM
 
Deleted by poster. The solution immediately above seems fine.

-Allen
( Last edited by SierraDragon; May 15, 2013 at 12:04 PM. )
     
asxless  (op)
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Sep 18, 2013, 03:07 PM
 
Traveling lite...

Well it didn't turn out quite like I had planned. We bought the iPad Mini 32 GB. But we postponed the iPhone 5 purchase for obvious reasons. We purchased a new Canon ELPH with a 32GB SD card to act as our primary camera.

During our trip we uploaded each days photos to the mini from both our Canon ELPHs. And since this trip was mostly close to civilization, we were able to back up the mini to the cloud almost every night. This gave us three copies of most photos: the SD card in the camera, the imports to the mini and the cloud backup of the mini. Sounds good. But it wasn't quite as easy as it sounds.....

1- After the second day the Photos app on the mini lost track of which photos on the 32GB card had already been imported. We were shooting 25-100 photos a day. So after three weeks on the road we had nearly 2,000 photos on the 32GB card in the new Canon and 2 GB card in the old one. Finding exactly which photo started that day's shooting on each camera and then manually selecting all the new ones was a real pain. (Yes I know you can select multiple photos fairly quickly by dragging over them with two fingers; but in practice I was only able to select one row of photos at a time using this technique. So.... 100 photos at 7/row requires 14+ accurate two finger swipes.) And to make matters even more confusing, the Photos app would vacillate from day to day on exactly which photos it had previously imported. For example, near the end of the trip it thought that it had already imported the first two day's and the previous couple of day's photos but none of the other 20 days of photos that were clearly already in the All Imported album.

2- You might think that adding all of the photos in the Last Import album to any other album would be quick & easy, but it isn't. You have to manually select each photo you want to add to the album. And OBTW to move more than one at a time you don't get to select them from the Last Import album, you must select them from the cluttered Photos tab that has all your photos in it (and may or may not have the photos you just imported in a nice tidy group at the end.) Note if you are importing photos from more than one camera, the day's photos on the second camera can end up scattered through the photos already imported from the first camera(s) depending on the time stamp.

3- We never found a good use for the standard Photo Stream, so we turned it off after the 2nd day. It would start uploading to the stream as soon as it saw a WiFi connection. It was simply taking too much bandwidth moving the photos up to the stream from the iPad and back down to the iPhone just when we needed to use that bandwidth to backup the iPad and iPhone to the cloud. These iCloud backups can easily take 2-4 hours on days when we shot 100ish photos. Not to mention the variability of the hotel's bandwidth, load, etc.. Shared Photo Streams were much more useful since we could capture just the very best photos to put on the stream and add them to the shared stream on our schedule -- e.g. after we had gotten a good backup.

4- 32GB was barely enough. Although we had NO music on the iPad, we were running perilously close to running out of RAM before we got back home. If we had kept going a few more days we would have filled the 32GB iPad Mini up. And it is not so easy to determine exactly where that RAM was being used. It would really help if Settings had that simple bar showing RAM usage that is displayed by iTunes. If we had run out of space our plan was to begin wirelessly transferring photos from the iPad to the iPhone using PhotoSync and an AirPort Express running a private network. Essentially turning the 32GB iPhone 3gs into a backup drive. We tested this on the trip and determined that a missing option in the Photos app made this unattractive except in an emergency. You have to delete the photos off the iPad after they are transferred to the iPhone and the Photos app is too dumb to delete only the photos that are not in an album. Oh its smart enough to know that one or more or the photos you are about to delete are in a album, but it does not offer the option to only delete those that aren't in an album.

All in all, traveling with only an iPad Mini and an iPhone worked fairly well. We were able to import over 2,000 photos from two point-n-shoot cameras as a backup and share the best photos with friends during the trip via Shared Photo Streams. But there are still several missing pieces that make traveling without a Mac/PC not so easy.

asxless in iLand

Edit: #2 is partially incorrect. You CAN select the photos to place in an album from the Last Import or Events albums. You still have to select each one. But this makes them much easier to find. The issue is the GUI. The grayed out tabs on dimly lit 3D buttons are so dark, the options are hard to read. Hopefully this is fixed in iOS 7.
( Last edited by asxless; Sep 19, 2013 at 07:26 AM. )
     
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Sep 19, 2013, 12:36 PM
 
thanks for the update!

I managed for 2 weeks with an iphone and camera, but didn't offload pix. You took a TON of pix!
     
   
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