Aargh! I’ve lost my digital photos!

I had an awesome weekend – Saturday was spent at a friend’s wedding which, because of unseasonably warm weather, ended up being held outdoors in beautiful surroundings. Then Sunday afternoon involved a trip to Knockhill Racing Circuit to watch a few hours of live motorsport.

There was only one downside… halfway through my time at Knockhill I realised loads of photos were missing from my camera’s memory card… all the photos from the previous day, and many of the photos from the racing. Aargh! Now, I know I should have downloaded the wedding photos straight away, but I would be willing to bet there’s more than just me who sometimes forgets to do so for a few days. There were some cracking pictures of my children on there; my boy wearing a little kilt and my daughter wearing a beautiful dress. I was very, very unhappy.

If this happens to you, the first thing I would advise is don’t panic! Don’t get twitchy and format your card to see if it’ll sort it. Instead, take the card out out of your camera and switch to another. So, I guess the second thing I would say to you is carry a spare memory card. When you get home, you can work on recovering the lost files, which you can’t do if you formatted the card and overwrote them with new images.

OK, so I got home at the end of the day and put my memory card into my computer. Sure enough, it had become corrupted and, instead of seeing a list of image files, I saw a list of files with nonsensical names. They weren’t recognised as images at all. However, I downloaded a piece of software called CardRecovery, which scans through storage devices and detects lost image files. The download is free, so you can see whether it will work on your memory card, but to actually save the images requires an upgrade to the full version, costing £32.

Isn’t that a bit steep?

Perhaps, but I gladly paid it to recover the photos of the wedding. Photos are precious, a concept that has perhaps been cheapened a little by digital photography, but when you realise you have lost some of those precious images it’s worth a bit of expense to get them back.

So the upshot of this story is that I managed to get back all those lost images. I think the problem was caused by switching the camera off immediately after deleting a photo… effectively cutting the power during a write operation. I won’t be doing that again in a hurry, but I have to say I’m well impressed with CardRecovery as a solution.

Have you lost photos due to a corrupt memory card, or perhaps by accidentally deleting them? Did you manage to get them back again? If so, how did you do it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Eco Apps, mobile recycling and more tips for a greener mobile life

This is a guest post by Richard Osbourne who is a self confessed gadget geek and a regular contributor to technology and mobile blogs and news sites.

A large emphasis is being placed on ways to be friendly to the planet these days. While many people are unaware of ways to give back to mother earth, starting with their mobile phones may be the best place to begin, especially since mobile phone subscriptions are increasing to over 4.6 billion in worldwide. Mobile technology has been creeping its way into just about everyone’s lives over the recent years, so being eco-friendly with these devices becomes nobody’s responsibility but our own. Let’s take a look at a few ways we can use our mobile devices and not harm our environment.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!!

One of the easiest ways to be environmentally friendly is to recycle, and just about everyone knows this simple rule. With technological advancements happening at racing speeds and new phones being developed and released almost on a daily basis, as a person gives up that old phone it is imperative to remember they can recycle it. While many service providers have bins for recycling old phones a person might also want to keep in mind they can easily make money from reselling their phones. With a quick visit to one of many phone recycling sites you can see just how much your old phone is worth. Yes, recycling is that easy plus many sites will either pay you for your old phone or donate to a charitable cause on your behalf!

Monitor Mobile Phone Energy Usage

There are many energy monitoring sites which enable mobile phone users to compare mobile devices and see which ones use less energy, which in the end enables a person to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible. And for those phones that are a must-have, yet use a lot of energy, a scan of the manual may reveal different settings that can be activated to help cut down on its energy usage.

Green Apps

This one may sound crazy but environmentally friendly apps do exist. In fact, there are actually a large number of apps that fall under the ‘green’ category. These apps can perform a range of different functions including providing consumers with ideas and tips on how to live a ‘greener’ life, and some apps even allow a user to scan bar codes on products and items and see what the products environmental impact is. This makes purchasing products that are friendly to mother earth about as simple as it gets. Other apps with an environmental spin include maps to connect you with ‘green living sites’ nearby, and tips on which cars are most efficient and how to drive them to the best effect.

Environmentally Friendly Broadband

OK, lastly, there are several broadband service providers that donate a portion of any proceeds they obtain to different charities or that go for carbon neutral status.. When seeking a mobile broadband service provider, keep in mind that partnering with an environmentally friendly service provider is the ‘greenest’ way to go.

Over To You

So, there are some ideas on how you can go green with your mobile life. Do you have any tips you would add to the list? Have you heard or used a mobile tool to help you live in an environmentally beneficial way? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Using old floppy disks as CD covers

Floppy disk

I can’t quite remember where I got the idea for this: I think it was here, but it’s been something that’d been rolling around my mind for a while. We used to have a Commodore 64 with a floppy drive when I was little, and it took these 5-and-a-quarter inch disks that are, handily, about the right size to use as CD covers. These disks evoke memories of childhood in me, and so I wanted to take a shot at making these retro CD cases myself.

First, where to get obsolete disks? I managed to pick up a sealed box of ten from eBay for just a few pounds.

Now we want to open the disk up so that we can get at the insides. You can cut your way in with a craft knife (the disk’s skin is a fairly thin plastic layer), or there will most likely be some folded-over tabs on the back side as there are on the ones I bought. If that’s the case, simply unstick one of the tabs. It’s not particularly important which one you undo, but I did the “top” one… opposite the hole the disk would have been read through.

Internal Padding

Inside is the floppy disk itself – a thin magnetic film. Just take it out and you should be left with the casing and some protective padding stuck to the insides. You’ll want to leave that in there as protection for your CDs.

The next step is somewhat unremarkable… put your CD inside. No, seriously, that’s it… you now have a retro floppy disk CD cover. If you want you can put a piece of card in to protect the parts of the CD visible through the holes in the disk’s casing, but if you’re careful you should be able to get away without bothering.

Now to try and explain to people why my CDs are in strange-looking cases.

The finished retro CD cover

Building an LED-lit gadget charging station…

This is a guest post by Rob Griggs-Taylor. Rob is a 40-something Scottish bloke, married with three kids. He’s a petrol-head who also rides an old Honda motorcycle for fun, and has a love of gadgets. An Apple fan by preference, but happy to use XP at work. The only Microsoft product he really admires is Excel, which was invented by someone else and bought by MS… You can find out more about him at http://www.griggs-taylor.co.uk

If you’re any kind of geek, you’re going to have a variety of rechargeable gadgets around and each one of them is going to have a charger. There’s the mobile phone, probably an MP3 player of some description, maybe a digital camera, sat nav, video camera and so on. It’s likely that they’ll be spread around your house because you have to have electric sockets to plug them into, and they seldom appear in houses in groups of more than two!

My house was exactly like that. The time spent running around picking up the gadgets in the morning was annoying, and left things open to being missed if I was running late. I also found the sheer number of wires irritating, so I resolved to do something about it.

I’ve seen on sites like lifehacker.com that people have built charging stations into boxes from Ikea or similar, but this idea didn’t really appeal. For a start, UK mains plugs are surprisingly large and fitting a few of them into a box seemed like a recipe for overheating and perhaps fire without significant holes for cooling.

Computer Cupboard

And then I spotted my computer cupboard. It had plenty of space for cooling around chargers, and was big enough to hopefully take all our gadgets.

Changes in our house had meant that the tower Mac that used to sit in it was now in the loft (that’s a whole other story…) leaving a big empty space. Inside the cupboard had a multi-function printer that was little used and an old HP LaserJet. Oh, and a whole load of other rubbish…

Checking for space

First things first. I emptied everything out and binned a lot. Then, I gathered all the gadgets together to make sure they would fit on the shelf that was left!

Fitting the foam

I wasn’t happy about putting the items onto bare wood (why are gadgets always so easy to scratch?) so I bought two sheets of Plastazote foam from eBay for £3. These were easy to cut to size using a long kitchen knife. [Tip: if you’re as bad at cutting things as I am, make sure you have the smooth factory-finished sides on display and leave your rough cuts at the back!] These were glued onto the wood with some black gaffa tape along the back edge to help the strength.

Sockets in place

Putting the sockets in was next. I wanted as many as possible inside the cabinet, and again trial fitted first. Two 6-gang sockets wouldn’t fit the width or height of the available space, so I mounted a 4-gang and a 6-gang. Simple arithmetic suggested that this wasn’t enough, so there’s a second 4-gang mounted on the back of the cupboard (not shown).

Ensuring they were level for neatness, I used a spirit-level app on my iPhone and a good ruler.

Once the sockets were in, I again test fitted all the gadgets. Success! Except that it was a bit dark inside the cupboard. So I had an idea. And, as is the way with these things, this took longer to do than anything else…

I wanted a light inside the cupboard, but not just any light. It had to be low-wattage and switch itself on when one of the doors opened. I scoured the internet for a kit suitable but couldn’t see anything I liked. A friend had fitted LEDs to his motorcycle and I wondered about using them, but they would require a 12 volt transformer and I really couldn’t be bothered trying to work that all out.

Eventually I came across LED strip lights for fish tanks and bought one on eBay. It has 24 moonstone blue coloured LEDs in a strip of flexible plastic and comes with a mains transformer. £6.50. Cha-ching!

It arrived, was mounted after some experimentation, and looked great. Only the switch to go.

Again I searched the internet with little success. Eventually I went to a local Electrical shop (I tried B&Q first but they were no help) and the guy there had exactly what I needed. I was going to cut the wire for the LEDs and insert the switch, but after advice from the shop proprietor I changed plans again. He noted that some transformers have special switches inside that detect a load and only work if there is one. The switch would act as a load making the transformer work all the time, potentially leading to overheating and failure. The recommendation was to insert the switch into a mains cable, leaving the LED setup completely as it arrived.

Components for the door switch

So, I bought some 2-core wire (no metal items and only a 5 amp load), a plug, a one-gang socket and the elusive switch for about £7 all in.

The assembled switch

10 minutes with a couple of screwdrivers and some wirecutters had the whole lead made up. Plug it in, take a deep breath and hit the mains power.


A bit of tidying, some cable clips and it’s all done. Opening the left door of the cupboard switches the lights on allowing you to see all the gadgets in there.

The final result

Total cost – £16.50. Having all my gadgets charging in one place, hidden from the rest of the world? Priceless.

Upgrading Mac-Mini Memory

Memory SODIMMI bought my Mac-Mini with the default memory load-out… which was 512Mb. “That’s plenty”, I thought, but it turns out that it really wasn’t doing the job. So I decided to upgrade… something I’d been told is far from easy in a Mac-Mini.

Thanks to this tutorial, though, it turned out not to be so bad after all. I won’t reproduce the whole process here, because the tutorial’s pretty comprehensive, but here are some points that I found tricky or useful:

  • My Mini takes SO-DIMM memory, not DIMMS. I missed this when I first looked at the specs, but fortunately realised before I actually ordered the upgrade.
  • I isn’t necessary to buy memory from Apple; I bought mine from eBuyer.com and got 2Gb for £35
  • I pried the case apart using three things:
    • A very thin acrylic painting palette knife so that I could create a big enough gap to get something more substantial in
    • 2x handles from a large bulldog clip that I took apart, but this is where the putty knife would be used that’s mentioned in the tutorial
  • The case does indeed pop a LOT when you take it apart… but it all opened up without anything breaking, so that was OK.
  • The upper chassis is connected to the lower one by a socket, which makes it stiff to remove. I didn’t realise that, and wondered why it was so hard to lift up the chassis. You also need to make sure you get the chassis lined up with the socket again when you’re putting it all back together again (obviously).
  • Putting the case back together is indeed a fiddly process – it took me three goes to get it back together properly.

Opening up such a nice piece of equipment, hearing the sharp pops as the case comes off, and realising that I don’t recognise the architecture AT ALL (I know the insides of PCs pretty well, but this looked altogether different) was a scary process. But the tutorial helped, and now my mac runs like a dream with 2Gb memory installed.

Turns out opening up a Mac isn’t as scary or as difficult as I’d been led to believe :)