Stephen Hackett's weblog about Apple, Apple history, technology, journalism and design.

What the Freedom of Speech actually means

We all hear people complaining that their right to free speech is being taken away, or that if some jerk on TV says something terrible and is fired, their First Amendment rights have been violated by a television network.

In reality, however, the right to free speech is a contract between the federal government and its citizens. It say nothing — and offers no protection — from real-world consequences for saying something others disagree with or find inflammatory.

How to have Dropbox ignore a local folder within its synced directory

As I've written about before, I store all of my images on Dropbox. As I sync photos to my iOS devices from iTunes, however, I have a bit of a problem: a 42 GB iPod Photo Cache taking up a ton of room on my Dropbox account:

What is in this folder? Here's what Apple says:

When you use iTunes to sync photos to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, iTunes creates a folder called iPod Photo Cache. The iPod Photo Cache stores photos that are optimized for display on your device. The location of this folder depends on the syncing options you select. In iTunes, if you change the selection in the Sync Photos From menu, a new iPod Photo Cache folder will be created (and the previous folder will remain).

The iPod Photo Cache grows over time, so nuking it every once in a while is helpful, as iTunes will rebuild it as needed. Here's a note from that Apple support document:

If you need to free up space on your hard drive, you can remove the iPod Photo Cache folder. Deleting this folder won't remove the original images from your library, and the folder will be recreated the next time you sync Photos with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

If I can't get rid of this folder, I can at least make it where it's just taking up space on my local disk, not on my Dropbox account.

I thought this could be done with a simple symlink.

First, I moved my iPod Photo Cache to my local disk, in my Documents folder. I then created the symbolic link in Terminal. A symbolic link (or symlink) functions basically like an alias.

Here's the command:

ln -s /Users/Stephen/Documents/iPod\ Photo\ Cache /Users/Stephen/Dropbox/Photos/Photo\ Library

The first path tells the command where I want the files to actually reside. In my case, I want my iPod Photo Library to be in my Documents folder.

The second path — separated by a space in the command — tells Terminal where the symlink should go.

I set all this up, then realized that Dropbox will follow a symlink, and still sync the contents of the folder. In short, not actually saving me any space.

(I've read mixed things about using Aliases to trick Dropbox into doing things, but they all seem fragile.)

I then looked at Dropbox's selective sync settings, but it does the opposite of what I actually need:

As I need this folder to live only on my local disk, but in a directory whose other contents are syncing with Dropbox, this does the opposite of what I actually need.

There is, however, a way to have Dropbox ignore a local folder via its selective sync settings. Here's what I did to keep my iPod Photo Cache folder in place, but not eat up tons of space on Dropbox:

  1. I took my iPod Photo Cache folder out of my Dropbox directory and made sure it was gone from the Dropbox website, as a backup to keep iTunes from having to re-build it.

  2. I then created an empty folder in its place with the same name and told Dropbox's selective sync feature to ignore it. This made Dropbox think it just has an empty folder in the cloud, and after a moment, the dummy folder disappeared from my local Dropbox folder.

  3. Next, I drug my original iPod Photo Cache folder back to its original location. Since the Dropbox app is set to only keep a copy of the folder on the cloud, it won't attempt to sync a local folder in the same directory with the same name.

Now my iPod Photo Cache is where it should be, and iTunes can have its way with it, all while being ignored by Dropbox:

If Dropbox's selective sync ever loses that setting, my big-ass folder will try to sync again, but for now, I'm saving a good bit of space on my paid account, which is good news.

Loom joins Dropbox

Today's the day for photo management news, I suppose. Loom, the cloud-powered photo storage system has joined Dropbox:

We’ve been working hard to create a photo management solution for people just like us. People who have too many photos in too many places, taking up space, collecting dust on our phones, our computers and our external hard drives. It’s big problem and a common one that many have been grinding hard to solve!

It’s been a long road and we feel that we have come a long way in solving this problem. We are elated to announce the next step in this journey: Loom is becoming a part of the Dropbox family. We look forward to this transition as the next step in creating a home for all of your photos and videos, seamlessly organized, while still keeping them at your fingertips. With Carousel, Dropbox has created a gallery for your life’s memories. It’s a single home for all your photos and videos, automatically organized and always with you.

Loom users will be able to migrate their photos over to Dropbox, and will be able to keep any extra space they had purchased for a year if they use Dropbox's new Carousel app.

Flickr 3.0 for iPhone and Android introduced

Flickr's Bernardo Hernandez:

On Flickr, everyone gets 1,000 gigabytes of storage free, enough space for more than 500,000 photos, pretty much all the space you’ll ever need. Our new Auto Sync feature lets you seamlessly upload all your original quality photos from your phone automatically to your account, so that Flickr can be your camera roll in the cloud.

Today we are also introducing a new way to rediscover and explore your images. Even if you have thousands of photos, our intelligent search engine will help you find what you’re looking for fast. Flickr’s understanding of your photo’s date and time (ex: “January 2014”), place (ex: “San Francisco”), and even scenes and objects (ex: “car,” “sunset,” “beach,” “portrait”) helps organize your images so you don’t have to.

I have a tendancy to forget about Flickr — despite using it — but there's some interesting stuff going on over there, too.

Photos+ 1.1 adds Dropbox support

Federico Viticci:

Photos+ 1.1 has kept the app’s straightforward approach and visualization of photos, but thanks to Dropbox integration it can now look for photos inside a Dropbox folder. Photos loaded from the Dropbox retain the same options of local photos: you can view metadata, share photos, and open a location panel to see where a photo was taken on a map. Obviously, the app requires a few extra seconds to load a full-resolution photo from Dropbox — thumbnails are loaded at a lower-res to speed up the experience — but everything else works just like the old app.

Sadly, it's not perfect:

Unfortunately, I can’t use Photos+ 1.1 with my current Dropbox photo management workflow because the app doesn’t support sub-folders: the app can only load photos stored in a single folder (like the default Camera Uploads one in Dropbox), and this means that I can’t currently use Photos+as a photo viewer for my photo collection, which is organized in folders for years and sub-folders for months. I understand that most users who rely on Dropbox for photo storage and management usually keep photos in one folder, but I think it’d be nice to provide a setting to specify where and how the app should look for photos in your account (Carousel, released last week by Dropbox, shares a similar problem).

Unbound continues to be one of the only apps that does what I (and Ticci) really need. I'm looking forward to more developers tackling this head-on.

The Sweet Setup's complete backup guide

Over the last several weeks, Shawn, Jeffrey and I have been working on what evolved into an epic 5-part series on backing up your Mac:

There's no excuse for not backing up your Mac, so if you don't have a plan in place, or want to brush up on what the best tools on the market are, be sure to flip through these articles.

The Problem and the Solution

This week on The Prompt, Federico, Myke and I re-visit Carousel, Greg Christie’s departure from Apple and CarPlay. Then, Federico buys a shirt on the air and leads a discussion about boredom with apps, tinkering with setups and feature creep in apps and services.

The more things change...

My post from earlier earned me a stack of email. A lot of was in agreement, but one email from a reader named Larry jumped out at me:

At a restaurant, for example, don't kids have crayons and a placemat to color? Hasn't this been common for decades? How is that inherently any different than an iPad? Isn't the point to give a child something to do? Certainly we can question specific things kids might be doing on an iPad, but isn't the concept of offering a distraction to a child in public really pretty normal and common and not really that bad?

I see Larry's point — my specific example isn't all that new of a situation.

He goes on:

The technology has changed, but the idea stays the same. The same thing with my nephew who is prime Minecraft age. When my brother-in-law put it in the context of, "These are basically like the Lego we had as kids" it made perfect sense. Similar concept, new technology.

Clearly, we look at the world with a filter based on the time in which we live, as @rounded_wreck on Twitter wrote:

@512px when I was a kid, and we were on a long drive, my father used to tell my brother and I to put our books down and look out the window.