iCloud Photo Library and iTunes Sync Solutions

The new iCloud Photo Library feature in iOS 8.3 and OS X 10.10.3 is a HUGE improvement over Apple's old My Photo Stream. We’ve been using it ourselves for a few months now and it’s been working really well.

There is however, one particularly exasperating problem that people are encountering when they try to enable iCloud Photo Library in their Settings or during their upgrade to iOS 8.3. They see a very scary warning message like this:

Photos synced from iTunes will be removed.

Syncing photos via iTunes is not supported when iCloud Photo Library is turned on.

XX photos will be removed

Most sane people confronted with a warning like this will tap Cancel and forget about iCloud Photo Library forever. After all, who wants to have a bunch of their valuable photos deleted?

However, we’d like to suggest that the benefits of iCloud Photo Library are sufficient that you should consider going ahead anyway if you’re willing to follow the steps in the rest of this blog post.

What Does the Warning Mean?
First of all, the warning means business: if your iOS device contains photos that you’ve synced at some point in the past via the iTunes app running on your Mac or Windows PC, they will be deleted from your iOS device when you enable iCloud Photo Library. Bummer. (It’s hard to understand why the Apple iOS engineers didn’t take the time to do something better, like maybe ask if you'd like to keep the photos even if they no longer sync...)

That’s the bad news, but the good news is that, assuming you still have all those photos on your Mac or PC, it’s pretty straightforward to restore them to your iOS devices using iCloud Photo Library itself.

If you don’t still have the photos on your Mac or PC, then definitely do NOT enable iCloud Photo Library because they will indeed be deleted forever.

How To Restore Previously Synced Photos to your iOS Device

If you decide to go ahead and tap Remove Photos when you enable iCloud Photo Library, the next sections describe how to then restore the removed photos back to your iOS device from either a Mac running OS X or a PC running Windows.

Mac OS X
If the photos that you previously synced to your iOS device are still on your Mac, follow these steps.

  1. Upgrade the OS X operating system on your Mac to Version 10.10.3. If for some reason you cannot upgrade it to 10.10.3 (e.g., insufficient disk space) then you should follow the steps below for Windows.
  2. Once your Mac is running 10.10.3 your old iPhotos app will have been replaced with the new Photos app. So launch the new Photos app on your Mac and when prompted, enable iCloud Photo Library. This will (eventually) upload all your photos to iCloud where they can then be downloaded to your iOS devices. 
  3. Then, back on your iOS device(s) enable iCloud Photo Library (in Settings or during the upgrade to iOS 8.3) and go ahead and tap the scary Remove Photos when prompted.

    Depending on how many photos are on your Mac and iOS devices, within a few minutes or possibly hours, all of the photos on your Mac will be copied to your iOS devices and all of the photos on your iOS devices will copied to your Mac. From then on, all your photos will stay in sync between your Mac and your iOS devices without you ever needing to use iTunes to sync them again.

If the photos that you previously synced to your iOS device are still on your on your Windows PC, then you have to use the iCloud.com web site, since there isn’t an Apple Photos app for Windows (at least not yet).

  1. On your Windows PC (or Mac), use your web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) and go to www.icloud.com. Login using the same iCloud username and password that you’re using on your iOS devices.
  2. On your iOS device enable iCloud Photo Library (in Settings -> iCloud -> Photos or during the upgrade to iOS 8.3) and tap the scary Remove Photos when prompted. As mentioned above, the synced photos will be removed, but the next step will put them back.

    Depending on how many photos are on your iOS devices, within a few minutes or possibly hours, all of the photos on your iOS will be copied to iCloud and you should be able to see them appear in your Photos page on iCloud.com.
  3. Now go to the Photos page on www.icloud.com in your browser and click the Upload button at the top of the page. This will then open a file chooser that will let you choose the photo files that you want to upload to iCloud. For example, you can navigate to your My Photos folder and select the photo (.jpg, .gif, etc.) files that you want to restore to your iOS devices. Once you have the files selected, click Choose and the chosen files will be uploaded to iCloud. 

    Depending on how many photos you’ve uploaded, they should all eventually appear on your iOS devices in the Photos app.

Since you can no longer use iTunes to sync, there will no longer be any automatic “sync” from Windows. Each time you add or make changes to photos on your Windows PC, you’ll have to again go to iTunes.com and manually Upload the photos so you can see them on your iPhone or iPad. (Maybe some day Apple will update iCloud for Windows to support iCloud Photo Library, but the current version only supports the old My Photo Stream.)

Photo Albums
One of the features of using iTunes to sync photos to your iOS device was that you could choose to only sync specific albums or folders.

For example, if you’re an architect and you only wanted to sync a small portfolio of photos from your Mac to your iPad, you may have created a “Portfolio” album in iPhoto and then used iTunes to selectively sync only that album to your iPad.

If you’re using the Photos app on the Mac, iCloud Photo Library will include all of your photos iCloud Photo Library - it doesn’t have album-level selectivity. However, all of the albums on your Mac will sync to your iOS device so you can selectively see just the photos in, for example, your Portfolio album. And if you choose the “Optimize iPad Storage” setting in Settings -> Photos, your possibly unwanted photos shouldn’t consume any space on your iPad (typically just the space for each photo's small “thumbnail”).

On the other hand, if you use iCloud.com instead of the Photos app or you’re a Windows user, you can manually upload only the photos you want, but it’s strictly a manual operation. And, worst of all, if you let iOS "remove" all your previously synced photos from your iOS device when you enable iCloud Photo Library, all the photos will also be removed from their folders (though the folders themselves seem to be retained). In other words, any work you did to put the synced photos into albums on your iOS device will be lost, even after you restore your photos from Windows via iCloud.com. 

Leviathan by David Sedaris

A funny, moving article by David Sedaris was published in the Jan. 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker and is worth a read.

The author describes a family reunion at his house on Emerald Isle. His brother’s diet, relationship with his father and local color including turtles are all fair game.

Memories can be fickle and for many of us holding on to the good memories can be just a little harder to do. As David Sedaris writes:

"Is it my fault that the good times fade to nothing while the bad ones burn forever bright? Memory aside, the negative just makes for a better story: the plane was delayed, an infection set in, outlaws arrived and reduced the schoolhouse to ashes. Happiness is harder to put into words. It’s also harder to source, much more mysterious than anger or sorrow, which come to me promptly, whenever I summon them, and remain long after I’ve begged them to leave."

Later on he writes:

"While I know I can’t control it, what I ultimately hope to recall about my late-in-life father is not his nagging or his toes but, rather, his fingers, and the way he snaps them when listening to jazz. He’s done it forever, signifying, much as a cat does by purring, that you may approach. That all is right with the world. “Man oh man,” he’ll say in my memory, lifting his glass and taking us all in. “Isn’t this just fan-tastic?”"


At least those good memories have been written down. Hopefully they took some photos.

The future of photos on the Web

Yesterday, Om Malik wrote a blog post titled "On visual web, a photo is worth more than a 1000 words" and how hard it is to find the photos you want to see.

His article is very interesting and validates much of what we are thinking and planning for the future of  Timebox.

According to some estimates, we all will upload 900 billion photos to the Internet this year - a crazy and awesome number.

A few comments from the article we thought were worth repeating:

  •  “An image is the gateway to your emotional memory,” Sophie Lebrecht, CEO and founder of Neon Labs.
  • "Personalizing your photo experience by helping you find the right pictures is a great opportunity."
  •  "We desperately need a service that helps us create a visual timeline of our life. That app is even more important now that we are not making photo albums like we used to.” 
  • “We experience moments or interactions as feelings that are associated with objects, scenes and images. So perhaps when we see later see the image, memories of those interactions, moments and feelings come back. There is just so much metadata in that image!"
  • "These timelines will not just be personal: We have come to a point in society where photos and videos are part of the larger sociopolitical dialogue.”

We are working on the next version of Timebox and will address a number of Om’s requests. Today, Timebox helps you create a visual timeline of your life and Timebox 3.0 will make it even easier.

The screenshot above is a sneak peek at Timebox 3.0. Stay tuned...


Give custom gifts created by Timebox


Are you looking for the perfect gift to surprise someone this holiday season? Timebox makes it really simple to create a custom hardcover book, magazine or poster collage with all the photos and stories from your adventures together. If someone already has everything, you know they won’t have that.

We have given Timebox gifts to people in our lives and the experience has been really fun. People love them. I gave a collage poster to my sister and her husband to celebrate the first year of their baby’s life - over 300 photos with dates and captions. Everything was a first.

We gave a couple books to Len’s mom to remember her trip to visit us in Seattle, a Summer of visitors to her home and her recent Thanksgiving trip to Chicago. 

One of the best things about Timebox is being able to share your photos and stories with the friends and family members who are in them. Maybe from last summer’s family reunion, a friend's wedding or that impromptu party?

Don’t wait until the last minute, the printing process takes a few days. If you do end up in a pinch you can always give an ebook - fast and free.

We wish you a very merry holiday season. 

Long Now Foundation, Rosetta disk and Rosetta Space Mission

If you are not familiar with the Long Now Foundation you may want to check it out at http://longnow.org

The Long Now foundation “was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-tern cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

Rosetta space probe approaching the 67P comet - photo by ESA

The Long Now blog is always interesting and we are especially interested in their coverage of the Rosetta Probe's Landing

The Rosetta Mission will deploy the Philae lander onto the 67P Comet on Wed. Nov. 12, 0214. The event will be streamed live from 6:00 am - 9:00 am PST. We’ll be watching and hope you will be too.

(The European Space Agency also has some more great photos of the Rosetta craft and the 67P Comet on Flickr.)

Rosetta disk - photo by Laine Stranahan

The Long Now has been participating in the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission for over a decade and there is even a copy of the Long Now's Rosetta disk, an archive of 1,500 human languages, onboard the Rosetta Probe.

P.S. In September, we wrote about artist Katie Paterson’s wonderful Future Library project and the Long Now did too. Their story has lots of interesting details and is worth a read. 

Keep Track of the Wines You Drink

A couple of weeks ago we had dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants and the people next to us were in the process of choosing a wine. Their conversation went something like this:

Q: Have we had this wine before?
A: I don’t know.

Q: What did we have last week?
A; I don’t remember.

Q: Have we had this one before?
A: Not sure.

Bartender: You had that one last week.

Being into wine ourselves we thought Timebox could help them keep track of the wines they drink. As much or as little info as they want to keep:

  • wine name
  • producer
  • region
  • grape varietal
  • vintage
  • photo of the label
  • where purchased
  • price
  • your rating - 5 stars -  love it, 1 star - plonk.
  • drinking partners
  • food

We couldn’t help ourselves so we told them about Timebox and they downloaded it right away. 

Making a category for wine is easy:

  1. Tap Categories
  2. Tap Customize
  3. Tap New Category
  4. Enter a Category Name like "Wine"
  5. Tap the plus sign to add the fields you want to track.
  6. Tap done.

To keep it super simple steps 1-4 will suffice.


Timebox 2.5 Now Available

Timebox 2.5 includes lots of new story and photo sharing features

We are happy to announce the availability of Timebox 2.5 on the App Store. If your apps automatically update, you might already have the newest version.

Timebox 2.5 is compatible with iOS 8 and includes some new features requested by you, our customers. Thanks so much for helping us make Timebox better!

We have already started working on the next version of Timebox that will integrate even more iOS 8 goodness.  Stay tuned.

Please download this latest version of Timebox and rate it in the App Store. Ratings really do help our visibility.

As always, feedback and comments welcome.

What’s new in this version:

• iOS 8 support.
• You can now swipe left and right while reading a story to go to the previous or next story.
• Improved story sharing with the standard iOS sharing user interface.
• Story sharing now includes text Message, Flickr, save to Photos app, Copy to clipboard and Printing.
• Story sharing via email is now an HTML embedded in the message up to 60 photos.
• You can now share/copy/print a single photo in a story by tap-and-holding on an individual photo (not while editing).
• Photo files with date prefixed filename (e.g., "2014-06-17-Seattle.jpg") will use that date for the photo.
• Photos tab now opens to the last source and albums, even if it's Dropbox or Facebook.
• You can now create a duplicate copy of a story in the Stories tab by tap-and-holding on the story and choosing Duplicate Story.
• On iOS 8, Viewing a photo from an iCloud Photo Streams will automatically download the full-resolution version of the photo.
• New faster internal database.
• Many other bug fixes, performance improvements and minor enhancements.

Please note: This version supports iOS 7.0, 7.1 and iOS 8 (iOS 6 is no longer supported with updates). 

Digital Amnesia

"Our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years, a webpage is forever changing and there’s no machine left that reads 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable.

Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true? For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia?"

This description is from the Dutch public broadcast organization, VPRO, of it's Digital Amnesia program. Digital Amnesia a fascinating documentary about the world-wide problems of everything "going digital". It's really worth watching if you're interested in how long bits last.

You can access the world-wide English version of the documentary on YouTube:

"This VPRO Backlight documentary tracks down the amnesiac zeitgeist starting at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, whose world-famous 250-year old library was lost to budget cuts. The 400.000 Books were saved from the shredder by Ismail Serageldin, director of the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who is turning the legendary library of classical antiquity into a new knowledge hub for the digital world.

Images as well as texts risk being lost in this ‘Digital Dark Age’. In an old McDonald’s restaurant in Mountain View, CA, retired NASA engineer Dennis Wingo is trying to retrieve the very first images of the moon. Upstate New York, Jason Scott has founded The Archive Team, a network of young activists that saves websites that are at risk of disappearing forever. In San Francisco, we visit Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive that’s going against the trend to destroy archives, and the Long Now Foundation, which has put the long-term back on the agenda by building a clock that only ticks once a year and should last 10,000 years, in an attempt to reconnect with generations thousands of years from now."

2114: A Library Project

There is an interesting New York Times article about a time capsule for writers: http://nyti.ms/1qT9NVQ

The Scottish artist Katie Paterson has created a project called Future Library that will result in a “special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years’ time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished until 2114.” 

The Deichmanske public library in Oslo will be the time capsule for the project and the first contributor will be Margaret Atwood. Not knowing what printing will be like in the future, the project coordinators even equipped the library with a printing press. 

Only time will tell what happens with this project but according to history “Embargoes, like scarcity can breed fascination."