Preserving Digital Memories

The older I get, the more obsessed I have become with preserving life’s memories through photos and video. With so many companies offering their storage solutions, we’re living in an age where storage is no longer something that comes at a premium. There are a wide variety of pricing and feature tiers for all, benefiting us as consumers. If you have full trust in the service provider, they are suited particularly well for the majority of consumer needs.

For many years, I have always been conscious that I’m a photo hoarder and believe that there isn’t a bad photo one can take with the help of advancements in phone camera technology. If you ask any of my work colleagues, they’d probably tell you I have a problem. When we go on any of our socials, I’m the first person to whip out my phone and take pictures as they make nice mementoes to look back on and share.

On a more personal note, during last years Diwali I came to the sudden realisation as we all sat down to my mum belting out her prayers that this will not last forever and it dawned on me that these are truly special moments. Being an Indian who is culturally inept in all the senses and cannot speak his native tongue, I would be comforted knowing that I'll have photos and video to look back on many years to come. From that moment, I decided to make an active effort to capture smaller moments like these. Maybe the pandemic has shown me not take things for granted and appreciate time with family more.

I got a little serious in my crusade and took things a step further by acquiring as many family photos as possible by purchasing a photo scanner to digitise all prints for safekeeping. Prints fade in time, not in the digital world.

Photo Backup Strategy

Whether I take photos on my phone or my FujiFilm X100F camera, the end destination will always be my Synology NAS where I have the following redundancies in place:

  • RAID backup on all hard disks.
  • Nightly backups to the cloud using BackBlaze.
  • Regular backup to an external disk drive and stored off-site.

As expected, my phone gets the most use and everything by default is stored within my Google Photos account using free unlimited storage. I then use Synology Moments that acts as my local Google Photos where my photos are automatically stored to my Synology in original quality.

My camera gets mostly used for when I go on holiday and events. I store the RAW and processed photos on my Synology. I still upload the processed photos to Google Photos as I love its AI search capability and makes sharing easy.

At the end of the day, the layers of redundancy you put in place depends on how important specific photos are to you. I like the idea of controlling my own backups. I take comfort knowing my data is stored in different places:

  • Synology
  • Backblaze
  • Google Photos
  • Offsite Hard Drive

Cloud Storage and Shifting Goalposts

The fear I had pushed to the back of my head finally came to fruition when Google changed their storage policy.

The recent news regarding the changes in Google Photos service gives me a sense of resolve knowing I already have my local storage solution that is already working in parallel with Google Photos. But I can’t help but feel disappointed by the turn of events though.

Google Photos provided a fundamental part of the photo storage experience by making things easily accessible to family and friends. No longer will I be able to invite friends/family to contribute to shared albums unless they opt for the paid plan. Now when you’re surrounded by iPhone users, this creates another barrier of entry.

Final Thoughts

If I have carried out my photo archival process correctly, they should be accessible to future generations for many years to come and continue to live on even after I’ve expired. This should be achievable as I’ll still continue to maintain this time-capsule as technology continues to evolve.

The most important take-away: If you strip down my approach to the barebones, I’m not giving in to the monopolistic behaviour of the giants - Google, Apple or Microsoft. Just using them as a secondary thought to compliment my process. It’s just my NAS doing the heavy-lifting where I set the rules.

These priceless heirlooms is a legacy and my gift for future generations to come.

Setting A Radio Alarm On A Google Nest Hub: The Long-winded Approach

I love my Google Nest and it truly is a revolutionary piece of kit. Not only does it display my photos but it also forms a key part of some basic smart-home automation. I really have no gripes. But there is one small area I feel it's lacking. The Radio Alarm. I'm the type of person who detests alarm sounds and prefer my sleep cycle to be shattered by something a little softer, like a radio station.

How difficult is it for Google to add a feature that will allow one to wake up to their favourite radio station? I would have thought this key feature would be very easy to put in place, after all, the Nest Hub can carry out much more complex operations. There are varying reports that this feature is available only within the US, which I find very odd to why this is the case. Does Google not know here in the UK we also would find this feature useful?

In the meantime, whilst I await an official release (that may not come anytime soon!) I managed to concoct a somewhat preposterous way to get some form of radio alarm automation. You will require the following:

  • An Android phone with Google Assistant capability
  • Google Nest Hub (standard or max)
  • Phone stand to sit next to your Nest Hub (optional)

The premise of the approach I detail is to get an Android phone to fire off the alarm at the desired time and when the alarm is dismissed manually, the phone will utter a phrase that will be picked up by your Google Nest Hub and play your radio station.

If you’re still here and intrigued by this approach, let's get to it!

The first thing we need to do is set up a “Good Morning” routine on the Google Nest Hub, which can be done through the Google Home app on your phone. It is here where we will carry out the following:

  1. Assistant will section: Adjust media volume to 40%.
  2. And then play section: Select Play radio and enter the name of a radio station.
  3. Save the routine.

Now when you utter the magic phrase “Good morning”, the Google Nest Hub will do exactly what we set up in our routine. Now we need to add some automation to do this for us and this is where the alarm feature on your Android phone comes into play.

I cannot be sure if the alarm feature on all newish Android phones gives the ability to define a Google Assistant routine. If it does, you should see this as an option when setting the alarm. We need to carry out a similar process as we carried out (above) when setting a “Good Morning” routine on the Google Nest Hub:

  1. When I dismiss my alarm: Adjust media volume to 50%.
  2. Select the “Add action” button and under the “Enter command” tab, enter the following text: Hey Google. Good Morning.
  3. Leave the “And then play” section to do nothing.
  4. Save the routine.

Your phone will ideally be placed in close proximity of your Google Nest Hub for the “Hey Google. Good Morning” utterance to be heard. In my case, I have my phone right next to the Nest Hub on my bedside cabinet to make it easy to dismiss the alarm.

I have to concede the approach I have to take comes across quite lame. It just seems ridiculous that you have to rely on a phone to fire off a process to allow one to have the radio to play automatically. Why can’t routines be more flexible at Nest Hub level?

I’m unable to determine whether my approach comes across naive or clever. Maybe it's somewhere in between.