Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More about iPhone backup

Last week we talked about backing up your iPhone, which, by the way, is a super important thing to do on a regular basis. If I ever lost all of the precious photos that I've taken at the Arboretum, I'd... I'd... well, I'm not going to let that happen, and neither should you. 

Apple has made it ridiculously easy to back up your iPhone to the nefarious cloud that we've all heard about. In case the term "cloud" is confusing, it is really just a bunch of (land-based) computer servers that store your data, known to Apple's slick marketing and technical team as iCloud. Lucky for you and me, backup is done automatically on your iPhone through iCloud, usually an hour or two before or after midnight, but only if your phone is turned on, charging, locked, and Wi-Fi enabled. Apple even gives you 5GB of free storage space to welcome your data.

There is also the option of using iTunes that's installed on your computer to back up your iPhone as a physical backup to the iCloud backup. The iTunes backup is stored on your computer's hard drive, whereas the iCloud backup disappears into Apple's network of servers (iCloud) in distant lands of their choosing. My choice is to do both: Let the iCloud backup happen seamlessly on its own while you sleep, but do an occasional iTunes backup to your computer for your own piece of mind--which might help you sleep better.

But, of course, nothing is this simple, and little things always seem to get in the way. For instance, do you have iCloud Backup enabled on your iPhone? Apple's iCloud isn't going to do you any good if it isn't.
To check, tap: Settings > iCloud, then scroll down to Backup.

Tap Backup and make sure that the toggle is pushed to the right and the light is green. If it is, then you've been in business all along, and your most current backup probably happened around midnight last night. If it's off, turn it on, then tap the blue letters a bit further down on your screen that say Back Up Now. Be sure that you are logged on to a Wi-Fi network first. This will be your first backup, so it will probably take a while. After that, the automatic iCloud backup should happen each night while you sleep.

As always, you'll get the best information from Apple itself. Here is a link that will tell you more than you probably want to know.

Stay tuned for more tips about backing up your iPhone to iTunes and how to manage your Photo Library

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

iPhone backup

The differences between iCloud backup, iCloud Drive, and iCloud Photo Library are confusing, to say the least. It’s always best to consult Apple support for the definitive steps to using any of Apple’s backup and cloud-based storage. Below is the Apple support webpage that I found most helpful. It details how to backup via iCloud and iTunes. Both of these methods create files that are meant to restore your iPhone. One is stored in the cloud (iCloud backup) and the other on your computer (iTunes backup).

When enabled on your iPhone, iCloud backup automatically backs it up each night when WiFi is enabled and while it is being charged. For iTunes backup, your phone has to be physically attached to your computer with the Lightning adapter that you use to charge your iPhone with.

Only relying on iCloud backup requires a certain amount of faith in Apple’s servers which I don’t have. That’s why I like to make a secondary backup to iTunes on an occasional basis that is safely stored on my computer—which is then backed up again to an external hard drive or another cloud-based backup service. The biggest advantage with iCloud backup is that any data you add to your phone is backed up every 24 hours, whereas the iTunes backup is only as current as the last time you got around to doing it.

There is another difference between the two backups: If you have Photo Library turned on, the iCloud backup does not back these images up because they are already stored on in Photos and pushed to all your Apple devices. iTunes backs up everything on your phone, including your photos. Here is yet another reason to make periodic backups with iTunes: if you accidentally delete an image on your phone, it automatically gets deleted on If you have an iTunes backup that you made after that photo was taken but before this deletion,  it will still be there to be retrieved. 

Keep in mind that neither of these backup methods are meant to be have their contents revealed to you, though there is third party software like Wondershare that can read the iTunes backup file and allow you to access the contents. Each of these backup methods is really intended to restore your iPhone after a reset, or to transfer data to a new phone. 

I will tackle iCloud Drive and iCloud Photo Library in a future post. Learning this stuff is a journey, not a destination. 


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Here are the steps for adding an Event to your iPhone calendar

1. Touch the underlined date and time of the event you want to add and this window will pop up:

2. Touch Create Event and your iPhone calendar will open with the date and time already added. If there is no end time, it defaults to one hour. 

3. Unfortunately, the title will show the subject line of the eNewsletter by default, so be sure to delete it and add the title of the correct event. In this case, it's: Season Finale Lizard Walk.

4. If you like, you can also add Boyce Thompson Arboretum as the location. (There are other things you can add, too, like add a few notes, but let's not complicate things!)

5. Touch Add in the upper right of your screen and you're done. 

6. Open up your Calendar app, and, as Yoda would say, "There, the event, should be."

If you're having problems with this, send me an email, and I'll try to help guide you through it. Kim

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fungus Fever in Arizona

A basketful of boletes and Amanita cochiseanas.

Are you somewhat bored with life and looking for excitement? Do you feel a strong desire to wander around in wooded landscapes? Do you have an obsessive personality? Well, have I got a “hobby” for you! Mushroom hunting! It’s like gold prospecting but doesn't require dynamite, picks, shovels, or mules. 

One of the most ancient organisms on earth is fungus. It has had at least a billion years to spread out and ramify into over a million species. There are molds, yeasts, and mycelia. They all serve as Nature’s composters (along with bacteria). In the case of some mycelia, they also work with the root systems of other plants to help nurture healthier trees and shrubs. Life on Earth would probably be unrecognizably different without fungi. (See Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.)

Mycelia are thread-like organisms that produce the “fruit” we commonly refer to as mushrooms. Mushrooms are found throughout the temperate regions of the world.

Often we notice mushrooms only by chance encounters; relatively few people go looking for them. In our culture, mushrooms are considered cryptic and dangerous. But to really appreciate mushrooms, one must go to the forest and take the time to marvel over the great abundance and diversity of species that grow in a relatively small area. (I can walk a few hundred yards in a damp pine forest and be astounded over how many different mushrooms there are – sometimes growing side-by-side.)
Amanita muscaria

Some people think that Arizona isn’t much of a place for hunting mushrooms but that's not true. Certainly the arid low desert lacks fungal variety even though there are a few desert-specific mushrooms (Podaxis pistillaris, Montagnea arenarius, and Battarrea phalloides) that are common to see after a rain. It’s in the mountains where you get the full mushroom effect. In the right season - which is the monsoon season between mid-July to late September - mushrooms are plentiful in the high country.

This year, mushroom season has come to Arizona about one month earlier than usual. On social media sites, foragers are all a-buzz with July’s profusion of boletes, chanterelles, and "oysters".

Hunting for edible mushrooms is not something to be done lackadaisically. You must be engaged and able to identify certain characteristics of mushrooms before entertaining the thought of eating them. Does the mushroom you found have gills, pores, or “teeth”? If there are gills, are they attached to the stem or not? Is there a collar encircling the stem? What kind of trees are around the mushroom? If you aren’t absolutely sure of the species you collected, DO NOT EAT IT. Although this is common-sense advice, we all know that common sense isn’t necessarily common. 

Amanita phalloides? I think so.
 There are some regional mushrooms that will likely kill you if you eat them – Amanita phalloides and Amanita ocreata. They may not be abundant, but you only need one to die. Then there are quite a few mushrooms that will make you sick – the frequently seen Amanita muscaria, Cortinarius spp., Lepiota spp., Rubroboletus satanas, etc. There are also many mushrooms that are simply inedible due to bitter taste. And finally there is the confusing fact that many edible mushrooms have poisonous look-alikes. Clearly you have to be aware of what you are doing before you ever consider collecting mushrooms for the table.

For now, I encourage you to look at the beauty and diversity of mushrooms without worrying too much about eating them. Mycology can be a rewarding hobby if you dedicate yourself to a little study and pay attention to detail. After you become familiar with the world of fungi, you will never again be able to pass forest or field without wondering what might be growing therein. (I confess that I often think about mushroom collecting throughout the year. Is it a healthy preoccupation or some kind of neurosis?  Hmmm, I’m not sure.)

Information related to mushrooms is readily available online. There is also a Facebook page – Arizona Mushroom Forum - where you can see exactly what people are finding in the highlands of Arizona. Too, I recommend three books for your library:
All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora
Mushrooms and Truffles of the Southwest by Jack States
A Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America published by California Natural History Guides

Good luck on what might become a fever the doctors can't cure.
-  T. Stone

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Lobster mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Few Words in Defense of Spiders

     I know, I know – you hate spiders. Spiders are the creepiest of all terrestrial life, you say. Spiders like to sneak into houses and bite unsuspecting children, you say. Spiders are as evil as snakes and - as everyone knows - snakes are pretty evil, you say. But allow me to posit this idea to you: You are wrong and unnecessarily burdened by cultural prejudices. In a country that takes great pride in its ideals of independent “free” thought, I see a lot of people who are slaves to unfortunate misconceptions.
     Let’s first consider an obvious undeniable fact. The existence of spiders is as valid as the existence of all other life forms, including human life. Does that seem like a rather cold view of the world? Not at all; I’m just not human-centric in my judgement of nature. All life on earth has evolved over the eons to arrive at this moment in time precisely as we see it (or, one could make the argument, as imprecisely as we see it). Tapeworms, wolves, nematodes, whales, humans, and spiders all have equal claim for their place on Earth.  
     Let’s also admit that we are apparently biased against spiders because most of them aren’t as pretty as, say, butterflies. If spiders had beautiful wings, would we be less inclined to squish them with a shoe? Most spiders are cryptic in coloration because they depend on stealth to capture prey. So, let’s agree not to judge them too harshly on aesthetics. Beauty, after all, is only skin deep.
     Besides the facts that spiders are a part of our evolutionary heritage and that we humans are easily manipulated by cultural prejudices, you might reasonably ask, “What’s so interesting about spiders?” My answer is, “Everything.”
There are almost 40,000 known species of spiders in the world. They vary in size from almost microscopic (Patu digua) to as big as a dinner plate (Theraphosa blondi – the goliath bird-eating spider). Most spiders are small with a body length not exceeding half an inch.
     Yes, it’s true that spiders aren’t vegetarians. They are evolutionarily obliged to kill things for their meals just like lions, lizards, and anteaters. Spiders don’t have a choice to eat vegetarian food like humans do. Almost all spiders are venomous (excepting feather-legged orb weavers) but very few have a bite that can harm humans. The venom is needed to quickly subdue prey. Keep in mind that most female wasps and bees are venomous too, thus the pain of the sting.
As pointed out above, spiders aren’t usually noted for their beauty, but there are certainly those that are arrayed in brilliant colors. Some tarantula species (Mygalomorphs) and many jumping spiders (Salticids) are flamboyantly decorated. (For jumping spiders, the colors serve a purpose in their mating rituals, but it is unclear what evolutionary advantage tarantulas get from being brightly decorated.) There are a few spiders – such as crab spiders – that can adjust their color from white to yellow to match the flower they’re on.

     Even though some spiders have exceptionally good eyesight (wolf spiders and jumping spiders), most have poor eyesight and depend primarily on “touch” for survival (another reason why color isn’t important to the majority of spiders). The hairs on their legs serve the same purpose as whiskers on cats – to feel the world around them. The webs built by many spiders also serve as an extended network of nerves that signal when prey has been snagged. 
      And those webs! Spiders spin silken threads from glands on the posterior end of their abdomens. This silk, in comparable thickness, is stronger than steel. Spiders use the silk for capturing prey, encasing their eggs, for temporarily tying down their mates, and for building a safe hideaway. Webs take on different shapes depending on which species makes them. For instance, if you see an orb web, you can be assured that a black widow - a cobweb weaver - didn’t create it.  The bolas spider (Mastophora spp.) captures moths by lassoing them with a strand of sticky thread. Diving bell spiders (Argyroneta aquatica) actually live under water in an air bubble held in place by silk. And let’s not forget the silk used for flying! Newly hatched spiderlings often fly to distant places by climbing to the tip of a leaf and releasing a long thread that allows wind to carry them aloft like a kite; it’s called “ballooning”. 
      Finally, here in Arizona we have many distinctive spiders. There are a few species of Loxosceles spiders that many people erroneously call “brown recluses”. (A brown recluse is Loxosceles reclusa and lives in Texas, east to Georgia, and up into Virginia. They do not naturally occur in Arizona.) Our Loxosceles species are supposedly less virulently toxic in their bites. We also have black widows (Latrodectus spp.) which have bites of “medical significance”, but usually stay in their webs unless molested by humans. Normally black widows are very shy spiders and will fall to the ground and play dead if humans try to capture them. One of the most interesting of the local spiders is the spitting spider (Scytodes sp.), a very small and slow-moving creature that captures prey by spitting a sticky venom. And, of course, we have desert tarantulas, the largest spiders in the United States. 
     Spiders are important for the fact that they eat mostly insects and other spiders (black widows, by the way, frequently eat scorpions!), thus keeping down populations of potentially harmful pests like mosquitos and flies. If a spider should be wandering around in your house, it is simply because it’s looking for prey. It is never in your house to attack you. Keep your house a little cleaner and clutter off the floor and you will see far fewer spiders.
     We as humans have a limited natural ability to study nature. Our unaided eyes can only see a small portion of the stars (and none of the billions of galaxies) in the Universe. Nor can our unaided eyes see the microverse of bacteria and viruses, etc. However, we do have the ability to take the time to pay attention to the smaller creatures around us and, in the process, learn something about ourselves and our place in Nature. Spiders are often maligned and needlessly killed due only to ignorance-driven fear. Much of that fear is culturally-based - a learned reaction rather than a natural response. Here we have an opportunity to reconsider these small animals and to marvel over the fascinating lives they live. More knowledge is always a good thing. 

-T. Stone
(If you are interested in this topic at all, come out to the BTA on Saturday, May 30th, to see a slide show presentation by T. Stone on the subject of spiders. Live specimens will also be presented and we’ll walk around a portion of the BTA to look at webs. Starts at 10 a.m.)