Backup

Yesterday, I did something on my phone that took less than a minute and cost me about seven hours of rebuilding. Decided to start tinkering with Advanced Configuration, a homebrew tool from Julien Schapman. Aside from some registry and sound tweaks, the app also has a feature to create/redefine your theme/accent colors. Playing around with the feature I discovered there was no way to create a new accent color even though I (and probably you) have seen Julien do just that in his video demos. The only option was to select an existing color and then change it to whatever you desired. While I really didn’t mind losing pink, purple and lime, I still desired to keep the initial ten colors and add additional entries. Another issue, is although your tiles and built-in apps will use the new defined color, all the third party apps continued to use the original color the accent was based on. So after changing pink to Firebrick (which is a badass color btw), my Start screen and email looks great, but all the third party apps are highlighted with pink. Geezz.

So Mr. Brainac found the registry key containing the 10 accent colors, along with a key assigning the current default. I figured if I added an 1th entry, as a placeholder, I could go back to Advanced Configuration and change it to something in the app color palette. Sounded simple enough. So I created an new entry and called it Yellow, exited the Reg Editor and tried to open Advanced Configuration. Nope. Kicked me right out. Back to the Start screen. Email works, good. Opened Settings and noticed that the current stock accent color was not listed as usual under Theme. Tried tapping on it, and kicked back out. Tried going back to the Reg Editor. Same problem. OK, a soft reset and battery pull should clean this up, right? Wrong. I guess most every third party app looks at that theme list to determine the contrast color and they didn’t like yellow.

I knew there was only one solution, Settings/About/Reset Your Phone. Being my second factory reset this month I have become somewhat of an expert on the subject. An hour to reset the phone, and resync everything with Zune, manually of course because Zune forgets that my phone is still HTC Surround1. About 6GB of music, photos and videos. Another hour to dev unlock, load Schapmans three homebrew apps, and deal with the 30 pre-loaded apps, 12 of which I had previously deleted and needed to delete again, and another 5 that were loaded as trials, although I had purchased long ago. Then another two hours to hunt and peck Marketplace for the 129 additional apps/games that were not pre-loaded. Two more hours after that to go through a good number of apps and reenter credentials, retrieve backups (thank you) and enter info that I had saved earlier this month with my first planned factory reset. And probably another hour  for final review and cleanup. Still half as long as my WinMo 6.1/6.5 days, but as usual, some info lost forever.

Now that I have dealt with this a second time I am really starting to embrace the Cloud. The restorable stuff was simply a pleasure to deal with. While a full desktop backup could be an option I think it might be sort of overkill to backup media that I already have synced on my PC, plus backup all my apps, especially those that don’t actually store any data, sort of seems senseless. And unless you do a backup almost every day, you are always going to lose significant info, not to mention newly added apps, deleted apps, etc. I think a better solution is Cloud backup of third party data, where it’s appropriate, and a better Marketplace app reinstall solution of course. I compiled a list of apps that needed some attention after being reinstalled. Let’s see how they fared:

Clever ToDo – Just started using this app recently, specifically because of it’s great Live Tile feature. The app does have a backup solution, but not knowing where the data file is going I was hesitant to try it. After exchanging a few emails with the developer who has been very responsive I am comfortable enough to give this a try for the next time. Fortunately, I am running my tasks concurrently with WinMilk (see below).

Fuels – Not a biggie, but I have been trying to keep track of my mileage (and rising fuel prices). No backup here so I had to recreate a dozen entries from scratch, some that were harder than others to tack down. Will be looking for, and willing to pay for, a backup solution.

Ice Alert – I know, no one will look at this anyway on my phone, but it makes me feel better. Took about 10 minutes to reenter everything, again

i Heart Radio – I only have10 favorite stations but it was a pleasure to login and watch them reappear on the screen. Thank you.

IMG News Reader – I use this app for my daily dose of basic news and only had 6 RSS feeds to reload, but would still have preferred a backup solution, using SkyDrive or Dropbox. How hard could it be.

Internet Explorer – yeah Microsoft, I’m talkin to you. I purposely do not save many links cause I know I will lose them eventually. The few I do  want to keep around, like the Seminole County Water Commission, to check on “don’t drink the water” alerts, I have backed up to my PC. The rest, send me a link. BTW, took me a good chunk of time to find this link the first time so reentering is the lesser if two evils.

Location Finder – This developer is actually planning some kind of backup solution, which is a good thing. If you have been somewhere and save the location info or save an entered address, it would be nice to hang on to this often irreplaceable data.

My Favourites – Recently started using this speed dial app and only had 9 entries. Good thing. There is a sort of backup solution where you send the info as an email, and then need to convert the content into an xml file, which can be uploaded to SkyDrive for eventual restoring. Too much work, and too many chances for error. Just back the file up to SkyDrive in the first place. As far as I know SkyDrive does not have a Troll that charges developers a toll to use it. So use it.

Notesly+ – Only started using this last week to replace Lists and Notepad Plus. The app backs up your txt/xml files to your Dropbox account. I crossed my fingers and a few seconds later my 6 files were back on my phone. Well worth 0.99. And now I am comfortable using this app for more stuff.

Remember All – Been using this app to take photos and add descriptions of items for comparative shopping or future purchases. Needless to say, it didn’t remember. A post it and the corner of my wallet would not have forgotten, but too late for that now.

Resco Radio – Think these guys can take a queue from i Heart Radio. Great that you have thousands of channels to choose from. Not so great when you have to navigate through those long lists to recreate your 6-7 preferred stations that took a long time to find the first go around.

Smart Shopping – This app does have a feature for sharing shopping lists that I will need to look into. While I don’t plan to share any lists, if I can use it to backup that works for me. Had this database built up well before my first reset earlier this month. Now I have to start over, again.

Sound Recorder/Tape Recorder – Glad I don’t keep any meaningful recording on my phone, which can’t be backed up, btw. Come to think of it, not sure why I even have these apps.

SkyWallet – I knew how this was going to turn out because it worked perfectly a few weeks ago. Entered my SkyDrive credentials and all my password, ewallet info was just as I left it.  And with a desktop companion app coming soon, damn near perfect. Thank you very much.

Stocks – Fortunately I only track a few stocks but it would be nice to back this up to the Cloud. But then again HTC and software don’t do well together, so maybe I should look for a better solution.

Today Counter – You know, a novel app to tell you how many days you or your kids have been around. Or how many days its been since whatever. Getting a little tired of reentering data here so this one might just have to go.

Traffic Cams – Not that big a deal to re-favorite a dozen or more traffic cameras, but these guys already have a website. So give me a login so I can sync my favorites, or just take the SkyDrive/Dropbox route.

Weave – Another RSS reader app with hundreds of available feeds, so not much to enter. But you still need to select your preferred categories and deselect the feeds you don’t want. Additionally, I have a category for Local News where I manually enter a few feeds, and of course Mobility Digest. I don’t expect the developer to support a dedicated server but a simple backup of preferences to SkyDrive would be nice. The whole file is probably about 1K.

WinMilk – Entered my Remember The Milk credentials and everything was as i left it. With this app not seeing a Live Tile till at least Mango, I am keeping it around for recurring tasks but have put my day to day stuff into Clever ToDo. Still good that I was able to recover.

So bottom line for developers is, I and probably a good handful of others would be willing to spend a few dollars for a data intense app that also provides a simple backup solution. Everyone’s time is valuable, not to mention the risk of losing important detail and data. I know I will be using this as a determining criteria for future app acquisitions and suggest you consider the same. We all know that a factory reset is not as much an “if” as it is a “when”.  Be prepared. 

16 COMMENTS

  1. It’s only a “when” when you are tinkering with homebrew bullshit. Waste of time, and shoddy development.

  2. It’s also a “when” if you want to change out an SD card and restore what was there. I’d love to have a way to backup at the current point and be able to restore when I swap things out. Sure that doesn’t affect all devices, but seeing that the Focus has this, it would really help out when we want to test things and _not_ reinstall all of our apps and music.

  3. Maybe risky, but not shoddy Frank. I am not looking to spend all my nights tweaking and trolling XDA. Actually have not been there in three months. But I did long for custom ringtones and a solution to non-working live tiles. I got that with TouchXplorer and Registry Editor, which both work fine. I have tried the 5 usable colors available, about a month each, and was itching for a few of my own. Let there be no mistake, it was my fault and I have learned my lesson this time. I have avoided the tweaks that promise to boost speed and perform other miracles cause I figure MS knows better and I trust them. But adding a few 150K WMA files or changing a few letters in a color key are no going to bring down my phone or burn excess battery. Just don’t put your phone in your shirt pocket when leaning over, well just about anything. More than one reason to need a good backup. Me screwing up is only one example.

  4. Pocket Recorder has a pretty good setup with export/sync to a small server on the desktop and a few other slick features. I also had to laugh when I realized I’m not the only one who jumped from WinMilk to Clever ToDo, though for different reasons. I get awful reception @ work, so I needed a better offline solution than WinMilk offered.
    Thanks for sharing your trials here. It’s been enough to keep me on course with letting MS handle the core changes and avoid my WM days of flash/reflash/restore/crash/restore… I want my old ringtones back, but not that bad!

  5. @ChrisL: That’s an understatement.

    @Eddie: Yeah, think I did see that with Pocket Recorder but never had anything meaningful to record, but I will keep that thought in my back pocket. The Clever ToDo developer has some new tricks planned for the future so it should be a good ride. And ringtones were not that bad. There is actually a folder already labeled “My Documents/My Ringtones”, but regular users just can’t get to it. First you need to sync your ringtones via Zune (either WMA or MP3), stripped of all details so they wind up under Unknown Artist. With an unlocked device, use TouchXplorer to navigate to My Documents/Zune/Content and the first folder (0100) on the list which will contain your ringtones, labeled something like 5f.mp3 or 61.wma. They are easy to find cause they will be in KB’s instead of MB’s. Select all the files and copy them to My Ringtones. Listen to each and rename appropriately. That’s it. Assign them to your contacts using People or use as a main ringtone in Settings, whatever. A little complicated but fortunately not much can go wrong, aside from mislabeling a file. Accent colors, well you already know about that one.

  6. what phone do yo have Jim? cause adv config doesn’t do that on my Mozart or HD7!!!

  7. I have a Surround, but what I did in the registry is complete outside the scope of Advanced Configuration, but was the result of something that this tool is not doing. In past versions you could add new accent colors on top of this stock 10. With this version you can only delete or change any of the stock 10, not add. Several other users have reported this on the Adv Config forum. That’s why I went and tinkered.

  8. I forgot to mention my other roadblock to playing with any of these: Windows XP support. Every computer I currently have access to is XP-based. One of these days I’ll catch up with the times, but my corporation is on XP and my 10-year-old home machine still works great! Until then, I’ll watch patiently as you guys figure out the pitfalls for me!

  9. Yeah, I ran into that. My 6 year old desktop, 7 year old laptop and 8 year old notebook all run XP, and not worth upgrading at this point. But my brother’s machine has Vista (boy does that suck) so I had a way to download developer tools and dev unlock.

  10. I like the phone and platform as is. I really see 0 reasons for needing to tweak anything on my phone. That’s what my computers are for.

  11. Understood. As noted though, my efforts were less about changing and more about enhancing. Couldn’t wait till XMas for ringtones and my live tiles not working were a real nag. Downloaded this latest tool specifically to get a 3G toggle, which my phone does not have but apparently several other models do. Being connected to WiFi almost all the time I wanted to see how the battery would respond to 3G being turned off for a day. The color change thing was gravy, although Firebrick is a really sweet color. Would trade it with lime, brown, pink or purple any day. Not interested in performance tweaks and other OS altering stuff. My phone works just fine.

    Had it shipped with ringtone capability, live tiles that work reliably and maybe the 3G toggle, I would still be locked.

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