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April 2001, Week 2 -- Fireman, Save My File

  

 

   Backing up is hard to do. Or at least it used to be.

 Iomega QuikSync Backup Software

 

   Backing up files used to be a very "techy" experience. The programmers would have confusing, almost unintelligible, menu screens, which they would then call "intuitive." When you asked why the program changed file names or stored them to strange locations, they would give you a hard-eyed look and ask the killer question: "How technical are you?" 'How technical are you' is the touchstone among engineers and programmers, who are really asking: "Are you one of us?" I'm not.

  Iomega has a new version of "QuikSync," which is an easy to use backup program available for Windows. It used to be free, but worked only when backing up files to Iomega drives; the latest version costs $20 but permits backup to almost any drive.

 

   Backing up tends to be boring, so market surveys show that only about half of all businesses, and less than a third of home users, backup files more than once a month; most do it less than that. QuickSync is one of several backup programs that backs up 'on the fly,' as they say, backing up files as they are changed and at intervals set by the user.

 

 Drive Backup

 

   Another good backup program we have written about before is from NTi (NewTech Infosystems) and is specific for backing up files to CDs. In order to use this you have to have a CD drive that can write to blank CDs. These are becoming quite common, however, and often come with the latest desktop computers.

   One of the things that confuses people is the question of just what are they backing up. There is a common belief that when you back up your files to a storage drive you are backing up the programs as well. This is not true. Backups work with files. There may be some programs that can be backed up to another drive and still work, but very few. The reason is most programs use embedded registry files resident in Windows, and without those files they will not run.

   If you need or want to backup whole programs and their files, you basically need to backup the whole disk drive. Programs that do that are called "drive imagers;" they make an exact copy of your computer's disk drive onto another drive. The problem of course is that most users have several gigabytes of programs and files on their computer, and they therefore need a drive with huge capacity to perform the backup. This can be cut down using compression routines, but it's still going to be a lot to store.

 

   NTi is good on this level as well, with a program called "Drive Image Backup." But once again the restriction is that it backs up only to drives that can create CDs.

 

   Other drive imaging programs are "Drive2Drive," from Higher Ground Software, and "Drive Image," from PowerQuest, and these are not restricted to CDs. You can find reviews of these products in earlier columns on our web site.

 

   Iomega phone info: 801-332-1000; web: www.iomega.com.

 

Internuts

  

-- www.saunalahti.fi/~animato/  A bit of clicking takes you to the greatest model railroad site we've found so far. It's in Finland, where a Finnish cartoonist and animator shows you how to do those things and also how he built his Z-scale layout. (The site is in English.) He also provides tons of links, photos, film clips and history. Did you know Walt Disney was a model railroad buff, building much of the equipment and layout himself? Model railroading, it turns out, is very popular with animation artists. Other interesting model railroad sites are www.lionel.com  and www.marklin.com.

-- www.queendom.com  Tests and quizzes aimed at women: personality, intelligence, trivia, health, etc. Also has articles on health.

 

-- www.openseats.com  An online exchange for buying and selling tickets to sporting events, concerts, and even cruises and vacation specials.

 

Many out of one

 

   You can run several computers with just one monitor and keyboard using what's called a KVM box. KVM stands for "keyboard, video, mouse." You could add a printer, scanner or any other peripheral as well.

 

   An obvious place for a KVM box is a situation where only one of several computers is likely to be in use at any one time: groups of servers, schools, and even at home. All the computers can be running, but each comes on the screen only when selected.

 

   KVM boxes save money and space in such situations and we've looked at them before. The most recent example is the "SwitchView" box from Avocent. It lets you connect four computers at once and has a list price of $299. The box requires no software, and lights on the front panel indicate which computer is online.

 

   For more information, call Avocent at 866-286-2368; web: www.avocent.com.

 

Books

 The Public Domain

 

 

   "The Public Domain: How to find and use copyright free writings, music, art & more," by Stephen Fishman; $35 from Nolo Press, www.nolo.com.

   There's a lot of interest in this topic, especially following recent court decisions restricting the transmission of MP3 music files. Just what can and cannot be placed on the web without fees, or used in advertising and traditional publishing. Last year Congress extended the then existing copyright period of 35 years for another 20 years. Were it not for that, Mickey Mouse would now be in the public domain, as would the music of George Gershwin.

NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

 

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