Bob and Joy Schwabach

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January 2008, Week 1   



How important is backing up? Well, heed now this cautionary tale.

One night, Bob was working late next to a columnist who had just finished his piece for the morning newspaper. Suddenly, with just 10 minutes to deadline, the columnist's computer crashed, wiping out everything he had just done.

His solution was immediate and straightforward: He threw the computer out the window, which was closed at the time. Unfortunately, the window was on the 13th floor of the newspaper building; fortunately, it was after midnight and no one was walking below.

Such stringent measures and possibly dire results might be avoided using Acronis True Image 11 Home, a $50 backup program for Windows that captures a true image of what you've just done. Now we know that Windows XPAcronis True Image Home Professional and Vista Premium systems have their own backup routines built in. (You can find them by clicking "start," choose "help and support" and type "backup.") But the latest version of True Image lets you do a number of things the built-in Windows software does not.

 The program comes with lots of extras that many people have asked us about over the years, like File Shredder and Drive Cleanser. File Shredder makes your discarded files unrecoverable; Drive Cleanser completely wipes your hard drive clean, for that moment when you're going to give your old computer away.

The one thing you can't do with the True Image home version -- or Windows backup software, either, for that matter -- is clone one PC's drive and transfer it to a new computer or an entire office network. But you can do this with True Image Echo Workstation for $80, plus a $30 add-on called Universal Restore. You can then take the whole shebang -- everything on your hard drive -- and transfer it to a new computer, even if that computer is just "bare metal," as they say. A free trial of Echo is available at


Roxio Easy Media Creator is now in its 10th incarnation (will there someday be a Roxio 20?), and the price was recently dropped from $100 to $80 after rebate.

The drop makes a lot of sense since so many people have earlier versions of Roxio and those do most of what this one does. What's been added is a three-Roxio Easy Media Creator 10step process that lets you automatically edit your video for posting to YouTube or to put it on a DVD. Also new in this version is a feature that lets you capture and edit high-definition video and add surround sound.

Easy Media Creator 10 is huge. More than 35 programs have been thrown together in an "everything but the kitchen sink" collection that lets you do just about anything in editing audio and video. Some of these programs are available in similar forms as part of Windows and Mac computers. But if you're willing to spend some time learning the ins and outs, the Roxio grab bag can be a good deal. Tech support people tell us you get more consistent results if you use Roxio.

The Mac version of Creator 10 is called Popcorn 3, which lets you easily transfer video to portable devices, like the iPhone or iPod, Blackberry, and even the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. This includes a feature called TiVo ToGo, which lets you pull anything saved on a TiVo box and transfer that to any of the aforementioned devices.

Creator 10 was easy to use for recording Internet radio stations and equally easy to use for converting video footage between formats. Enhancing photos taken with a cell phone -- often low-quality -- was simple and gave good results. We could make a 50-hour DVD of songs, and their titles and other information scrolled by the computer screen as we listened.

On the downside, a feature called Live Share did not work. This is supposed to let approved viewers riffle through a picture collection and download full-resolution copies. Our approved viewers got nothing but "page not found" messages, and working with Roxio tech support did not solve the problem. You can use a service from, instead, to share full-resolution pictures free for 30 days.  has a comparison chart that shows which features in Creator 10 are available in earlier versions. If those are the features you want, you can buy earlier versions on eBay for $10 to $15.

INTERNUTS  is the site for a fast-paced geography game. It gives you a city and you try and pinpoint it on a world map. If you miss, it shows you how far away you were. When you're way off, a message says: "This isTraveler IQ Earth, you know that, right?" When you're close, it tells you "You rock." (By theTraveler IQ way: In many tests done over the past several years, approximately one-fifth of U.S. high school students could not identify the United States on a world map.), an Internet search engine that responds to plain language questions, has an "Eraser" button you can click to automatically erase any information about search queries and remove any cookies that were collected. It is available in the U.S. and U.K. right now and will be expanded to other countries shortly.  is a new U.S. real estate site from Home and Garden TV. It combines sales lists from major Realtors and has 1.2 million listings. It also has some good advice about how to back out of a deal: Make a note of some flaw in the property and cite it later if you change your mind about buying.


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