Bob and Joy Schwabach

This Column Appears in:
Birmingham, AL  "News"
Little Rock, AR "Democrat Gazette"
New Britain, CT "Herald"
Orlando, FL, "Citizen Gazette"
Vero Beach, FL, 'Press Journal"
Kaneohe, HA, "Midweek"
Geneva, IL, "Chronicle"
Shreveport, LA "
The Times"
Worcester, MA Telegram & Gazette"  
Carlisle, PA, "Evening Sentinel"
Fort Myers, FL "News Press"
Spokane, WA, "Northwest Online"
Bangkok, Thailand,  "Post"
Shanghai, China “Daily News”
Hanoi, Vietnam "Vietnam News"  























July 2008, Week 2 




This is so cool we’re not sure where to begin. That’s because it’s actually two cool backup things, so we can start with either one. 

We’ll start with “ClickFree,” a 120-gigabyte pocket-sized hard drive that plugs into any Windows computer and backs up all your files. No, we don’t mean you first load some software and then select what you want to backup, you just plugClickFree the drive into a USB port and boom, off it goes. Now that’s really click-free. You can take the drive around to  five Windows PCs, plug it in and it will back them all up. We found it for $105 at Amazon. It doesn’t get any easier than this, except maybe the next backup thingy.  

The other kind of ClickFree backup comes as a set of three DVDs for $10. There are three kinds of packages: one for office files, one for photos and one for music. Each set is $10. Take out one of the disks – the digital photo backup, for example, and put it in the DVD drive on any Windows computer. A box will come up showing the number of files and how much space they will occupy. You will have the opportunity to select which you want to save or save all. The disk will then collect the photos and store them to that same DVD. The three disks in the $10 package can hold 6,000 photos. The backup handles photos in any of 70 digital formats, including the RAW files used by some professionals.  

The set of disks for backing up digital music can hold 3,000 songs. The disk is for storage only; it will not play on your stereo.  The set for the office can hold 27,000 files. Once again, just put in the disk and it’s all automatic. If three aren’t enough, the company sells packs of ten for $28. Web site:  

Flash Drive Failures 

We never had a flash-drive fail, but a reader dropped us a note recently to say his flash drive had failed and we should alert people to the problem. Okay. 

He thought it might have failed because he only paid $8 for it, but that probably wasn’t the reason, expensive flash drives fail too. There is a lot of chit-chat on Flash Drivethe web about flash drive failures and you can bore yourself to tears reading it. But the most common cause seems to be pulling the drive out of a computer before closing it. 

In short, a flash drive should be handled the same way you would handle any other external storage device, like one of the old floppy drives, or an external hard drive. If the drive isn’t closed before pulling the plug, you can mess up the contents. You should click on a little green arrow or check mark that says “safely remove hardware” when you stop using the drive. The mark is in the task bar at the bottom of the desktop window. 

Sometimes, pulling the drive out without shutting it down wipes out everything, but more often it just corrupts the operating software. Sometimes you can still see a list of the drive’s contents but can’t store or change anything. If you can still see the files, text or photos, you should be able to transfer the entire contents to the computer. After that, reformat the flash drive – just right-click it from “my computer” and choose “format.” 

Physical failure of a flash drive is pretty rare, because the drive is what we call “solid state.” These days that usually refers to something that has no moving parts. That means it’s hard to shake something loose, since there’s nothing to shake. Still, don’t jump up and down on it. 

Do Companies Know Where They Are? 

Wrong information about a business came up again, as it has a hundred times. We went to a major corporation’s web site – in this case, Verizon Wireless – to find their nearest location to our home. The site's “Store Locator” informed us the two nearest locations were, respectively, four and 25 miles away. This was nonsense, since we knew there were Verizon cell phone centers closer than that. In fact, it turned out there was one around the corner from us. 

We searched next for a nearby store that sold Dansko shoes. These were recommended to us by an airline stewardess because she said they were easier on her feet. Dansko's  store locator quickly turned up two stores within two blocks of us. The difference? Dansko, it turned out, uses a service calledFind Store “GeoCoding,” which costs them about $3,000 a year. It’s a data service that provides up-to-date information on business locations and many other things. You can get a free trial of this service by going to Click on the box labeled “Free Lookups” for a host of information about real estate, zip codes, store locations, demographics, etc.  


The latest in O’Reilly’s “Missing Manual” series is “Your Brain: The Missing Manual,” by Matthew McDonald; $25 from This book is long overdue; we always wondered what was going on up there.  

There’s lots of information about the relation between brain activity and food and sleep. Why do bats sleep for 20 hours, for example, and giraffes only four?  And then there are shortcuts the brain takes that lead us to bad assumptions Your Brainand wrong conclusions. The brain starts to shrink starting around age 20, which must be why some people we’ve met seem to have brains the size of a peanut. (The reason bats sleep 20 hours and a giraffe only four, by the way, is fear of predators. If you lived on the roof of a dark cave you wouldn’t worry much about being attacked either.)  

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns here at or seven years worth of columns at