Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2001, Week 4 -- The Ghost in the Machine


 Norton Ghost 2002


   A new version of "Ghost" from Symantec solves nearly all the problems of moving to a new computer or doing backups.

   The new 2002 version of Ghost provides several ways to clone your existing computer files and programs. You can duplicate everything onto a new computer's hard drive, or you can clone your old machine's contents to tape, a different hard drive, CD, DVD, etc. An initial cloning can be updated later, meaning simply that if changes are made to the primary computer, there is no need to copy the whole system over, only the changes will be copied.

   Pricing is good on this new Ghost, $70 list for single users, in line with other drive imaging products. This used to be a hideously expensive program, available only to corporate buyers. It gave the IT (information technology) manager the power to update every computer in the corporate system, more or less simultaneously, from his master computer. This assured that everyone had the same working programs and files. The program works with Windows and Linux ext2 files.


   Other versions of Ghost still do this. Five and ten-user packs for small businesses cost roughly $280 and $560; the price drops to $6.60 per user for companies buying licenses for more than 1,000 computers.


   Last year's version of this program received "editor's choice" awards from PC Magazine, and while this version we're looking at is too new to be reviewed in magazines yet, it is likely to be given top honors as well. One of the best features for new users is a clean and easy to use interface; early versions of Ghost were quite "techy," as they say.


The 100-gigabyte drive


   As long as you're cloning a computer's entire contents, what could be a better place to put it than a 100-gigabyte drive. We're trying out a new 100-gig drive from Western Digital, which the discount mail order houses are selling for $280. That's $2.80 a gig, as the techies might say, not much more than the price of a blank CD.


   The advantage of such large capacity drives for backup are speed and capacity. Even DVDs pale in comparison to being able to store 100 gigabytes on a single drive. And of course hard drives are as fast as you can go with a mechanical system. The data transfer rate (how fast information can be moved to or from the drive) is 100 megabytes a second; that's the equivalent of a CD every six seconds.


The online numbers report


   The market research firm Jupiter Media Metrix estimates that 40 percent of online users in the U.S. will be connected to the Internet by one of the high-speed broadband networks, like cable modem and satellite transmission. That's all a "guess and by-golly," of course; the present number is nine percent.


   Even that nine percent is somewhat misleading, since there is a preponderance of broadband users in the financial services industry (brokerage, banking, etc.), where the use is dictated by the need to keep pace with fast moving market quotations. Among the general public broadband use is probably less than five percent. The problem here is what the industry calls "the last mile." In other words, it's no problem to get high-speed lines into a city or neighborhood, it's getting it into each home that costs the most time and money.


   Much depends on the expansion of broadband, like the delivery of movies on-demand and conferences in real time. Microsoft and Intertainer (sic) Inc. just announced the availability of 70,000 hours of movie and TV entertainment through a video-on-demand subscription service in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. AOL-Time/Warner is expected to follow suit shortly.




--  An internet based intelligence service. Intelligence reports on global hot spots, financial problems, possible coups and domestic issues for the U.S. and many other countries. The service is primarily aimed at companies wanting private intelligence reports, kind of a pay-as-you-go CIA. But many reports are also available free on the web site.


--  The huge retailer has set up a section of their web site where you can browse 25,000 books. That's nice, since it's what we do in bookstores. While it sounds like a ton, it probably doesn't take that much capacity to do the 25,000 books. If we make a guess of a dozen sample pages per book, and a maximum of 200 words per book page, Amazon could do them all in 300-350 megabytes of storage -- half of a CD.

--  Explanations of what those cryptic initials and names mean on the lab test report you got from your doctor.

-- Recipes for 4,667 no-fat and low-fat vegetarian dishes. Non-vegetarians are allowed to browse.

--  Jokes, games, magic tricks and the kind of odd facts (dogs sweat through their tongues) that fascinate kids.



  Arts and Crafts


   "The Arts and Crafts Computer, using your computer as an artist's tool," by Janet Ashford; $35, Peachpit Press

   A surprisingly interesting book. We all know you can make greeting cards and name tags and such with a computer and color printer, but this goes way beyond that. There are lots of interesting ideas and techniques for creating unusual art. The author uses a Macintosh, which is still the primary computer for graphic artists.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or