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Computer Health Part 1: Backup!

In a multi-part series, I want to help my family and friends ensure they’re taking care of their computers!

Of all the things you need to do with your computer, backing up your data has to be the most important. As Alex Lindsay says regarding data on your computer, “if you don’t have two copies, it doesn’t exist”. The bottom line is, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when your computer’s hard drive will crash. The unfortunate truth is hard drives typically last 3, 4, or 5 years, but when they die, they typically die hard. Thus, the day they fizz out, you’ve lost everything on them!

So if you have any digital pictures or videos you cherish, you absolutely need backups! So, in order to have at least 2 copies of your important data, you need to have one (or more) of the following:

  • Another computer – I know I like to have copies of my pictures on both my laptop and desktop computers. Right away that gives me two copies.
  • External Hard Drive – these are so cheap now that it’s scary. I typically stick with Western Digital or Seagate as a brand. Size-wise, you can get upwards of a Terabyte for $100. (In case you don’t understand quite how big 1TB is, it’s roughly 300,000 mp3 songs!) Although you can find them at any computer shop, for the best price I suggest newegg.com or amazon.com online or MicroCenter if you live near one of their stores.
  • Online storage – this type of business is growing like crazy. Companies like mozy have become quite popular because you can use it to back up 2GB for free. But from what I’ve heard, the best may be Carbonite. Unlimited, automated backup for $50 a year is hard to beat!
    • Why do you need storage outside of your home, you may ask? Fire, flood, electrical surges, external drive failure, etc etc. Depending on how much you cherish your data, you want it backed up in numerous physical locations!
  • CDs/DVDs – although this option is becoming less popular because of the aforementioned ones, it’s still feasible. Back up files to disk and if you want to take it offsite, store them at a relatives house or at work.

So, the first step is where you will store your data. Just as important is the second step – routinely backing it up! You can manually go and save off files every week (more or less frequently depending on your level of paranoia) or you can have it automatically done. Many of the online services will do it automatically for you. Other than that, I like Microsoft SyncToy because it’s free and has a simple interface and it makes backing up files easy. There are many other synchronization tools out there, though.

Finally, my last piece of advice is to think long and hard about what files you need to backup:

  • pictures, music, movies, and files you use every day
    • a good place to start for Windows users is their “My Documents” folder
  • e-mail and contacts if you still use a desktop e-mail program (although, I recommend moving to “e-mail in the cloud” like gmail)
  • internet bookmarks (another recommendation – xmarks – free service which saves all your bookmarks online and can sync them with all of your computers)
  • financial data from programs like Quicken, MS Money, or TurboTax
  • run Belarc Advisor and save / e-mail the results (a list of all your installed programs and installation codes) to yourself for future reference

Look around in the programs you use with all the previously mentioned data – most have some type of backup functionality which will save off all of your data and settings.

I know this is a lot to consider, but I’ve heard from too many people who are heartbroken over losing irreplacable data! Don’t let this be you! Back up your data today!!

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

Twitter me this, Twitter me that

13 April 2009 2 comments

Lately I’ve seen a lot of people wondering about Twitter on their Facebook profiles.  My first experience with Twitter last year didn’t impress me much, but the more I’ve used it lately, the more I like it.  Since bullet points are such a hit on blogs, I’ll try to keep your focus…

What is twitter?

  • Twitter is “microblogging” limited to 140 characters per post
  • People are “followed” just as they’re “friend”ed on facebook
  • “Follow”ing is one-way: I follow Shaq, but he doesn’t have to follow me
  • Message someone by preceding their name with “@
    • the message is understood to be intended for that person
    • still a public post that everyone can see
    • e.g. tweet: “@jimgaffigan you’re a riot!”
  • Directly message someone so no one else can read it (like an e-mail)
    • e.g. tweet: “d @RyanSeacrest out!”
  • Short URLs are common b/c most web site addresses > 140 chars
  • Any tweet can be starred and will be saved under your Favorites link
  • You like someones tweet, so you “retweet” it by preceding it with “RT”
    • your followers will see it
    • give credit to the original author
    • e.g. I tweeted: “RT @DaveHatter: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails” – John Maxwell”
  • Include a “#” before a term to label it under that “topic” 
    • good for grouping tweets allowing for better searches
    • e.g. @espndev tweeted: “Nevertheless; The #Bengals Will Win The Super Bowl!”
  • Twitter Search – great way to find out what’s going on

Plus, I think it’s not just the “tweet”ing that’s fun, it’s the 3rd party applications that interact with it which are neat too.

Third Party Application examples:

  • WeFollow – organizes the most popular users into categories
  • Cursebird – real-time feed of people cursing on Twitter (hilarious!)
  • TweetDeck – most popular desktop app for Twitter (+Facebook)
  • Twitter Fan Wiki – a pretty thorough list of apps

My suggestions for getting your tweet on:

  • Just try it out!
  • This is very public, so don’t post anything you’ll regret!
  • Start slowly – following a ton of people may overwhelm or annoy you!
  • Try it mobile – I use and really enjoy the free iPhone app TwitterFon
  • Tweet cool places, foods, facts, etc and not your boring, daily activities
  • Follow me and let me know what you think!
Categories: Technology Tags: ,
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