Monday, March 29, 2010

Can Google Cure our Poverty Ills?

Here is an assignment I just wrote for my English 300 class. Yes, I currently live in Google, KS. Oddly I hadn't taken the whole thing very seriously until I wrote this paper. Funny how writing an English paper can make you think, even at my age. I think I am going to try to get it published in the school newspaper or maybe the local paper.

The Google Cure

Here on Washburn campus, it seems the internet is all around us. We've got complete Wi-Fi coverage in all the buildings and many of us have 3G wireless internet on our cell phones for when we walk outside. One may be prompted to ask, “So what's the big deal about this Google thing?” As many of you may know, for the month of March we no longer live in Topeka, KS. We now live in Google, KS (Hrenchir, 2010).  At least till April Fool's Day. So, then, what is the big deal with this new ultra-high-speed internet service Google may or may not offer in our fair city? Why should any of us care? We've already got all the internet we could want and then some. Well, some of us care because of all the other people in town it could affect. You see, not everyone has access to the internet, especially not at a speed that is actually useful. This disparity has become known as the “Digital Divide.”  Bharat Mehra, an assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee who specializes in “the use of information and communication technologies to enable and empower communities to meet their needs and goals” (Mehra, n.d.) defines the “Digital Divide” as “the troubling gap between those who use […] the Internet and those who do not” (Mehra, Merkel, & Bishop, 2004, p. 782).  In a report he co-wrote in 2001, Mehra went even further to say, “The digital divide is really a socioeconomic, cultural, and power divide that exists at both local and global levels” (Bishop, Bazzell, Mehra, & Smith, 2001). This troubling gap, as you will see, can have profound effects.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recent experiences with backup software.

I just finished an arduous search for inexpensive or free backup software. I finally settled on Macrium Reflect to take disk images of my system drive and GFI Backup for my data. At least for now. In the process of this search I wasted three days trying to get the Acronis software to work in any form of a reliable manner. I ultimately failed. You can see more information here.

Some notes:
Macrium reflect uses a sector-based imaging method. This is fine, unless you want to take incremental images and you also defragment your hard drive at any time. Defragmenting the hard drive changes almost all the segments on the disk and therefore an "incremental" image will be almost as large as the original image. However, this means that you now have to keep both images around if you want to be able to restore to the later version. Do this a few more times and you are keeping four and five times the original drive size in backups just to have the latest version available. In the end, this makes the incremental imaging feature utterly useless, because any sane computer user defragments their hard drive on a regular basis. Therefore, you can use the free version of Macrium Reflect and not really be missing anything from the full version, as far as imaging goes.

I do not like the file backup of Macrium Reflect because it does not store any history of what files were backed up. Or, at least, it does not make that history available to the users if it is stored. The only way to find out if a file is in a backup is to mount the backup as a drive letter and look yourself. If you don't find the file in one backup then you have to mount another backup and look in there. It is a terribly tedious process. Finally, the Macrium Reflect backup files are in a proprietary format so the only way to get anything out of them is to use the same program you created them with.

GFI Backup is available in a free version that is pretty darned good. They currently don't offer a paid for version but I assume they will eventually. Or maybe they did in the past. I don't know. It keeps a history and you can check to see if the file you have on the drive has changed since you made a backup. It will also give you an estimate of how large the next incremental backup would be so you can wait to backup until you have a certain number of changed files. (You would have to keep checking yourself as it is not automatic. However, it would keep you from making a large quantity of very small backups if it isn't necessary.) Unfortunately, the history does not allow you to see all the different versions of the backed up files.

The contents of this post is Copyright © 2009 by Grant Sheridan Robertson.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why I will never buy Acronis software, and neither should you.

This is a kind of review of Acronis Backup and Security 2010 as well as Acronis True Image Home 2010. I fought with that software for about three days straight. I kept giving it the benefit of the doubt because it has a lot of features that other drive imaging products don't have. However, I finally reached my breaking point. Here is the last post I made on their forum. If you read it you will see, if you are contemplating purchasing that software, you should look elsewhere:

Installing Acronis Backup and Security without the antivirus and firewall parts.

Complete instructions on how to install "Acronis Backup and Security 2010" bundle without the anti-virus and firewall components: leaving only the "Acronis True Image Home 2010" component.

Note: it is not technically possible install only the ATI part. You must install the whole deal and then uninstall the ABS2010 part.

After fighting with this software for almost three solid days, I have come to the conclusion that it is not really worth the trouble. It has also been made clear to me that once the license term of the Backup and Security 2010 product comes to an end that the True Image Home 2010 will cease to be fully functional. It will continue to restore backups but will not make new backups until you renew your subscription. However, I went to a lot of trouble to figure out this procedure and I figure it might be useful for someone so I am posting it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Windows 7 to Windows XP: Peer-toPeer Networking

Below is a list of instructions for getting Windows 7 and Windows XP to communicate via peer-to-peer networking. I have compiled them from notes and forum posts I have found all over the internet. None of the posts I have found were anywhere as complete as these so I thought these might be helpful for someone.

Note: a large part of these notes use a concise GUI notation system called GCGUINS™ that I have devised for brevity.