Zonbu: PeoplePC Reincarnated

Back when PeoplePC was first created it provided a “free” PC (replaced every three years), dial-up Internet service and in-home warranty service for a monthly subscription of around $25. Despite ads promoting it as a free PC with an Internet subscription it had all the earmarks of a financing plan. These days PeoplePC is just a dial-up ISP brand that’s part of Earthlink. Zonbu has taken the PeoplePC model and updated it for Web 2.0. And then dropped the Internet connection.

Zonbu is getting ready to offer a service that looks remarkably like the early PeoplePC. There’s a couple of things about Zonbu that caught my attention…

  • The Zonbu hardware runs Linux. They don’t specify a distro and it appears to be their customized Linux distro.
  • The hardware is small and promoted as “green” and quiet. There’s no fans or hard drives so it should be completely quiet. Their website says you’ll save up to $10 month on your electric bill.
  • Most storage is on the Internet. There’s a 4GB flash drive in the device. You pay a monthly fee for online storage ranging from $12.95/mth for 25GB to $19.95/mth for 100GB. USB hard drives can be connected and there’s 6 USB ports.
  • They’re promoting it as a plug it in and just use it solution. It’ll just work. They claim iPod support and support for other peripherals. The demo video shows iPod software. They’re website actually lists supported devices by model which is more than many other companies do so they must have a high degree of confidence. They support over 800 cameras and 1500 printers.
  • There’s a pretty good selection of Open Source apps included. They avoid the urge to include multiple apps to give the end user choices. While choice is good in many cases, for a device promoted for ease of use it’s necessary to stay focused. While some may argue over the individual choices they’ve picked apps that have a large following and are generally considered the best in the class.

The devil is in the pricing.

  • You’ll need to pay for an Internet connection and with all your data online you’ll need a pretty good broadband connection.
  • It’s $249 for the device with a month to month subscription. It’s $99 with a 2/yr subscription. The website doesn’t mention any discounts on the subscription price. So for the 3 year warranty life of the device you’ll pay $565 for the 25GB subscription. As it turns out, that’s the same as you’ll pay for the device and two years of the month-to-month subscription. You can cancel anytime and get a prorated refund (prorated for $249 and month-to-month).
  • The website doesn’t mention anything about a monitor and none is shown in any of the pictures. They say “Nothing to buy” which is why I assume it’s included. The website seems pretty good at disclosures (but don’t mention an ISP connection is needed) so I’m going to assume one is included. But ask before buying.

It’s an interesting concept. It’s a hassle free computer (at least in theory) that’s small, quiet and easy to use. I’m also intrigued that this is really the first consumer oriented service I’ve seen that puts all data on the Internet. They even turn it into a feature as in “easy hardware replacements – with all data intact.” I like that it’s Linux based and not Microsoft. But will it sell more as a device for modding? It’s less than Apple TV and people buy those to hack.

Would you consider the Zonbu service? Would you buy the computer just to mod? Is Zonbu doomed to follow PeoplePC’s lead?

DRM Free Music and Paul McCartney Arrive on iTunes

Along with the iTunes update Apple added DRM-free music and Paul McCartney’s collection (not the Beatles) to the iTunes store. The FAQ says the DRM free music is available in all countries that have an iTunes store. This appears to have made iTunes very popular. The store is slow for me and my attempt to upgrade my library timed out during the downloads yet downloading a couple podcasts went just fine.

The song downloads finally completed the morning of June 2nd at 5:30am.

The new DRM-free songs are called iTunes Plus so any DRM-Music carries that label when you view it. In addition to being DRM-free the songs are encoded at 256kbps instead of 128kbps. When I clicked on the iTunes Plus panel in the store I was brought to a page that promoted the new albums. There as also a message at the top that I had 1 album and 2 singles that were available for upgrade. Albums can be upgraded for 30% of the original album cost and singles for thirty cents each. You’re given a button to upgrade everything with one click. You can’t upgrade albums or songs individually. If you decide to upgrade you have the option to delete the DRM’d files or to save them to the desktop. I decided to upgrade my 1 album and two songs to see how it worked. The update saves the play counts, ratings and other extended information (what I’d call mp3 tags if these were mp3’s). I changed the genre’s and they were properly saved.

What I did find was two albums I bought with DRM were not offered as upgrades. (There may be more, but these were chart toppers so I noticed.) I bought both The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd through iTunes but aren’t available for upgrade despite being available DRM free. I haven’t contacted Apple yet. I figure I’ll wait for the dust to settle and see if they show up.

One thing I found interesting is that you need to select whether or not you want to see iTunes Plus content when it’s available or whether you want to just see the DRM content all the time. This is set as a preference. While it can be changed you need to go into your account preferences and change it. This is an account preference, not an iTunes preference. so it applies to all computers. No doubt Apple did this to avoid confusion and try to keep to their “keep it simple” philosophy. I think it’s a valid decision in that people will pick on or the other. They’ll take DRM music to save money all the time or DRM-Free for the higher bitrate and freedom.

Music video are also available DRM-free but they are in the same video bitrate as the DRM videos. Free music is not available for upgrade.

The DRM free tracks are $1.29 each compared to $0.99 for the DRM protected tracks. In an interesting twist, full albums are the same price whether DRM or DRM free. So if you buy albums there’s no reason not to go for DRM-free. While the news reports all mentioned that EMI was the label providing the music Apple doesn’t mention EMI at all. They simply promote DRM-Free and higher quality music with more to be added over time.

As for Paul McCartney, iTunes is offering a “Deluxe Version” of his upcoming album but isn’t running any other promotion for the collection. It includes three bonus tracks and a pdf booklet. I thought they might offer the entire collection as a “boxed set” at a significant discount. They’ve done this for Bob Dylan and others. There are 28 McCartney albums listed (including the pre-order) which others have said are all his non-Beatles albums.

I typically still bought CDs and only went through iTunes when it was significantly less for the album (I was wiling to pay more for the CD), wasn’t in eMusic, or I only wanted a song or two. There were a few times I was lazy and went the iTunes route. I’ll probably still compare prices with CDs but but I won’t pay a premium for CD. I’ll also be more willing to buy individual tracks or sample a band by buying a track.

Will you upgrade your iTunes library? Will you buy more from iTunes now (or start buying)? Will you still buy the DRM music?

Apple Updates Quicktime Security and iTunes DRM

Apple has released updates for both Quicktime and iTunes. The updates are for the software on both Windows and OS X.

The Quicktime patch is a security update that patches two vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities allow a malicious website to either run code on a computer or get infomation from a computer.

Apple also released an update to iTunes that adds support for DRM free music. It looks like Apple might just make their promise of DRM-free music available in iTunes by the end of May.

The updates will be pushed through Apple update or can be downloaded directly.

Site Upgraded to WordPress 2.2

I finally got around to upgrading this site to WordPress 2.2. It took me so long to get to it (it was released May 16th) that the Fantastico scripts at Bluehost were updated and I used them to do the upgrade. The last time I upgraded manually but only beat Fantastico by two days. After my experience with Yahoo, where then didn’t update their install scripts the entire time I was there, I’m impressed with Fantastico’s speedin updating their scripts.

There was really only one problem (at least that I’ve found so far). All of the text widgets that I used were removed. This happened on both my test blog and this one. Other widgets were unaffected, including a couple that are really just modifications to the text widget. On the other hand, all the text widgets on the Spam Chronicles survived the upgrade but I had problems with other widgets and some default widgets were put on the sidebar.. It’s easier to recreate the text widgets than it is to research the cause. Of course, it’s even easier to leave them gone. I’m planning yet another site redesign that eliminates widgets so I’m not bothering to put them back.

The biggest change iin WordPress 2.2 is the inclusion of sidebar widgets which were previously implemented via a plugin. From the WordPress notification:

  • WordPress Widgets allow you to easily rearrange and customize areas of your weblog (usually sidebars) with drag-and-drop simplicity. This functionality was originally available as a plugin Widgets are now included by default in the core code, significantly cleaned up, and enabled for the default themes.
  • Full Atom support, including updating our Atom feeds to use the 1.0 standard spec and including an implementation of the Atom Publishing API to complement our XML-RPC interface.
  • A new Blogger importer that is able to handle the latest version of Google’s Blogger product and seamlessly import posts and comments without any user interaction beyond entering your login.
  • Infinite comment stream, meaning that on your Edit Comments page when you delete or spam a comment using the AJAX links under each comment it will bring in another comment in the background so you always have 20 items on the page. (I know it sounds geeky, but try it!)
  • We now protect you from activating a plugin or editing a file that will break your blog.
  • Core plugin and filter speed optimizations should make everything feel a bit more snappy and lighter on your server.
  • We’ve added a hook for WYSIWYG support in a future version of Safari.

There’s also a significant change on the post write screen. In earlier versions the preview was below the edit screen and was updated whenever you hit save. Now there’s a link that need to be clicked and the preview is open in a new window (or tab).

WordPress has stopped development on the 2.1 branch so this is a required upgrade.

I came across a couple of other things while testing the upgrade even though they don’t affect me.

  • Since widgets are now included in WordPress this causes problems with the K2 theme and themes based on K2. The Sidebar Modules are disabled after the upgrade. K2 has a plugin that disables the wordpress widgets. The link brings you to a forum, the first entry has the code and a link to the plugin.
  • Tagging is not included in WordPress 2.2 but it’s scheduled for 2.3.

CA Gives Away Antivirus Software/USB Drive

I don’t know what it means CA thinks of their software but I’ve noticed that CA has been bundling their antivirus software with a 2GB USB drive and making it free after some rebates. As always, there’s some catches and hoops to go through.

Several retailers are offering a competitive upgrade rebate of $40 along with a general CA rebate of $10 which means the $50 bundle can be had for the cost of shipping and tax (if they apply). You have to be willing to go through the hassle of two mail-in rebates and you do have to pay $50 up front. The rebates I’ve seen run through the end of June.

The USB drive is a nice small drive that slides into a credit card sized holder that makes it easy to carry. At least that’s what the picture makes it look like. CA Antivirus software usually shows up in the middle of the pack when reviewed and has passed the VB100 tests on Windows for the past couple of years. I don’t have any personal experience using their software.

CA is also offering additional rebates on other products including competitive upgrade rebates that end up giving you a free product. CA is currently consolidating their brands such as eTrust and PestPatrol and it appears these rebates are only being offered on the “CA” brand products. At least they’re the ones being promoted. It also seems to indicate that they consider the antivirus market pretty mature and they need to take customers from their competitors. They probably hope to make some money from unclaimed or denied rebates and that people will renew when the subscription is up.

CA isn’t software I’ve used and I haven’t purchased the bundle myself, but if your interested and can’t find it locally, or just want more information, it’s available from Tiger direct at CA Anti-Virus 2007 with 2GB USB Flash Drive.

I’m a software junkie so I’ll probably keep an eye out on my local retailer and pick up a copy if I see it. The USB drive itself seems worth the minimal cost and hassle. So, is this something you’d take advantage of to get the USB drive? Would you use theire software because of the deal?

Maxtor OneTouch III Update

I first wrote about the Maxtor OneTouch III back in December and now that I’ve had it awhile it’s a good time for an update. I’ve been running it connected to my iMac since my initial review. I also gave one to my father as to use as a backup drive with a Windows PC.

The hardware has been reliable. My main complaint is it’s slower than other drives when spinning up from sleep mode. It’s fast enough for use as a backup drive although I haven’t tried running applications off of it.

The software is a different story. I always have low expectations of any software that’s bundled with drives like these, but both the Windows and Mac software delivered with the drive had significant problems when I tried to use them. Some Maxtor OneTouch drives come with EMC Restrospect backup software but this drive does not. The software was branded Maxtor and does not appear to be a version of software offered in a full version by another vendor.

Maxtor Mac Software

On the Mac some of the software is written for the PPC so uses Rosetta when running on an Intel Mac. The first backup I did using the software took over 24 hours (since it was so long I did use the iMac during much of the time. Copying those same files using just Finder took about 2 hours even while I was using the iMac. Future backups, using the software, also took considerably longer than simple file copies. Although since they were incremental backups they could finish overnight.

But even with the files backed up there were still problems. The restore panels in the software didn’t show any files backed up so there was no way to restore files through the software. I could go out to the drive itself in Finder and try to locate the file(s) but that’s a bit tedious.

There’s also an option to sync directory trees to the drive. This software was also slow in general but at least it worked as documented.

Maxtor Windows Software

When I wrote the first review of the Maxtor drive the Windows software had worked OK and I decided to use it on the drive I was setting up on my father’s PC. The software ran fine at first. Then the schedules backups stopped running and the error message was access denied. After uninstalling/re-installing, general troubleshooting, and searching a terrible support site I was unable to resolve the problem. Manually initiated backups, even those initiated by the “one-touch” button, worked OK. By OK I mean if I changed a file then did a backup the file is backed up and can be restored. File restores also worked OK. Even so, it’s not a confidence builder and I don’t want to count on the backup being there when it’s needed. So I’m looking for alternative backup software. It’s not an Internet connected PC so the available online backup solutions aren’t an option.

Summary

Older drives come with EMC Restrospect backup software which is proven software. The software Maxtor is now delivering has proven to be worthless to me on both Windows and Mac.

Maybe it’s due to the acquisition by Seagate, but the Maxtor support site was pretty bad. I clicked on a link to get a software update for the Maxtor III and instead it brought me to a download page for Maxtor II (Retrospect) software. I didn’t notice until I tried applying the update and it told me I needed EMC Retrospect software. So either there’s no Maxtor III software and they just added an unnecessary link, or there is an update and the link to it is bad.

Even if the software worked it needs to run on Rosetta for Intel Mac’s. If your like me you want to avoid needing Rosetta. Even if it worked, the software doesn’t provide a compelling reason to take the performance hit of Rosetta.

The hardware itself has been reliable although unremarkable. I would only consider buying it again if it was significantly less than the Western Digital My Book which I really like (so far at least).

If you’ve had any experience with the Maxtor or any other drive (good or bad) feel free to post a comment and let us know.

 

Apple Security Update 2007-05

In keeping with it’s “one-a-month” trend for then year so far, Apple has released Security Update 2007-05.

According to the Apple notification it contains updates to the following components:

  • bind
  • CarbonCore
  • CoreGraphics
  • crontabs
  • fetchmail
  • file
  • iChat
  • mDNSResponder
  • PPP
  • ruby
  • screen
  • texinfo
  • VPN

I applied the Universal version of the update to my iMac through software update without a problem. The update does require a reboot and on my iMac it did a bit of a double reboot. During the first reboot, which took longer than usual, another reboot was done. This occurred before the logon screen appeared. That second reboot took the normal length of time.

My PPC Mac Mini is currently packed away so I haven’t tried the PPC version of the update and it will be awhile before I do.

.MAC – Time to Leave

My .Mac subscription expired this week. It finally outlived it’s usefulness so I didn’t renew. It’s almost a good service but just doesn’t justify the cost. Your needs may vary and for some people it would be worth the cost. Here’s what .Mac includes and my impressions of it.

For the $99 yearly subscription (less from other retailers) you get 1GB of storage on Apple’s servers. This space is shared by all .Mac services. The space is split in two and you can allocate the space between email and everything else. You can upgrade at additional cost. To max out at 4GB of space will cost $200/yr.

Mail

.Mac mail is web based email that was upgraded to be web 2.0-ish in the past year. I’m not a big fan of web emails but I found .Mac email to be well designed and responsive. .Mac email supports both POP and IMAP and comes with five aliases that can also be set up. Naturally Mail.app sets up a .Mac mailbox with minimal effort. Email addresses use the mac.com domain.

The mail aliases are a nice feature. You can set up an alias to use in situations that might generate spam. You can then set up a filter to automatically file email sent to the address. If it attracts to much spam you can then delete it. .Mac does prevent alias churn by making you wait a week if all five of your aliases are used and you delete one. Another nice feature is the ability to turn an alias off. Mail will not be delivered when it’s off but if you need it again you can turn it on.

The bottom line is that the email service has some nice features, integrates well with Mail.app and has a nice web interface. The aliases are a nice bonus and it has IMAP support. But many of those features are available from free services or included by ISPs.

Address Book

.Mac includes an address book which can be synced from your Mac’s address book. The address books integrates with the web email. It does not need to be synced with a local address book in the event you want a separate address book for the web.

Sync

Sync serves two purposes. You can sync information from you Mac to the .Mac service for access via the web and you can sync information between multiple Macs.

Bookmarks, calendars (iCal), address book contacts, passwords (keychains), and Mail accounts, rules, signatures and smart mailboxes. You can choose which options to sync, it’s not all or nothing. If bookmarks are synced they can be accessed and used from any browser from a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.

If you have multiple Macs you can set up each one to sync to the same .Mac account in order to keep the data the same on each of them. Syncs can be scheduled to be at certain times or frequencies as well as “always”.

iDisk

iDisk is disk space on the .Mac servers which can be used by various Mac software apps in addition to just being a place to store files. You can also create public iDisk folders which can be accessed over the web. These folders can be password protected.

You also have the ability to have your iDisk on your local Mac and sync it to the .Mac server. In this configuration you’re working with a local disk and get the speed advantage. The iDisk should sync in the background. This is the one .Mac feature I had a problem with. iDisk would have problems when uploading changes, especially with large files. It would frequently fail with an error several times (over several hours) before succeeding. I had these problems with both cable and DSL. Because of this I didn’t use the option to save the iDisk locally but if you use a laptop you probably need it if you use the iDisk.

iDisk works with Backup, iWeb, iPhoto (for Photocasting) and Homepage. There’s also a Windows program that allows iDisk access from a Windows PC.

Backup

Backup is a simple but useful backup program that I’ve already written about in this article.

iWeb

I have a fondness for iWeb in that it’s what got me my first website. There are some great websites done with it that prove it’s possible to build complex and high-traffic websites with it. But these sites usually need more than iWeb has to offer and they aren’t hosted on .Mac. But this article is about .Mac and what .Mac does for iWeb is make it easier to publish a website.

One of the options in iWeb is to publish the site to .Mac. When you do this the website is copied up to .Mac without any further actions required. Once it’s published you’re given the URL that’s needed to access the site.

.Mac makes it easy to use iWeb to quickly publish a personal website or blog. There’s support for RSS feeds, comments, photos, podcasts and movies.

iPhoto

You can publish a “Photocast” from iPhoto to .Mac. You select an album in iPhoto to Photocast and people can subscribe to it to see changes when they are made.

Homepage

Homepage is a simple, template based web page creation tool. It predates iWeb and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it go away now that there’s iWeb. It’s features are pretty limited.

Additional Perks

.Mac may include various benefits at times. In the past (but no more) they offered Virex anti-virus and at the time my subscription ended they were offering various Garage Band Jam Pack Samplers. You can also publish iCal calendars so other .Mac members can view them.

Finally, you can create .Mac groups which is a website structured for use by organization or people interested in a single topic. The groups are template based and allow sharing calendars, photos, files, slide shows and messages.

Summary

Most of the .Mac features are pretty good, but most have free alternatives that are as good or better. But if you want several of the features it may be worth the cost. For example, the photocasting may be a perfect way to share pictures with distant family. The recent (well, less than a year ago) upgrade of mail seems to indicate Apple wants to keep .Mac alive but it could use some enhanced features or a lower cost.

 

Western Digital My Book 500GB Drive w/ EMC Retrospect Software

I purchased the Western Digital My Book Pro Edition 500 GB External Hard Drive with Triple Interface (slight variations in the name indicate different models so be sure to check the specs when buying) to become a backup drive for my iMac, but I want to give it a spin under Windows first. This article is my first impression of the drive and Restrospect Backup software (included) under Windows. I mentioned the drive last month when I commented on a Computerworld review that picked the drive over the other 3 drives that were reviewed.

Everything needed comes in the box including a 6 foot cable each for USB, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800. The power supply is external with a total power cord length of just under 12 feet with a small power brick near the middle. There’s also a CD with the software and a printed Quick Install guide. The software is also on the drive itself.

The drive features “Auto-Off”. When the connected computer is turned off the drive will power down automatically. This worked flawlessly under Windows (not yet tried on the Mac). There is a delay before the drive shuts down. This may be to allow time for a reboot before the drive shuts down.

There’s also a “Safe Shutdown” feature. This requires that the driver is installed. Pushing the button on the My Book will safely shut down the drive so you can disconnect it. You can also remove it like any USB device and use the typical method of removing it that’s appropriate to the OS.

The inner ring on the front serves as a capacity gauge. It’s divided into six segments, representing about 17% each, that light up when the drive reaches that level. Because the utilities are preinstalled the first segment is already lit. I found it hard to differentiate how much of the inner ring was lit when the full outer ring was also lit, especially at a distance. It was easier to see when the outer ring was in activity mode (rotating clockwise).

While it’s possible to use the drive on both Mac and Windows at the same time it requires using FAT32 as the file format which has limitations under OS X, especially older versions. I’ll be testing it out under Windows and then move the drive to my iMac and re-format it for OS X at that time.

I’m installing it on a HP laptop that only has USB 1.1 ports running Windows XP SP2 with all the latest security updates. Installation of Firewire under Windows appears a bit more complicated. You either need to first connect over USB to install the drivers or download the drivers to your PC from the Western Digital website.

Hardware Installation

The drive is simple to install. Plug it in to a power outlet then hook it up to the PC using the USB cable. Windows automatically installed the necessary drivers and mounted the drive. Then Autorun displayed the selection screen shown to the left (click the picture to see full screen). I let it run the program with the Western Digital icon.

This program is actually the installer for the EMC Restrospect Express software. Retrospect has a reputation of being good backup software that’s a bit hard to use. The installation is straight-forward, just click through the wizard. There is an option to do a “custom” install but the only options are to install features that are only available with the full version. I didn’t select these so I’m not sure why they’re there or what would happen if they were picked for installation. I just did the “Recommended” installation. No reboot was required.

EMC Restrospect Express Backup Software (Windows)

Once the installation was finished I started the Restrospect software. The first thing it did was tell me that there was an update available, version 7.5.325. I allowed the download to occur and the update to start. I received a warning that Retrospect itself needed to be shut down but other than that the upgrade was quick and easy. It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine that software with an internal updater displays an error message saying the software needs to be shut down. I already clicked to do the update. If the software needs to be shut down then shut it down. It seems like a bit of lazy programming.

To test the installation I started Retrospect again and was asked what type of backup I wanted to do. My first choice was “Progressive” which is described as “…allows you to access previous backups of your data as well as creating Disaster Recovery images that can restore your computer’s operating system.” In other words, the first backup is a full backup and future backups are incrementals. The second choice was “Duplicate” which is described as “A duplicate of the source volume is created on the destination volume.” I did a progressive backup.

Then I’m asked what I want to back up: “Documents and Settings”, “My Computer”, or “Let Me Choose (Advanced)”. One problem this software shares with others I’ve tried is that the “My Computer” choice includes the external drive that will be the backup destination. This usually results in a never-ending recursive backup situation with an ever growing directory tree that fails when the tree becomes to deep or the drive runs out of space. So I select custom and select all of drive C:. The wizard is self-explanatory for doing the backups but selecting the external (destination) drive also as a backup source by default could cause a problem. I didn’t select it to see how it would handle the conflict of the source equaling the destination, I just assuming it would be bad.

Future backups, using the same settings, do incremental backups and only back up the changes. The backup is saved in a directory on the destination drive. The files in the directory are in Retrospect’s own format, breaking the backup into 600MB chunks.

The “Duplicate” option does what it says. It will duplicate a drive to another one. There are options to replace the entire volume, replace corresponding files, replace if source is newer, and to duplicate missing files only.

There’s also a nice feature to treat any directory as a volume. This can be used for both Progressive and Duplicate backups. So the destination can be a sub-directory on the My Book and not the entire drive, allowing multiple PCs to be duplicated or backed up to a single My Book drive.

There is also an option to schedule a backup or duplication. When the scheduled time arrives the EMC Retrospect software will start up (if it’s not already running) and display a short ten second countdown to running the backup. You can halt or make changes to the backup during this countdown. The software exits when the backup is done.

Summary

The Western Digital My Book 500GB drive is extremely quite. It can’t be heard above the ambient noise in the room. Since I’m only using a USB 1.1 connection I can’t comment on the speed but other third party tests have it as a good performer.

I’m going to run the My Book on my Windows PC for a week or so then move it over to my Mac. I’ll post an update when I do that.

I wanted the Firewire 800 interface and found the cheapest source to be Amazon. Versions without Firewire 800 are also available and cost a little less. I frequently see the USB 2.0/Firewire 400 version available on sale locally, which brings it down to what it typically sells for at Amazon.

 

Backup Strategy

Updated Oct.23, 2007: Information on my latest backup strategy and tools now has it’s own page. Not anymore

I wrote about various backup strategies I’ve had in the past but it’s time to update that and to do it in a smaller, concise article.

iMac Backup

My iMac, with a 500GB hard drive, is the only computer I have that contains data that I need to back up.

Full Disk Clone

The iMac wakes from sleep at 3AM every morning and SuperDuper! runs a scheduled clone of the hard drive to a Maxtor OneTouch III 300GB external drive. SuperDuper! is set to put the drive to sleep when the backup is finished. The Smart Update feature to only clone changes is used to save time.

In the event of a hard drive failure I could immediately boot from the backup drive and continue working with last night’s backup or work to recover files from the back drive. bandwidth throttling,

Offsite & Duplicate Backups

The gaps with the cloned drive are that there’s only one copy of the files and they’re sitting on my desk plugged into the iMac. So to plug those gaps:

I have a free Mozy account and use the MacMozy client to backup critical data to their servers. The MacMozy client is still in beta but it’s been reliable enough for me that I’m willing to use it as a backup for one copy of my files. This backs up changed files, that meet the criteria I picked, when the computer is idle.

Up to this point everything has been automated and I don’t need to do anything to get the backups. And that’s a real good thing. But to also protect my critical data I have some automator scripts that back up the critical data files (the same ones that go to Mozy) to an encrypted disk image file which is then copied to my iPod. I can also burn the file to CD for long-term storage (but never do) or copy it to a USB thumb drive. I typically copy it to the USB thumb drive and iPod every couple of weeks when I site down and pay bills and do other housekeeping on the iMac.

Website Backups

In addition to data on my computers I need to back up my websites. Bluehost does do backups but I don’t want to rely on them except as a last resort.

I use a plugin called WordPress Database Backup to back up my WordPress databases to a file on my local iMac. (This is a folder that’s then backed up to Mozy and my iPod). This needs to be done manually through the browser but is extremely easy. The standard WordPress tables are backed up by default and I then select all the other added (by plugins) tables. A compressed file is then downloaded to my my PC. This is a manual process but it’s quick and easy so I’ve been consistent in getting the backup any day I add an article to the site.

To backup the files on the web server I use Transmit to synchronize the file server to a folder on my PC. This folder tree is then backed up to Mozy and my iPod. Transmit only copies changed files so it’s a fairly quick process. An additional benefit is that I can quickly copy a file back to the server if an upgrade fails or the file becomes corrupt.. This only needs to be done when files are changed on the server. I do it every Sunday and after major changes.

Safety Backups

Being the paranoid type, I do additional backups to make sure I have copies of my photo and music libraries which are to large for backing up to Mozy or a thumb drive.

My iPod serves as a backup for most of my iTunes library. The things that aren’t on it won’t be missed if I lose all my hard disk backups and need to rely on the iPod. Most of the library is ripped from CD so those serve as a backup too.

After photos are added to my library I copy the files to a archive folder. When the folder grows to 4GB I burn the files to DVD and file away the DVD. There’s no organization, other than date, but at least I’ll have the photos.

Future Plans

I’m looking into a way to copy most of my files to my Mac Mini on a automated basis, possibly using ChronoSync. In addition to serving as another copy of my files, if my iMac fails the plan would be to pick things up with the Mac Mini until the iMac is fixed.