The OS Quest Trail Log #9

I spent the week dabbling in new software. Pixelmator is out of beta and available now so I looked at that. Still reminds me a lot of Photoshop Elements, lots of palettes. The so-called HUDs are really just transparent palettes. Both are nice but Acorn has more than I currently know how to use and the price is great ($40) so I decided to go with Acorn. Pixelmator is $59. I suspect they may keep leapfrogging each other in terms of features and ease of use and I doubt either would have been a bad choice. Eval versions are available for both. Jon Whipple has a comparison of Acorn, Pixelmator, iPhoto and Graphic Converter.

Also in the area of images, I’ve been using Xee. Xee is an image viewer & browser for the Mac. Xee opens up a directory and can be used to quickly scroll through all the images in that directory. Xee can also do some limited file management, conversions and can do a slide show. Xee is a free (donation-ware) app.

I’ve been using the MailPlane beta for a little over a week and now that pricing is available I just bought a copy of this great program. MailPlane is a desktop app that integrates with GMail on the web. It doesn’t move the mailbox locally, simply provides great integration. You can manage multiple GMail accounts in MailPlane which is a huge benefit. MailPlane also brings Mac Keyboard shortcuts to GMail, iPhoto integration and general ease of use. MailPlane has special pricing until the beta ends. Beta invites are still available.

I’ve also been looking a Mac software to do screen captures and demos. The two that pop to the top of the list are IShowU ($29) by ShinyWhiteBox and SnapZ Pro X ($69) from Ambrosia Software. Even though SnapZ Pro is more expensive it made a more favorable first impression. it also has more features and is able to do screenshots and movies. There’s eval versions of each. The iShowU eval adds a watermark to the videos. The SnapZ Pro X demo was used to make the video used for the tip father down in this post.

I’m still really liking the new Apple Aluminum USB keyboard after a full week of use.

Software Updates

Panic Transmit 3.6.1 contains several bug fixes. See the release notes for details. I use Transit to do some backups via Automator scripts. I always know when there’s a update because when I check the Mac in the morning the update notification usually causes the automator script to throw up an error. I could turn off update checks but I’d prefer an error one night over missing an update notification. I usually just make a note and tell Transmit to ignore it then do the update when I get a chance. As with any program that uses the keychain you’ll have to confirm access the first time the updated program runs. So, if you use automator scripts be sure to run the app after upgrading (wouldn’t you want to test it anyway?).

As already mentioned in this blog, there were several updates from Apple that I installed earlier in the week.

Tips

I was using Vista recently and went to do a “Start” -> “Run” to execute a program. In Windows XP I use the run box for everything from opening drives to running programs. So this was a problem that needed to be solved. There’s two ways around this. Use the <Windows key>-<R> key combo to display the run box whenever it’s needed (<Command>-<R> on a Mac under Parallels or VMWare) or change the setting to always display it on the menu. Here’s a QuickTime video tip showing how to change the run box setting.

Links & News

Microsoft’s stealth update doesn’t seem to be problem free. Windows Secrets is reporting that Microsoft’s secret update causes problems when doing an XP repair.

Apple had a bit of a manufacturing problem and shipped some MacBooks and MacBook Pros without Journaling enabled. They’ve released an update to remedy the situation.

Microsoft Home Server released an update a few days ago. Home Server seems like a really cool product, but is anyone selling them yet? Does seem like it’ll be a hard sell – a PC that sits off in a closet or someplace that you don’t actually sit at an use.

LifeHacker faced off Parallels and VMWare for Mac virtualization software to see which their readers voted for. The completely unscientific results have Parallels ahead with 53.4% of the votes. Another Lifehacker poll pitted Mozy against Carbonite. Mozy is ahead with 55.2% of the vote at this point.

Ars Technica has a good summary of Microsoft Vista Ultimate Extras fiasco.

1Passwd is available for 20% off through iSlayer. 1Passwd is a Password manager for the Mac. I don’t use it but I love the stuff iSlayer does (for free). They get a cut when it’s purchased through them so I figured I’d pass it along.

Apple Updates iWork, iWeb, iTunes (Windows) & Firmware

Hot on the heals of yesterday’s iLife updates Apple has released updates to four applications and a bunch of firmware.

iWeb 2.0.2 was released. You’ll need the iLife Support 8.1 update that was released yesterday before you can install this one. It’s a 18.4MB download through Software Update (Intel) and a 17MB standalone download. Apple tells us…

This update to iWeb addresses issues with upgrading iWeb 1.x websites, and fixes some common publishing problems, and supports general compatibility issues.

All three iWork Apps were updated. Numbers went to version 1.01. It’s a 27.3MB download through Software Update and a 26.1MB standalone download. Apple’s description is:

This update primarily addresses issues with tables and performance.

Pages was updated to 3.0.1 and was a 29.1MB download through software update. It’s a 27.8MB standalone download. Apple description actually hits double-digits for this update:

This update primarily addresses issues with change tracking and performance.

Keynote 4.0.1 is a 32.4MB download through Software Update and a 31.1MB standalone download. Apple couldn’t reach double-digits with this description:

This update primarily addresses issues with builds and performance.

I guess Apple couldn’t quit get iWeb 2.0.2 out the same day as the other iLife ’08 updates. It’s a 18.4MB download through Software Update and a 17MB standalone download. Their description is downright verbose:

This update to iWeb addresses issues with upgrading iWeb 1.x websites, and fixes some common publishing problems, and supports general compatibility issues.

Apple also released firmware updates for iMacs (v1.2) and MacBooks (v1.1) which I needed and installed. There were also updates for Mac Pros (v1.2), MacBook Pro (v1.4), and XServe (v1.0). The updates are relatively small (all less than 5MB). The links jump to the bulletin for the firmware update.

Apple also updated iTunes for Windows (not for Mac) to 7.4.3. The update addresses the initial setup of the iPod touch according to the bulletin. I don’t run iTunes Windows so didn’t need this.

I didn’t have any problems after installing any of the updates. None of the application updates required a restart, although the apps being updated need to be shut down. The firmware updates do require a restart and your given the instructions:

1. Quit all other open applications.

2. Click Shut Down in the iMac EFI Firmware Update window and wait for your computer to shut down.

3. Press and hold the power button on your iMac until the power indicator light flashes repeatedly or you hear a long tone, then release the power button.

A status bar indicates the progress of the update.

Important: Do not interrupt the update.

Your computer restarts automatically when the update is completed and opens the iMac EFI Firmware Update.

4. Click OK, if the firmware is now up-to-date.

If these instructions appear on your screen again, the firmware update was not successful. Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4.

iLife ’08 Updates

Apple released 5 updates for various iLife ’08 applications.

First there’s iLife Support v8.1 which is a 10.3MB download through Software Update (for Intel) and 7MB as a standalone download. You need to install this update before the other updates. Apple tells us:

This update supports system software components shared by all iLife ’08 applications, improves overall stability, addresses a number of other minor issues, and supports general compatibility issues. It is recommended for all users of iLife ’08.

iPhoto Update v7.1 is the largest update. It’s 61.8 MB through Software Update and a 59.3MB standalone download. Apple tells us:

This update addresses issues encountered when moving photos between Events, plus new greeting card themes, including holiday card designs. It also supports general compatibility issues, improves overall stability, and addresses a number of other minor issues.

GarageBand Update v 4.1 is a 47 MB download through Software Update and a 46.1 MB standalone download. This one brings us:

This update addresses isolated graphic display issues, compatibility with 3rd party audio software, fixes minor problems with Magic GarageBand, and supports general compatibility issues.

iDVD Update v7.0.1 is a 20.2 MB download through Software Update and a 18.6MB standalone download. This one is described with the typical…

This update improves overall stability, supports general compatibility issues, and addresses a number of other minor issues.

The last update is iMovie Update v7.1. It’s a 46.1 MB download through Software Update and a 44.6MB standalone download. This one is a real update and adds a bunch of new features (or maybe returns features that were dropped – any iMovie users care to comment?). The list is…

This update addresses several areas including video and audio editing capabilities, and performance associated with opening and switching iMovie Events and Projects. This update also supports general compatibility issues, improves overall stability, and addresses a number of other minor issues.

iMovie 7.1 features include:

Multiple Clip Selection
Select multiple clips in order to assign keywords, paste adjustments or reorganize clips in your project faster than ever.

Fine Tuning
Quickly refine the start or end frame for any clip without leaving the Project view.

Still Frame Creation
Freeze the action for creating a dramatic ending or applying the “Ken Burns” effect on any frame of your video clip.

Frame-by-Frame trimming
Adjust each clip to the perfect start or end frame using frame-by-frame precision trimming.

Audio Ducking level control
Dip music tracks and background tracks to the perfect level as voice over or other audio comes in and out of your movie.

Manual Audio Fades
Make smoother sounding audio transitions by manually adjusting the fade duration.

Performance Improvements
Enjoy you video more quickly by switching between any of your Events.

Set Duration for Transitions and Stills
Change the duration of photos or length of your transitions without accessing Preferences.

Show Current Playhead Time
Get duration or timing information at a glance as you skim through your Events or movie.

I installed the updates to my iMac without any issues. Although, of the apps iPhoto is the only one I use regularly and would notice subtle problems.

iPhoto Library Manager Updated to 3.3.1

iPhoto Library Manager is a great little app for, you guessed it, managing iPhoto Libraries. It can now copy hidden photos in iPhoto 7 and includes several bug fixes. While you can copy hidden photos you need to go into iPhoto 7 and unhide them. If they are hidden then iPhoto won’t make them available to any external apps. Click the thumbnail to see the release notes.

Update Sept. 27th: Yesterdays release of iPhoto 7.1 broke yesterday’s release of iPhoto Library Manager 3.3.1. IPLM has been updated to version 3.3.2 to address the issues. It’s available from the same link.

Security Quest #3: Intellitxt and PDFs

One of the most popular posts on the Spam Chronicles site was my post on blocking IntelliTxt ads from back in April. I’ve decided to reprint it here. The company offering them is Vibrant Media. They do allow a way for users to turn off the ads, although this feature has to be implemented by the webmaster and my experience is that not many do.

If your at a website that has these ads first check to see if there’s a link to turn them off. If there’s not and you want to keep visiting the site you can turn off Javascript. But this may break other things on the site and you’d probably want to turn it back on when you leave the site. All in all, an annoying solution.

There’s another alternative if you use Firefox. You can install the GreaseMonkey add-on for Firefox then install a GreaseMonkey script to block the ads.

Install the GreaseMonkey add-on from it’s page Firefox Add-on directory. You’ll need to restart Firefox before the plugin becomes active.

Then install the “Disable Text Ads” from userscripts.org. These pop-up ads should now be disabled. Be sure to check for script updates as these ad vendors change their methods constantly and new vendors pop up.

For additional GreaseMonkey scripts you can visit http://userscripts.org/ and visit the home of the Disable Text Ads script author at http://www.fibble.org/.

Adobe Reader PDF Vulnerability

A security researcher, known as pdp, is reporting a “High Risk” vulnerability in Adobe Acrobat Reader (versions 7, 8 and 8.1) that can be used to run any program on a Windows PC. According to pdp (in the comments) non-Adobe Readers (such as Fox-it) may be affected although it may be less severe by requiring a user confirmation. There’s a video on pdp’s site (in the comments) that shows the exploit running calculator. The program already has to be on the PC but there are ways to accomplish that. Ars Technica mentions that putting both the executable and pdf in the same zip would accomplish this.

OpenOffice.org Vulnerability

All versions of OpenOffice.org except the very latest have a vulnerability that can be used to execute code. OpenOffice.org users should upgrade to the latest version to plug the vulnerability. Version 2.3 plugs the whole and it was released on Sept 17th.

Google Vulnerabilities

ZDNet has a blog posting about vulnerabilities in various Google products – GMail, Blogspot and their search appliance.

Security Software

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition got another minor update this week. It’s up to 7.5.488.

Avira AntiVar Personal Edition has been updated to version 7.06.00.27. Antivar Personal is a free anti-virus software for Windows, including Vista.

News & Information

TechDirt has a story about Symantec accidentally issuing a “Threatcon 4” warning which means there’s “extreme global incident activity” in progress. It was a false alarm due to a software test. It appears only TechDirt noticed.

Symantec also issued a warning about bluetooth security. A study by InsightExpress said that 73% of mobile device users aren’t familiar with mobile device security issues. No mention of what has to be a forthcoming Symantec product. Symantec does offer some common sense steps to take: stay offline, stay invisible, verify incoming transmissions, and use passwords. In my case I turn off bluetooth. I have a habit of losing every bluetooth headset I get. The last one vanished within a day.

Security Fix has the story of someone who’s email account was hacked and ransomed for $100. In a twist, the payment was actually to go to a phishing site so they were probably after more than the $100. Also a good lesson about using the same password across emails and online accounts as he had to scramble to change online accounts that shared the email password.

Apple Aluminum Keyboard (USB)

I needed a new USB keyboard for my iMac. Long story short – can’t boot from CD, alternate disk, or alternate partition with a wireless keyboard by holding the option or “c” keys. It’s a real pain to move a USB keyboard around and with Boot Camp being added to the iMac it was time for a change. A wireless mouse makes sense for me, but the keyboard cable won’t be in the way. My existing USB keyboard was bought for emergencies and was therefore the cheapest I could get. Not a daily user.

I’d already seen the keyboards at the Apple store and knew the key travel and feel was good. Still, the keyboard seemed like it might be too low to be comfortable at my desk and for extended use. That wasn’t something I could easily tell at the Apple store. I was a bit concerned that Apple chose form over function. Yet I liked their Mighty Mouse (I think I might be one of the few who like it) so I decided to take a chance and ordered the $49 Apple Aluminum Keyboard.

It arrived Friday, I hooked it up Saturday and I’ve been using it since. The bottom line is I really like typing on it. I find I type faster on it. Although, with the quality of my typing that isn’t always a good thing, yet I do seem to be making fewer typos too, at least I’m hitting the keys more squarely. (My previous keyboard was the previous model wireless keyboard.)

Installation was a bit annoying. There’s no software in the box but I knew there were updates. So after plugging it it I ran software update. Sure enough, the Keyboard Software Update 1.2 was waiting for me. All 26MB of it. So I installed it. My normal practice with most new software and hardware is to use the default settings for awhile and so far I’m still on the defaults.

Some things will take getting used to. The hardware functions (eject CD/DVD, volume, pause/play, etc…) share the function keys. In addition to the old hardware keys Apple has added screen brightness, FF, RW, Pause/Play, expose and dashboard. I find it interesting screen brightness gets two keys (one increase, one decrease). I can’t remember the last time I changed my screen brightness. This is a desktop keyboard, I doubt many people will move it around. By default the hardware functions take precedence and the <fn> key must be held to use the “F” keys. This can be swapped in system preferences.

As I mentioned there’s an <fn> key which is new. Also new are the <F17>, <F18>, and <F19> keys. The command key loses the Apple logo and gets the word “command” in it’s place. The <F7>, <F8> and <F9> keys have the new hardware functions of rewind, pause/play and fast forward.

It still annoys me that there’s no num lock key and the numeric keypad doesn’t work under Windows (Parallels or Boot Camp) but it’s not a huge issue since I’m rarely in Windows and it’s even rarer for me to be doing data entry. Still, I’m annoyed.

The only thing I ordered was the Apple keyboard yet the box it came in was huge. The keyboard was on the bottom, almost lost underneath balls of brown packing paper. Then I opened the first brown box only to find a smaller box inside. This box finally had the keyboard.

The keyboard includes a USB extender in the event the attached cable is too short.

I’m extremely happy with Apple’s new Aluminum keyboard and find it a pleasure to type on. My concerns of it being being too low were unwarranted.

Mint – Slightly Bitter Taste

When I first heard about Mint I wondered what website analytics software was doing getting into finance. Then I realized it was a different Mint. Then I found they already had established competition and weren’t so unique.

Most info I saw about Mint came from blogs and seemed to be more of the “press release” type. Heavy on adjectives and short on details. There were exceptions. So I decided to give Mint a try.

I had problems from the beginning. I was able to create an ID OK but my account couldn’t be added due to time-out errors. A couple of days later they posted a notice saying they were “overwhelmed” by the response. I went in Saturday and was able to add a couple of accounts but still got errors and things were slow. I went back in Sunday and noticed they had a notice on their homepage that apologized for being overwhelmed and that their site was back to normal. But I still had problems today. The previously added accounts had updated themselves but also had a message that “There was a problem updating your account. Please confirm your logon information.”. Nothing changed since adding the accounts and the bank’s regular online banking was just fine. They seem to still be having performance issues.

The website does have a “beta” label which does give them a bit of an out for performance issues. But they’re asking us to trust them with our financial information so it can’t be used to excuse much else. Still, the performance issues were a cause for concern due to the confidentiality of the data.

Despite the performance issues here’s my impression of Mint.

  • They realize security is a concern of anyone who’ll be providing account information to them. They have all the proper security buzzwords and they seem to take security and privacy seriously. The only information they require is an email address and zip code. They use the zip code to target offers. You do provide online bank account logon information and they import your transactions.
  • The one security related issue I have with them is they use an email address as the logon ID. EMail addresses are fairly public and I see no reason to give away half the logon information.
  • A lot of imported transactions were missing payees and even more had an incorrect category. When transactions are imported the payee is listed along with a budget category. What I found interesting is that even though they had the payee from the bank they didn’t use it directly. Holding the mouse over the payee field did cause the payee information from the bank to be displayed which made it easy to update the transaction.
  • Some payees just had bad names. They seem to pattern match payees in some cases. For example, I used a ATM at a bank branch (same bank that had the account) on “Shunpike Rd”. The payee Mint displayed was “Shunpike Auto Wash” and they use a category for auto service.
  • Updating category and payee information is simple. It’s also possible to check an “always” option which will create a rule and rename a payee or always assign the selected category to the payee.
  • My gut feeling is that about half my transactions needed to have a payee, category or both update.
  • Category changes don’t get incorporated into the spending trends for awhile. I don’t know if this was due to their performance problems or not. But I updated categories around noon on Sunday. The spending trends still didn’t reflect the changes at 1:00PM but they did reflect the changes by 10:00PM. It may have been much sooner as I didn’t check between 1 and 10.
  • I like the way they handle checks. Since checks don’t have a payee listed you can set up a rule to always make a check of the same amount a certain payee. This works well for something like my rent check.
  • There’s no way to do splits when a payee has more than one category. For example, if you pay the cable company for broadband, TV and VOIP you’ll get one bill. You can only pick one category.
  • You have to use the categories they pick. If you’re just starting out the choices are fine. But if, like me, you have categories you already use you’ll have to settle for what they have. For example, I split out computer related expenses into types, but with Mint I have to lump everything under “Electronics and Software”.
  • You can add notes to each transaction.
  • They say they can automatically balance my checkbook but I couldn’t find any way to do that. They just show the current balance and all transactions. This leads to what I see as a big weakness. There’s no way to find bank errors. If you go “all-in” and assume the Mint transactions are right you’ll never catch a bank error. There needs to be some way to reconcile to your non-Mint records. You shouldn’t trust what your bank tell Mint to always be right.
  • The spending trends feature is kind of cool. They show how your spending in a category changes from month to month.
  • Mint makes money by providing offers that save you money. They get a cut if you sign off for an offer they present. I don’t have a problem with this since they are money saving offers. (As with everything else – verify the details)
  • It would be nice to be able to “cancel” or “decline” a money saving offer. In my case it recommends I move to Vonage from AT&T. The problem with that is Mint assumes my AT&T expense is all phone when in reality it’s also the Internet connection needed for Vonage. It be nice if I could just tell the offer to go away. I can drill down into other offers that Mint says will save me less money but in reality may be something I could use (I’ve already dropped AT&T)
  • While bank account information can be easily deleted, I couldn’t find a way to delete the Mint profile. The information they keep is minimal, just an email and zip.

Conclusion

As with most things, their marketing over promises on what they delivered. But still, it was an interesting site. Will I keep Mint? No. Here’s why…

Fast expansion, reacting to unexpected demand, may cause them to get sloppy and compromise security. Considering the type of information they have (online banking logon info) this causes me concern.

But even if I wasn’t concerned about security I’d still leave. Their way of managing money isn’t for me. I’m no fan of Quicken but use it as a transaction register and to generate transaction reports (but not much else) since it’s double-entry, downloads transactions from the bank and I can reconcile accounts.

But if you’re just starting out or don’t have a financial management system that works for you then Mint may be worth looking at. But I’d recommend waiting until the website loses it’s “beta” label before relying on them and trusting your online banking into to them.

But Mint has piqued my interest in this type of website so I’ll probably check out Wesabe, which (on the surface) seems to be a more mature website that’s more appropriate to the way I manage finances.

The OS Quest Trail Log #8

Another short update for the log.

I spent some time trying to install Boot Camp on my iMac. It couldn’t resize the existing partition to make room for boot camp. I could image to another drive, then erase and image back. But I decided to try out iDefrag and explore the whole OS X doesn’t need defragging thing. My 500GB drive with about 250GB of data had 0.5% fragmentation, after being used for about 9 months. As expected (because they’re large and written to often), the Parallels VM drives were the most highly fragmented as were some Aperture library files. Songs in my iTunes library were also highly fragmented which did surprise me. After a night of running iDefrag my hard disk was compacted and I could repartition it for Boot Camp. So I’ve added a Windows Vista install to the mix, installing it with Boot Camp on my iMac,

Software of Interest

OpenOffice.org 2.3 has been released. The release notes for the open source application provide the list of enhancements and security fixes.

iStat Pro 4.2 has been released for OS X. iStat Pro is a dashboard widget that displays numerous OS stats.

The popular Carbon Copy Cloner has been updated to version 3.

Acorn has been updated to version 1.0.1. The update is mainly bug fixes but has a few minor new features. Acorn is a image editor for the Mac that has a $40 intro price (there’s also a 30-day full-featured evaluation version).

Tips

I’ve been having network problems running Vista under VMWare on my MacBook. Every once in a while I lose network connectivity. Everything shows as “working” but it’s not. I do a repair and all is well. Scott Hanselman has a post showing how to “Reset the crap out of your network adapters in Vista.”

Links & News

Yahoo acquired Zimbra for $350 million. There’s a Yahoo blog entry and press release. Zimbra provides email and collaboration software. Speculation is that this will help Yahoo create an offering to compete with Google Apps.

IBM announced I.B.M. Lotus Symphony. Symphony is an office productivity suite based upon the open source OpenOffice.org. The announcement follows the recent announcement of IBM formally joining the OpenOffice.org community.

Google added the long awaited presentation app to Google Docs & Spreadsheets. It’s called “Presentation” (and Google Docs and Spreadsheets is now just Google Docs)

Jungle Disk & Amazon S3

I’ve been looking at Jungle Disk for online storage and backup and so far I like what I see. Jungle disk is a good example of a software developer that has built a service on the infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services. In this case it’s the Amazon Simple Storage Service. Amazon S3 for short.

Jungle Disk runs under OS X, Windows and Linux. I’ve only used the Mac version and everything in this article is related to the Mac version.

Jungle Disk isn’t typical backup software and they rightfully refer to themselves as “online storage”. Still, I think it has it’s use if you can live within it’s limitations.
Some things to be aware of when using Jungle Disk:

  • Files are never deleted when using the automated backup. You must delete them manually or run the “Backup Cleanup” process. This can actually be a good thing from an archiving perspective. It’s a bad thing if you don’t know and are paying for gigabytes of files you no longer need.
  • The Jungle Disk drive is mounted and can be accessed the same way any drive can. Such as in Finder or Explorer. This makes it easy to copy to and from the Jungle Disk instead of using the automated backups.
  • Out of the box you can only have one Jungle Disk bucket on Amazon S3 for Jungle Disk. There are workarounds but they require reconfiguring Jungle Disk to use different ports and directories.
  • File size is limited to 5GB (an Amazon S3 limitation). Many “files” on a Mac are actually “packages” of many files and the limitation applies to the individual files inside the package. For example, an Aperture or iPhoto library may be 6GB, but the largest file in the library is only 1GB so there won’t be a problem.
  • Jungle Disk does not support block-level backups. So if any part of a file changes the entire file gets backed up. Example: I added a single 250KB photo to iPhoto and this alone generated a 560MB backup since the thumbnail and other library information is kept in large files. Since we pay for bandwidth nightly backups could be expensive (well, more expensive than it has to be). Even ignoring cost, upload speed is a limiting factor for me and most people so the 560MB backup took hours, all to get a 250KB change. I could easily run into a situation where a few changes take longer than a night to backup.

A Problem – Or Not

A backup usually caused my cable modem to lock up sometime during the night when the backup ran, which required me to power cycle the modem in the morning. Any backup requiring more than a couple hours has had a problem. This is the issue I’ve mentioned in previous OS Quest Logs. Eventually I found the problem wasn’t unique to JD, although it occurs more frequently with JD than other options.

Pricing

The use of Amazon S3 makes for a slightly unconventional pricing model.

The Jungle Disk software is $20 for a license with free lifetime updates. You can use the software for 30 days as a free trial. The trial is full featured. The license covers all your computers and all OS’s.

Amazon S3 has a rather complicated pricing structure and there’s no free trial. It may be complicated but it’s cheap. You pay $0.15 per GB per month for storage. This is pro-rated for both size and time. For example, I have 19GB currently on S3. My current bill for that this month is $0.79 because I’ve used an amount equal to 5.229GB-month.

In addition to storage you also pay $0.10-GB for bandwidth in and $0.18-GB for transfer out (less if you hit the 10 or 40TB plateaus)

The above charges are fairly easy to figure. But then there’s charges for upload and download requests. A penny per 1,000 PUT and LIST requests (think upload) and another penny per 10,000 GET requests (think download). I’ve uploaded thousands of files and downloaded hundreds while testing. I’ve paid $1.57 for 156K upload requests and $0.19 for 188K download. Just based on volume it appears GET requests are used for listing directories and by the Jungle Disk software.

Due to bandwidth and “request” charges it’s difficult to estimate exact costs, but it appears that 30GB of my normal usage would be about $5/mth which is what Mozy charges for an “unlimited” account. If I was to just leave the data out there I could keep 33GB for $5/mth. If your data changes frequently and your backups are large you’ll pay more for bandwidth.

Amazon S3 does have a cost calculator available.

Bottom Line

Amazon S3 is a great option for online backups and I really like Jungle Disk. The fact that it’s cross-platform is a huge plus and the ability to run it off a USB thumb drive is a big benefit.

It requires a slightly more technical user than other all-in-one backup services. The documentation at the Jungle Disk website provides clear setup instructions.

While Amazon S3 is very low cost you do need to monitor usage to avoid any surprises, unlike other services with a fixed charge.