Monthly Archives: June 2006

Please, pardon my vanity


Me

Originally uploaded by CaptQuirk.

Sharon Norris, who with her husband Jonnie and her mother Earline, accompanied Carole and me on our Alaska cruise in May of this year, took this picture of me while the ship was visiting Glacier Bay, Alaska, on May 24, 2006. I have cropped the original picture she took because it is the most flattering one of me I think I have ever seen, particularly since I have reached this advanced age (64). I really like it, and despite the fact that it reveals my vanity, I wanted to share it here on my blog. A thousand thanks, Sharon.

My God! what a handsome devil you are Perry! 😉

Handy Backup gets my thumbs up

After reading Tom Simpson’s post about Handy Backup, I downloaded it for the 30 day free trial period and put it through its paces.  After only 5 days of that evaluation period, I have determined that it meets my needs quite nicely.  I was able to set it up and backup my data to my web hosting service without any problem.  Afterwards, I tested whether I was able to restore the backup to my own computer, and I was.  Being able to restore, is, of course, an essential function. 

This software automates the process of backing up and takes care of it on a schedule that I determine.  Automation is/was an important element for me.  I’ve long known, as we all have, that backing up is important and something that needed to be done.  However, somehow doing the backup was always out there in the future for me, and it never seemed to get done in my case.  You may have experienced the same thing.  If so, I’d recommend you evaluate this software and take some action before you discover one morning that your computer won’t boot up and the digital pictures or music you’ve downloaded are gone.  After all, even we “home users” have things on our computer that we wouldn’t want to lose.

Although I chose to use the FTP option for my backups (mostly because I don’t have a DVD burner on my computer), Handy Backup offers a variety of possible backup scenarios.  If you have a DVD burner, you could use that.  Also you can backup to CD and the program will intelligently span multiple CDs if the backup is too large to fit on one of them. 

After doing an initial complete backup, it will backup only those files that have changed since the last back up.  That first backup of all the important data takes a long time, but subsequent ones go much more quickly because they are only backing up files that have changed since the last backup.  To understand how it works, check out this Interactive Tour.

If you are wise enough to learn from someone else’s near-miss disaster, please use this Initialization Number in making your purchase: REF7DKT64297TRM7.  Also see this link for a special offer that will permit you to purchase this software for only $5. 

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Evaluating software

For the last several days, I’ve been evaluating several new pieces of software.  As I mentioned in my Lessons Learned post on the 22nd, I needed to explore an automatic backup program that gave me an option for offsite backup.  The next day, Tom Simpson posted a piece called “Backups Should Be Automatic” that was, at least in part, a response to my post.  In it, he recommended a backup program that he had found recently called Handy Backup.  It provides the features that I need.  It can be set up to be automated, and it provides the option of backing up with FTP to some remote location, among other options.  It also provides the ability to backup to DVD, but since I don’t have a DVD burner on this computer, that option doesn’t do me much good.  Though you can backup to CD and though the program is smart enough to span multiple CDs if your backup is too large to fit on just one, that option, while viable for me, entails attending the backup so that you can swap the CDs when one fills up and another is needed.  Better than not backing up at all, of course, but not ideal.  So I am choosing to experiment with the FTP option to backup to my hosting service’s servers.

Handy Backup is a nice little program that isn’t too expensive.  In fact, you can get it at at $25 discount from its normal $30 price, if you recommend it to others and two of them purchase the program as a result of your recommendation.  However, even at the normal $30 price it is very reasonably-priced. 

There is a lot to like about Handy Backup, not the least of which is the extensive documentation and explanation of the program’s features available on the company’s website.  I particularly liked the Interactive Tour they provide, because with that you have an audio/video demonstration of the program in action which, for me, is one of the best ways to get to know a program.  Since the company permits you to download it and use it for 30 days to see if it works for you, it is possible to really evaluate whether it will meet your needs before you must pay for it. 

A second thing that I have installed and explored for the purpose of backing up my data is and extension for either Firefox or Flock called gSpace.  This extension permits me to use one of several Gmail accounts that I have as if it were an additional partition on my computer and to copy files from my computer to that account.  This achieves the goal of enabling me to have some offsite storage of files right form my browser window.  That is convenient and simple.

Next, despite the fact that I am quite satisfied with the email program I use (The Bat!), I have a couple of friends who frequently seek my help with their computer issues who use Thunderbird.  So in order to have a working copy of that on my system to permit me to understand it, I downloaded a copy of Thunderbird and set it up to work with a couple of my Gmail accounts.  It is a very competent email program, and I’m pleased to have it on my system too.  It doesn’t offer all the power user features that The Bat! offers, but nonetheless, it does an excellent job and, like Firefox and Flock, it provides the ability to install other extensions that can add functionality that the Open Source community has developed.  There is a large userbase for this software, so help is generally available if one needs it.

Finally, I am continuing to use the first beta edition of Flock, now in version 0.7.1, and I am quite pleased with the way it is performing.  No other browser that I’ve seen integrates as many of the services that I use regularly (Flickr, del.icio.us, and blogging) as Flock does.

So while I haven’t been posting much in the last several days, I haven’t been idle.  I enjoy discovering and exploring new software, and I enjoy sharing my discoveries with others as well, so I hope some of this proves useful to you.

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Lessons learned

After receiving the scare I had the day before yesterday about possibly losing my computer, I’ve drawn a few conclusions from the experience.  Whether I’ve “learned my lesson” I can’t say, but I did discover some things that are potential lessons for me that I hope I’ll have the wisdom to learn.

  • The first thing is a simple matter of physics. “If you tug on one end of a cable, the other end of it might become loose too.”  In my case, I was plugging and unplugging the end of the IDE cable that connects the hard disks in my computer to the motherboard.  When I experienced the “boot disk failure,” I went back and made sure that the end I was playing with was firmly seated, but I didn’t think about checking the other end because I hadn’t intentionally ever unplugged it.  It took Tom’s reminding me to check that end too before I found that it had also come loose during the operation.  It is usually the simple things that you overlook.
  • Having a blog is a great potential source of help.  Because I posted in detail about what had occurred and invited comment from anyone who had an idea as to what might be going on, a friend figured out what my problem was and saved me a large and unnecessary expenditure.  I’ve seen other people ask for help on their blog and invite comment from the community, and they too have gotten it.  I’ve concluded people are often willing and able to help if you just give them enough information and the opportunity.
  • I realized that a lot of the things that I save in my computer don’t matter all that much, but a few things do.  When I was faced with the possibility that I would never regain access to my hard disks, I began to consider what I had lost.  I realized that even though I save a lot of my email correspondence, losing it wouldn’t matter all that much.  I have correspondence that dates back to when I first got this computer (2001), but much of that correspondence is nothing more than forwarded jokes or web pages, appeals about issues of concern and idol chatter.  I could easily discard many of those messages, and I should because I would regain a lot of hard disk real estate by doing so.  I’ll use the delete button much more in the future as a result of this insight.
  • The few pieces of correspondence that do matter should be backed up — today, not some day in the future.  I maintain a folder called Notes where I store text files of things that I have written since 1995.  Although much of that (maybe even all of it) is inconsequential, some of it seems useful to me. Since backing up text files doesn’t require a lot of space, I should back up that folder routinely.  Also I do my taxes electronically and even though I have a hard copy of all my returns, I should back up the electronic tax documents too.  I have a few spreadsheets that contain historical information of interest or importance to me, so those should be a part of the regular back up as well.  The correspondence I have from software vendors confirming my registration is another thing that I should include in my backups.
  • Pictures should be backed up.  Even though a number of the pictures I’ve taken with my digital camera are stored on Flickr so that I could retrieve them if I lost the hard disk, only 10 or 20 percent of all the pictures I’ve taken are on that site.  I’m sure that the vast majority of the other pictures that are not on Flickr are of poor quality or perhaps of innocuous subjects and therefore not worth keeping, but backing up is the only way to preserve those photos that are worth keeping.  Pictures are one thing that you can not go back and restore. 
  • I do not have a large collection of music in digital format, but if I did, that would be something worth backing up.  However, I do have a number of podcasts that I have done, so they should be preserved by a backup.
  • Automatic backups are better than those done manually.  It’s too easy to put off doing a backup if you must do it manually.  So it is time for me to research a good automatic backup strategy.
  • Computers are like Fibber McGee’s closet.  It is too easy to download things and leave them in your computer when you no longer need them.  I realize I need to resolve to use the delete key more frequently.  Not only will it delay the necessity of purchasing more storage space, but it will make backups smaller and quicker.
  • Computers are an essential appliance.  Having let them into my life, I cannot imagine ever being without one again.  Therefore, as soon as I acquire a new one, I need to begin to save for the next one.  Then when or if something happens to my current one, I’ll already be more nearly ready to get the next one. 
  • And to round out this list with an even 10 items, I have concluded that off-site storage of important documents and treasured digital memorabilia is a wise idea.  So I need to research how best to achieve that objective.

It is not a question of whether a hard disk will fail but of when.  And it is not a question of whether a computer will quit working but of when it will. 

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No new computer … yet

Thanks to Tom Simpson’s long-distance diagnosis of the problem I was having yesterday, I was able to restore my computer to functioning.  It was simply a matter of having loosened the connection of the IDE cable where it is plugged into the motherboard that was the source of my problem.  Tom said he had had the same experience before and suggested that I make sure it was seated properly.  Once I did that, the computer booted properly.  So thanks, yet again, Tom for saving my bacon.

I am relieved that I don’t have to spend money on a new computer just yet.  At the same time, having begun to look at what is available nowadays, I am also a bit disappointed.  I found this nice system at BestBuy for a bit over $1,000.00 and I had already begun to salivate over having 2 GB of RAM (with the possibility of expanding that to 4 GB) and a new graphics card.  While I could add a new graphics card to my current computer, I am maxed out on RAM so I can’t add more of that to it.  Looking for a new computer is something I typically try to avoid, lest I get the bug, just as I stay out of new car showrooms for the same reason. 

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A revoltin’ development!


A revoltin’ development!

Originally uploaded by CaptQuirk.

For a while, blogging may be light. This morning I was greeted by this screen indicating a boot failure. So I appear to be in the market for a new computer.

I had arisen early (around 5 AM) and decided to do some scanning that I had been intending to do for a long time. My scanner, a PaperPort 6000, is old and doesn’t have drivers for Windows XP, but fortunately I still have my Windows ME 40 Mb hard disk in my machine, and I can just switch the ribbon cables to boot up under Windows ME and use the scanner from there. So that is what I did. I completed scanning the pictures I wanted to scan and burned a CD with them on it. Then I shut down the computer, and again I switched the ribbon cables so that I could boot again from Windows XP. That is when I encountered the screen in the picture.

After a few well chosen words, I decided okay, I’ll just boot from Windows ME again and I can get online and communicate my situation from there. However, when I again shut down and switched the ribbon cables back to the ME hard disk, I again was greeted by this screen. So … it appears that it isn’t JUST a hard disk failure, since two different hard disks are failing to boot. Something else must be screwed up.

I did insert the System Disk and pressed Enter as instructed, but the only options upon doing that were to reinstall the OS, and C: or the other partition, D:, were not recognized. It may be possible to simply get a new hard disk and insert it and then reinstall the OS, but the fact that two different hard disks are failing to boot causes me to question the wisdom of that strategy.

I’ve had this computer since 2001, so it has given about 5 years of use and is, consequently, somewhat out of date, particularly in terms of its graphics card. It was probably time for me to be in the market for a new computer anyway, but as always it is better to buy a computer or a car or a new refrigerator on your planned schedule rather than finding yourself having to buy one.

Fortunately I do have access to my son’s computer to use from his home to get online occasionally and check my email or make an occasional blog post, but my responsiveness is likely to be slowed because I don’t have constant access to my own system until I can get it replaced.

Let me invite anyone who has any insight about why two different hard disks with different OSes on them wouldn’t boot, and what that might indicate is wrong with the computer (other than it is fried and in need of replacement), I’d welcome your making a comment on this post. Be aware that for first time commenters I will have to approve your comment before it will appear, so if it doesn’t show up immediately, don’t be concerned and don’t repost it. Once I’ve had a chance to check the address at which I’ll be notified about your post and to approve it, it will appear. Thanks for any help any of you can offer.

As William Bendix in his role in “The Life of Riley” used to say, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Father’s Day 2006

As a Father’s Day gift to me, Mike and his family took me to see the Tennessee Smokies play the Chattanooga Lookouts at the Smokies stadium in Sevierville, TN. This picture of Mike and Connor, taken by Cheryl, captured a milestone in Connor’s life — the time he first attended a professional baseball game with his dad and his Granddad.

One of my own fondest memories of doing things with my dad and my Granddad was attending the Atlanta Cracker baseball games at Ponce de Leon Park in Atlanta. Ironically, one of the teams that those Crackers used to play regularly was the Chattanooga Lookouts. Both of them were in the old Southern Association.

Sunday’s visit to the Smokies game with all of the Knoxville Nelson clan was hot and a bit too trying on the patience of the young ones, but it was a really nice Father’s Day gift that I appreciated very much. It is one thing to give “things” as gifts, but going to the trouble to spend time with someone doing something THEY enjoy doing, whether you like doing it or not, is in many ways a much more precious gift. So thanks to you, Mike, Cheryl, Madison, Morgan, Kaitlin and Connor for making the sacrifice to do something with me that I enjoy doing. It will be a cherished memory for me for a long time to come.