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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