Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A couple nice utilties and one more political thing

Just thought I would get the word out about two programs. Both are relatively new to me, and not only that, were completely off my radar for a long time.

First... Like the idea of Time Machine on OSX, but want it for Windows (XP or Vista)? Got ya covered. FileHamster (free and pay-for versions) does the same revision control-type setup for documents that Time Machine does, only no spaceship interface. True, TM does do things with less supervision and configuration, but dammit, that is something I actually HATE about Apple. I wanna know what my PC is doing! Also, TM does backups of system files and other mysterious bits and bytes. FileHamster is much more simple in concept. You point it to a directory and say, "I want you to watch everything in here. If there are any changes, save the old file and add a new one." Bam. Done. You can have it alert you when tings change, so you can add notes to each revision, suspend revisioning, and muck with all sorts of parameters (I likey!) but by default it is simple. For the other types of backups, like disk images and differential/incremental backups, I have used Acronis True Image, but have gotten a little annoyed with some of the latest bugs (long story, non-standard setup, but annoying). I am basically at the point where I make an initial image after an OS install, just in case something bad happens in the near term, and then just do manual backups of revision-watched documents + other docs using either SyncBack or SyncToy (both free) to an external drive. Media files live on a separate drive that is synced infrequently (once every 3-6 months). Sound complicated? It isn't really. Basically, media is an afterthought that requires minimal monitoring. Important docs get revision-tracked automatically, along with syncing via FolderShare, and every once in a while I turn on the external drive and click one icon to backup the desktop PC. All the important stuff is always up-to-date. Chances are that if I obliterated my computer to the point where I need to use an image, I would probably just want to do a fresh install anyways (Vista installs are damn near painless). See? Actually very easy.

Oh, forgot one thing. I am loving Live Mesh for transferring docs between PCs. I didn't realize how many times I had something on one computer that I wanted on the other, but qualified for my "junk drawer" - random program updates, links to read later, temp files on things I don't need for long, papers to read with highlights, etc. I have a Live Mesh folder for all that stuff. When the item is of no use, I throw it int he trash on whatever computer I am using, and it is gone from both. I will probably be moving all my stuff off FolderShare and onto Live Mesh as soon as they leave the tech preview stage - don't want a "MobileMe" incident.

The other program was Sandboxie. Sandboxie is, in a word, wonderful. Got an installer for something you don't trust, or a program that has caused some big problems in the past, even to the point of needed to do a complete system restore? Run it in Sandboxie! Basically, Sandboxie creates 'sandboxes' which exist as a virtual layer between the program you choose to run in the sandbox, and the actual system. Go ahead and play with all those viruses and trojans you've heard so much about. When you're done, just clear the sandbox. Bam! Registry, dlls, files, folders, keys, etc etc etc back to their original state. The makers have the defaults set such that they expect you to use it all the time, and take advantage of the cleaning function as needed (the sandbox is applied to the system when closed). I used it the opposite way - I run it when I think I might be in for a nasty treat, like patching the Vista theme files, altering the # of TCP/UDP connections, downloading some sketchy shareware, etc. I have Sandboxie set to turn back all changes on exit, unless I tell it otherwise. I play with the settings, test it out for a while, and if everything works, apply the changes. Anything look fishy? Clickity-click. All done. There are SOME compatibility issues for things like games, and there is a little overhead (5-10% CPU loss, 10-20% network slowdown), especially while browsing, but in the end it has never actually crashed nor has anything been able to escape it. A MUST HAVE for everyone.

And the political thing - CNN has a report (warning: video link) that the Palin story about wanting to teach creationism in science class is false. They say she thought the students should debate it. Idiots. Same thing. In order to debate it, they would have to give equal time to both evolution and creationism, and then more time for the actual debate. Creationism isn't science. It's tricked out voodoo, with a dollop of Jesus-sauce on top. I don't care if it is a part of an optional theology class, or in the context of a 'Religions of the World' class, but no one should get an A in physics because they think that unicorns poop magical pixie dust that fertilizes invisible brumbamumba bushes which hold the Earth up in space. Creationism is the same thing using different names. Ugh. I'm just waiting for bloodletting to come back into style so the same idiots can kill themselves while trying to balance their bodily humours and remove the demons.

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