Software

Incestuous lives of software programs

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Lately I've been looking for a program to backup our computer's data with using the lovely DLT7000 drive we got recently. Along the way I've tried a whole bunch of different programs of varying abilities, some better than others, some that at first glance that have everything under the sun only to discover major problems later on (Genie Backup Manager), and some that seem very simple but work well.

My requirements were simple: it had to work with DLT drives (most of them do not), had to be able to make stand-alone file backups, some sort of system restore ability was needed, and it had to be easy to restore files from a backup. Having tried probably ten different programs and skipped easly another fifteen because they didn't support DLT drives, my current favorite, and probably the one we'll get, is Stompsoft PC Backup. A relatively new program that hasn't garnered much media attention, PC Backup is relatively simple straight forward to use, and one of the cheapest on the market that can use readily available DLT drives (like the $20 drives off ebay).

Before we spent our hard earned money, though, I had a few questions for the company and garnered further insights. As it turned out PC Backup is actually a sibling of a more expensive product called NovaStor's NovaBackup Professional with a simpler interface, some less options and a lower price tag ($70 vs $40). NovaStor used to have a "home" edition of NovaBackup but its disappeared off their website lately, my guess is that this is where PC Backup comes into play, marketed by a company who focuses on more home users rather than corporate/professional types. I actually prefer PC Backup to NovaBackup for these reasons - I don't really need most of the advanced things from NovaBackup like plugins, the scheduler etc, I just need to select my files and hit backup, and the $30 difference would pay for an extra tape.

It is common for a company to write a program only to resell it later on, and then it be sold again until eventually its gone through three or four companies.

As mentioned, PC Backup is actually a slightly trimmed down and easier to use version of a more expensive program called NovaBackup. The same company also has another program called Backup MyPC that I remember seeing at least two other companies owning over the past few years, and it is also resold as part of Roxio’s Easy Media Creator 7.5 suite.

Other companies have been doing similar things over the years, especially that software dinosaur, Microsoft. Microsoft has actually written very little new software in-house, they almost always either buy out a small company or a specific product then mould it to their desires rather than starting from scratch. A perfect example of this is their dot-Net platform which started life as Java. You see Microsoft licensed Java several years to ship with Windows. As part of their usual embrace-and-extend business practice (where they take something and turn it into something else that’s usually incompatible with the original) they turned it into their slightly incompatible Java engine, called Visual J in Visual Studio 6, and were eventually sued by Sun for doing so; as part of a collection of lawsuits Microsoft were forced to stop saying their Java-derived software was derived from Java (?). So, never being ones to let a good thing go, Microsoft continued developing their own Java platform and turned it into dot-Net.

Tool for removing device drivers

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Sometimes when you're removing something from your computer, say you're putting in a new video card and don't need the old drivers anymore, the old files aren't always removed properly. Luckily for us someone else noticed this too only he wrote a program to fix the problem - tell it what drivers you had before and it'll make sure all of the remnants are promptly given marching orders, and its completely free.

Free backup software that's great!

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Another backup program for you to try. Genie Games Backup is the little sibling of a range of much more powerful backup software but is completely free. Despite being free Genie Games Backup gives you a pretty wide range of options to work with, from zip file encryption to script generation for automatically backing up the important files for specific programs. Despite the name Genie Games Backup is able to backup any file you wish, the key difference between it and its bigger siblings is that it can't back up to removable media (CDs, DVDs, tape, etc), instead only to another directory or a zip file. Honestly, though, its features should be enough for most people, and once you do a backup you can always save it out to CD or DVD manually. Go give it a spin!

We no need no stinkin Exchange!

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Microsoft Exchange Server is a hulking beast with many ingrained problems yet is still the most commonly used mail server with most companies. Several oranizations have tried to come up with a good replacement for it, and it looks like there may finally be one with a chance of doing so:

Basic file backups

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Its important to keep regular backups of your data, particularly files that are you'd really be upset if you lost (finances, baby pictures, etc). I recently found a free program called Cobian Backup that is designed for making basic file copy or zip archive backups of your files - it won't burn them to CD or DVD but its a good start. Its a little fiddly to get working correctly mainly because there are a large variety of options, but once you do you'll have pretty reliable backups as needed.

What I suggest is creating a Zip backup of either 50mb or 100mb chunks, and if you have the drive space keep about ten days worth. You should schedule it to run every day after work / at night so you've got your important files backed up daily. You should first do one backup to see how much disk space it ends up using, which will help you work out how many CDs or DVDs you'll need later. Once you get it all set up and its working well for a few days, you could then start copying a set of backup files to CD or DVD and putting them in a heat-proof firesafe or safe deposit box, preferably in a different building to your computer just in case of e.g. fire. With a few simple practices like that you shouldn't have too many problems.

I'm going to write up some documentation on how to use it for work, then I'll also post it here.

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