September 04, 2005

Backup strategies part 2

My workplace engages a number of contract staff that work from separate sites. As mentioned in my post about BCP planning, data protection is vital. After asking some questions of our contractors, we identified a vulnerability in the backup regimes being used - while there were plenty of backups, none were held offsite. The Connected Dataprotector came to the rescue, and a simple workgroup plan now makes it easy for everyone to have an offsite backup set.

Posted by Jeffrey at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2005

Backup strategies

Having purchased two Maxtor USB drives lately for extra storage, I had the opportunity to install Dantz Retrospect Express, and ending up buying the upgrade to Professional within about 30 minutes of seeing just how good it is at managing backups. (I should have listened when a friend recommended this product to me a while back.)

As we have two main work sites, we can now very easily use the Maxtor drives in rotation every week or so and maintain up to date offsite backups. This was already happening to some extent, but Retrospect offers much better management of the backup media and backup sets than the previous software. And buying the bundled product with an external hard drive provides an inexpensive upgrade path to a business class product.

Posted by Jeffrey at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

Save time by slipstreaming

Here's a great article describing how to make your own Windows XP installation CD that includes the updates: Slipstreaming Windows XP with Service Pack 2. Installing all of the necessary Windows security patches is always tedious, but this will dramatically reduce the number required.

Posted by Jeffrey at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2005

Customer service not what it could be

Here's someone else that has found Dell support less than ideal: Dude, I got Dell-ed. So much of this sounds all too familiar.

I ordered a power supply for my Dimension 4600 on 19 January. No complaints about the price or order process. But two weeks later I called to find out what was happening. First I was told there was a payment problem, then transferred to spare parts and told it was not a payment problem, it was just that Dell have none and expect some to arrive at their warehouse on 11 February for delivery soon after. I wonder what would have happened if I had opted for the '3 year next business day on site warranty'; would their techs have access to the part?? I cannot help but think that I am being penalised for having the capacity to do the repair myself...

Posted by Jeffrey at 10:29 PM

January 11, 2005

Microsoft release anti-spyware

Now available for download, Windows AntiSpyware is Microsoft's initial anti-spyware offering. As my spyware paranoia level had been creeping up lately, it was somewhat comforting to install it, run a scan and find that it found nothing nasty. Perhaps that just means it did not find what is there?

A comparison of the MS offering against some other spyware apps can be found here. While it hold its own, it may not be the only thing that you would want to rely on.

Posted by Jeffrey at 09:23 PM

Two Dell systems down in one week

What a surprise it was to turn on a one month old Dimension 8400 and find that the hard drive had failed. Not a small failure either, as tech support suggested reinstalling the OS (what else!) and Win XP setup was unable to format the drive, stating that there were 'unrecoverable errors'. Strangely enough, tech support still took some convincing before they would send out a new part.

The bigger surprise was going home to my Dimension 4600 and finding that it also had died (18 months old). Turning it on makes the fan run and the power light flash, and that is all. This appears to be a power supply problem, although the ultimate cause is still to be determined. Having had several reliable Dell systems over 10 years, it was disappointing to have the two latest systems fail suddenly. Here's hoping the customer service lives up to expectations.

Posted by Jeffrey at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2004

HP 'all-in-one,' but master of none

In a moment of weakness I bought a HP 6110 all-in-one printer/scanner/fax. It looked good after reading the box, but it has not delivered. Yes, it can print well. But other than that, it is very disappointing.

My main gripe is the length of time that the scanner drivers take to load, and the impossibility of tweaking the scanner settings and getting it to remember them. I used to scan a lot of pencil sketches into Acrobat. Since the HP insists on resetting the black/white threshold to whatever it feels like, I have been forced to give up the pencil and draw in ink or end up with blank pages. While a scan profile with a custom B/W threshold setting can be created and set as the default, it refuses to use that one when Acrobat opens the scanner dialog.

And in the time that the scanner driver takes to load, I could boot my computer, scan and email a document with my Canon all-in-one.

One other thing - since I updated the flash rom to the latest HP release, the fax functions think that Letter sized paper is the only size in existence. I can set the paper size to A4 in as many dialogs as I like (both on the machine and in the printer, scan and fax options in the software), but as soon as it goes into standby mode, it resets to Letter. This is very annoying for incoming faxes, as every page received prints across two pages.

So, if you are considering a HP all-in-one for SOHO use, don't do it. Buy a Canon.

Posted by Jeffrey at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2004

OzTiVo - worth the effort

After much fiddling with my imported US TiVo, and help from the knowledgeable OzTiVo community, it is up and running. Without a doubt it was worth the trouble. The setup is a Series 1 TiVo, 120 Gb HDD, TurboNet card and a Teac digital receiver (because the IR codes are easily obtained).

Initially I tried an Airnet card, but it seemed that the wireless PCMCIA card that I obtained from ebay was faulty - buyer beware I guess. (And the seller, one J Underwood, had the gall to complain that my feedback was not positive enough.) To get the wireless connection, I am using a Linksys game adaptor, formerly plugged into my PS2. This takes all the fiddling of the WEP setup away from the TiVo, and the networking worked right out of the box with the latest image.

My advice for any others considering an OzTiVo is DO IT! There is plenty of help available, and a great starting point is A great resource for technical queries is the mailing list archives, or failing that post to the list.

The TiVo interface is very simple to use, and the manual is available online here.

Posted by Jeffrey at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2004

Drawings to go

I recently acquired an iPaq 2210 with the intention of being able to take drawings for multiple projects with me when I go on the road. As we use Autodesk's dwf format in house, this was the format of choice, with pdf format being the fall back position if the former did not work.

To get dwf's to work on the iPaq took some fiddling. The viewer chosen was PocketCAD DWFview. (There is also a free dwf viewer available from, but I found the former to be better.) Having installed the viewer, I found that it could not open dwf's made with the DWFeplot6 that comes in AutoCAD 2004 (and is used by the Publish... command). I had to manually install a new plotter using the 'Release 14 look', which apparently creates dwf's using the previous file version.

(As an aside, there is also an option in the plotter setup to turn on layer information, which is not turned on by default when publishing dwf's.)

So now that I can open dwf's, I have to say I am slightly disappointed with the performance. Opening a typical dwf drawing takes quite a while, and the zoom has to be large before the lines are clear. This is in comparison to pdf's, which have a substantially larger file size, open quicker (?!), and look noticeably better on the small screen. My observation is that the dwf format on the iPaq loses some fidelity, whereas the pdf format does not. And before I tried them both, I would have expected the opposite.

Still, I am happy to be able to carry a large number of drawings in my pocket and would rather wait for them to open than wade through a mountain of A3 hardcopies.

Posted by Jeffrey at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Airport, Airtunes

I have just had the pleasure of setting up an Apple Airport Express. Suddenly my Windows PC with 2500 MP3's can stream them over my wireless network (802.11b) to our surround sound system, and there is no longer any need to load CD's or wait for them to change.

Apple make good looking gear, the airport express unit is very slick. Setup was straight forward, I just had to find the Ascii equivalent to the hex WEP key that I had been using and the airport express was able to connect to my router. Now from within iTunes I can pick the destination - being PC speakers or loungeroom hifi - and the music starts!

Posted by Jeffrey at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)