We need more user-friendly backup options

Don’t try this at home: the interior of a hard disk drive.

An interesting article on The Register a few days ago about Dell‘s plans in the US to offer customers “the option of adding an automatic back-up system to their new PC when they buy one of three models from its Dimension range.”

The article goes on to explain that

for an extra $99 it will install a second, 80GB hard drive in new Dimension E310, E510 and XPS 400 models. The drive will be configured to continuously back up the main drive, protecting personal data against the dreaded hard drive crash.

I presume that this is simply a RAID 1 setup, which is something that more and more modern PCs are capable of — mine is, for example and it’s a couple of years old — although Dell have called this “DataSafe”.

RAID 1 is an arrangement where two hard disks are set up to save exactly the same data on both drives; one is a mirror of the other. The obviousl advantage there is that should one drive fail or get corrupted then (hopefully) all your data will be safely stored on the mirrored drive.

I find it quite incredible that it has taken an OEM computer company up until now to realise that people’s data is so often so important to them that some kind of simple, user-friendly backup method should be an essential part of a new setup, particularly when more and more people are having to use PCs, many (most?) of whom don’t know too much about them.

A lot of new PCs come with ‘restore’ partitions, that is a separated area of the hard drive that contains data to completely restore the main hard drive (C:) to the state that it was in when it was delivered to your door. But the problem with this is that it will also wipe all your personal data.

A lot of new PCs come with this ‘restore’ partitions instead of a genuine Windows XP CD-ROM, which can also lead to other problems, like when you’re trying to install some piece of hardware that requires a few files from the XP installation CD. I was delighted when my current PC arrived from NetHighStreet with a Windows XP Professional CD.

There are more and more people using PCs nowadays. Many of whom haven’t the faintest clue about how their PC is setup (which is fair enough), what all the buttons do, and why certain features are arranged the way they are. All they want to do is switch it on, check their email, write their documents, watch a DVD or two, and maybe play some games. It can’t be that difficult to design a user-friendly backup system now … can it?!

eSword – freeware Bible software with an edge

Screenshot of eSword Bible software
A screenshot of the free eSword Bible software for Windows.

Next up in my “I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages” series comes the excellent eSword bible software. I’ve been using eSword for a couple of years now, and it’s now at the truly holy version 7.7.7. (Stryper would be proud of them!) There is also a version available for Pocket PC (or whatever Microsoft are calling their PDA version of Windows).

What I really like about eSword is its variety of Bible versions available. I regularly use The Message, Contemporary English Version (CEV) and International Standard Versions (ISV), as well as occasionally in Hebrew or Koine Greek. Sadly, the New International Version (NIV) and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are not available as their publishers haven’t granted eSword a licence.

The user-interface is really quite simple too: Select the version you want (of those you have installed) in the central section, and in the left-hand pane select the book and chapter you want to view. It couldn’t be more simple than that. If you have any commentaries installed you can access information from those in adjacent panes; or create your own study notes.

eSword also has a Compare function, showing your selected Bible verse in each version you have installed; or a Parallel function, allowing up to four versions to be viewed side-by-side.

Searching for a passage is a simple case of clicking Search and telling the software what you’re looking for, and in which version.

It’s certainly worth checking out. But if you want to download everything then you’ll certainly need a broadband connection as it clocks in at over 336 MB.

Into the deep

Only a few days now until Deep Impact 2005 in Aviemore and the scene in the Saunders’ household is much the same as prior to the previous two Deep Impact weekends, in 2000 and 2002: one of controlled panic and frantic session writing.

Believe it or not, I’ve never used Microsoft PowerPoint before. My old PC, a Time AMD K6/2 500MHz running Windows 98se, had a dodgy graphics card driver that would always crash whenever I ran PowerPoint. I tried to update the graphics card drivers and whenever I did the PC would refuse to boot. It did the same with the presentation software on the Lotus Smartsuite too, Freelance. And the OpenOffice.org Impress. So in the end I just gave up. My new PC, a NetHighStreet Athlon XP 2800+, doesn’t have the same problem — I would expect not with a Radeon 9800 installed.

So, this evening I’ve been creating a presentation, in Powerpoint 2000, for a session I’m co-leading with Struan Gardner called “Gems among the rubbish: a guide to the web”. The focus? Web standards, Accessibility, Open Source, and Mozilla Firefox. Of course!!