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The church of Christ that I attend appointed me in year 2001 to be the “Audio Man” with the main task of making certain that our pa system worked well to provide sound re-enforcement for the assembly and record and deliver to the internet the sermons, plus make them available on CD or tape for shut-ins..

As the needs progressed, I now have 3 assistants. They all joke that I am the “King of Backups”. I consider the backups that they refer to as “Alternate solutions” when a piece of audio gear fails to function properly.

With the above in mind, I am getting ready for a week at one of the North Carolina Beaches.

Frolicking in the sand, letting the waves wash over my feet is NOT for me. The isolation from everyday activity is enough of a break.

To while away the hours, I take along several electronic projects to “play” with. Some of this play requires computer communication. To that end comes my laptop and it’s BACKUPs!

My normal laptop is a Toshiba Satellite…. It came with Windows Vista on it. It didn’t take long for me to repartition the hard drive giving half to a Ubuntu ( Linux ) operating system. I rarely go to the Vista side of the laptop. I am seriously considering installing a larger hard drive since I have stored so much on the linux side that I am bumping the space limit.

If for some reason, the Toshiba should fail, I do have backups! My immediate backup is a Google CR-48 netbook running the chrome operating system.

Last but not least is a small 7 inch netbook which has both wifi & wired network capability and is running natively, windows CE. To make it more user friendly, I can boot to a flash drive that has a Debian ( Linux ) operating system on it.

As a final alternate method, I have my DROID cell phone which has the ability to run an SSH client terminal, an FTP client, and a vnc viewer, plus other entertaining goodies.

If all should fail – I can still visit the local library and use one of their workstations.

Check out my post on Library computing.

The Quietness of the Library

I have one of the 65000 netbooks given out free by Google. It’s affectionately known as CR-48. Google is using it to test it’s operating system called Chrome. They informed their possible recipients that some things may not work.

Even with some things not working, it is still a very useful device. I am writing this article on the netbook. The file is stored on Google’s cloud ( Google Docs ). I don’t have to worry about a hard drive crash or someone stealing my netbook. The file is safe in the bosom of Google’s massive computer center.

Today I wrote an email on the CR-48 intending to send it to myself at another email address, but I accidentally sent it to an email address I rarely use. It took me a few minutes to realize my mistake. It was received at the almost never used email server. It prompted me to search all my various email sites for messages.

I didn’t realize how many email accounts I have.

yahoo.com, juno.com, tuftux.com, gmail.com, a church email account, a high school reunion email account, two on shell accounts — just to name a few.. Some of these email accounts are over 10 years old!

I believe I have enough email accounts, don’t you?

Definition: Cloud
Webster’s Dictionary might explain a cloud as something sky bound. The latest talk about “Cloud” is a reference to the internet. For many years, the internet is represented by network diagrams as being a cloud.

Cloud activity of the day is a difference sort of internet work. Instead of having applications on your home or work computer, the applications and files that you are working on live somewhere on the internet ( within the cloud ). Through your broadband internet connection, you login to your cloud server ( my cloud server is at http://slowpossum.info/eyeos/ ) and then you select an application to use.

On my cloud, the application to write a document is Zoho Writer. It can produce documents in Microsoft word .doc, open office odt, a pdf file, html file or an rtl document. I am creating this document in an open office .odt file.

The cloud operating system EyeOs is easy to install to an internet server. Adding applications to the system is very simple as well. A short list of what applications I am presently using some of the following:

1.Zoho Office Suite
a.Zoho writer ( for documents )
b.Zoho Sheet ( for spreadsheets )
c.Zoho Show ( for presentations )
2.Calculator
3.EyeImages ( for viewing photos, etc )
4.Calendar
5.Navigator ( browser )
6.Mail Client
7.Ftp Client
With all of these applications available from any computer with a browser, I don’t have to worry about having that special flash drive with me. All of what I am working on resides at the cloud location, until I download it and make use of the document or presentation.

As forgetful as I can be at times, it is good to know that my CLOUD has my back :-)

Note: Some months ago, I promised an article on Useful Online tools. Here it is.

Adapted from my own searches and information from the internet.

It’s not the first time. It’s happened before. A hard drive crash — This time the drive is dead. How are you going to piece things back together?

You do backup your system, don’t you?

I have heard stories of well meaning individuals that do back up their system, but never checked the backups and when you really need the back up, it is either missing or corrupted.

Again, the question becomes “how do you piece things back together?”.

What Online tools can you put into place now, that will be useful if/when your hard drive dies.?

Let’s look at a list of useful online tools. These tools are even more useful because in their basic form, they have no cost involved.

1. Backup:
There are several different types of backups.
a. A system backup that attempts to backup everything on your hard drive to a separate drive ( a complete image of your drive). Usually this requires some hefty external hard drive.
b. Partial backups that only capture your data ( documents, spreadsheets, presentations, images, music, etc ). Not a total backup but perhaps all of your document, spreadsheets, presentations, etc will fit into an online backup system such as Syncplicity. They allow a 2gb backup of files for no charge. For more advanced usage, it will cost you approximately 10 dollars per month.

If you use a Mac or Linux, syncplicity is not for you. It is a windows only application or service.
An Alternate service ( with expanded storage size — 50gb of space ) that is xp, mac, & linux friendly is adrive.com. It appears ok. it’s upload/download applications work, but I would like to see an easier method of multiple file uploads/downloads. I have have been using it for about 6 months. They have modified their service over the months and it seems to be easier to you. It doesn’t offer syncronization.
1.Another storage option for certain file types ( document files, spreadsheet files, presentation files and pdf files ) can be stored in google docs — a feature of gmail.com
2. (see gmail in#2 )

Link: http://www.syncplicity.com
link: http://www.adrive.com

2. Emails:
All those special notes, informational emails that you received and have been keeping for years on your local computer will be gone if your hard drive is totally dead. Why not switch to a stable online email service where your emails ( received or sent ) are stored on their backed up servers? I recommend gmail. Not only does gmail give you this email storage feature, it has other features called google docs where you can store spreadsheets, document files, presentation files and even pdf files.
Another email service is yahoo.com’s email service. I know some of you now use it, I even have an account on yahoo.com, but don’t use it enough to give any recommendations.

Link: http://gmail.com
Link: http://yahoo.com

3. Those great pictures:
Check out Picasa for you digital picture storage for free. It is available for XP, Mac, & Linux. Picasa normally detects your operating system and will direct you to the proper operating system area for download of it’s application.

Link: http://picasa.google.com

4. Bookmark Servce:
Xmarks ( formerlly foxmarks ) — I do a lot of internet searching for myself & others. By installing the Xmarks add-on to my browser, my bookmarks are all available on my laptop, my home computer & if for some reason, I am on some other computer, I can retrieve any bookmark I have stored with Xmarks. I like that this service offers me the ability to access all of these online, as well as have them at my fingertips any time I need them. The big reason for the bookmark service is if my hard drive dies — I still have all my bookmarks available to be re-installed on a new drive. Can I have a happy face on that??? :-)

http://www.xmarks.com/

5. Passwords:
Your hard drive with all information on your passwords ( usernames & passwords ) is gone. Would there been a way to protect this information. You could use a password manager where all your passwords are stored encrypted at a remote site for you.
I am using keepassX which was originally only for linux, but now has versions for Windows XP and Mac.
Once you have gathered all your username and password information into an encrypted file, you should upload it to some safe location such as adrive.com for backup.

Link: http://www.keepassx.org/

6. Software licenses:
Some of my new software is obtained by downloading and I don’t get a physical copy on CD. If practical, I make a copy of the downloaded software to cd and also store the downloaded installation software in a special folder on my pc that is backed up regularly. It is wise to make a pdf copy of the software license usually sent to you in an email. I store this in my documents area as well. You can use Keepassx program that will store all of your software licenses and purchase information in encrypted form. I personally retain the key and purchase info with my password database using keepassx. If you wish to obtain a separate application, Registration Vault can be used for that. It is only 20 dollars.

Link: http://www.canyonsoftware.com/

7. Contact management:
If you use the suggested email service ( gmail.com ), their contacts ( normally used for email addresses ) is quite useful for contact management. At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be much more than a usual contact list, but it has the capability of adding other sections to each contact. Since all of gmail is external to your computer, you don’t stand the chance of losing data if hard drive dies. You can also export your contacts to your computer in case the internet is down when you need a contact telephone number, etc.

gmail also has a calendar for event planning.

If you don’t want gmail or its features, you might want to try Airset. It regularly syncs contacts (with notes) and your calendar to their online service.

Link: http://gmail.com
Link: http://www.airset.com

8. Project management:
Although I don’t really have a lot of use for project management, on line project management might be useful if you are collaborating with others on a project ( such as a mission team at church, visitor contact collaboration, etc ). A fairly simple and free on line project management application is available through zoho.com. I have started using it as a way to keep up with church sound system projects. I had subscribe to planprojects.com to test it as well, but there appears to be a server problem at the moment.

Link: http://projects.zoho.com/jsp/home.jsp
Link: http://www.planprojects.com
(verification email hasn’t shown up. perhaps server down? )

9. Accounting:
If you use accounting software, peachtree, quickbooks, quicken, etc, you probably back up to either a floppy or a usb flash drive. This is something that would be useful to encrypt and upload to your online storage area as well.

10. Alternate Free services:
Some other software applications or services that might be useful are:
fireftp a plug in for firefox that is an ftp client
If you need to keep up with your working hours, you might find myhours.com useful.

11. Encryption:
There are some excellent open source ( free ) software packages for encrypting files. Some are more elaborate than others. In linux, you can individually encrypt or decrypt files using gpg. Both the software programs listed below are available for linux, windows and mac.

TrueCrypt
Link: http://www.truecrypt.org/
Keyparc
Link: http://keyparc.com/web/en/

NOTE: None of the above can be very useful if stored on your hard drive.

I’ve discovered that online services have provided me with the greatest backup to help me through this computer crisis. My lesson? Duplicate as much as you can in online systems. In this way, you’ll have access to your data when you travel, when you have a computer crash, or when you’re faced with a natural disaster.

Even when it appears that the hard drive is toast, there may be some chance to revive it — at least long enough to capture your most important data. I will deal with that issue in a separate article, but for now, let’s assume you were able to get back up and running and want to be pro-active about securing your data in the event of another crash.

Resources:
1.http://www.sitepronews.com/2009/02/11/data-recovery-10-most-effective-computer-backup-tools/
2.All Links listed in the Article
3.http://www.geocities.com/thestarman3/tool/FreeTools.html
4.http://netsecurity.about.com/od/disasterrecovery/a/ontrackdata.htm
5.http://netsecurity.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&sdn=netsecurity&zu=http%3A%2F%2Farchive.devx.com%2Fenterprise%2Farticles%2Fdrecovery%2FDRPlan%2FDRPlan-1.asp
6.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaster_recovery
7.http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306541

In late 2000, a group of Christians formed a new church in Raleigh, NC. Our numbers grew quickly and soon someone said — “We need a website”. I was given that chore, along with being the “PaMan”. As you have no doubt read in some of my earlier posts, “I am not a young person”.

After nearly 9 years, I am getting away from the web page stuff. By the end of this year, I will have divorced myself of the pa system work as well. Both webwork & pa work have grown as our church has grown.

Recently, I converted a web design by one of our members to be used with WordPress. Now the new webmaster will be able to direct others to help him keep the webpages up to day, fresh with new information.

Today was the first day that my Website duties have truly gone away.

I am FREE, FREE at Last!

Some time ago, I purchased a shareware program for my windows xp laptop. It was called “Goldwave”. Later, I had a hard drive failure on the laptop and didn”t know where my registration key was for the Goldwave software when I installed it again. I wrote to Goldwave, they researched it and emailed me the key.

Unfortunately, the application has to be re-installed again and the key information is not on any of my running computers.

Pride — I really don’t want to write Goldwave again. By doing so, I am admitting how sloppy my record keeping really is.

Punishment — Either write Goldwave or search all available hard drives ( usb external or hard drives on the shelf ) for any reference to either the key or the email.

It is a slow process.

Perserverance —

I can’t believe I found it!

It was 3 years ago when I asked Goldwave for the registration key. Two years ago, I switched email providers and email client programs. Major renovations in my computer system followed, including the elimination of windows xp on my normal desktop pc.

Backups are wonderful!

Before the last major change to my desktop, I backed up my windows xp drive to an external hard drive – a complete image of that drive! Thank goodness for backups. Burried deep in the image was old email files that were used with a previous email provider.

It really pays to:
1.save all emails ( incoming & outgoing )
2.backup up your drives
3.have secondary backups ( completely external from your location )

Coming soon – 10 plus online tools to save the day.

While I was never a Boy Scout, I was a cub scout. I guess I learned to be prepared while in the Cub Scouts.

Recently, our church had a revival. It started with two sermons on Saturday night, three on Sunday, and one each on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.

As the “official” sound ( pa system ) person for the church, I was asked to record each sermon for distribution on CD.

Our Sound room is equipped with a tower computer and a firewire connection to a multi-channel mixer. Getting a digitized recording was not a problem. My main concern is some sort of failure whether mechanical, electrical or human might prevent me getting a recording of all the sermons.

I devised a plan.

My main recording would be on the computer. My secondary recording would be on a cassette deck with audio fed from the mixer to the deck and a third recording would be on my Sony digital 8 camcorder with audio fed from the mixer through a special interface that I designed that reduced the mixer level down to microphone level. All equipment, except the camcorder which had it’s own battery, was attached to a small UPS.

The results were:

  • Main recording was not hampered. Complete recording of all the sermons
  • Tape deck recording was only hampered by the speaker going past the length of the tape, twice.
  • Video recording was very good except one where human failure entered and I lost the first couple of minutes of the sermon.

Now to burn about 200 cds of the sermons.

Recently on the family email thread, the discussion of book reading was started. A variety of books were thrown into the emails, ranging from Stephen King to H.G Wells and in between.

My own list was varied. I read my bible each day. Occasionally, I will start on a book. If I get engrossed in it. I may complete the book within a week.

There is one book that I am working on. Can’t get really into, but don’t want to quit reading it. It’s a pulitzer prize winning book, “The making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes. It’s rather long and detailed.

I am good for about 10 pages of reading before I put it down. Once I complete it I want to read several books by H.G. Wells, one that is slightly connected with the history of the making of the atomic bomb — “The world set free”.

More on reading books later.

I am in the process of setting up a computer system in our church library. One of the first things I thought about in this process is “Locking down the computers”. I decided to observe a local county library’s way of doing the same.

The library is just down the street from my home. This is a small library — Only 10 computers linked to their wired network. They have just installed wifi, but I am not going to check it for now. Just want to see how the “protected ” computers are setup.

Observations:
1. All are running windows XP professional.
2. all have sound enabled
3. all have usb ports to allow you to save your work ( assuming you have a memory stick of some sort )
4. Limited programs are loaded.
5. start/run is disabled. no external bat, com or exe files are allowed.

There are some deficiencies noted (so far ):
1. java applications are allowed if accessed through a web page
a. This means that if you create a web page on a memory stick that has java application within it, you can use your browser to access this application. Voila! An application that you can control.

I have tried the following java application types with good success.
1. ssh client
2. ftp client
3. file browser

None of these cause any harm to their system. I am trying to think of other applications that would be useful if my system at home died.

More on this is a future post.

Over fifty years ago, in my high school years, we had a unique english teacher. No one seemed to like her. When you had papers to do, she would praise you verbally and ripped the paper apart when grading it.

You were never sure of what your grade would be. I had two or three years with this same teacher. Each year, I would shake my head with some degree of exasperation when I found out who my english teacher would be.

“I will be glad when I am out of High School and away from Mrs. …. “. I know that I said that more than once while still in high school.

After high school, I went off to technical school in western North Carolina. It was really surprising to me that I felt that I knew more than our English teacher at that school. Yes, once I was away from high school, I realized how well my high school english teacher had prepared me ( and most of the rest of the class as well ).

I need to look her up and tell her “Thank you”.

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