Jon's Tech Central



This site is dedicated to my 'tech challenged' friends, family and loved ones that need a little help with their computers but don't know where to turn.


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APRIL 16, 2008

Hello and welcome back.  This site's been laying dormant for about six months now.  "Why", you might ask?  To be honest, I ran out of stuff to tell you about.  I would put upon myself unrealistic deadlines and pressure myself unnecessarily.  I would scour the entries of tech columnists and listen to all sorts of techie podcasts trying to find something interesting to share with all of you.  Ultimately, it boiled down to me essentially plagiarizing from someone else.  What sense did that make?  So I just stopped.  

Why am I back?  Two reasons.  First, I a couple stories of tech woe to share.  Hopefully, there's something you can get out of my disasters that will help you avoid your own.  Second, I'm sick and I'm bored.  I developed this cough a few days ago that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I'm missing my third day of work today and will be going to visit the doctor later this morning.

TRAGEDY #1:  MY HARD DRIVE

I'm not entirely sure how this happened.  A few months ago I was doing some upgrades to my desktop.  In the process I somehow got my old 160GB hard drive to a state where I would have to reformat it or it would be unusable.  Reformatting essentially means erasing and starting over.  I had over 11GB of photos and 15GB of music.  Oh, and about three or four dozen very important documents I had scanned and was keeping on that hard drive for "safe keeping".  Funny, huh?  Well, all were lost when I was forced to reformat that drive.  Unfortunately, I've come across many people that have experienced some sort of crash and had to be faced with losing important files.  Learn from the mistakes of others, my friends, learn from the mistakes of others.

The simplest way of backing up important data is to make use of your burner.  Most computers will at least have a CD burner.  Hopefully, you'll have a DVD burner on your computer.  You can burn your important files to CD but if you have a lot of data it's not the most practical option as CDs only hold about 650 megabytes as opposed to a DVD which can hold 4.7 gigabytes, approximately eight times as much.  It's a fair assumption that if your computer came with a burner it should have also come with a burning program like Sonic or Nero Burning Rom or Easy Media Creator.  In the unlikely event that it did not come with one a good, free, downloadable program is CDBurnerXP.

Backing up to CDs or DVDs is a prudent thing to do, but there are two problems with it.  One, in the event of a disaster like fire or robbery you may lose these backups as well, making it even more prudent to keep a secondary set of backups at an offsite location like, say, your office.  Two, let's face it.  Backing up to optical disks can be a long, tedious exercise.  Even more so if you have to use CDs instead of DVDs.  What's the likelihood that you'll want to take the time out to take on these tedious tasks?  Not likely.  At least, not for me.

A more secure and less time-consuming method is online storage.  Now, I've mentioned Picasaweb before.  Up to 1GB storage is offered for free.  I like it because of it's ease of use and the method of organizing photos.  It's also tied in with Picasa, my personal favorite freeware option for photo editing and organizing.  Google, which owns Picasa, offers extra storage for a fee.  Personally, I pay $20 a year for an extra 10GB.  A reasonable price for a little peace of mind.

There are many options for free online storage but most only offer 2-5GB for free.  That's not enough for most people.  I've been hearing good things about Carbonite.  They offer unlimited online storage for files of all types for $49.95 per year.  I'm going to sign up and let you all know how it goes.  Yeah, I know, fifty bucks is fifty bucks, but if it works then that's a boatload of storage and a whole lotta peace of mind.

TRAGEDY #2:  MY LAPTOP

I recently had my laptop stolen.  I was going to lunch at The Cliff House, one of the nicest restaurants in San Francisco.  I parked in a spot where I felt there was plenty of foot traffic so I felt comfortable leaving my laptop in its bag on the floor of the back seat of my car.  I returned from lunch to discover my back window smashed and my laptop gone.  My precious digital companion, my electronic partner, gone.  To be honest I had a love-hate relationship with the damned thing.  It had a defective motherboard out of the box and when HP replaced it they put another defective motherboard in it.  So it's on its third motherboard now.  I hope it turns out to be defective for its "new owner", the SOB.  I thought I'd like a larger screen better but at 17" it was bigger and heavier than a more common ones with a 15" screen.  But it was my first laptop, and I'll still love it like my first car, my first guitar.

Anyway, this is a lesson in the dangers of assumption.  I assumed my laptop would be safe where it was.  I also assumed it would be enough to simply change the passwords on my accounts, my e-mail, iTunes, eBay, MySpace, and so forth.  I made an assumption that with my passwords changed that the credit card information attached to my iTunes account would be safe as well.  Well, well, how does that old saying go?  When you assume you make a what of you and me?  Sure enough, about a week ago approximately $120 worth of charges to my iTunes account appeared.  Of course, I immediately called the bank, disputed the charges, and had my credit card cancelled, but I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I not assumed.   

A more practical lesson:  if you ever have your computer stolen make sure you change the passwords on any of your password-protected accounts and immediately cancel your credit cards.  Your bank won't mind.  They don't like dealing with fraudulent charges any more than you or I do.

BLOGGING

While I haven't had much to share on this site I still have things to say.  I've started up a personal blog on Blogger.  I'll be posting a follow-up to this entry on Blogger very soon.  There's also a "micro-blog" I'm keeping on Twitter.  These are entries that are more up-to-the-moment, usually no more than two or three sentences.  Hope to see you there.

SHAMELESS BEGGING

By the way, my girls and I will be participating in the April 26 March of Dimes' 5k March for Babies in San Ramon.  The March of Dimes now focuses on saving premature babies.  You can donate by visiting any of our websites:

http://marchforbabies.org/jonlow67

http://marchforbabies.org/ashahill92

http://marchforbabies.org/imaniwilson94

Just FYI, Imani herself was a "premie".  We're asking for at least a $5 donation but whatever you can give would be great.  Thanks!