Rummage through this blog

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Backup Software

I think anyone who cares about their data is always thinking about backups. I know, they are boring, they are time consuming but when it all goes pete tong they are what you need.

I honestly don't think there is ever a perfect backup and even commercial organisations get it wrong and have slip ups.

What do I do, well I have been using Paragon Drive Backup (various versions but actually the free version works really well) to make a complete image of my machine - I now do this for all machines to make sure an overall backup is in place for easier restoration. Will I use it in times of trouble, given Windows benefits from a complete rebuild every now and then I just don't know but I have used it to switch between installs while building my HTPC (ie backup, add a feature, test, rollback if required with no nasty registry hangover).

Unfortunately, making an image takes quite a while and the incremental version doesn't seem very, well, incremental.

So, day to day file backups? I use Robocopy - a free download from Microsoft or built in on Windows 7 - backup what you want where you want when you want, a genuinely useful utility if configured correctly.

But that is still a bit manual - yes I could schedule it but there is no practical way of making it work in the background., but it does the general job.

Recently I received a cover disk with Genie Timeline Free on it - what a great program, it just works and is now installed on two of my machines. It's free so I cannot help but recommend this if you have a spare drive to hand - it's is not perfect but it does work. Problems? Firstly it is a per user install which means each user accounts needs to configure their own backups which is strange & the files duplicate as the backup cannot automatically keep only a single copy where folders overlap. Secondly, although it works neatly in the background, file copying still impacts desktop use (so a fast drive is really needed) and lastly it uses volume shadow copy but each time appears to make a full backup of the file rather than just keeping changes. But it does work.

The downsides were bugging me so I've looked for other software & hit upon Avanquest Autosave Essentials - this is nicer looking, easier to configure and appears to work faster. Also the license price is for 3 machines. Does it work? Well on a test folder of < 30 files it was brilliant. On a backup of my user folder of approx 40Gb? No, junk, it crashed out after a couple of minutes, took less time to remove from the hard disk than it took to tidy up the half copy of files it had made.

So Genie Timeline it is for the time being.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

MCE Standby Tool on Windows 7

Be warned!


I’ve had problems of late with Windows Media Center on Windows 7 where on resume from sleep I get a a black screen for around a minute – I’m not the only one but I don’t have a clue what has changed to cause this to start happening.


So, I’ve finally been forced to give MCE Standby Tool a test. I say forced because I have tried to minimise the software installed on my media center machine to reduce the conflicts, reinstall hassle etc.


I have tried MCE Standby Tool in the past on a Vista configuration and I can confirm it did nothing useful for me at all so was not expecting much this time to be honest, although plenty of people swear by it.


Since I last tried it there do appear to be a lot more options which are pretty clear although some remain unclear. For instance the pop up that asks which devices should be allowed to wake the machine up gave a list of “HID Device xxxx” and “HID Device xxx1” straight out of Windows’ internal systems, well I don’t know which HID device is which but there were at least four on the list and as there are only 3 things plugged in that makes it interesting.


Still, reboot as required and we’re away, or not.


Previously, I got a black screen on resume which was clearly Media Center having some sort of display issue, now on reboot I get a black screen – this one is strangely much blacker except for the “Start” menu. No mouse response at all but luckily the three fingered salute worked to show that MST Blanker had crashed which caused MCE Standby tool to crash.


So that made the system much worse, uninstall works nicely though but check carefully that your settings are back where they should be!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Share This

Share this provides a good route for sharing via services such as facebook & twitter (perish the thought).

Setup is relatively complex most of time with Blogger, instructions are given on screen & involve editting the HTML on the design page, however, occassionally an "add this button" button appears - I cannot quite spot the logic of when it appears but unfortunately since attempting to do the job on my home laptop the button hasn't appeared again, so manual editting is the way to go.

Also, it is a little unfortunate that whatever you do, facebook & twitter are always the options initially displayed. I've attempted to create links to other services but the naming is not obvious (the code says "facebook" in the facebook part so I tried copying and using "blogger" but that was clearly too obvious).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Of all the things

I do rather like the new templates but what has been driving me to distraction is that my background image gets automatically resized, incorrectly, in Google Chrome. It doesn't happen in IE8 and notably does not happen to the images provided with the templates.

I've had no response from the help forums but have now cracked it - for which purpose I am uploading the picture I want to use here :

Why? Well it turns out that I can take the web link for the above, remove the scaling (the /sxxx) and use that with no problems found yet, whilst the same technique using Picasa fails - therefore, the problem is Picasa interacting with Chrome.


Incidentally, this picture is a macro shot, taken hand held on a point & press camera in the back garden.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Blogger design

In last night's post I said that the second image link should be changed - you can safely change the first which removes a link (aka free advert) for someone else's site.

Blogger Template Designer

Google have continued to enhance the blogger tool with a WYSIWYG template designer with some nice new templates. A word of warning though - remember to save your old template first because the old templates seem to have vanished completely so there is no going back if you do not save first.

Still, having learnt that lesson it is time to press boldly on into the unknown.

Luckily one can change the background image in the new templates to your own - all you need to do is make sure you have an appropriate resolution image to hand & accessible online (eg in Picasa) and change the image link in the template.

As easy as that, well pretty much :

1) Create an appropriate image. The one I had from stock on the designer was 1800x1200 so I altered one of my own images to 1920x1200 as a nice catch all - it will work fine with lower resolutions too. Note, my initial image was around 200k which was a bit slow to load.

2) Upload to somewhere online - Picasa is good, just make sure it is a full size image, I set the album to unlisted and that seems to still work. Then goto the picture and click on "link to this photo", copy the "embedded link" string into notepad and search for the string commencing
img src="http://
followed by a URL looking something like this : ""
Now copy the link in the speech marks and paste that into a browser, remove the /s144 or similar string you may have and hit return - one working link.

3) Now goto the Design page in Blogger and goto HTML (don't forget about backups). In the HTML, just near the beginning of the variable definitions you will find the following string, starting :
Now replace the url in the brackets of the 2nd URL (the first points to the original template image (why, who knows) and the second points to the current template image) with the URL you created above.

4) Click on Preview

Job done.

Now you've got your eyes open and you have checked your new page thoroughly haven't you.

Ah, you noticed the new "attribution" section at the bottom - it even appears on the Blogger design page but you can only add to it and not actually change it.

Well, to give credit to the person who produced the template is fair but you have just replaced the image with yours so why credit someone else?

Luckily for you immediately after the image URL you just pasted there will be an accreditation in what looks to me like a comment (it starts with
and ends with
Just change the text and the URL and all is fair.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Finally, wireless goes wired

It has been a while coming...

Wireless connections work fine for simple applications like the odd bit of browsing but I have been finding that with any volume of use they fall over. Admittedly the expensive Cisco kit at work never fails but cheap USB wireless is unreliable.

I have tried a number of brands and have settled over the years on Netgear, no frills, decent value, but no help on the wireless front.

My last attempt has been a WPN111 which uses the standard netgear config software (so in conjunction with Vista or Windows 7 you are doomed to pain).

Actually, the device works well when it works, unfortunately it cannot cope well with sleep so frequently has to be unplugged to force a reset (and to cool down). I have tried every setting possible on Windows 7 to no avail.

I understand that PCI based wireless is better but as no one seems to say much good in the reviews of current products that seems a waste.

Luckily, we have just relocated my satellite cable so took the opportunity to run a lan cble.

Ah, networking problems solved.