All posts by Brian

Wowio – Free eBooks, Plus a Free IPod Shuffle

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I just discovered Wowio, a service that allows you to download free eBooks. As a benefit, the eBooks do not have any DRM, so you can freely move them from computer to computer (or PDA). The files ARE secured with a password, which means that you cannot modify them, but there are no restrictions on viewing or printing.

Is there a catch? Well, you can only download five eBooks per day, and the selection is not yet tremendously vast. However, they do have many categories, and they will continue to add more in the future.

Here are the five titles that I downloaded today:

  • Excel for the CEO
  • The Art of War
  • The Tales of Mr. Tod
  • The Black Cat
  • The Science of Getting Rich

If you want to join, there are a few ways to do so. To cut down on multiple accounts, they require that you verify your identity. Verification includes one of the following methods:

  • A non-anonymous e-mail address (no Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc) – this is probably the easiest way)
  • A scan of an ID (student ID or driver’s license) – I don’t recommend this method
  • A credit card (that will not be charged – supposedly)
  • Friends and Family Code – You can “vouch” for the identity of up to 3 other people. Don’t vouch for yourself or your account will be terminated

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Currently, they are running a promotion to give away iPod Shuffles to everyone who refers 10 people. Unlike most of those other iPod giveaway offers, this one is quite easy. You do not have to give out your credit card number or sign up for any “trials.” All you have to do is refer people to sign up for their free service. That’s it.

As an experiment, I’m going to start a referral chain here. If you list my e-mail as the referrer, please contact me or leave a comment below. Once I reach ten referrals, I will replace my e-mail address with yours so that I can help you earn ten referrals. I’ll do this in first-come, first-serve order.

brian [at] bondari [dot] com

All e-mail addresses will be broken up like that to avoid spam. Enjoy your free eBooks, and let’s try to earn a few iPod Shuffles for one another.

Updated “About” page

I recently updated the About page with lots more information, including a brief history of this site. The previous information was quite ambiguous, so hopefully it will provide readers with a clearer picture of myself and my intentions for this site.

Google adds themed homepages

I admit: I’m a fan of the Google homepage. I use it to organize and keep track of a lot of information, including my calendar, e-mail, weather, To-Do list, bookmarks, and more. I love the slick ability to simply drag elements around on the page, or the option to create additional tabs with more information.

This morning I noticed a new option: the ability to select a theme. There are currently seven themes available, and my favorite is “Tea House.” After you select a theme, you can enter your city/zip code to enable slight changes depending on the time of day. It is currently evening here, and my theme reflects it (see screenshot).

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Nice! I wonder if Google will allow for user creation and customization of themes. In a way, I hope not. Most people have horribly bad taste anyhow, if Myspace custom pages are any indication. Anyway, the changing Google themes are a welcome aesthetic touch to an already functional homepage.

Getting Cozy with Mozy – Brainless Online Storage (Online Storage Series)

mozy-logo.png To continue my foray into the world of free on-line storage, today I will take a look at the Mozy on-line backup service.

First of all, what is Mozy and how is it different from other on-line storage services? Like its competitors, Mozy allows for the backing up of one’s data on their servers. Think of it as an external hard drive for your computer that resides off-site. I am a fan of off-site storage because I know that my data is safely stored even if a bomb falls on my house.

Mozy differentiates itself in that it is not a stand-alone service like Box.net or DropBoks. Rather, it requires that you download a small software package and install it on your Windows-based computer (update: Mac OS X is now supported as well). If you use Windows exclusively then this is a boon; if you hop around between multiple operating system then this will be a drawback. I’m still hoping for a Linux client, but I’m not holding my breath.

What, then, are some of the benefits? For starters Mozy offers two gigabytes of storage for their free plan, which is quite reasonable. For those interested, they do offer an “unlimited” plan for $5 per month. I am content with the free plan. I have not found a limit on file sizes, which is also a benefit.

Here is how a typical backup scenario works: install the software and set your configuration options. There are a lot of potential options, but in a nutshell you will want to set your file system paths and tell Mozy what types of files you want to archive. Set your options and let Mozy do its thing. See the screenshot below.

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There are also options for scheduling backups – you can choose between “automatic” backups when your computer is idle or a more standard daily/weekly scheduled backup time. I appreciate the options for bandwidth throttling and thread priority. If I am busy working at my computer when a scheduled backup begins, it will be transparent rather than bogging down my machine. Nice.

The first backup process will take the longest. Once it is complete, subsequent backups are “differential,” meaning that only changed files will be archived. Even if a file is open when a backup kicks in, Mozy will still send it to their servers, which is slick.

Once you have archived files on Mozy’s servers, you can find and restore them in two different ways. Since Mozy integrates itself with the Windows operating system, you can simply browse to “My Computer.”

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By browsing “Mozy Remote Backup” you will find a file structure exactly like that of your computer, starting with your hard drive and extending to your deepest sub-folders. As handy as this is, it comes up short in that you can only view/restore files to your computer. There is no option to add more files through the Explorer interface. I understand that this is not the expressed purpose of the software, but it seems like it would be a natural extension for those interested. Unfortunately, it is curiously absent. For the record, Xdrive does offer this option. Hopefully the creators of Mozy will add it in the future.

Nevertheless, using the Explorer extension is handy for restoring files. Right-click on a file or folder and choose “Restore.” That’s it. Your files will be restored to their designated location. Keep in mind that this will overwrite the originals (if they exist).

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A second way to access archived files is through Mozy’s web interface. Log into their web site and click “Restore files” on the left. Select the files that you want to restore, and Mozy will contact you with a link to download the files. In this manner, files that you archive can actually be accessed on any other computer with any operating system, but the backup process must be done on a Windows or OS X machine.

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In summary, Mozy offers quite a lot in their free package. For users of MS Windows who are looking for a “set and forget” method of backup for critical files, Mozy is a slam dunk. Once you make the initial configurations, Mozy takes care of the rest and you can rest assured that your data is archived in at least one other location. For users who switch between multiple computers and/or operating systems regularly, a stand-alone storage site is more appropriate. For users in this category, I still recommend DropBoks for its sheer simplicity and Box.net for its elegant interface.

Pros:

  • Two gigabytes of storage for free
  • Automatic file backup option – set it once and forget about it
  • Differential backups – only backup changed files
  • Encrypted file transfers (for security)
  • Easy, versatile file restoration

Cons:

  • No support for platforms other than MS Windows (a Mac version is available as well). Linux users are currently out of luck.
  • Operating system integration is for viewing/restoration only.
  • The plethora of configuration options can be intimidating at first.

Visit Mozy now.

Using WordPress 2.1.1? Please upgrade

If you are using WordPress 2.1.1, please upgrade to the latest version now. Unfortunately, a cracker gained access to one of the servers powering wordpress.org and modified the code for version 2.1.1 of the software.

No, not all downloads are affected, but it is better to be safe than sorry. The current latest release, 2.1.2, addresses this vulnerability.

DriveImage XML 1.21

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I’ve been a fan of DriveImage XML for a couple of years now. It’s a handy piece of freeware for creating “ghost” images of Windows XP for free.

Recently I noticed that the creators have released an update to version 1.21. From what I can tell, this version only adds support for Windows Vista, so it may not be an important upgrade if (like me) you have no plans to buy Vista.

In my aforementioned article, I wished that the creators of DriveImage XML would add the ability to create scheduled backups. I must give them credit – the software now has this ability, though it was added in a version previous to 1.21. This alone is incentive to upgrade if you are still using a much older version.