Archive for the ‘Operating Systems’ Category

Online Backup Before You Defrag Your Computer (Part 2)

online-backup-before-defragI can’t understand the fascination of most otherwise perfectly normal Windows users with the Defrag option in Windows. It’s reviled as not being powerful enough, it’s credited with all kinds of performance improvements and even suspected of concealing superpowers to fix all kinds of problems.

I don’t understand why. I can’t think of any other community of users who are so obsessed with how ‘fragmented‘ their computer hard disks are. And the problem only seems to be coming to a boil once more with Windows Vista, where Microsoft have taken a few hard decisions in their redesign and update of this operating system background task.

Before you do anything to your computer, I highly suggest that you online backup everything. You’ll never know what can happen when you defrag says the Carbonite online backup solution expert at R-Fate.com. This is something that I can attest to having had some issues that occurred before. I really recommend online backup because it protects everything on your computer, including your operating system, all the installed software, and all the files that you have created and stored on your computer.

External harddrives are not enough because if some sort of disaster strikes to your home or business, all your files are on premise which does not spare it at all. The best is to have everything stored and backed up in a remote location. Now if you still have not installed any online backup software on your computer, I highly suggest that you use this Carbonite backup offer code from R-Fate.com to backup your home computer. This allows you to backup unlimited files. For businesses, use this Carbonite backup for business offer code from R-Fate.com, which allows you to backup an unlimited number of business computers.

Now back to the topic of defragging. Obviously by asking your defragger of choice if it considers your hard disk to be fragmented or not. But what if you don’t trust your defragger for some reason? Now most people would go and get a life, but for those of you who are in the grip of Windows disk fragmentation paranoia, this isn’t enough. What you must do instead is purchase several commercial defraggers and use them to test each other.

Then you get very unhappy because you can’t seem to get your disk defragged properly. You run one product and let it do what it wants and when it’s finished you test it with another product, and that finds some fragments, and so you run this second program and test it with the first one and go around in circles until you give up and ask for help. Why? The more cynical people in the audience (or those who use other operating systems and haven’t contracted this paranoia) may be asking themselves just how much of a problem a fragmented hard disk is, and if maybe these products are a prime example of snake oil.

Frankly, I’m not sure that the products are snake oil, but some of the hysteria surrounding the way these utilities are sold to ‘home user’ types does make me wonder. In some special cases, workstation drive fragmentation can be a real issue that needs to be carefully addressed, and servers should have all aspects of drive health checked on a regular basis, but for most home users the built in tools provided by Windows will be more than enough to keep things running well.

Online Backup Before You Defrag Your Computer (Part 1)

online-backup-before-defrag2It seems to be some kind of universal rule that the moment I describe a post here as “Part One” intending it to start a series, something happens to drag my attention away or make the issue irrelevant *sigh*. However, I will make sure to follow-up with a part two. We’ll start part 1 with my comments and thoughts about disk fragmentation and the defraggers that just love to tame it.

In part two, I will talk about how you can’t measure how well defraggers work against one another very easily. Claus Valca wrote a nice article about defraggers over on Grand Stream Dreams where he talks about ways the process can still be valuable and asks about ways of evaluating the different products. I can think of one way of comparing different products, but while it’s honest and fair in terms of what it tests, it probably doesn’t answer all the questions you should be asking on the subject. Still it’s a start right?

Just to make things clear, I’m using the definitions of File System Fragmentation and Defragmentation found on Wikipedia. I’m not claiming those definitions are perfect but they’re at least as good as any I could write myself and they already exist.

Pick a ‘neutral’ program to measure the level of fragmentation. For the purposes of this test, the results of analysing the disk with this program will be the only results that are used to compare one product to another.

Decide if you want to do a file-system ‘performance’ test. If you do, I suggest copying lots of files of varying sizes onto the disk or partition you are using for your tests for this part of the test regime. Try to make sure that the source medium that you grab the files from is fast (because you don’t want it to be the slowest point of the test, because you’re not testing the speed of the source) and performs consistently (because you want a fair test, right?). Yes, this will be quite difficult to achieve.

Some drive imaging programs allow you to take a “raw” backup image of a disk partition or even of an entire hard disk. I’m linking to Acronis True Image’s FAQ here as an example of a product that I’m comfortable with and which offers the facility, though there are other choices out there.

Using such an imaging system, you can create a backup of a test computer’s hard disk after you’ve set it up in such a way as to leave it fragmented enough for your tests.

If you’re performing this test on Windows Vista, disable the built-in defragmentation routines NOW, before you do anything else.

For such a test I’d suggest using a relatively small hard disk and creating fragmentation by installing lots of programs and copying large files (got a couple of Linux ISOs doing nothing in your archives?) around the disk, then un-installing some of the programs and deleting some of the images. Considering that NTFS does try to avoid disk fragmentation in the first place you may actually find this bit to be the most difficult part.

Take Your Home Computer Security Seriously

computer-securityThere are a lot of reasons why you should take the security of your computers at home seriously. There are various scams that target home users with a few real world examples of people just like you and me who got caught out.
It’s your credit rating, your internet connection, your bank account, your reputation. Microsoft, Apple, or whatever flavor of Linux you use have to accept some responsibility for their mistakes, but sooner or later, we also have to take some responsibility ourselves and keep our home systems patched, use the (often free) security software you can get, and make an effort. Or if all you want to do is play games, just trade your computer in for something more appropriate.

But it doesn’t happy to people like me anyway!

Nonsense. I’ve got a mailbox full of spam, phish and scams right here. It wouldn’t happen if there were not people falling for it. And – if it helps – I’ll admit I’ve fallen for a Phish email before now.

But I’m insured. Sure – checked the terms lately? Sure they include being ripped off on the Internet? Anything in there about taking due care and attention / appropriate precautions?

But I don’t know how to protect myself! Ok, this can be a fair point. So ask around, there are lots of places that offer help with securing your system. If you’re a home user, you can get free AntiVirus from the likes of Grisoft and Alwil. You can get free spyware scanners like AdAware or Spybot Search and Destroy, and you can get help in lots of places (like Microsoft Communities) with putting these together and keeping your computer working well.

And you thought it was just Microsoft products that needed to be patched.

Apple has announced the release of update 10.4.8 for 10.4 users and Security Update 2006-006 for 10.3 users.

I don’t normally bother posting such notices, but a couple of things here caught my eye, and I have to say that any OSX users reading this need to update to the appropriate patch level as a matter of extreme urgency.

Ouch. Seems like a big Phisherman’s friend to me. After all, you don’t need to supply a cert and the few users who know about SSL will be happy just to see the SSL lock appear. Hmmm. Any Mac using readers think their bank website looked a little odd when you were replying to their latest email?

It’s not all about Apple though. Seems Microsoft have a few interesting problems of their own, not to mention being accused of handling them in an interesting way. If you’re an Apple MS Office user, note that the issues behind those links apply to you too and act accordingly. It takes a special kind of mistake to exist on five different versions of a piece of software over two totally different platforms.

I really hope the NIST story about Microsoft’s handling of this is untrue, by the way. If it’s true, it’s a slap in the face for the AV community which has been in place long before Microsoft decided to muscle in. It’s a slap in the face for Windows users – aka Microsoft’s entire customer base, punishing them for not buying AV with an unknown (at best) pedigree from Microsoft, and let’s not forget, it undermines the security and reputation of Microsoft’s own platform.

It makes no sense for it to be true (which of course didn’t stop WGA being invented…).

Therefore it’s either not true (or at least not the whole story) or it’s an absolute disgrace, labelling any claims of “trustworthy computing” to be a joke and placing Microsoft’s approach to security only a few steps above Sony’s reputation for trustworthy music CDs that don’t try to root your computer every time you listen to them. BTW, I’m still not buying Sony since that event. Neither should you.