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Another Addition to My Backup Plan: the ioSafe Solo

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Macworld about how I back up my data. I pointed out that I’m a belt and suspenders guy when it comes to backing up data, and that I even have a fireproof safe in my basement “just in case.”

Following that article, a vendor wrote me to tell me about their solution, a waterproof, fireproof hard drive enclosure, the ioSafe Solo. The company was kind enough to send me a unit to see what I thought of it, saying that if I had had this, I probably wouldn’t have needed to buy the safe.

The ioSafe Solo is a 15 lb., 5″ x 7″ x 11″ container for a hard disk. It looks impressive, as though I could take a sledgehammer to it and still not reach the hard disk inside. The device’s tech specs claim 1/2 hour of protection from fire at 1550 F, and 3 days in 10 feet of water. (I hope I don’t have to find out if those specs are precise.) The disk also comes with a 1-year data recovery guarantee, in case of problems; you can upgrade that on the company’s web site to 3 or 5 years if you want.

It takes up a fair amount of space, roughly the size of one of the mid-sized speakers I have connected to the stereo in my office. It has a USB2 connector – I would have appreciated FireWire 800, but I understand that the Windows world doesn’t use that – and it has a fan, which is a bit noisy, but not a problem since I only turn the disk on when I run backups. (If I did want to keep it on all the time, it would be too noisy.)

As with any external hard disk, you merely need to connect it and turn it on. From then on, once you’ve formatted it for Mac – run Disk Utility and use GUID Partition Table if you want to boot off it; otherwise it’s in NTFS – you can use your favorite backup program and copy your data.

One thing to keep in mind: you cannot change the hard disk; the device is sealed. The hard disk inside is a Seagate Barracude ST315003, at 7200 RPM, which seems to be quite reliable. If you do plan to get such a device, think ahead as to how much disk space you need. ioSafe sent me a 1.5 TB model, and the device comes with disks up to 2 TB. If I had bought one, I probably would have gone for the biggest possible disk, just to make sure that there’s plenty of space for my data.

It’s hard to get excited about a hard disk, but I do have a greater sense of security with this one. I agree with the vendor; I probably wouldn’t have bought the safe if I had known about this device. (Though the ioSafe is more expensive than the safe I bought.) The convenience of having a device like this in my office does help me feel safer. While I’m still going to back up my data to multiple hard disks, and put two of them in my safe, the ioSafe is now a part of my standard backup routine.

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Developers Outsource Support to Google Groups: Fail

Yesterday, I bought TaskPaper, a simple to-do list manage from the Mac App Store. I had a reproducible crashing issue, and wanted to contact support. But support is only available via Google Groups. So, I had to post this review on the Mac App Store, in hopes I would get a reply.

I shouldn’t have to write a review to get support, but more and more developers are “outsourcing” their support to Google Groups these days.

I bought the app yesterday, seeing that it was on sale for $5. It’s well worth that, even more, but not $30. It’s a practical, simple tool, which, for me to-do list needs, is ideal. (I have OmniFocus, but only use it for big projects where lots of people are involved.)

But I have a problem: whenever I press Command-Shift-Return, the program crashes. So I went to the “Support” page and found that I could post a message to Google Groups. But that message was rejected, because, apparently, I have to be a member of that group. I don’t want to be a member of any Google group, so this means that, essentially, I can’t get support.

I’ve had this problem with other apps, and, while I can understand developers using free (well, “suck up user data and monetize it” support solutions, I think it’s a serious failure in serving customers. I won’t use apps if I know they only offer support like this, because it isn’t the way I expect to get support.

Hence this review. I’m sure the developer reads the reviews here, and may even attempt to contact me; he’ll have no trouble finding me if he does so. But developers should be aware that the free Google system doesn’t always work.

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A Poorly Conceived Download Process: VMware Fusion

I run VMware Fusion occasionally on my Mac, for the few Windows programs (mostly go programs) that interest me. Today, the company released an update for this program, and I tried to use the built-in auto-updater. It downloaded the update (with no indication of how big the update was, and no progress bar showing how much was being downloaded), then the update failed. Of course, there was no information that helped me understand why it failed, so I tried again. Failed again.

I then went to the dreaded VMware web site. Unlike other sites where you can simply click a download link to get software, VMware is very, very complex. First, you have to register (something I’d already done in the past for a previous update problem). Then you have to sign in, which didn’t work this morning; the password in my keychain didn’t seem to be correct. So I had to reset my password.

Finally, you get to a download page, where you have a choice of two versions: one, at around 150 MB, which is just Fusion, and another, at 450 MB, which includes a “free” trial to a Windows antivirus package. I chose the smaller one. Clicked Download. Then had to agree to 2,000 words of legalese, which I had already agreed to when I first launched the product, and when I had downloaded a previous version from their site. Finally, it started downloading.

Why does a company see the need for such a complex process just to get a new copy of software? To be honest, this is the only software I use where it’s such a hassle to get an update. Don’t they want to make things easier for their customers?

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