Sunday, November 30, 2008

ssc #84 Abakt backup

If you've ever lost valuable documents due to a computer crash or virus infection then today's article is for you.  If you've ever been told by friends that you need to back up your files, but never found the time, then today's article is for you.  If you've never had a problem and never saw a need to back up important data, then today's article is DEFINITELY for you.

Crashes happen.  Files get lost every hour of every day due to viral infections, hardware failure, power fluctuations and just plain stupidity.  If you've never lost any important files then either you're really lucky, or you just don't have any files that you consider important.

Today I'd like to share with you a very useful little program I found called Abakt.

Abakt is an open source backup utility.  Essentially, you set up Abakt to copy your important files and folders to a specific location and then you can use the Windows Scheduler to make it back everything up on a regular basis.

Abakt has the ability to compress your files when it backs them up, and also can delete backups when they've become too old, making sure that your storage space isn't filled up with zip archives of out-dated data.

Another thing that Abakt can do is group a bunch of backup profiles into a group and then you can run them all by starting up the group.

Whats even better for those of the geek persuasion is that Abakt can be called by DOS commands.  Essentially you can use a batch file (.bat) with all of your Abakt arguements and then use a command line email utility called Blat ( to email you after the process is complete to let you know if everything went ok.  If you use gmail you will need to use a program called "stunnel" ( which provides a secure ssl tunnel for blat to talk to Gmail.

You can get Abakt at:

Below is an example of a batch file designed to run Abakt and then email me the results of the process.
set BLAT="C:\Program Files\blat\blat.exe"
set ABAKT="C:\Program Files\Abakt\Abakt.exe"
set PROFILE=<the profile name you wish to use>
set GROUP=<the group name you wish to use>
set BODY="<put in the full path to a .txt message you'd like included in your email>"
set HOME=C:\Documents and Settings\<your user name>
set LOGFILE1="%HOME%\Application Data\Abakt\Log\%GROUP%.log"
set LOGFILE2="%HOME%\Application Data\Abakt\Log\%PROFILE%.log"

@rem == This next line prepares Blat with your email server
%BLAT% -install %EMAIL%

@rem == This line actually starts up Abakt
@rem== If you want to use a profile it should be "%PROFILE%".abp
%ABAKT% -b -x -l -m "%GROUP%".abg

goto result%ERRORLEVEL%
     @rem OK (0x00)
    set BACKUPA=FilesCopied_OK
        @goto end

    @rem OK+WARNING (0x02)
    set BACKUPA=Files_Copied_With_errors
    @goto end

    @rem ERROR (0x01)

    @rem ERROR+WARNING (0x03)
    set BACKUPA=File_Copy_FAILED
    @goto end

@rem==this line actually sends the email
%BLAT% %BODY% -s "%BACKUPA%" -to %TOEMAIL% -f %FROMEMAIL% -server -port 25 -u <email_username> -pw <email_password>

I hope thats helpful to some of you.  I've sure found it to be a great program.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

SSC #83 Splashtop

There's a new technology on its way and if you blink, you might just miss it.

Splashtop is just one instance of a new quick booting technology that the motherboard manufacturer ASUS is putting on all its new offerings.

The purpose of Splashtop is to provide a fast booting simplified desktop with a few essential aplications.  Its not designed to replace a full operating system, but instead it allows you to turn your machine on and within a few seconds have access to a web browser, Skype webphone, and possibly more. 

Splashtop will run in read-only mode, which means you won't be able to make changes to it or install new applications, but it also means you won't be able to mess it up.

For laptop users on the go, this means you'll be able to boot up very quickly into a low power desktop that you can use to get online, check your mail and shut down before a full operating system would get fully booted up.

For home users, this means that if your desktop suddenly catches the flu and refuses to start up, you have an emergency system that you can use to get online and find out what to do to get it up and running again.

The reason I said if you blink you might miss it is that its likely that this will be an option that you have to select at boot time by pressing a specific key or key combo.  Without selecting it, it won't come up.  And if you never see it, you may not even know that it is there. 

ASUS is leading the pack on this technology, but its doubtful that they'll be the only one to release products featuring it.  Other companies may not call it Splashtop, but it will be very similar.

This technology promises to have lots of potential for future applications.  Assuming just a few more advances in Virtual Machine technology, a Splashtop VM Manager seems not only inevitable, but undoubtedly awesome.  If you're geek enough to understand what this means, you'll no doubt agree to its usefulness.

All in all, Splashtop is definitely a technology to watch, and buy, when it becomes available in the coming months.

Oh, and did I mention that Splashtop is Linux based?   Yeah.  Its that cool.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

SSC #82 Net Neutrality

Many of you have probably heard the term "Net Neutrality" bandied about on the news lately.  A lot of people seem to be talking about it, but not many are showing signs that they really understand what it is all about.

Net Neutrality is a concept that the internet should be nothing more than a set of "dumb pipes" that transfer data from one point to another.  They should not give precedence to one transfer over another, and that the internet should not block traffic or deliberately slow traffic going across it. 

This is how the internet works as of right now, and in the past.

At odds with this concept are the companies who collectively provide internet service to all of us.  Complaining of network congestion and an inability to reliably offer promised speeds to their customers, they claim that giving some traffic preferential treatment over other traffic is not only desirable, but necessary.

If Network Neutrality is not upheld, there could be many consequences as a result of its downfall.  ISPs could begin to offer tiered priority schemes to different content providers.  This would, for instance, allow companies offering paid services (such as Netflix's movie streaming service) to gain a higher priority over the video conference you're having with your sister in Oregon.   It wouldn't just stop at legitimate services like Netflix though.  It would be something that would be offered to any company paying the price.  Full motion video advertisements would begin loading faster than the text based web pages on which they resided.

 And as a result, our collective bandwidth would suffer. 

This also means that any new high-bandwidth services starting up that couldn't afford the internet fast lane would hardly be able to compete since their service would appear choppy and slow.

Another possible outcome would be that you wouldn't necessarily be able to do wherever you want to with your internet connection.  You may have to pay one amount for web browsing, and another amount of money for chat or email.  Transferring files or encrypted data may be something else entirely.

Really there's no way of knowing how it would eventually end up.  But one thing is for sure... once Net Neutrality is broken, things will only get worse for the end user.

While I understand that it is a hard task to manage a congested network, the answer lies not in abolishing Net Neutrality.  The answer lies in abolishing spam (which accounts for far too much of internet traffic) and in adopting new faster technologies.

In America we have the privilege of having one of the first country-wide information networks.  And while this might be a mark of pride for some, when you think about it, its one of the things that is holding us back.  Countries that did not build their information networks until recently got to take advantage of newer and better technologies that did not exist when our own was built.

Many technologies have come to light since our nation's network was built.  But either by overbearing regulation or simple ignorance, they never seem to manifest for our use.

One thing that is for sure is that Net Neutrality is something that we should all keep an eye on.  It is the internet equivalent of free speech.  While the corporations may own the networks, they were paid for using our monthly service subscriptions.  And the corporations should keep in mind that if they take away the freedom that makes the internet what it is, they'll find a lot of those subscriptions canceled.  Mine included.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

SSC #81 DropBox

   I've been pretty busy lately, and it's been hard to find time to write, but fear not, I'm still here.

   Today I wanna tell you about a new utility I heard about on the LottaLinuxLinks podcast:  DropBox.

   DropBox is a great tool for syncing files between multiple computers.  Essentially it works by setting up a special folder on your machines that will sync to eachother.  First, install DropBox on all of your machines.  Then, if you put a picture or document into the DropBox on one computer, it will show up in the DropBox on all your other computers.  Its a great way to move files between work and home without any disks or thumbdrives to carry around with you... a no-fuss solution to a common problem.

   But it can be used in other ways as well.  Say for instance that you want to share pictures with your relatives.  If you set up a family DropBox, and install it on your relative's computers, then you simply drag and drop files into the DropBox and it will show up in their DropBox shortly thereafter.

   Its not a complicated looking affair, in fact it looks just like a normal folder on your desktop.  It really can't be easier than this!

   DropBox also has a public component that allows you to designate files to be accessible publicly.  Public files can be accessed through a web page from any computer in the world, whether DropBox is installed or not!  Its a great way to make a small cache of highly accessible personal files.  If you'd like something to be accessible globally, but you're worried about someone getting hold of sensitive files, simply compress the files in a password protected archive before making them public.  Then, while anyone will be able to get the archive, they won't be able to open it.

   I am sure you can think of more ways to use something like this... just go to and download it.
Its cross-platform meaning it has versions available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.  And they can all sync up with eachother.  

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

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