Unshelved comic strip for 3/7/2008

A Vote for Vista

You can't find a more popular whipping horse than Windows Vista. It's the most picked-on Microsoft product since Bob. The conventional wisdom is somewhere between "released too soon" and "should never have been released at all" and everyone seems to have fallen back in love with Windows XP, if only by comparison.

I dissent.

(Full disclosure: I worked at Microsoft during the release of Vista, and I worked on .NET 3.0, which is included in Vista. Also, I still own a smattering of Microsoft stock, which has seen both better and worse days.)

To be clear, I am writing this on a MacBook running Mac OS X "Leopard". So I have obviously picked my horse in the client operating system stakes. But for the last few months I've been doing a programming contract using Windows XP (running on my Mac under VMWare Fusion, which I highly recommend). I've also been running Vista SP1 (also under Fusion) to program this website. There's no comparison. Vista may require a little more memory and storage, but I have plenty of both. In every other way it is preferable: prettier, easier to use, more secure, more powerful, and (perhaps just because it's easier to do many operations) faster.

In fact it's quite educational to shuttle between all three operating systems. Apple has opinions, while Microsoft just can't say No. Take resizing windows - Windows says "grab any side of the window!". Apple says "only the bottom right corner." Which is better? Well, it's easier to learn Apple's way, because there's only one hotspot to learn. And you are much less likely to resize by accident. And it saves significant screen real-estate. On the other hand, once you've learned the Windows way it's a lot faster for window manipulation. I tend to think Apple made the right call, but I sometimes miss the Windowsisms that sped up my day. I find this sort of thing to be true all over the place.

Am I giving up my Mac? No, I like Apple's style. But when I'm in my Vista VM I'm pretty happy to be there. It works very well, especially for this power user. And, because I so very much hate the kind of reductionist thinking that ends up at "Mac R00LZ! Vista SUX!", I wanted to chime in.

Back[up] in Time

Our site was down for the last 2 hours. It's a story with a moral, or at least a lesson.

There are two types of backup systems. The first mirror data, so that if you have a problem with your storage medium, you've got a backup. The second archives data, so that you have old versions of data around. Both are useful. If the latter is comprehensive it can give you the results of the former, but not usually vice-versa.

The way I keep Unshelved.com up to date is with FolderShare, a helpful utility that Microsoft bought and seems to be completely ignoring, which suits me because it works just fine. FolderShare keeps folders and files synced between multiple machines. When I drop new files on my development (virtual) machine, they show up seconds later on the server. Very convenient. (FolderShare also allows you to share your files with other folks, thus the name, but I don't use that feature). This is essentially a mirror backup. So when I accidentally deleted the entire folder on my development machine, FolderShare conveniently deleted them from the website. Ooops.

But fortunately I also sync that folder to my Mac, which I keep backed up using Time Machine. It took about ten seconds to retrieve an hour-old archived copy, which FolderShare happily restored it to the website.

I could really have used this sort of tech last year when I spent four hours getting our finances up to date in QuickBooks, then two seconds irrevocably deleting the file. This is the first time I've needed it since I started using Time Machine.

But Time Machine doesn't really provide a full mirror of my HD, and FolderShare is only mirroring some of my data, not the whole HD. If it crashed, my data would be there on Time Machine, which is good, but I'd still have to reinstall OS X before restoring the data, which would take time I might not have, especially knowing how badly I procrastinate on stuff. So next on my list is to buy Super Duper which will give me an immediately-bootable mirror backup.

The final backup solution I need to get is to get our data offsite. My plan is to use FolderShare to sync my computer with Gene's, across the city. I figure if all of Seattle goes away I have bigger problems than lost data.

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