Mozy

Just yesterday I recommended the online backup service Mozy to a friend whose daughter needs to backup college documents on her MacBook. Today I read on TechCrunch that Mozy has agreed to an acquisition by EMC. I’ve been beta testing the Mozy Mac client for a couple of months now and have so far been impressed by their service as well as the prompt, accurate technical support I’ve received when requested.

I wish I could be more optimistic about Mozy’s future for the Mac. Unfortunately, it’s hard to overlook what happened to Retrospect after it was acquired by EMC. The once premiere Macintosh backup application now barely rates 3 stars on VersionTracker. I guess I’ll be watching a little more closely for that beta invitation from Carbonite I requested.

DiscoverSeveral years ago I assembled a list of links to give friends who asked me for good places to find cool Mac software. Of course my list included the venerable VersionTracker and it’s upstart competitor, MacUpdate, but at the time my favorite place to learn about new Mac software was a site called Chez Mark. Rather than listing every new release and update under the sun, Chez Mark would highlight a short selection of the “newest and the best” Mac shareware, with single paragraph descriptions that explained why this particular new utility or application or game or whatever deserved your attention.

Sadly, one week Chez Mark wasn’t updated on schedule, and to this day the “current” edition of Chez Mark remains Volume 9, Number 33 — August 18 – 24, 2003.

Fortunately there are a number of excellent new resources that have arrived to provide Mac users with inside tips and recommendations for cool software they might otherwise never learn about and try.

iusethis.com is a site where you get a chance to share your favorite Mac software titles by submitting them to the database, or voting for them if someone else already has. Each title has an ‘iusethis” tally next to it so you can quickly see which ones are most popular.

You can also register for a free account and the site will keep track of the software you use so the next time a friend who switches to a Macintosh asks “what do you use on your Mac?” you can point them to your page on iusethis.com. As an example check out the pages for Arne and Marcus, the developers of this unique site.

Cool OS X Apps is a wordpress-powered blog that posts a few titles each day complete with a capsule description and icon for each recommended piece of software. It’s a much friendlier interface for discovering new applications, utilities, widgets, and such than wading through the overwhelming daily update lists at VersionTracker or MacUpdate. I learned about the very cool Delivery Status widget here.

The software descriptions are more often reviews at MacApper that are contributed by a staff of volunteer writers who often are still in their teens and recent switchers to the Mac platform. This unique insight and perspective keeps the content fresh, interesting, and provides a healthy diversion from the mainstream Mac news sites that tend to publish rephrased press releases when announcing new software.

MacZOT highlights a single shareware title each day with the added bonus of offering it at a significant discount over the regular price, with the offer generally expiring at midnightPacific time. They also occasionally offer mystery bundles of assorted titles as special packages with cryptic content descriptions that generate plenty of speculation among the ZOT faithful. The deals are often tempting and you may find yourself clicking that “Buy Now” button just to pony up for those shareware titles you’ve used for years and have always been intending to register.

Those sites should help you become a seasoned explorer for cool new Macintosh software. If you have other recommendations feel free to post a comment.

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My very first computer was a Mac SE. It had one whole megabyte of RAM and two floppy drives. It sat atop an external Jasmine 20 MB hard disk that was the biggest drive that the University Computer store carried for Macs and when I bought it I was sure it would be years before I could begin to approach filling it. Needless to say, it was more like a matter of a few months.

Back then hard drives were mighty expensive and those of us on limited budgets resorted to some desperate measures to fit all of our stuff in a fixed amount of space. Compression programs like Stuffit were vital for helping reduce file sizes, not only to fit more on a drive but to make transmission over our 2400 baud dial up modems possible. When drive space ran low it was time to hunt for files that could be archived onto floppy disks, and Stuffit was a lifesaver for finding ways to fit more files into the space available

DiskDoubler was another piece of software that would compress files on your hard disk in the background and automatically decompress them when you double-clicked them. I still run across files on floppy disks that I know are Word or MacWrite documents, but their icons indicate they are compressed with DiskDoubler. If I ever want to know what they are I will need to locate my copy of Disk Doubler Expander.

All of that is a long introduction to the reality of hard disks. Even though you may upgrade to a hard disk that’s larger than you ever imagined, it won’t be long before you discover that you don’t have enough space. Especially since our Macs now store music and photos that take up gigabytes of space.

And even if you can afford to upgrade the drive or attach an external you’ll soon realize that you must face the reality of drive housekeeping. Chances are you don’t need a larger or additional hard disk, you need to clean out the one you have, deleting unused files, archiving rarely used ones, and backing up everything you don’t want to lose.

When I have to squeeze every available megabyte out of my PowerBook drive I am able to save a little space using compression. No, I don’t use Disk Doubler or Stuffit! – just the “create archive” menu item under the File menu in the finder that creates a ZIP archive. But far more rewarding is finding the enormous files lurking in the depths of your disk that you can delete. Sometimes they are temporary files that didn’t get deleted properly.

The best tool I’ve found for discovering exactly what’s taking up all your drive space used to be Omni Disk Sweeper. I tried it once and paid the reasonable license fee an hour later. Recently I discovered WhatSize – a free application that appears to offer the same features. If you need to see what’s taking up all the space on your hard disk I recommend it highly.

Mozy

Making a backup of your important data is step 1 of any disaster recovery plan. Step 2 is making a copy of that backup and storing it offsite so if something happens to your computer or where it is residing the data is not lost forever. Now that our computers and hard disks are repositories for precious irreplaceable files like digital photos, videos, and correspondence it is more important than ever to follow through on those backup plans that you’ve been putting off for ages.

Mozy has been available for PC users for awhile now and has received many positive reviews. Their Mozy for Mac beta program just launched and I must admit that I am quite impressed. Mozy allows you to download a small application that will upload the files you want to backup to their servers for safe, secure offsite storage. The files are encrypted in transmission and on their servers, and restoring them is done through a very straightforward web-based interface. You simply select the files you want to retrieve from your backups from a hierarchy that mirrors the folder structure of your hard disk, click a button, and Mozy goes to work copying them to a disk image for you to download. Once the image is ready an email notifies you. If you have lots of files and can’t wait for the download to complete you can opt for a DVD delivered via FedEx for a fee.

I tried it out today and although there are a few places where the user interface could be improved to be more intuitive it’s really a very nice Mac application that works smoothly and efficiently. It scans the files on your hard disk and presents a selection window of options for files that most people are interested in backing up (ie, email, photographs, music) as well as file types like “all Excel files.” If you don’t see the file or folder you want to backup in this list you can click on a tab and browse to select them in a standard dialog box. Mozy also incorporates the power of Spotlight, allowing you to create a set that is comprised of files that result from a spotlight search.

The best part about Mozy is the affordable price. You can backup 2 gigabytes of files absolutely free. If you need to back up more data you pay just $4.95 per month for unlimited files. Several other online backup services that I’ve checked charge higher fees based upon each additional gigabyte which provides a disincentive to backing up your data.

Give it a try. If you use this link we’ll both get a little more drive space to store our stuff: https://mozy.com/?ref=DHRG78

Be sure to send feedback to the development team and thank them for bringing Mozy to Mac users.