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Month: May 2024

The Care and Feeding of Your Inbox

One of the biggest complaints out there is about “junk mail.” Sure, there is plenty of junk mail out there (just look at the graphic below), but many users use the term “junk mail” for stuff that clogs up their inbox, even emails from legitimate senders.

So, here’s (my) definition of “junk mail” – it’s email from senders you didn’t give permission to receive messages from. CVS, J. Crew, Whole Foods? If you’re getting email from these types of senders, they’re NOT junk – even if they annoy you. They’re just legitimate businesses, sending you email that you approved of! Any of those types of email messages have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom – if you don’t want to hear from them, then unsubscribe!

So, a quick recap: Email that is obviously a scam, OR messages from senders you never gave permission to: Junk mail.

Email from legitimate businesses that you signed up for or have dealt with: Marketing email.

To eliminate FUTURE sends of email from legitimate senders: Use the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email. As far as standard junk mail goes, just grin and bear it, and delete it when it comes in. No use fighting it – it’s like emptying a swimming pool with a teacup.

And as far as political email (and text) goes: Once you donate, it’s like feeding a stray animal – it’ll keep coming back for more. And tell all its friends as well. That’s the peril of giving money to politicians.

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Keep Calm and Back Up Your Mac!

OK, I sound like a broken record (as the old folks used to say), BACK UP YOUR DATA!

But why?

For one reason, most of your “stuff” is digitally based these days, so instead of making paper copies like people did in ancient times (pre-1999), it’s all on the computer. And since I’ve been doing this for a few years, and good enough at it so I can still afford to live here without having to drive Uber in the evenings, I can definitely tell you about how important it is to BACK UP YOUR DATA! Because I’ve seen more than a few tears shed from clients about lost data, that’s why. I have a degree in psychology AND one in journalism, so I’m qualified to deal with those issues as well as write about them. So, what’s the best way to back up your data?

Local backup: A local backup is the simplest method to back up your data. It’s simply connecting a hard drive to your computer and using software to make a copy of your data onto the hard drive. The Mac OS has built-in software, Time Machine, which is a “set and forget” type of thing. You configure it once, and as long as the hard drive remains connected to the computer and it doesn’t get filled to capacity, it will back your data up on a regular interval.

A great advantage of using Time Machine is that you are able to recover data from any number of dates – for example, if you deleted a document (or need an earlier version of one), you can navigate back to the date of the backup you want and easily restore it to your computer. One drawback of this Time Machine: Laptop users don’t like having a drive tethered to their computer all the time, so the practice is often abandoned.

Network Attached Storage: Similar to a local backup and one level up is Network Attached Storage (NAS). A NAS device is essentially a hard disk, but rather than being attached directly to your computer, it’s a network drive that allows multiple users to back up data without the nuisance of connecting a hard drive. Back in the day, Apple produced a line of Wi-Fi networking gear (AirPort), one of which had a storage device attached. Sadly, that era is gone, but there are plenty of network attached storage options out there. Most NAS units are compatible with Time Machine, but there is one disadvantage; they can be a pain to properly configure.

Cloud backup services: There are a bunch of services that will automatically back up your computer to the cloud – Carbonite, Backblaze, and among others – and they can add a second line of defense to your data. It’s a pay to play deal, you subscribe to the service, install the software, and off you go. Sounds seamless, but Carbonite, the most popular choice here, can be cranky and unpredictable on Macs (don’t know how well it performs on Windows machines), often going into “disabled” mode for no apparent reason. And moving subscriptions between computers is a whole dog and pony show, with the company having to terminate your old account and open a new one. Files seem relatively easy to recover, but if your entire computer needs to be restored, it’s not going to happen quickly. In short, this should NOT be used as your only backup, but as a secondary one.

Other cloud services: Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive lead the charge here – consumer-friendly cloud services. Not so much of a backup service as it is a sync and file sharing method. All these services have a free version and a paid tier, and, of course, the paid tier allotting more storage space. I’ve worked in recovering legacy files from Dropbox (paid tier), and it was slight pain, but workable. I see Dropbox and Google Drive being used more in collaboration scenarios, where a group of users need to access the same documents.

And even more: Although I listed iCloud in the section above, I find it to really be a personal thing, for syncing your own data. It’s Apple’s version of Dropbox, although it has many more features than the other cloud services. There are others that fall into this category, generally ones that are application-specific; OneDrive by Microsoft and Creative Cloud Storage by Adobe, although the latter is making some changes to its terms.

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