Free Conference Call.com now has a free audio recording service. You can record any phone call while you make it. Both outgoing and incoming voices. (You must tell people you are recording them.) I’m using this on all my teleseminars now. I’m not sure if it’s digital or not, but I believe it is.
Audio Acrobat does the same thing, plus they have a transcription service that goes along with it for an extra (but reasonable) fee.
So these are backups. And they can easily become MP3s.
I’ve had the idea (not tried yet) of making a face-to-face talk to a group while using my Bluetooth cellular headset and making a cell phone call to one of these services so that my talk gets recorded. And if I’m lucky and nimble, questions from the floor will make it onto the recording. There’s a certain tackiness to making a talk with an ear gizmo on. But hey, this is the 21st century, right?
My response was that you still need to make a backup recording when using teleconference services, as I’ve been on teleseminars where for some reason or another the recording didn’t work out, and Mike agreed that redundancy was the key.
Ironically, Neville and I recorded another episode of “For Immediate Release” today—and once again we’re having to use my recording. This time it wasn’t a Skype crash but a problem either with Pamela or with Neville, who thinks he may have clicked “No” by accident when asked whether he wanted to record.
But enough about recordings. This week I had two encounters with new backup issues. Friday afternoon I arrived at a client’s house to find a box with a sticky note on it saying “For Backups.” Inside was a lovely new external hard drive from LaCie with almost no directions. It came to me that I’d actually never set up an external hard drive on a Mac before, but it seemed pretty straightforward: plug it in, turn it on, connect it to the computer.
That worked fine, so I installed the One-Click Backup Software and proceeded to start a backup of the entire user profile. (As far as I understand it, that includes all the settings as well as the files and applications, but one of you Mac people out there can probably explain it better.)
It appeared to be backing up just fine, but when it finished a notification popped up that several files had not been backed up because the drive was formatted in FAT-32 and the files were only compatible with HFC+.
I’d never heard of HFC+, but it was obvious from the context that it was a pre-OSX, pre-Intel Mac file system. The files which weren’t copied had all been transferred over from my client’s old (very old) iMac when she bought the new Intel Mac last year. They’re important enough files that I wanted to be sure she could back them up.
That meant reformatting the external drive in HFC+, which in turn meant going into the Disk Utility and selecting the drive to format. This was actually pretty easy, and also very fast. I’m not sure it would be as easy for a Mac user to find the Computer Management tool in order to format a drive in Windows. On the other hand, I can right-click to format drives from Windows Explorer—though I’ve only ever used that method on floppy disks, back when I had a computer that used them.
This time the backup worked and there were no error messages. Whew!
Wednesday I arrived at another client’s office to find “Set up new laptop” on the to-do list. Like the LaCie hard drive, the Acer notebook was still in its box. “Can you believe it was only $400?” my client asked.
Unusually low prices for laptops worry me. In this case, I was right to be worried. The machine came pre-installed with Windows Vista Basic—and had only 512 MB of RAM. I was amazed it ran at all.
Far worse from the perspective of backups was the complete absence of recovery disks. Not only wasn’t there a separate operating system disk, there were no CDs at all except an upgrade offer for a more expensive version of Vista (which wouldn’t run on that machine without at least doubling the RAM). One of the notes in the package (which did include a printed instruction manual) said to use the Acer’s eRecovery Management. I suffered a flashback to the 10 CDs I’d had to burn as recovery disks for the Sony Vaio this same client had bought a year before.
But no, eRecovery Management wanted to put its full backup, which promised to be a system snapshot, onto the second partition of the hard drive. I couldn’t find a way to put it elsewhere, though I was in something of a hurry (it was a long to-do list). And while there seemed to be an option in the program to burn a disk, it was grayed out and I couldn’t click on it.
I’d like to know how you’re supposed to recover your data if there’s a system failure and you can’t get into Windows. There may be an answer to that question, and if anyone at Acer wants to explain how it works and how to make a system recovery CD or DVD, I’m dead keen to hear about it. I don’t feel at all comfortable leaving my client with a computer that’s so much at risk.
As for Vista itself, in my brief encounter I found its version of Windows Explorer rather confusing, and I had to fumble a bit to set up the wi-fi connection, after which I got several “not connected” messages even when the connection strength was good. (Alas, Vista has not done away with the notification tray.)
I didn’t get a chance to experiment with Vista’s own backup tool, of which I’ve heard both good and bad things. I did have an opportunity to try the Norton Removal Tool, however, and that worked just fine to clear out the Norton Internet Security trial version that also came pre-installed. The machine was running slowly enough without having to suffer that.
I have definite reservations about this machine. I suspect it would have been worth another $400 to get system disks, enough RAM—and Windows XP. If the Ur-Guru doesn’t see a reason to upgrade to Vista, I can’t think why anyone else would bother. Next year, maybe. Or the year after that.