Daily Archives: Thursday, 4th Sep 2008

Mozy – Good Support

It’s been a while since I mentioned Mozy, my chosen online backup service. The reason I haven’t mentioned it is that it’s been happily working away at protecting my stuff without any problems, so any report would have been a bit boring[1].

But all that changed recently. A month or so ago, I did some major manipulation of files – I converted all the RAW images in my photo library to the DNG format. That’s thousands of files, all around 8MB, all of which comes to a lot of data. I knew that Mozy would take a while to catch up with all that, so I didn’t worry when it didn’t seem to be making much progress.

Weeks passed, and I finally got round to looking at the logs. Mozy was failing to back up at all, which isn’t a good thing at all. Looking at the log file showed the interesting message:

Unhandled exception in backup: column filename is not unique

So, I emailed their support. On a Sunday. I wasn’t expecting to hear much, but I got a prompt reply telling me they were checking the “mainfest” – which is a list of files to back up which gets downloaded from their server. They told me to leave it a day or two then try again. Well, I did, but got the same error. So I emailed again. This time, they told me they’d found that the manifest had got out of step with the files on my Mac, and to try again after a day or two. I suspect the mass change of thousands of files in a short space of time must have got it a wee bit confused.

Anyway, I tried again tonight, and it’s working again. Woo hoo.

I mention this because Mozy just passed the most important test of a service. As anyone who works with any kind of complex system will know, things can and will go wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free service, a cheap one[2], or a business-class service costing thousands of pounds a year. Things will go wrong. The important bit is getting quality support and a prompt resolution of any problem you might have. I was impressed with the speed of the response, the fact that they immediately understood my problem and took action to sort it out.

For the price I’m paying, I’d have accepted a much slower response, and a lot more hassle to get it fixed. Mozy’s support exceeded my expectations, and I’m now even happier to recommend their service to anyone who wants an off-site, automatic backup. And remember, you can have up to 2GB of data backed up for no money at all – and that’s quite enough for a lot of people.

[1] Waits for chorus of readers shouting “that doesn’t normally stop you”
[2] For me, the unlimited backup at $5 a month is insanely cheap for the peace of mind it gives me

Sony eBook Reader – No thanks

Waterstone’s (the UK’s leading bookstore chain) have been making a lot of fuss about the release of the Sony Reader thingy, and their new eBooks online store. Now the hardware does sound rather nice – it uses a fancy eInk display that is sufficiently sharp and contrasty to compare with reading actual printed pages, and which only uses power to change what’s displayed. This leads to a quite impressive battery life. It has enough built in memory to hold 160 books (depending on how long they are, of course), and has memory card slots for effectively infinite expansion.

Very nice. And the price of £199, while not actually cheap, is in the range where I could very easily be tempted. But until today’s launch, there was a distinct lack of information about the really important bit: content. Waterstone’s are selling the kit because they want to sell lots of eBooks through their website, and they’ve made a lot of fuss about having lots of titles. Of course, they didn’t mention the little matter of how much they’ll be charging…

Well, today it all became clear: they’re charging too much. Way too much. Now if I’m getting a DRM-protected digital file that I can’t sell, lend or give away like I could with an actual physical book, I’d expect to pay less for it than the printed version. And at first sight, there are some discounts on offer. But not very big ones. The prices are compared with what would seem to be the cover prices[1] of the printed versions. The problem is that Waterstone’s discounted price for an eBook is higher than Amazon’s price for the printed one. And as I don’t pay extra for delivery from Amazon[2], the eBooks are looking like a really bad deal. And for current paperbacks, they look like poor value compared to Waterstone’s own 3 for 2 offers.

It’s a shame, really – this is a technology I’d happily go for if the price was right. Having recently had to pack up all my books into boxes, I’m very much aware of how much space the things take up[3]. And I’d love to be able to take lots of reading material with me on trips without having to carry a stack of full-sized books.

Still, don’t let me prejudice you. Have a look for yourself:

Waterstone’s eBooks site

[1] And who pays those?
[2] In January, I paid £50 for a year’s worth of “free” next day delivery. I think I’d got my money’s worth by April :smile:
[3] And how heavy they are :eek:

Weight Report – 4 September 2008

Hmmm. Either my scales have decided that they will only ever display one number, or there’s no change in my weight today. Maybe the walking and carrying stuff is having an effect that can overcome even a pepperoni pizza and a few glasses of wine…