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Backing up: registry, files AND directory syncing?

SynkBackup128 Once again I’ve been on the hunt for the best software to achieve a particular purpose, and I’m coming up blank right now. Maybe there’s something out there that does what I need, or maybe there’s a giant opportunity for some genius to invent the complete backup solution.

Allow me to explain. I’m looking for a backup program with the following features: 1) It has to support backing up user-chosen registry keys, and 2) it has to support file synchronizing – not full mode, not differential or incremental mode, not catalog-based stuff, true make-the-contents-of-the-target-directory-look-exactly-like-the-contents-of-the-source-directory synching. And believe it or not, I haven’t found a single program which can do that yet!

Like most people, I believe backups are crucial to the retention of both irreplaceable items on your computer and thereby your sanity as well. So here’s what want. Firstly, something which will backup my essential stuff – contents of the My Documents folder, Application Data folder, certain other files (secure password storage etc) and finally certain tree hierarchies out of my registry (a-HA!) – not to mention my email program’s data and ITS registry keys – into compressed zips; and secondly, because compressing JPGs/AVIs doesn’t save any space, I want something which mirrors out certain target directories on my digital photos drive to the backup destination. The destination is an external drive and it’s only off a USB 1.1 interface so I want to minimize data transfer. I have many gigabytes to backup and until I get a faster external case I’m looking at a decent chunk of time to sync out my stuff every night.

And here’s what I’ve managed to turn up recently, while exploring the idea of “mirroring” directories. Firstly, the backup part can be done relatively painlessly, several programs out there do allow you to export selected parts of your registry along with regular files. But I haven’t been able to find a program that can do both exporting of registry data AND proper directory hierarchy synchronization. It’s driving me nuts! Most of the backup programs I’ve looked at incorporate full, differential, incremental and “mirror” backups. Hooray, I thought to myself: a “mirror” backup should be just what I need since all I want to do is take dir A (with subdirs) and exactly duplicate it across to dir B – adding/deleting files to/from B each time. Pfft. Let me quote you what the typical "mirror” backup definition is, with this text taken directly from the Genie Backup Manager help file: “In mirror backup, the first run always backs up all selected files and folders, and a backup catalog (.gbp file) is stored on the destination media. On subsequent runs, Genie Backup Manager searches for the catalog ".gbp file" in the destination. If the media is empty or it does not contain the catalog file, GBM will start with a new full backup.” So that’s not exactly what I want to do. I want both the source AND destination completely scanned the first time. I don’t want a stupid catalog file written to the destination. See, I already HAD most of the files on my destination from a previous backup program, and when I started a mirror backup to test out GBM, the stupid program started overwriting files on the destination that were exactly the same as on the source, because it was copying blind. Stupid! So next I have a look at SyncBackPro, and it does precisely what I want it to – its mirror mode scans the destination too and it doesn’t need to keep catalog files for the process. But you guessed it, SyncBackPro doesn’t support registry exporting, so I can’t wholly perform my backups with it!! I just looked through their forum and found a post where one of the authors say it’s not designed to do that. Posted a nudge on this anyway.

I am so glad that there’s a shareware period of 30 days or whatever for most software these days. It’s a great opportunity to save wasting my money, again and again. Get this: today I set up Genie Backup Manager to backup my registry and files for email, digital photos and “essentials” to a directory, then had SyncBackPro mirror-sync that directory (~38,000 files) out to my external drive. Two programs, because I haven’t yet found one that will do it all – I refuse on principle to use a mirroring system that relies on the existence of a single catalog file to inform it as to what’s present or not in the destination – a trojan changes one byte in that file and your backup is potentially bollocked or has to be started all over again. Bear in mind that I’m someone who not only keeps two backups (local on a separate drive and external as well), but I also generate Reed-Solomon parity info (using ICE ECC) for all my backed-up data on a weekly basis just in case I need to reconstruct a corrupted backup, and then back up the parity info too. Can never be too paranoid, especially about irreplaceable digital photos. So: maybe there’s a backup program out there with a PROPER mirroring mode that doesn’t require a catalog and that I can rely on to scan the destination and make intelligent choices as to what’s there and what’s not. Maybe “TwoBrightSparks” will add registry export capabilities to SyncBackPro. Until then, I’m stirring my coffee with two spoons at the same time. I’ve got thirty days, and I’m sure as hell not buying two programs to do this. Wish me luck as I hunt through other programs in this genre.

Plugin broke the site..

Recent visitors to Dhryland may have encountered a blank page instead of the usual delightfully informative banter. This turned out to be caused by the WordPress Visitor Maps plugin, which I installed in an attempt to self-host the same features as you currently see in the Feedjit widget on the left of your screen. Thanks to Ulrich Krebs (author of UK’s Kalender) for pointing it out to me. Apologies for the break – I have removed the plugin and you should be able to see the site content fine now. Live and learn..

UK’s Kalender; freeware calendar/to-do program

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Long-time fans of me (pauses.. buffs fingernails on shirt..) will know that I’ve always been a fan of WinDates, a shareware network-enabled calendar program which I used for a long time, on and off. Unfortunately the author of WinDates got a job working for a place that makes online calendars, which meant that continuing to develop his own program constituted a conflict of interest. He quit writing WinDates and a fantastic program winked out of existence, despite an email I wrote to him a year or two ago asking him to opensource the program since he no longer maintained it.

Now that I’ve wasted a paragraph on barely-relevant stuff, here’s the deal with UK’s Kalender (and it’s got nothing to do with the United Kingdom, although you could definitely be forgiven for thinking that at first, and no, I’m sure that the author knows how “calendar” is spelled in English *8-). It’s BETTER than WinDates, by leaps and bounds, and it’s completely free. I mean sure, the author asks for donations (and I’d say this one is definitely worth it), but that’s a heck of a lot better than getting 30 days to figure out whether to drop US$20 on a calendar tool or on clothes for your kid when you’re in the middle of a recession. But onto the features (click the link for more informative information about these features):

Automatic saving | Unlimited Undo and Redo | Minimize to the system tray | Network support | Repeating events | Forewarn time and snooze function | Multi day events | Event categories and templates | Acoustic reminders | Event driven program execution and document opening | Marking and hiding events | Four event views | Tooltips for events and todos | Alarms can be deactivated | Highly configurable display for events and todos | Configurable tray icon | Search and filter functions | Clipboard support | Export to HTML- and CSV-format | Holidays

The program appears to be tightly-coded (not sluggish/bloated-feeling, and doesn’t force you to use godawful skins, such as Rainlendar) and has a stack of very useful features. There is only one major omission preventing me from using it, and I have emailed the author in the hope that he will be able to find the time to include the feature. UK’s Kalendar does not support .ics format. Quoting the author from the “what it doesn’t do” page: “[…] has a proprietary file format. Neither does it understand the file format of other applications nor does it support the export of foreign calendar formats.” This is a big issue AFAIC. If it doesn’t support other calendar formats, you may not be able to export your existing data and migrate to this program, nor might you be able to easily migrate from it at some point in the future. Another missing feature which completely prevents me from using it is the fact that it cannot sync to an online calendar, such as Google Calendar, and it doesn’t support multiple simultaneously-open event files. My current calendar program, Mozilla Sunbird, allows syncing to Google Calendar with an add-on, and has multi-calendar support built-in. ICS and online calendar support would have given this program a definite Hot Download award since not only would you then be able to subscribe to your own calendar online but also hundreds of free online calendars. As it stands, it’s still an excellent calendar tool, both standalone and in case you need to share events with others on your local network. And like me, if you want ICS support, go ahead and email the author!

UK’S Kalender