Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple #604: Back-up Software

Not long ago, my hard drive developed amnesia.  It couldn't remember where the system file was.  I called a technician guy, he plugged in his fancy special CD-ROM, and it found the C:\ drive, but it didn't find a single file on it.  Uh-oh.

This is a relatively nice screen, which tells you there was a problem but it's going to be OK.  What I saw was a message that said windows\system32\config\system is corrupted or missing. Then nothing happened after that. It stayed on that initial black screen of unhappiness.
(screen shot from Ask Apache)

Fortunately, he was able to recover everything that was in my Documents folder.  But 6 years' worth of music, e-mails including people's addresses and phone numbers, bookmarks, and other sundry items that I relied on my computer to remember for me: gone.

Let this be a lesson unto you and to me: your hard drive will someday fail.  If you keep it long enough, it will crash.   Or it will get stolen, or broken, or maybe you'll drop your laptop into a sink full of soapy water, or it will fall out of the back of a taxi, or it will get shot full of bullet holes during some terrible case of mistaken identity--something will happen that will result in your hard drive's departure from the working world.

What you do not want to lose is your files.  Your stuff.  If you've got a back-up system, you can simply go to that and get your stuff and the fact that your special machine that helped you create your stuff is now kaput will be a relatively small blip on the annoyance scale.  But how to back up your files? What should you save?  How should you save it?

The answers to these questions depends on how much time and money you want to put in to the back-up process.  Maybe you decide you only want to keep about 6 or 7 really important documents and the rest of it can go hang.  Or maybe you decide you want to preserve everythign about your operating system so that if your hard drive crashes, you can pretty much push a button and within a couple of hours, a new hard drive will be configured to operate just like your old favorite hard drive--except it won't crash again in 24 hours.

There are a ton of services and software programs and gizmos and databases out there that will help you back up your files..  I'm going to tell you about just a few that rose to the top of my list for one reason or another.

For the PC

$4.95 / month

Backblaze screenshot
  • Backs up your documents and photos and other files you choose
  • Does not back up the operating system
  • Backs up to the cloud
  • Advantage: only you have the password to access your files, which makes it very hard for a hacker to get your stuff. Will also back up an external drive. Will also work with Macs.
  • Disadvantage: if you lose the password, you're out of luck.


 FBackup screen shot
  • Backs up your documents and photos and other files you choose
  • Does not back up the operating system
  • Backs up to a networked drive or to an external drive, though not to a USB stick
  • Advantage: it's free. It will also back up files that are in use or locked
  • Disadvantages: may be too basic for the advanced user. The program does support plugins, though, so you can customize it to your needs. Files over 2GB get zipped.


Dropbox screen shot from Peter's Useful Crap
  • Backs up your documents and photos and other files you choose
  • Does not back up the operating system
  • Backs up to the cloud
  • Advantage: you can choose to allow others to access select files, or you can keep it all private. You can also drop files here from multiple computers in multiple locations.
  • Disadvantage: This is actually a file-sharing program, so security is not its strong suit. Dropbox did get hacked recently. They also have limited storage space, unless of course you're willing to pimp out your friends. If you do that enough times, they'll give you more storage space.

True Image by Acronis
$50 one time

Acronis screen shot from PCWorld

  • Backs up all files including your operating system so you'll have a restore point
  • Backs up to the cloud, or to an external drive, or to a networked drive, or to any or all as you choose
  • Advantage: also backs up applications
  • Disadvantage: if you're running other backup programs, this might interfere with those. But this seems so complete, would you really need other backup software?
  • Maybe an advantage, maybe a disadvantage: the backup file created is one big huge image file.  You want an image file to restore a hard drive, so that's good.  But that also makes it a little difficult to tell exactly what it's saving in there.
  • Recommended  heartily by the PC tech guy who restored my files

MagiCure Professional
$69 one time

MagiCure screenshot

  • Backs up all files including your operating system so you'll have a restore point
  • Advantage: backs up to your hard drive. In the event of hard drive problems, press Home during startup to access the console. This gives you kind of a built-in safety net for your hard drive, and you wouldn't need to go to another system to rescue it. People who've used it say it's really fast. 
  • Disadvantage: backs up to your hard drive. If something other than a crash happens, like for example your laptop gets stolen, or it gets shot full of bullet holes, the fact that you have a back-up on the now-absent or bullet-shot hard drive will do you no good.

For the Mac

Time Machine

Time Machine screenshot from Macs Are Great!

  • Backs up all files including your operating system so you'll have a restore point
  • Recommended by my IT friend, who had to use it to restore a Mac at work.  With this, he got the defunct Mac back to its previous working state in only 3 hours. 
  • Leave it to Mac to come up with a succinct and easy-to-use solution for a problem that affects everybody.

These are just a few of the options out there.  Is there a back-up program that you think is terrific that's not on my list?  Let us know in the Comments.

CNET reviews of  FBackup, MagiCure Professional, True Image by Acronis, and lots more

Monday, September 17, 2012

Apple #603: Concussions

A couple weeks ago, I fell off my bike.  I was standing up & pedaling hard to get up some speed, changing gears, a wall was approaching faster than I realized, I tried to swerve, and I lost my balance and bang, over I went.  The fall itself seemed to happen in slow motion, and I could see that I was going to hit my chin on the pavement.  I tried to keep that from happening by bracing myself with my hands (which had already slammed hard onto the pavement), but the force of my fall was greater than my strength and my chin smacked with a bang on the cement.

I was afraid my teeth were going to get broken, but fortunately that did not happen.  The impact jarred my jaw pretty hard so that it hurt to work my jaw for some time afterward.  My chin started swelling up and later developed quite a dark bruise.

Chin bruise, courtesy of a fall off my bike. It got darker over the next day or two.  What's up with that weird downturn on one side of my mouth? I look like I've had a stroke or something. Fortunately, that is not the case.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

Throughout the course of that day, I developed a headache that got stronger and stronger.  I kept taking ibuprofen, but it didn't seem to make a dent in the pain.  Usually one pill does the job, but I took four over the course of a few hours and I didn't notice any difference.  That's when I started to wonder if I'd gotten a concussion.

Naturally, as the Apple Lady, I had to find out about concussions.

  • A concussion can happen after getting hit hard in the head. But a strong blow to the body can result in a concussion, too.
  • Your brain is like Jell-O. It's soft, a little jiggly, and it doesn't stand up very well to direct, physical pressure.
Jell-O. Your brain is about this defenseless inside the skull.
(Photo from Allee Willis)

  • The brain is protected from the outer world by the skull, but it needs still more protection than that. Within the skull, the brain is cushioned by the fluid that surrounds it, which keeps the brain from banging against the hard bone that is your skull.  
  • If you get hit hard in the head, though, the blow can cause the brain to hit bone, and the Jell-O brain can be affected as a result.  That's a concussion.
  • You don't have to be hit in the head to get a concussion.  If you get hit in the body hard enough that your head whips forward hard and suddenly, your brain can be flung against the inside of your skull and get injured that way.  It's the same kind of injury as occurs in shaken baby syndrome, though usually less severe.  In fact, the word concussion comes from the Latin concutere, which means "to shake violently."

What Happens When a Concussion Occurs
  • As a result of the impact, your brain is shoved against the inside of the skull (this is called the coup). Then when your head snaps back, the brain hits the opposite side of the skull (contrecoup). 

The coup -- first impact of the brain against the skull -- and contrecoup -- the second impact against the skull on the opposite side of the brain.
(Image from KIN450 Neurophysiology)

  • So you get two bruises on opposite sides of your brain.  The size and severity of the bruises depend on the force of the impact.
  • If the impact is a complex one with lots of jostling and motion in many directions, like, say, while getting tackled by lots of people during a football game, the impact of the brain against the skull may also be more complicated, with rotational movements and shearing forces. It's usually in the more complex type of impacts that loss of consciousness occurs, but a single, direct impact can cause loss of consciousness too.
  • You might think bruises don't seem too bad, but your brain reacts to bruising with reversible but immediate temporary paralysis of the nervous system.  Everything shuts off for a second. This is a protective mode, but for that brief shut-off time, there is no one manning your ship.  The brain controls your breathing, your heart rate, all kinds of stuff you need to survive.  For those few milliseconds or moments, all that is shut off.  You do not want this to happen for very long, or very often.
  • Along with the bruises comes swelling, which first of all means pain, but it also means restricted blood flow, which means a reduction in oxygen, which means a reduction in brain function.
  • You can also get torn axons, which are nerve fibers that carry messages in the brain. If those are torn, the messages won't get through. Unlike lots of other types of tissue in the body, axons do not heal themselves back together. Once they're torn, that's how they'll stay.
  • If this isn't enough to convince you that concussions are serious, here's more.  As we learned in a previous entry, bruises are bleeding that's contained under the skin. If the impact on the brain is severe enough, those bruises can rupture and then you've got bleeding on the brain. You really do not want this because a) the blood carries oxygen which the brain desperately needs to do its thing and if the blood is leaking out, it's not getting that oxygen and b) bleeding can put pressure on the brain within the skull and with enough pressure, the whole thing will stop working and you can die.
  • Now that I've scared the pants off you, I will say that bleeding in the brain is not at all common with a concussion.  Most of the time you get the two bruises.  But those bruises mean the brain has been injured, and that's not something to take lightly. Capice?

How Do You Know if You've Had a Concussion
  • It's not always obvious if a concussion has occurred. A concussion might cause you to pass out or blank out, or it might not.  Symptoms can be mild or severe. They can last for hours, or days, or weeks, or months, depending on the severity of the injury, or how many concussions you've already suffered.  
  • It's also possible that symptoms won't appear right away but develop after some time has passed.
  • There are four types of symptoms of a concussion.  Chances are, if you have a concussion, you won't experience all of these symptoms, or maybe even half of them.  But if more start popping up, or if any of them get worse over time, then absolutely go see a doctor. 

A headache was the only symptom I had.  I put a bag of frozen peas on my head for a while, and that helped.
(Photo from LAdodgertalk)

  • 1. Physical
    • Headache
    • Fuzzy or blurred vision
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness
    • Sensitivity to noise or light
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Balance problems
    • Feeling tired, having no energy
  • 2. Thinking or Remembering
    • Difficulty thinking clearly
    • Feeling slowed down
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Difficulty retaining new information
  • 3. Emotional / Mood
    • Irritability
    • More emotional
    • Unexplained sadness
    • Nervousness or anxiety
  • 4. Sleep
    • Sleeping more than usual (unintentionally so)
    • Sleeping less than usual (unintentionally so)
    • Difficulty falling asleep
  • If you think you've had a concussion, the primary and most important thing to do is go see a doctor.  The doctor will conduct a lot of simple tests to determine whether you've had one, and then will determine what kind of rest or therapy you need.
  • The second most important thing is don't immediately go play a demanding, contact sport where you could get injured further.  Your brain is a delicate instrument that you need to survive. You've already subjected it to some damage. Give it some time to recover before you go slamming it around again.
In football, most concussions occur due to impacts from the side and to the lower part of the face, such as in this hit between two high school players in Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Christine Baker, The Patriot-News)

  • If you do go back to playing your sport before your concussion has healed and you re-injure your brain, you'll have what's called Second-Impact Syndrome. Basically it means all the symptoms of a concussion can be worse, but you're also more likely to suffer a permanent disability, and even death.
  • When you go see the doctor (you see how I'm assuming that this is a given?), the doctor will tell you how long you have to wait before you can play your sport again.
  • The doctor will also tell you if you need to stay in the hospital for observation, or if you need to have someone monitor your sleeping and wake you up if you've been asleep for too long and also help watch for any changes in your behavior or mood, or if monitoring your own symptoms is sufficient.

Some of the tests a doctor will conduct will test your reaction time, such as this simple test designed by a teen-age named Ian Richardson.
(Photo from the University of Michigan, sourced from NPR)

How to Treat a Concussion
  • You can't exactly put a Band-Aid on your brain, so the best ways to help your brain heal all require patience.
  • The best thing to do is to rest.  This might mean not playing the sport in which you were injured. It might mean giving yourself a break from doing really demanding mental tasks. It might mean getting more sleep than usual.  It might mean giving yourself a break from using the computer (!) or playing video games.
  • You can take Tylenol to help with the headaches. Aspirin and ibuprofen aren't recommended because if your brain is on the cusp of bleeding, either of those could push it over the edge.
  • Don't take any other pills unless the doctor prescribes them. Again, your brain is a sensitive creature.  Pumping it full of stuff when it's injured is not doing it any favors.
  • The same goes for alcohol or illegal drugs.  Don't go pouring those things onto the problem.  You'll only make it worse.

All right, now that I've read and learned all this, do I think I sustained a concussion?  At first, when I saw all the symptoms, I didn't think so.  The only symptom I experienced was that headache.  I didn't have any of those other things.  But then I remembered what that headache felt like.  It felt different than a usual tension-type headache.  It felt -- this is going to sound strange -- hot, like an electric throbbing, as well as painful.  Even more tellingly, it started at the top of my head and radiated down.  That spot where it started was almost exactly opposite of where I hit my chin on the cement.

So I think I did have a concussion.  The headache was gone the next day, thankfully, and I haven't had any other symptoms since then.  If the headache had persisted another day, I would have gone to the doctor.  I maybe should have even gone the day I fell, but it didn't even occur to me that I might have had a concussion until several hours into the day.

Although a helmet would have been completely useless in this situation, I am now wearing my helmet when I ride my bike.  (Stupid and dorky-looking though that thing is.)  I like my axons intact.

This is how happy your brain will be if you wear your helmet.
(Photo from Kids Bike Helmets)

Related entries: Bruises; Aspirin

A note to my readers: While I dearly cherish any comments posted to my blog, if you ask me whether you've suffered a concussion, I cannot help you. I'm not a doctor and I can't diagnose these things.  I can only provide you some information to start with.  If you think you may have suffered a concussion, go see the person who is best equipped to help you: a doctor.

CDC, Tramatic Brain Injury, What are the Signs and Symptoms of Concussion?
WebMD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Concussion - Overview
Mayo Clinic, Concussion, What Happens When a Brain Bleeds? and Facts About Concussion and Brain Injury
Patrick J. Fernicola, M.D., Concussion: When the skull just isn't protection enough
Richard Smayda, D.O., "What happens to the brain during a concussion?" Scientific American, February 3, 2012
Nerve Regeneration, BI 108, Brown University

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Apple #602: Toasting Etiquette

I've had a request!  Daily Apple reader Jarred wants to know:
Apple Lady, what's the deal with toasting etiquette? I have always heard that you only clink glasses when it's wine, but nothing else.  Do you think this would be a good topic for a Daily Apple?

Of course it's a good topic for the Daily Apple!

My first response was that what's in the glass should be alcoholic, not necessarily wine.  But I looked into it to see if that's correct.

They're toasting with wine here, but you don't necessarily have to have wine in your glass to drink a toast.
(Photo from Taylor

What's in the Glass
  • Traditionally it was considered de rigeur that everyone's glass contain alcohol, but most people now agree that that's not necessary.  The only beverage which you are not supposed to drink during a toast is water.
  • Why not water?  According to superstition, it's bad luck.  I couldn't find much about why, except that among sailors, drinking a toast with water is considered hoping that the toast-ee will die by drowning.
  • What is important is making sure that everyone's glass is filled before offering a toast. 

This is Virna Lisi and she's toasting you.  I think that's champagne.
(Photo from Starlet Showcase)

Other Toasting Etiquette
  • The host should be the first to toast.
    • Exception: If you're into the dessert and the host still hasn't offered a toast and doesn't seem likely to do so, it is acceptable for a guest to offer the first toast.
    • Exception: At less formal occasions such as at a small dinner party, if a guest wants to toast the host in thanks, that's acceptable.
    • Exception: At weddings, it is traditional for the best man to offer the first toast.
  • If it's a large group and you want to get everyone's attention, stand up.  Don't click silverware against the glass because 1) that's annoying and 2) you might break the glass and no one wants shattered glass all over the table.  Simply standing will get people's attention.  Invite them to stand with you and soon everyone will be standing and ready to listen.
  • The only person who should not stand is the person who is being toasted.  If you are the one being toasted, for example, you should remain seated, accept the toast graciously but do not drink from your glass, and after everyone has drunk, thank the person who made the toast.  To participate in the toast when you are being toasted would be like applauding yourself. 

Proper toasting etiquette is being observed here for the most part. The toast-er is standing, holding his glass to the toast-ee, who is apparently the bride, who is sitting. The other guests are also sitting, but since it's a small group, that's OK. The only etiquette violation here is that the bride is apparently planning to drink to herself, and that would not be OK.
(Photo from eHow)
  • It's not necessary that everyone clink glasses, especially if it's a large group.  Raising your glass and calling out something like, "Cheers!" or "To Jarred!" or some other group response following the toast, and then drinking, is perfectly appropriate.
  • If you are the one making the toast:
    • Keep it short.  Everyone is holding their glasses aloft, patiently waiting to be allowed to drink. They don't want to stand there holding their glasses while you go on and on about what happened in the second grade. If it's a formal occasion and you want to give a moving, personal, delightful performance, preparing something ahead of time may be appropriate. But still, brevity is the soul of wit and much appreciated by thirsty party-goers.  Write down what you want to say and cross out about half of that.
    • Keep it sweet. Even if you want to begin a toast by remembering someone who is no longer alive but dearly missed, that's fine, but end on a positive note. Any group gathering is a celebration among those present, so let everyone enjoy the current, happy occasion.
    • Make eye contact with the person being toasted.  You're offering that person a gift with your toast, not grandstanding so that everyone can admire you. Looking at the toast-ee will invite the rest of the group to do the same, thus putting the focus on the correct person.
  • If you are in another country, other or additional rules about toasting may apply. In France, for example, you should never allow your arm to cross another person's while clinking your glass. In Japan, the glass is continually refilled so that it never goes empty. In Korea, the glass is not refilled until it is empty. It's even good form to shake out the last few drops so that the host knows to refill your glass. The best policy is to keep your eyes and ears open and do as the [insert name of country here]s do.

Of course, even the most formal occasions can veer toward the informal as the evening goes on. Regulations about proper toasts get a little looser too. Though I think the no-water rule would still apply.
(Photo from Wikimedia)

Some Short & Sweet Toasts
  • Cheers!
  • Salud!  (Spanish)
  • Prost! (German)
  • Skål! (Swedish)
  • L'chaim! pronounced leh-CHAY-eem (Hebrew)
  • Sláinte pronounced SHLAWN-cha or SHLAWN-ta (Irish)
  • My heart is as full as my glass when I drink to you, my friend!
  • May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.
  • Here's to your health! You make age curious, time furious, and all of us envious.
  • To your very good health. May you live to be as old as your jokes.
  • May your joys be as deep as the ocean, and your misfortunes as light as its foam.
  • A full belly, a heavy purse, and a light heart.
  • May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face;
    the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
    may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
  • May those who love us, love us
    And those who don't, may God turn their hearts.
    And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
    May He turn their ankles
    So we'll know them by their limping.
 For more toasts for all occasions, check out the Etiquette Scholar.

Some of those toasts are for decidedly less formal occasions.
(Photo from 100 Beers)

History, or at least Legends

These little tidbits have been repeated several places as historical fact. I can't verify that they are historically accurate, but if only through sheer repetition, they have come to be regarded as fact.
  • Supposedly, the practice of raising and clinking glasses prior to drinking originated in Greece. Apparently, sneaking poison into other people's drinks was a rather common practice.  Everyone taking their first drink together was considered a gesture of good faith--or else it was a way to find out fast if anyone at the table had been poisoned.
  • Clinking glasses is also thought to have originated with that fear-of-poisoning thing. The idea was that clinking glasses would make the topmost contents of your glass, including any poison lingering at the top, slosh out and into your neighbor-and-possibly-poisoner's-glass. How's that for convivial sharing?

Clinking glasses: sharing the poison as well as the pleasure
(Photo from Skeptic Money)

  • The term "toasting" originated from the Roman practice of putting a piece of toasted bread into a goblet of wine before drinking, which helped to mellow the flavor of the wine.
  • The practice of adding toast to a goblet of wine continued into medieval English times, except their practice was to drink the wine until you got to the piece of bread at the bottom.
  • This one I can verify: even though we all know that Spock liked to say "Live long and prosper," it was Washington Irving who first penned that one. 

Spock and Washington Irving -- both said, "Live long and prosper."
(Photo from the Star Trek Database and from

Etiquette International, Toasting - A Memorable Art
German Toasting Glasses, Proper Toasting Etiquette 
Etiquette Scholar, Toasting
Kevin Toyama, Honolulu Star Bulletin, Well-delivered toast makes memorable event
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table, Toasting Etiquette
InSide the TravelLab, Wine, Health, and Seven Years of Bad Sex: Toasting Traditions in France

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fame & Fortune

Good news!  Your Daily Apple is being featured in a new online magazine, Magic Octopus!

The magazine is intended for "intergalactic warrior mystics who step outside of the expected." Its inaugural issue is all about glitter, and the esteemed editors have chosen to feature the Daily Apple's entry on Disco Balls. The issue includes more glitter-related articles on topics such as glam rock and a glittery burlesque show, plus an astrology column, poetry, and more!  For all you writers out there, they're accepting submissions of poetry, short fiction, and novel excerpts. Check it out!