Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Excellent and Free Drive Cloning Tools

I'm a long-time user of Drive Snapshot, a tool which allows you to make a backup copy of your computer's hard drive onto an external hard drive. It's a useful backup tool, distinguishing in that it makes a cloned copy of your hard drive without shutting your machine down - you can keep working while it's doing its stuff. That makes it practical to do frequent backups. Another distinguishing aspect is that the backed-up clone of your drive can be mounted as a virtual drive, so that you can recover specific files without having to go through some arduous restore routine. This program is a huge component of any system migration for me, and has more than once saved my bacon. Well worth the 39Euros (well under $60 currently) they're asking for it.

I've just become aware of a tool called Clonezilla, which is free on a GPL license. I haven't used it yet, but while it doesn't offer some of the features of Drive Snapshot (the "keep working" and "mount as virtual drive" aspects), it does offer free cloning of your hard drive for backup or transfer purposes. Another thing it offers, which Drive Snapshot does not, is the ability to "multicast". If you are putting a bunch of essentially identical machines into use, rather than install all that software on every one, you would build one machine, test it thoroughly, clone it, and then multicast that out to all the rest. In the example cited on the Clonezilla website, it took only about 10 minutes to clone a 5.6 GBytes system image to 41 computers simultaneously. There is also software available to correctly differentiate all those machines so that they can properly be added to the network.

I'll probably continue to use Drive Snapshot for my tasks, but there are situations where Clonezilla would be superior, especially when deploying a bunch of machines. It can also be used to remotely "push" a clone out, which could be useful if you're in a school or church environment. If you have a lab where you'd like to refresh all the computers nightly or once a week (undoing any changes made by users, either mischievous or unwitting), or kiosks in the foyer where you'd like to either refresh these to undo damage or put up new content, Clonezilla could make your life significantly easier. And of course, free is a really good price!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Compact Printable Calendar and other Productivity Tools

Just found this site from designer David Seah. What attracted my attention was his compact printable calendar - a template you load into Excel or the spreadsheet of your choice to create your ideal customized calendar. On the site you'll find templates pre-loaded with holidays for various countries, now updated with the 2009 calendars. I could see this being used for calendar inserts to church bulletins, bookmarks, etc.

From the look of it, though, there's a lot more available on his site, including his "printable CEO" series of materials. Well worth checking out!