2010-09-03

Solutions to two computer-related issues

I think I have found solutions, at least temporal, to two computer-related issues that have been bothering me for quite a long time. The first is email as a serious cause for wasting my time and losing my concentration on work, and the second is secure storage of data.

It is becoming more and more difficult for to live without email as my preferred means of non-phatic communication, but at the same time it is no less difficult to live with it. Among the main problems email poses to me are the increasing quantity of messages I receive on the one hand and their decreasing quality on the other. In order to cope with the first, I used to keep my mailer running in the background and let it check new messages every ten minutes while I work at home. I was (and still am) unable to resist the temptation of checking email upon receiving alerts for new messages, suspending my work. I always thought of stopping this harmful habit, and I finally found a very simple solution. It is simply to disable automatic checking of new messages. Instead, I have started to check new messages manually at fixed hours of the day. My ideal is to reduce the number of checking email to three or four times a day.

In order to keep abreast of the state of the art of research, I subscribe to about 30 mailing lists on various academic disciplines. Few of the messages I receive from these lists require immediate answers or even immediate reading. So I have made a filter that will automatically put the incoming messages from the mailing lists into a separate folder so that I may not have to pick up manually those messages sent to me personally. I have also made a filter that will automatically delete those who do not stop bombarding certain otherwise interesting academic mailing lists with non-academic anecdotal remarks. Now my email inbox is cleaner and more compact.

The worst nightmare that can happen to a computer user is the loss of his or her data. Many years ago, when I still lived in Japan, burglars broke into my apartment while I was in the synagogue and stole my computer together with my (then Japanese) passport, which was seemingly their main target. Luckily, they did not steal the floppy disks where I backed up my precious data. External physical storage media have exponentially increased in size since the days of floppy disks, but there still remains the same danger of losing all the data if something unexpected happens physically both to the computer and storage media. For quite a long time I looked for some nice online storage service as securer additional medium for data storage. I tried a number of such services, but I did not like any of them, until this week I found a free online storage service that satisfied me. I feel a little more secure about my data now. I have no commercial interest with this service and it is free, but I can recommend it to every user of Windows and Mac OS X who is also worried about his or her precious data but has not found a storage medium that is securer than hard drives and USB flash memories. It is called MozyHome Free.