Defraggler – Simple, Free Defragmentation.

Defraggler
Defraggler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Piriform makes great products…and they are free (well, at least the basic versions…which include almost all the features). Defraggler┬áis one of there relatively newer products – but still a great tool. I used to use Auslogics Disk Defrag but have since moved to Defraggler.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of defragmentation – fragmentation is something that happens on your hard drive (of your computer) over time. As files are written to the hard drive sometimes they are placed in multiple locations around the hard drive – this is known as a fragmented file. It takes longer for your hard drive to read or write to a file that is in multiple locations than one that is in one location. The process of defragmenting is taking all of these file fragments and putting them back together.

This makes your computer run faster and also can help reduce various and sundry strange errors which pop up on occasion from fragmented files. I know some folks claim this can’t be – but I’ve seen time and time again where a defrag without a checkdisk or other repair will clear up a blue screen of death or other significant error.

What makes Defraggler so nice?

  • The price – free.
  • It includes the ability to schedule it to run automatically on a regular basis at a time of your choosing.
  • It shows you the status of files and how fragmented your drive is as it works – something Microsoft’s Disk Defragmenter used to do well, but now does poorly.
  • It allows you to defragment individual files if you so desire.
  • It is frequently updated.
  • It runs fairly fast.

Go grab your free copy.

Windows 8: Some Brief Thoughts.

Image representing Windows
Image via CrunchBase

I have a Dell Inspiron 1720 I keep around the house and use for watching Hulu/Netflix and playing video games. It is getting fairly old (for a techie like me), but it still works decently. When Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview I decided to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 8 on the Inspiron 1720. Here are my initial thoughts based on limited interactions with the new OS:

User Interface:

  • As a techie I’m used to being able to figure out just about any application fairly quickly. You can intuit what is going on with the UI and pick things up fairly quickly…ummm…Windows 8, not so much.
  • Can someone tell me how to exit out of these darn applications? No, I’m not going to Google how to close an application…what a waste of breath! There is no way I should need to google to figure out how to close an application. I did do it once – but not sure how I did it…though Task Manager always works. =)
  • Did Microsoft move the navigation bar in IE to the bottom just for the hack of it? What’s up with that?
  • The user interface is semi-cool…but ummm, what is I don’t have a touch screen? And while this is some decent eye candy it isn’t helping my productivity.
  • What happened to the start menu? And you mean there isn’t an option to change back to the classic Windows Start Menu / Desktop in Windows 8?!?
  • Click on Windows Explorer and the Metro UI goes away – wow, rough transition…but don’t expect to get a start menu item.
  • How do I turn the dang computer off?

Problems:

  • If I closed the lid the laptop goes into a hibernate mode (I’m guessing) and when I turn it back on it takes forever to start back up again…sometimes I’ll just power it off and power it back on – it is faster!
  • Each time I reboot the computer and open Internet Explorer and go to Hulu I have to download Adobe Flash player again and install it again. Not sure what that is about.
  • So….I thought I got to keep my programs when I did the upgrade from Windows 7 to 8 Consumer Preview…but apparently now…all of my applications are gone! So are most of my files…good thing this computer didn’t actually do anything.

Conclusion:

I’m excited about a number of the technical features included in Windows 8, but I’m VERY unhappy with the user interface. I expect the problems I mentioned to be cleared up by the time the RTM is released.

I know Microsoft wants us to move forward – but most of us don’t have touch screens – and while I can see their efficiency in some situations, I don’t see the end of the mouse or keyboard for a long time yet – especially in work situations.

Microsoft needs to at least offer the ability to turn off or switch from the metro ui to a class ui that includes items like My Computer and the Start Menu.

Unlike many folks, I’m a fan of Microsoft. I think they have moved a long ways towards openness, incorporating user feedback, and building robust products – but Windows 8 from a UI perspective is a disaster. The underlying tech is awesome – but Microsoft needs to get off its high horse assuming that we want a single UI across all our devices and that it is best to push us this direction whether we like it or not…if they don’t, well, it might be the push I need to move off of Windows and onto Linux.

SugarSync – What is Missing?

I love being a fan of great products – and supporting those products with my finances. I’ve been a long-time fan and premium subscriber to SugarSync, a cloud-based backup, syncing, and web drive product. I like raving about them, and getting into arguments with folks like Steve Weir about whether Dropbox is better (nope!).

That said, I’m also a fan of making a little noise when companies don’t always treat their customers with the utmost respect they deserve. Successful business involves a symbiotic relationship between the business and the consumer, neither side can demand too much nor give too little. SugarSync has a great product, but I’m concerned that they aren’t committing enough resources to shoring up some weak spots in their current offerings, instead focusing more on new client acquisitions and business partnerships (which, again, are all well and good, but there has to be a balance).

So, here are my *beefs* with SugarSync and what I’d *really* like to see implemented in the near-term future.

The Critical Missing Components.

Image representing SugarSync as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Currently SugarSync doesn’t utilize Microsoft‘s Volume Shadow Service (VSS) and I can’t for the life of me understand why – it is built directly into Windows and is utilized by most backup software providers. Why? Because it offers numerous huge advantages with easy implementation. Including the ability to backup files while they are in-use. This means you don’t have to close out of Outlook, an accounting application, or anything else that is actively using a file before it can be backed up.

The other big no-no SugarSync engages in (that I can think of no practical reason to exist, and which should be a very simple config file change to implement) is finite versioning of files. SugarSync currently keeps a limited number of previous versions of a file – which becomes an issue if it is a transactional file (e.g. a database – including Microsoft Outlook or any email client, rss reader, etc.). These files change all the time – in a single day they may change hundreds or thousands of times! SugarSync needs to keep these versions for as long as the user desires them to be kept – not arbitrarily deleting them!

This is Important…

  • Ability to Pause/Resume Backups/Syncs – While everything in an ideal world would place nice with one another, the fact of the matter is that software oftentimes interfere with each other. It’d be great to have a way to pause backups/syncs by SugarSync. Again, I don’t run into any problems with this regularly – but it would still be a nice feature.

It’d Be Cool If…

I’m not particularly concerned about these features, but it would be cool if…

  • SugarSync integrated with Google Docs, backing up all Google Docs into SugarSync and vice versa (or a subset as so desired). This would also allow mobile editing of documents (of many types) via Google Docs without needing to download the documents from SugarSync (as one must do now before editing).
  • Backing Up Gmail is another useful feature. I’m not as concerned about this as the integration with Google Docs, but still, a nice freebie.