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Mac Tips: Backup (Part 1)

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As a long-time Mac geek, I'm often called upon to help friends and family with Mac issues. In this new feature, I'll post a few of the most crucial tips so our Mac-using readers can benefit. This week's tip is also applicable to the Windows platform -- but future tips may not be!

Today's topic is backup. Anyone who has experienced a hard drive crash, had a computer stolen, or lost a computer in a disaster can tell you how important it is to have a copy of your precious data. Imagine losing all your data -- all your music, work files, email, everything. It's a terrible thing to contemplate! With a backup, you can restore critical files and get back to work. I think we all know that backup is important, but avoid dealing with it because it takes time and money to set up...right? Actually, it can be easy -- and free. In this article I'll introduce Mozy, an online backup service (for Windows users too) which offers free 2 GB personal backup service, in the hopes you'll upgrade to a pay-per-use plan (with unlimited space and extra features). I have no affiliation with Mozy, aside from being a satisfied user of their MozyHome Free service.

After the jump: specifics on Mozy and a free signup link!

Mozy is a "set it and forget it" backup solution, which is the only practical way for home users to backup. Other solutions that require you to actually do something to run the backup cause users to put it off, which leads to a stale backup when something bad actually happens. To get around this, Mozy runs in the background, automatically performing backups over the internet to a secure server when it detects that you've been idle for a period of time (you can set this period, or leave it at the default). If Mozy needs your attention (for example, if it hasn't been able to reach the server to backup for more than seven days) it'll pop up a warning message. But otherwise it just quietly does its thing. (Note: you may want to increase the amount of time your computer stays awake before sleep, in order to give Mozy more time to run backups.)

If you're going to use Mozy's free service, you'll need to limit the items you backup to fit in its 2 GB space. For me, Mozy's 2 GB space allows storage of all my email, all Word/Excel/PowerPoint documents, everything I've purchased from iTunes, and a set of key document folders (all my daily work and projects) -- with space to spare. Because of the limited space, Mozy's free service is only a partial solution. Should you experience a catastrophic computer failure -- you'll be able to recover your most crucial data, but will still have to restore all sorts of other stuff (MP3s, applications, and so on) by hand. We'll talk about some complementary "full backup" solutions next week. But keep in mind a key strength of Mozy's free service is that it runs backups to an offsite server -- this allows you to retrieve your data in the event that your house burns down.

Mozy is still in Beta on the Mac platform, which means it will need occasional updates, and may need extra care and feeding at times. But in my use (and my friends' use) over the past six months, it has been very stable and reliable -- and it appears to be fast approaching a final non-Beta release. I've done some test restores to make sure my data is retrievable, and it has worked like a charm. If you need to restore a lot of data and don't want to download your restores over the internet, you can pay a nominal fee for Mozy to burn a disc and mail it to you.

If you've read this far, you're ready to start using Mozy. If you use this Mozy link I'll get a kickback of some extra free storage on my account. IMPORTANT NOTE: be sure to sign up for the free service! Click the orange "Home Users" button in the upper right, then the orange "MozyHome Free" button in the lower left. The free service doesn't require a credit card or any other commitment. (Well, aside from you trusting Mozy with your data!) If you want to sign up for their paid service, it's $4.95/month for personal use with no storage restrictions.

If you want to know more about Mozy, check out Mozy's News section, which includes positive reviews by Consumer Reports, The Wall Street Journal, and Ars Technica (among others). Stay tuned for an article next week on full-system backup that works as a complement to Mozy. Also, if you want to scare the non-backer-uppers, share your tales of data loss in the comments.

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Health
Growing Up With Headphones May Not Damage Kids’ Hearing
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A study published in the American Medical Association's JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery finds no increase in child and adolescent hearing loss despite a rise in headphone and earbud use.

"Hearing impairment in children is a major public health burden given its impact on early speech and language development, and subsequently on academic and workforce performance later in life," the authors write. "Even mild levels of hearing loss have been found to negatively affect educational outcomes and social functioning."

As portable music players continue to grow in popularity, parents, doctors, and researchers have begun to worry that all the music pouring directly into kids' ears could be damaging their health. It seems a reasonable enough concern, and some studies on American kids' hearing have identified more hearing loss.

To take a closer look, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), collected from 1988 to 2010. They reviewed records from 7036 kids and teens between the ages of 12 and 19, checking each participant's hearing tests against their exposure to noise.

As expected, the authors write, they did find a gradual increase in headphone use and other "recreational noise exposure." And they did see an uptick in hearing loss from 1988 to 2008 from 17 percent to 22.5 percent. But after that, the trend seemed to reverse, sinking all the way down to 15.2 percent—lower than 1988 levels. They also found no significant relationship between noise exposure and hearing loss.

The results were not uniform; some groups of kids were worse off than others. Participants who identified as nonwhite, and those of lower socioeconomic status, were more likely to have hearing problems, but the researchers can't say for sure why that is. "Ongoing monitoring of hearing loss in this population is necessary," they write, "to elucidate long-term trends and identify targets for intervention."

Before you go wild blasting music, we should mention that this study has some major limitations. Hearing loss and other data points were not measured the same way through the entire data collection period. Participants had to self-report things like hearing loss and health care use—elements that are routinely under-reported in surveys. As with just about any health research, more studies are still needed to confirm these findings.

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Design
Glow-in-the-Dark Paths Come to Singapore
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Studio Roosegaarde's Van Gogh path in the Netherlands in 2014.

Glow-in-the-dark materials are no longer for toys. Photoluminescence can help cities feel safer at night, whether it’s part of a mural, a bike lane, or a highway. Glow-in-the-dark paths have been tested in several European cities (the above is a Van Gogh-inspired bike path by the Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde) and in Texas, but now, the technology may be coming to Singapore. The city-state is currently developing a 15-mile greenway called the Rail Corridor, and it now has a glow-in-the-dark path, as Mashable reports.

The 328-foot stretch of glowing path is part of a test of multiple surface materials that might eventually be used throughout the park, depending on public opinion. In addition to the strontium aluminate-beaded path that glows at night, there are also three other 328-foot stretches of the path that are paved with fine gravel, cement aggregate, and part-grass/part-gravel. The glow-in-the-dark material embedded in the walkway absorbs UV light from the sun during the day and can emit light for up to eight hours once the sun goes down.

However, in practice, glow-in-the-dark paths can be less dazzling than they seem. Mashable’s reporter called the glowing effect on Singapore’s path “disappointingly feeble.” In 2014, a glowing highway-markings pilot by Studio Roosegaarde in the Netherlands revealed that the first road markings faded after exposure to heavy rains. When it comes to glowing roads, the renderings tend to look better than the actual result, and there are still kinks to work out. (The studio worked the issue out eventually.) While a person walking or biking down Singapore’s glowing path might be able to tell that they were staying on the path better than if they were fumbling along dark pavement, it’s not the equivalent of a streetlight, for sure.

The trial paths opened to the public on July 12. The government is still gathering survey responses on people’s reactions to the different surfaces to determine how to proceed with the rest of the development. If the glow-in-the-dark path proves popular with visitors, the material could eventually spread to all the paths throughout the Rail Corridor. You can see what the glowing path looks like in action in the video below from The Straits Times.

[h/t Mashable]

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