Sunday, March 27, 2011

Software Review: Drive Genius

Drive Genius 3 is ProSoft Engineering's latest version of its drive manipulation and maintenance application. If you can do it to a hard drive, Drive Genius supports it with an attractive and intuitive interface. The program requires an Intel Mac running Leopard and 512 MB of RAM as well as a DVD drive for some functions.

The program has two basic components. First is DrivePulse. Drive Pulse runs as a background app constantly checking all your hard drives for basic problems relating to drive and file integrity. This early warning system is optional and doesn't work well when someone isn't an administrator of their computer. For users who absolutely rely on their computer, DrivePulse will help detect small problems before they become big problems. In particular, the fact it can monitor your locally attached Time Machine backup really helps prevent data loss.

The main program includes a suite of utilities that goes way beyond the basic initialization, repair, secure erase and partitioning that Apple's Disk Utility offers. Although most of these functions have to be run off another computer or mounted via a DVD, Drive Genius has it's proprietary "DriveSlim" function that can help shrink a drive that is overrun with unnecessary language files (called "localizations") as well as remove bloated code that won't run on the selected system (primarily intel vs. non-intel systems). Many functions cannot be performed off a booted volume and you may have to download a bootable DVD for an extra fee if the shipped version of Drive Genius doesn't support your computer. While the fee is only $5.00, it is nonetheless annoying.

Typical of most drive programs, Drive Genius includes functions to benchmark, clone, defrag and edit sectors. Most of Drive Genius's function could be cobbled together with third party and Apple's utilities, but with Drive Genius you get centralized support and a easy to follow pdf manual. All utilities are presented in an extremely stylized and Mac-like interface that is most reminiscent of Apple's Cover Flow combined with multi-colored graphs. The program's key functions are 64-bit, making it much more efficient for longer operations. According to ProSoft, Apple's own Geniuses use Drive Genius as part of a ProCare yearly tuneup.

Pros: Extensive suite of utilities attractively presented and easy to use
Cons: Many functions require booting off a DVD or external drive, may have to pay extra fee for bootable DVD image.

4 out of 5 Dogcows

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Presentation Zen Design

Presentation Zen Design, unlike its predecessor, Presentation Zen gives practical and actionable tips on how to make a better presentation. While Zen and Japanese philosophy are still used as a method of teaching concepts, readers will find it much less distracting and much more integrated than its predecessor.

This book looks at the anatomy of your slides and how to make them supplement what you are saying as the presenter rather than being the focus of your presentation. Of course professional designers take years to learn these skills, but after reading this book I have much more confidence I can make a quality presentation without having Al Gore’s design team at my disposal.

Unlike typical tech books, practical examples and checklists are missing from this book. General ideas and viewpoints are presented instead, in short digestable sections, just like the Bento box the author describes - a wide variety of concepts put together in a neat package that gives you energy and nourishment for the day.

After reading this book and looking at my previous presentations, I now understand why I and others fell asleep during them. I saw where I made my mistakes and what to change for the future. I’ll be doing much much less on individual slides and will make the concepts I present “pop” off the screen and have a clear focus.

For those people looking for tips and tricks of PowerPoint and Keynote, move along. This book is about practical advice and overall concepts of using “slideware” to engage your audience and help them understand what you are presenting.

Pros: Excellent overall concepts of how to make better presentations with a holistic focus rather than practical teachings of software functions
Cons: None!

Five out of Five Dogcows.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, March 13, 2011

GigaOM: How to Back Up Your Gmail Using Apple Mail or Outlook

In this post for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I explain how to backup your Gmail using Outlook, Apple Mail and other email programs. Backing up the cloud is critical, and this makes it easy.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Book Review: Presentation Zen

I don’t know much about Zen or Japanese culture, but after reading this book I do now! Unfortunately, along the way I didn’t learn nearly enough about presentations and how to avoid “death by PowerPoint.”

In order to stand out on the virtual shelf, Presentation Zen uses Zen philosophy as a teaching method. Personally, I found this distracting and superfluous. Ironic, since one of the book’s key philosophies is to keep your presentation basic with the “less is more” concept. See, I guess I did learn something from the book.

The book was an enjoyable read with a view of an entirely different culture than the one I grew up in and, occasionally, I did learn a few key points about presentations. Because of the narrative nature of this book, extracting advice for giving presentations was difficult to discern. Typically in technical books, the authors teach key points with use of the main text and then put miscellaneous extras on the side. In this book, the technical points were on the side and philosophies, interviews, and cultural icons appeared to be the main focus. Overall, the book dealt with the nuances of presentation rather than a direct guide on how to prevent your audience (and you) from falling asleep when the lights go down and your presentation begins.

I do recommend the book as a starting point in your journey to create better presentations. Instead of giving specific tips and instruction, overall ideas and concepts are presented in this very quick read. In particular, presentations should be about the presenter and not about the slides on the screen. The slides should supplement and amplify what the speaker is saying, rather than the speaker being the spokesperson for the slides on the screen.

Pros: Nice window to Japanese culture and Zen philosophy with application to presentations
Cons: Lack of firm structure and clear instructions on presentations

7 out of 10

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right