A Great Keyboard
April 9, 2010

The Key Tronic USB Classic keyboard is a high-quality, 104-key Windows Compatible keyboard that’s a perfect entry-level or basic replacement keyboard for any user.

The affordable Classic has all the durability and strength of the Lifetime line, built into a compact, space-saving design.

This keyboard features an extra large L-shaped Enter key and Windows application keys for easier Start and Task Manager operations. All keys are factory tested to withstand 20 million keystrokes.

Affordable pricing and a Lifetime Guarantee make this 104-key keyboard a necessary addition to every user’s PC.

The Classic-U keyboards meet the European Union RoHS initiatives.

Now shipping with Ergo Technology. Most keyboards use a standard 55 grams of force required to register every key, Ergo Technology has 5 different levels of force. From 35 grams to 80 grams – that correspond to the strength of the finger that touches the keys. The result is more comfort for your hands.

My experience and history with Key Tronic keyboards

I have used Key Tronic keyboards since 1991. Back then I used the KB101, it was great, a large L shaped enter key and above that a large backspace key.   It felt great typing with that board.  Later when Windows 95 came out they offered the KB101 Plus that came with 3 Windows keys.

These were switch technology keyboards made in Spokane, Washington. Very high quality build, the Num Lock, Caps Lock, Scroll Lock lights were in the keys, leaving the space normally allocated for the lights to house a custom nameplate you could order for 5 dollars, I had my domain name on it.  Nice personalized touch.

Around 2000 they discontinued the switch technology boards and replaced them with membrane technology. I was told they were just way too expensive to manufacture since everyone was going to membrane keyboards, most made overseas at a fraction of the cost they could be made in North America. After years of use and dirt and spills took it’s toll,  I needed to upgraded my KB101 Plus.  I was really concerned about finding a board with the similar feel to it.   I spent about 300 dollars on keyboards trying to get one that I could get use too, but no luck.

I called Key Tronic and spoke to a very nice lady, I expressed my concerns about the switch technology keyboard being discontinued and she sympathized with me, she knew exactly where I was coming from.  I asked if they had any keyboards that have the similar feel to them as the switch technology, she said yes, the Classic.  It was about the closest you could get to the feel of the switch type keyboards, similar key layout and they also had keys that needed different input force to give you a tactical feel to it, as mentioned above, Ergo Technology.

You could not replicate the exact feel of switch technology keys, but the Classic was a very close match. I ordered one and tried it. After a couple weeks I was really happy with it and ordered 5 more keyboards, just in case they were discontinued. If there is one thing I can’t stand is a keyboard that just doesn’t feel right.

If you are in the market for a new keyboard, try the Key Tronic Classic.  Available in USB and PS2, Black or Beige. In the USA it can be purchased through many retailers for around 35.00 dollars, in Canada you have to purchase it direct from Key Tronic for 45.00 dollars.

http://www.keytronic.com/home/index.html

Hard Drive Imaging
April 2, 2010

There is one piece of software I can not live without, it’s hard drive imaging software. Also known as mirror image, or cloning, this software takes a complete copy of your hard drive and stores it in a file that can be copied to another hard drive, or in some cases on DVD disks. If you ever have serious problems with your operating system going haywire, or your hard drive crashes, restoring an image file can save you hours of work.

Not all people are fans of imaging hard drives. When you image your hard drive, once again it takes a complete snap shot of your complete drive the way it is at the time the image was taken. If you do changes to your drive and you need to restore an image you took, you will loose all those changes.

For me this is not a problem. I have been using hard drive imaging software since 1999. Back then I used Drive Image by Power Quest. They are no longer in business, they were acquired by Symantec and their imaging technology was incorporated into Ghost.

Back in the early days of imaging my drives, I would take an image of the drive once a week, and copy critical data to an external hard drive. This would be new data that was not included in the image I took. If you restored an image you would also have to copy your new data back to the drive as well. This may seem like a lot of work but it is really not.

I was an avid gamer back then and would download copies of game demos and play them. But before I did this I would image the drive. Then play the games and see what ones I wanted to buy and what ones I wanted to keep. Once that was done, I would restore the image I took of the hard drive to restore my computer to the way it was before the demos were installed.

You could have used Windows uninstall, but that does NOT remove all traces of the software you installed. Restoring an image will bring the computer back to the way it was before the game demos were installed.

When Drive Image was no longer available I tried Ghost for a while and did not like the user interface. So I bought Acronis True Image. I was really surprised, it had the look and feel of Drive Image.

I like to install software on my computer and experiment with it till I find one that I want to keep. So before this project I would image my drive, install the software and play with it, once my experimenting was done I would restore the previous image to get my computer back to where it was before the software was installed.

Over the years I must have restored hundreds of images of my hard drives. Some from experimenting with software and others from problems with the operating system.

I currently use Acronis True Image 2010. Oh, and I never installed the imaging software on my computer, I always ran it off the boot floppies or boot CD. When you buy the boxed version of Acronis True Image, your installation CD is actually a boot CD as well and will run off the CD. No need to install it. You will be missing some features, but for me, all I needed was the create and restore function of the program. I never felt comfortable running imaging software from within Windows, I always felt safer from conflicts using the boot disk method.

Out of hundreds of restored images, I have only had two occasions when an image failed on me. I called it the Y2010 bug. In the last week of 2009 I created images on my desktop and note book computers with Acronis True Image 10.0. January 1 2010, I created images again on both machines. I found some software and was experimenting with it on my desktop, did not like it so I restored an image taken on January 1 2010 and three seconds before it finished restoring the image failed . I could not boot my computer as during a restore process the program deletes your C: partition so it can copy the new partition you created.

The error it gave me was:

E0007001

number of SECTORS differs from counted

Now the work began, I had to create a new partition, format it and restore an image.  I restored an image taken in the last week of 2009 and it restored perfect. This had me baffled.

I did some research on this and found that bad sectors on the hard drive could cause this error message. So after diagnosing my computer it all came back fine, no problems.

Now I did some experimenting on my notebook, did not like the software I installed and restored an image I took the first week of January 2010. Three seconds before the image was fully restored, the image failed. I could not believe it. It gave the exact same error that I got on my desk top:

E0007001

number of SECTORS differs from counted

I scanned for problems on the drive and all came back fine. So created a new partition, formatted it and restored an image I took last week of 2009, and it restored perfect just like the one on the desktop.

Why was True Image 10.0 failing images restored in 2010, yet would restore images taken a week earlier in 2009? The CD boot disk could not be damaged cause it restored 2009 images just fine.

Time for a software upgrade. I purchased Acronis True Image 2010 boxed version. I tested it on my computer and it worked fine.

Out of the hundreds of images I restored, these were the only times I had a failure and it went unsolved. I did contact Acronis tech support, but it took them almost seven weeks to respond to me, by that time I was well into using the 2010 version and really didn’t want to communicate with a tech support department that took that long to get back to me. Version 2010 was working just fine so I dropped the issue.

Imaging has served me well, and if you are thinking of imaging your hard drive for back up give drive imaging a serious look.

Also see here for methods to store your images:

https://blog.unicus.com/2010/03/26/bullet-proof-backup/

Bullet Proof Backup
March 26, 2010

If you don’t have a back up plan set up, you are risking losing critical data, such as your photos, email, or any work or projects you have on your computer.

Backing up for some people is a habit they need to learn, now. Hard drives fail, it’s just a matter of time. You may have been using your computer for years and your hard drive is still running, but take it from me, they don’t last forever and a failure with out a back up plan, you are asking for a nightmare. Over the years I have had about 8 hard drives fail on me.

Here is my Bullet Proof Backup Plan.

Notebook:

I use two Seagate FreeAgent Go drives, one is 320 GB and the other is 500 GB. I back up data by dragging and dropping data into folders I have created on the back up drives.

More about Seagate FreeAgent Go Drives here:

https://blog.unicus.com/2010/03/25/why-i-like-freeagent-go-drives-3/

I also use drive imaging software to create an exact copy of my notebooks hard drive in case it fails. I use Acronis True Image Home 2010 for this, but there are other programs out there as well. True Image works well for me and I like the program.

I use two drives, cause I alternate, one week I will back up and image to the 320 GB drive and the next week I use the 500 GB drive. This way my data is spread over 3 drives, my notebook and two external drives.

Desktop:

I use the two FreeAgent Go drives for critical data, alternating drives every week and I use a 1 TB Cavalry USB external drive with an external power supply for my disk images.

This 1 TB Cavalry USB drive has an on off switch, and it is only on when I am creating a back up image of my hard drive, or restoring an image.  Keeping the drive off when not in use protects your hard drive images.

Important note: When you turn off your external USB hard drive, turn off the computer, then turn off the power switch.  If you don’t have a power switch, turn off the computer, and power bar and unplug the drive from your power bar.  Failure to do so, may result in data loss from the hard drive heads contacting the drive platters.  This advice comes from makers of these external drives.

I image my desktop once a week. If I do more than my normal workload per week, I will back up that data to the FreeAgent Go drive to be safe.

This system works for me.

Backing up data to more than one drive and imaging once a week has saved me many times from disaster.

One major incident and success was in 2001. My hard drive failed on my desktop when the system was turned on, the hard drive was dead. I drove to the computer store, which was only a mile or so from my house, installed the drive, created a partition, formatted it and restored a recent image I had of the drive and was up and running in only one hour. At that time I was using two removable hard drives in hard drive trays in my computer. The disk imaging software I was using at that time was Drive Image, it was an excellent piece of software made by Power Quest.  Power Quest was acquired by Symantec in 2003 and they used Drive Image technology in Norton Ghost, and in my opinion wrecked a great piece of software.

I tried Ghost by Symantec, but did not like the look and feel of it, so I went with Acronis True Image.

If you do not have a backup plan, get one now. I hope my system may give you some ideas to create your own back up plan that will work for you and not take up too much time.  Once you start, backing up will become a habit, and one day you will be so happy you have a plan in place when disaster eventually strikes.