Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Mossberg’s Mailbox

Backing Up, Lossless Audio and Genealogy Programs

My daughter left for college and I am worried about her backing up her computer. Is there a backup service that is offsite and automatic? What about campusbackup.org?

I haven’t tested campusbackup.org, whose Student Backup service copies an unlimited quantity of word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation and PDF files, once nightly, to a remote server for $50 a year. But there are other, more versatile options I have tested that, unlike Student Backup, copy photos and music and other types of files. These include MozyHome ($4.95 a month for unlimited storage, at mozy.com) and Carbonite ($55 a year for unlimited storage at carbonite.com). All three work with either Windows or Mac computers.

I read that importing the newly remastered Beatles CDs into iTunes and listening to them on a computer or portable player is like buying a masterpiece and staring at a photocopy of it. Any truth to this? Does importing really lose that much quality?

It depends on how sensitive an ear you have. In most cases, when you import a CD into iTunes or any other software jukebox program, you are converting the songs into a compressed file, such as an MP3 or AAC file. This saves a ton of space on your hard disk, but at least subtly diminishes quality. To an audiophile, that can make a big, negative difference, especially when you add the insult of listening to the music through iPod headphones or small computer speakers. To most of the rest of us, though—especially with rock, pop, urban or country music—it’s no big deal.

However, there is a compromise. If you don’t care about the songs taking up lots more space on your hard disk, iTunes will allow you to import them in a much less compressed format called Apple Lossless or an uncompressed format called WAV. You can choose which format to use in the iTunes Preferences settings. In the latest version of iTunes, called iTunes 9, this particular option is found under the General tab in Preferences, by clicking on the button called “Import Settings.”

Previously I had a Dell and Windows and used Family Tree Maker for genealogy records. Now that I’m an Apple owner, I find that Family Tree Maker does not work on an Apple, only Windows. What can I do about this?

It seems to me that you have three obvious options. If you still have your old Dell, you could crank it up again just for the purpose of running Family Tree Maker. Or, you could buy a boxed copy of Windows and install it on your Mac, which is fully capable of running Windows and Windows programs (assuming it’s an Intel-based Mac). Finally, you could switch to one of the native Mac-based genealogy programs and import your data from Family Tree Maker via the standard GEDCOM file format used in genealogy. One such program, called Reunion, includes specific instructions on importing data from Family Tree Maker on its “Top 10 Questions” page, at leisterpro.com.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the new All Things Digital web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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