Early adopters must own the latest devices. They run ahead of the pack. They upgrade devices and software before everyone else.
Early adopters use the latest phones. They buy cars with weird features. They queue up in the wee small hours for iPhones, iPads or games consoles. Back in the day they’d go to midnight store openings to get the newest version of Microsoft Windows a few hours earlier.
Their computers never work because they are awash in beta and alpha versions of software screwing things up.
And some of their kit is, well, unfinished.
Computer makers depend on early adopters. They use them as guinea pigs.
Early adopters first to benefit
Marketing types will tell you early adopters will buy a product first to steal a march over the rest of humanity. They claim they will be the first to reap the benefits of the new product. It will make them more productive or live more enjoyable lives.
This can be true. Yet early adopters often face the trauma of getting unfinished, unpolished products to work. Often before manufacturer support teams have learnt the wrinkles of their new products.
There’s another reason computer makers love early adopters — they pay more for.
New products usually hit the market with a premium price. Once a product matures, the bugs eliminated and competition appears, profit margins are slimmer.
Companies use high-paying early adopters to fund their product development.
Being an early adopter is fine if you enjoy playing with digital toys. If productivity isn’t as important to you as being cool. If you have the time and money to waste making them work.
I don’t. I prefer to let others try things first. Let computer makers and software developers iron out the wrinkles while the product proves its worth. Then I’ll turn up with my money.
Acronis True Image promises to store all your data so you can recover it in a hurry. The company’s marketing says the process is complete and easy.
You are give a choice of storing data to a local drive, in the cloud or both. Acronis also says it has high levels of security.
None of this is unique to Acronis. Almost every other backup tool offers the same basic story. Acronis differs from the pack by adding defence against the ransomware dark arts. It also uses blockchain to keep the marketing, if not the software, bang up to date.
For testers there is a 30-day free trial. If you want to buy the software you can choose from a variety of options. You can choose a US$50 standard one-time payment for one computer. This rises to US$80 for three computers and US$100 for five devices.
Backup to cloud
Acronis’ advanced package is the same price. It is a one-year subscription that adds up to 250GB of cloud storage.
There is also a premium plan. This has 1TB of cloud storage. It also includes blockchain certification of files and electronic document signatures. This costs US$100 for a single computer and $160 for five devices.
I tested the advanced package. My first job was to download and install the software on my Mac. That task isn’t going to trouble anyone that has used computers before.
The software loads as a background app on the Mac. It places a discreet icon on the menu bar. This doesn’t add much functionality, but does remind you the software is running. Most of the time the software chugs away in the background making backups. It needs little human intervention.
Acronis deserves praise for its software dashboard. The design is clear and uncluttered. Although there’s a nod to the MacOS Finder design, you’re never left wondering where you are.
On the left of the display a column shows the important functions: Backup; Archive; Active Protection and Account.
When you’re in the main backup function you’ll also see a list of devices and their backup locations. Adding new ones is simple. You can choose the Acronis Cloud or browse your local network to find a suitable place to store a backup. You can check earlier backups from this screen.
There’s an option to backup now. When you create a backup you can choose whether to save everything or select files. Once you’ve made an initial backup, incremental backups are automatic. by default the software makes an incremental backup once a day. You can change this. If you like, hourly backups are an option.
While the software works as promised, Acronis True Image 2018 is not trouble-free. The first problem was that I had difficulty activating the software with my code. It took a few attempts.
The other issue that might put you off is the sheer amount of time it took to make my first cloud backup. My MacBook Air has 256GB of SSD storage. I like to keep around 20 percent free, in part so there’s headroom when huge files come my way.
Four days to goFor my initial backup I choose everything on the drive. A total of 203GB. You can see this in the screen shot above. Acronis interpreted this as a total of 180GB that it needed to send to the cloud.
The software warns: ”This backup is going to take a while…”. It wasn’t kidding. According to the display it was going to take four days and three hours.
Often MacOS starts a huge backup to my network drive warning it will take a long time. It then reconsiders and re-estimates once the transfer gets underway. I assumed this might be the case with Acronis True Image.
It wasn’t. It really wasn’t. In the end the initial backup took a little longer than four days and three hours.
Now here’s the odd thing: that screen shot above says the backup is running at 3.9Mbps. That’s fair enough, but I have a VDSL2+ connection that usually runs at between 45 and 70Mbps. I can BitTorrent at around 40Mbps. Streaming HD video works without a hitch.
It’s good that Acronis doesn’t hog all the bandwidth on the home connection. But it could take more than under 10 percent. It turns out, it doesn’t use anything like 10 percent.
I took the second screenshot 24 hours after the first. Acronis says it works in the background while you get on with other tasks. That’s possible. But a whole day after starting the initial backup, it had only uploaded 4GB of the total.
After one day, there are another 33 days to go…As the second screenshot shows, at this rate it would take 33 days to handle the initial backup. In the event it took 4.5 days, about 110 hours in total. So the average speed was about 0.5Mbps.
In the preferences there’s an option to halt backups if your laptop is working on battery power. There are no other settings here to tweak to speed things up. For the record I had the software set to continue while on battery power.
On the backup screen there’s a small cog icon to adjust settings. The options here allow you to chose where to backup your data. The software selected an Australia default server for me. If that bothers you, there are alternatives.
You get the choice of optimal or maximum data backup speed. Optimal uses less of your bandwidth freeing up capacity for other apps. At first, this didn’t appear to make much difference to the upload speed for the initial backup. The pace picked up some time after I chose the option. I’d like to see more transparency in these settings, four and a half days for an initial backup is not acceptable.
Once it finished the initial backup, Acronis works at a cracking pace. Subsequent incremental backups often hit speeds in the mid-20Mbps range. They all happen in the background. It’s reliable and rock solid.
There are some neat touches. Acronis allows you to archive files to its cloud. You can send them via the app, and retrieve them using a web interface. In fact, you can use this web interface to recover your data at any time without the app.
More secure than alternatives
Acronis’ key selling point is the blockchain technology. This determines if anyone else has altered your online archive.
Before we look closer at how this works, the description above should trigger alarm bells. You might think an online cloud backup service should be secure enough to guard against anyone else accessing your data.
Acronis says that one of the best defences against ransomware is to keep regular backups. Ransomware works when criminals encrypt your data. They say they will give you the encryption key in return for money, usually Bitcoin.
That defence only works so long as the ransomware criminals don’t encrypt your backups along with the main data store. Hence the need to check no-one else is tinkering with your files.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is useful.
Verdict: Acronis True Image 2018
If you’re in business and have important data you should already be making local and offsite backups. There are plenty of choices for making offsite backups in the cloud, Acronis is a good, secure option.
Once you’ve made the first backup, the incremental updates are fast. There’s little work needed on your part and you don’t need to be a geek to understand how the software works.
While True Image 2018 may feel like overkill for many user, Acronis prices are reasonable. It costs little more than alternatives that are neither as safe nor as simple.
Kiwibank has booked a $90 million impairment in its software assets and flagged a major change in its SAP core banking roilout.
“Although the strategic review has not yet concluded, a potential change to how we build the core ‘back end’ IT system (CoreMod) to match the demands of the ‘future front end’ has prompted a re-assessment of the value of the work in progress since successfully migrating our batch payments to SAP,” the bank said today.
You have to wonder why boards tolerate large-scale SAP projects when the failure rate is so high.
I’ve been told, off-the-record, by a number of high-ranking technology executives that dumb decisions are imposed from the top down with CIOs left to carry the can and pick up the pieces.
One recurring theme is that most of the cost and time overruns are due to extensive integration and customisation.
Make that unnecessary integration and customisation.
It is as if every bank or large business has unique, arcane and esoteric processes that can only be covered by expensive and risky software rewrites.
We know that simply isn’t true.
To think there is something magic tied up in those processes is madness. And expensive.
A smarter strategy for a bank, or any large-scale enterprise, would be to purchase off-the-shelf technology and redesign internal business processes to fit the software. Packaged software usually comes with flexible enough options and settings to cope with essential exceptions.
That’s how it works for small businesses buying accounting software from firms like Xero. Speaking of Xero…
Sigh. For a $100m a local owner operator development company could have built modern core banking on PaaS and be selling it globally https://t.co/F5NACQ2blu
There’s still no polish. The Document Foundation has stuck with a retro user interface. It says this will be the last LibreOffice 5 version. The next will be LibreOffice 6. That may see the software get a make-over.
While LibreOffice 5.4 make look dated to some, the comments in the earlier post show some users are comfortable with the older way of working. The fancy Microsoft Office ribbon interface doesn’t help you get things done any faster. It’s just cosmetic.
Whether you like LibreOffice’s look and feel or not, the power of the software is beyond question. The Writer app has almost all the features found in Microsoft Word. If anything is missing, it’s something almost no-one ever uses.
This time around LibreOffice adds the ability to import AutoText from Microsoft Word DOTM templates. In plain English this means you can import the default styles and custom elements that determine how documents look. If you work with others who run Microsoft Word, you’ll be able to create documents in the same style.
The 5.4 update also means you can export and paste number or bullet lists as plain text while keeping their structure. There is a new ability to create watermarks and LibreOffice has updated menus for working with sections, footnotes, endnotes and styles.
LibreOffice says Writer has cleaned up how it deals with imported PDFs. I’ve not tested this yet.
LibreOffice 5.4 improves file compatibility
You may notice an improvement in file compatibility between LibreOffice ODF and Microsoft .docx formats while in LibreOffice Writer. This still doesn’t work so well the other way around when you’re in Word, but that’s not The Document Foundation’s fault. There are still incompatibilities, but they are fewer and less difficult to deal with.
Taken as a list, the upgrades to Writer are incremental, it’s not a big upgrade. There’s a little more going on with the Calc update. LibreOffice has added pivot charts among other things, but it is still an incremental update. You can check the wiki for a full list of changes.
Is LibreOffice 5.4 right for you? It is if you need a full software suite and don’t want or can’t afford to pay for Microsoft Office. You might also ask yourself if you need a suite at all. That’s another post.
Not that it wasn’t already compatible enough for most people. ↩︎
Designers and other professionals love its power. So do hardware makers. Photoshop chews through computing resources. You need a powerful processor and lots of ram to make it work. Even then it can be slow.
Acorn 6 compared to Photoshop
Acorn is the polar opposite. It has fewer features. Relative to Photoshop, it sips resources.
I found Acorn when I moved to a MacBook Air . Photoshop runs on the Air, but it isn’t pretty. After asking around I found and purchased Acorn 5. I wish I had found Acorn earlier.
While there is power in Photoshop, I only ever scratched the surface of the software.
As a journalist, my image processing is cropping and tweaking to make pictures clearer. Often that’s simple. It means applying filters or adjusting colours and contrast.
On the rare occasion I want to do more, Photoshop’s steep learning curve is, well, steep.
It means struggling for a few minutes. Then giving up by reverting to a less ambitious plan B. If the job has enough budget, then a professional can do the job.
Which meant I wasn’t getting value out of Photoshop.
The cheapest way to buy Photoshop is to pay a little over NZ$30 a month for a subscription.
At the time of writing you can buy Acorn 6 outright for about three weeks’ Photoshop. There is a limited-time US$15 promotion. When the price returns to US$30, Acorn 6 will still cost less than two months of Photoshop.
Everyday image editing
I use Acorn 6 every day. While I still only scratch the surface of the software, going deeper is less time consuming. It’s less daunting. Flying Meat software provides all the online help and tutorials you might need to solve problems.
The software never pushes against the resource limits of my MacBook Air. Acorn is snappy all the time, no matter what you throw at it. OK, that might not be the case if you try something heroic. That’s not somewhere I go.
I’ve yet to find any image editing task that I want to do, but can’t. If there’s something tricky and there’s a budget, I’ll still hire a pro to do the work with Photoshop.
Knowing when to walk away from time-wasting is a useful life skill for a freelance. So is knowing when to buy a low-joule image editing application.