Ultra Simple Image Backups

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Hey, Mom? Listen up. I'm back from the humongous Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and I have a gizmo you'll love. It takes all the photos on your computer and puts them in a safe place. You don't have to read a manual, use your mouse, or even call me for help. (You can still call, but this way I don't have to explain that "AnyKey" business again.)

The Polaroid Media Backup Photo Edition is a 40GB external drive with a no-nonsense way to back up over 60 different image file types. It has an unusual design that makes perfect sense for a novice: Just connect it to a USB port and as soon as your PC recognizes it, it instantly starts backing up image files. (Win 98 systems need a driver--but you really ought to move to XP already.) http://www.goclickfree.com

The Polaroid drive is truly plug and play, with no on or off switch and no software to install. Everything runs right from the external drive. The device includes an AC adapter--but if you have a powered USB hub, the adapter isn't necessary.

The ClickFree software (developed by Storage Appliance) is preconfigured to search and grab all images, even those attached to e-mails and in zipped files. It's smart enough to bypass system folders. You can even configure the software, making it possible to skip specific folders.

If you need to restore your image files, plug the device into the USB port and follow the simple directions on screen.

Dig This: This Dilbert is too funny... and taken straight from real life.

Your Questions Answered

If you've been around computers for a while, you probably have questions. (All right, so maybe it's just me wondering--but while it's still my newsletter, I'll just carry on.)

Q: There's no on or off switch, so how do you get access to the files on the external drive once you've closed the program?

A: No problem. If the device is still connected to the PC, just launch it by accessing the external drive with My Computer and clicking on MediaBackup.exe.

Q: What about using the Polaroid drive to store other files?

A: You could, because it's just a hard drive. But if you want to do that, then you should buy any one of hundreds of plain-vanilla external drives, because the Polaroid's not designed for you. It isn't meant to be an external hard drive that's always connected. (My favorite? Any of Maxtor's OneTouch external drives.) The idea is to keep the Polaroid device in a safe place so if your PC's stolen, or there's a disaster of some kind, your pictures are safe. And that makes it ideal for consumers like my mom to back up their photos.

Quick Aside: If you're interested in digital photography, you need to take a look at Dave Johnson's Digital Focus. The newsletters are smart and filled with the kinds of tips that make me a sharper photographer.

Dig This: Orders of Magnitude can make you feel either very big or very small, depending on the viewpoint you choose to assume.

CES: Picks of the Picks

I wasn't alone at that little shindig in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. There were easily 140,000 other folks at CES, and at least half were in front of me in the cab lines. It's taken me this long to recover.

Every PC World editor attending CES submits their favorite--and not so favorite--products and observations for the annual CES roundup. I got a handful of items into the story, but missed the deadline for a bunch more. Read on for my favorite weird products.

Gaudiest Cell Phone Accessory: The Cellular Bracelet--"Fashion for the Future," or just plain loony? The silly thing is designed to flash when you get a call. Not dopey enough for you? No problem. The bracelet also flashes while you're making a call. It's $21, comes in three colors, and you can order one at the Cellular Jewelry site.

Craziest Means of Locomotion: The eXkate is an electric skateboard that uses a wireless remote control. You can scoot along at up to 15 mph for more than 200 miles on the Extreme 4.0 model; another model flies at 22 mph. Prices range from $123 to $270. Catch the video of someone zipping along at CES.

Dopiest Light Show: The Farm Fresh Lightcast Lightshow (about $40) is a portable light show that connects to a music source--say, an MP3 player or, if you're a masochist, your son's guitar. With 33 LEDs of various colors, you can, and I'm quoting here, "create the ultimate synchronized light show experience."

Creepiest Robot: Hands down, this honor goes to WowWee's animatronic Elvis bust. Something about the bust, which sings, speaks, and curls its lip in The King's patented sneer, just weirded me out.

For the rest of my CES report, read "Tips and Tweaks: High-Tech CES News" and "Bass's CES 2007 Picks and Pans."

Dig This: Dos vebzaytl vos ir zukht iz nishto. Got that? No? How about this one: Waut jie siejtje ess bloos nich too fingje. Still no idea? It's "404 File Not Found" in zillions of languages. [Thanks, Jeff K.]

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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