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Scott's Column
Brake Job, Vacation, Backups

August 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

Regulars are probably wondering why I am mentioning a brake job in this column and not in my Car Corner column. Well, I didn't think it was a big enough deal to write an entire column about, so I am mentioning it here. I also helped my wife create a daily/monthly backup schedule for her laptop and took a vacation.

Brake Job

Two days before I was to go on vacation (more below) the brakes on my 93 Z28 grinded on my way to work. I borrowed my wife's SUV to go to work on my last day before vacation. This meant I would be doing a brake job on my vacation. Two brake jobs ago one of my rotors needed to be resurfaced. It was borderline then. That was quite a few years ago. Shortly after moving into my house I did a brake job. It was early enough that I was able to get away without having any of the rotors resurfaced.

However, I knew I was skating on thin ice. So when this brake job came upon me I decided to to it right. I bought 4 new rotors. Since I will be driving this car for quite a while, at least three more years is my guess, I wanted the brakes done right. I bought 4 new rotors and all new pads. I made sure to get the "lifetime warrantee" stuff. This has been a problem in the past, but I hope it won't be in the future. I should not have to pay for a brake job again.

I also flushed the brake fluid by abusing my 6 year old to keep pushing the brake pedal as I bled the brakes 4 times at each wheel going around the car again and again. He was a real trooper. Now the brake pedal is rock hard.

The brakes feel good most of the time. However, when I went to brake them in I notice quite a bit of fad. I had read once that the proper way to "bed in the brakes" was to perform around 10 stops from 60 miles per hour. Not full on stompings, but just 0-60-0 runs over and over. After 6 or 7 of the ten stops I noticed some dramatic fade. I may not have allowed the brakes to cool enough between those stops. Regardless, my guess is that the stock brakes on this car would not do well in any kind of racing conditions. All should be just fine for the street. When the brakes are not fading from abuse they have a great pulling feel to them. They beg to be pushed harder and harder. The fade does make me think twice about the brakes should I ever consider adding more power to this car. I will have to plan an upgrade if I even get a supercharger for this car.

Vacation

I took a weeks vacation during July. This is significant because it is the first time I have taken a week off during the summer in years. The only time I get a week away from work is at Christmas time. Of course, I was called on two of my vacation days and had to do some work from home. At least they didn't call me everyday.

This did bring to light an issue. Back in November I beefed up a lot of my programs and documentation so others could handle problems while I was gone. That was to allow me to have a Christmas vacation with out interruption. Well, I slacked off on that documentation and some things have changed. I need to go back over some of those things and see where I need to make some improvements. I really would like to be able to go on vacation and not have to answer the phone when work calls.

Backups

My wife asked me if her laptop was being backed up. I remember creating a backup "system" for her on her old laptop (now mine), but didn't think we ever did backup her new laptop. My wife likes to learn this stuff, so we went through the backup procedures together.

First thing I did was create a place to backup her files on the server. I have a folder on the big hard drive on my server called "backups." All my computers (one desktop and two laptops) map it as drive T. I need to get my sister-in-law and her husband to start doing this as well. They have two laptops and a desktop as well. I created a folder on the backup "drive" that matched the name of her computer. With that done I created folders in there for her to backup files. I created folders like Documents, Pictures, Outlook, etc. These will correspond to folders we need to backup on her computer.

Next was to do a little housekeeping on her laptop. We created a folder called My Documents and My Pictures right off the C drive. I had my wife use Tweak UI (from the Power Toys for Windows XP) to set these folders as the "special folders" they are. Now all apps look to these folders for the files that belong there. I had previously created an Outlook folder and put all her Outlook Express files there when we bought the laptop.

Next we modified a simple batch file I created some time ago. In this batch file are a handful of XCopy commands. They look like this:

XCopy /e/v/k/y/m C:\Outlook\*.* T:\Scooby\Outlook

The options (/e/v/k/y/m) are there for a couple of reasons. The most important one is /m which only copies files that have been changed (since the last time she ran the backup) and marks the files as such. If she doesn't change a file it will not be backed up again.

We did this for every folder that contains data... including the folder that contains all the shortcuts and files that could be on her desktop. That is located in a folder something like this:

C:\Documents and Setting\Laura\Local Settings\Desktop

Many people forget about this, but if you ever had to recover a computer or needed to move all your information to another computer this folder is critical.

I also had my wife create a separate batch file that has all the same commands, but without the /m option. This batch file will backup every folder we listed no matter what. Just extra piece of mind.

Now my wife can backup as often as she wants. I told here it is important to shut down Outlook Express during the backup. Other than that she should be good for quite a while.

If you are going to do something like this yourself I recommend checking the batch files every couple of months to make sure that it includes all the folders that require backing up. You would be surprised how easily you can forget to add something until it is too late.

Keep in mind this only backs up my wife's data. Backing up the registry (something Windows uses to know everything about your software and hardware, etc.) is beyond the scope of this simple but very effect backup. Also, this assumes you have copies of all the applications you use so reinstall in case of a catastrophic event.

I was briefly thinking about doing something to have dated backups. I would probably have to write a program for that rather than a simple batch file. This way if a file is bad and gets backed up, I can still find a good version of it. My current backup strategy sucks for this. Nah, I haven't needed that yet, so why bother.

Now I need to setup the backups on my own laptop and my desktop. And now that I have a bunch more important data on my server it is time to back that up to DVD discs.

See Ya!

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