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Toolbox: New Products for IT Professionals

The tools in this month’s toolbox help tie together additional systems to give you extra screen real estate and an alternate backup solution.

Greg Steen

MaxiVista

Do you need more screen real estate, but can’t splurge for a new monitor? Do you have a laptop that sits on your desk all day? Is that shiny new iPad getting no use when you’re on your primary computer? One tool that could help in this situation is MaxiVista from Bartels Media GmbH.

MaxiVista lets you extend your Windows desktop to another physical machine, as if you had more than one monitor. This gives you extra screen real estate. The product comes with two components: the primary server installer and the secondary machine installer. You install the first on the primary machine for which you need more screen space. Install the second on the machine you’ll use as the extension. There are separate downloads if you want to use your iPad or Mac as the secondary desktop extension machine. Depending on the version you purchase, you can support up to three secondary machines.

Besides connecting over your LAN or wireless LAN, MaxiVista also supports connections over a FireWire connection or a USB-to-USB connection if you want to keep your secondary machine off the network (or if you’re using an iPad as the secondary). Once you’ve gone through the simple installation on your primary and secondary machines, simply launch the applications, which minimize down to your taskbar, and then activate the extended screen via the context menu. You can run the program on each reboot of your secondary systems or even as a service. That way, you can ensure it will be up and running when you want to connect.

Besides extending your monitor space, MaxiVista also has a few extra features. You can use the program as a software-based KVM switch and remote control your secondary systems. You can also mirror your screen to another system, which is great for presentations and demonstrations.

There’s also a clipboard synchronization feature. This lets you copy and paste data and files between the physical machines. If you have more than one secondary machine, the clipboard data will be available on all your other machines. You can find all these options in the context menu of the program icon in your notification area.

MaxiVista has a number of program options to help you tailor it for your environment. You can choose 16- or 32-bit color depth, landscape and portrait viewing, adjust monitor position to account for your secondary system physical positioning, and set virtual resolutions all from the context menu of your primary machine. You can also run the remote system in either full screen or a windowed mode.

MaxiVista also lets you tweak the compression options, CPU bandwidth, network packet and tile size, and adjust gamma correct to ensure you get the best performance and display for your situation. The program options menu lets you assign a number of hotkeys; including keys for clipboard sync, remote clipboard copying, toggling full-screen mode, toggling remote-control mode and sensing a Ctrl+Alt+Delete to your secondary PC, to name a few.

There are three versions of MaxiVista: Standard for $39.95, Professional for $49.95 and MirrorPro for $99.95. The Standard version gives you the extended screen functionality for one secondary machine. The Professional edition steps it up to three secondary PCs. The Professional edition also lets you remote control other PCs and clipboard synchronization. The MirrorPro edition gives you those features, plus desktop mirroring and some performance enhancements.

There’s a limited demo version available from the product Web site that gives you 14 days or 50 program launches to try before you buy (which is a good idea because there are no refunds for purchases). Also, there are volume discounts, site licenses and OEM discounts available. If you have an extra machine idling at your desk, or if you want to use your iPad’s fancy screen while you’re working on your Windows PC, consider adding MaxiVista to your toolbox to give you that extra screen space.

EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0

If you’re looking for an alternate backup solution for your Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7 (32- and 64-bit editions) workstations, you have quite a few options. However, not many are full-featured and free. One such backup utility is EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0 from Chengdu Yiwo Tech Development Co. Ltd.

Once you’ve installed Todo Backup Free, the interface is pretty self-explanatory. You can quickly get up and running with your first backup. From the Home tab, you can jump to four types of backup: System backup, File backup (which includes folders), Disk clone and Backup management. Choosing a backup type launches a wizard that directs you through the details of your backup, selecting what you want to backup, the location to which you want to back up and the backup schedule.

For file and folder backups, you can also create incremental or differential backups. This way, you can establish backup strategies such as having a weekly full backup and daily incremental backups. Other backup options include image verification, image cleanup rules for how many backups you want to keep in a set, and the compression level for the backup image. You can also split your backups into smaller files and set up a post-execution off-site copy. In addition, Todo Backup lets you encrypt your backups with AES encryption and a password key.

The free tool has built-in notification so you can keep tabs on backups in process. For complete system backups, simply pick a destination, choose to automatically shutdown the system after backup and you’re done. Disk and partition cloning is just as easy. Todo Backup can restore disk or partitions, a complete system, specific files and folders from a backup, and restore a backup to “dissimilar hardware.” The latter option is one of the product’s unique features. Restoring a system image to dissimilar hardware lets you create one image for multiple types of desktops. This saves both disk space and time.

The Todo Backup Backup Management feature is the “task scheduler” and detail view of your backup plans. Here you can see all your existing backup plans, as well as their execution history. From here, you can modify, delete or run each of your plans.

Todo Backup includes a number of additional tools to aid your backup and restore activities. You can create bootable recovery media, as well as mount backups on your system to examine contents or pull specific files. There’s also a tool to convert disk or partition images into virtual disk files. This makes them both portable and useful for virtual machines. Additional tools allow you to check backup image integrity, partition disks, and wipe data from physical and virtual disks.

From the Tools tab, you can enable the Todo Backup “PreOS.” This adds an entry to your Windows start-up option list for Todo Backup. This option boots a Linux version of Todo Backup with the same interface as the Windows version. This lets you take care of any backup, restore or cloning options you couldn’t do from your active Windows system.

If you need to take system snapshots to increase the speed of backup and recovery, upgrade from the Free version to the Workstation version for $39. Todo Backup Workstation also has a built-in WinPE bootable disk option. If you’re also looking for a solution for your Windows Server systems, there’s a server product line available as well. Todo Backup Server is $199 for a single installation.

The company also has solutions for backing up Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SQL Server with Todo Backup Advanced Server, which starts at $299 for a single installation. Todo Backup Technician ($799) gives you backup and restore for up to 10 machines across desktop and server OSes, as well as priority support.

All the server editions let you back up to tape for additional protection. There are 15- or 30-day trials (depending on the version) available for each paid version. If you’re looking for a single desktop backup solution, Todo Backup Free 3.0 will probably fit the bill.

Greg Steen
Greg Steen is a technology professional, entrepreneur and enthusiast. He’s always on the hunt for new tools to help make operations, QA and development easier for the IT professional.

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