Eight ways to go green

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Automate your backups

Don’t want to buy a backup program? Tired of waiting for OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and Time Machine? You’ve already got a program that can help you do basic backups and protect your data—Automator. Here’s how to put it to use.

Create two folders—a source folder on your startup drive and a destination folder on an external volume (this can be another internal hard drive, an external FireWire or USB drive, or even a USB key drive). Then download and install Ben Long’s Backup Folder Automator Action. Launch Automator (/Applications), select the Finder item in the Library list, and drag Get Specified Finder Items from the Action list to the workflow pane. Click on the plus sign (+) button and navigate to the first folder. Click on the plus sign again and navigate to the second folder.

Drag the Backup Folder action from the Action list to below the first action in the workflow pane. Select First Folder Into Second Folder from the Back Up pop-up menu. Choose File: Save As Plug-in, and name your workflow

in the resulting sheet. Choose iCal Alarm from the Plug-in For pop-up menu, and click on Save. iCal will open, and an iCal event that triggers your backup workflow will be created. In the alarm portion of the event, choose the time when you’d like to back up your files. Now hold down the option key and drag this event to each day on your calendar when you’d like to back up the files in the source folder to the destination folder. Be sure to drop the desired files and folders into the source folder so the system can automatically back them up later.— Christopher Breen

The sunny side of power

If you’re seeking clean power for energy-hungry gadgets, consider looking to the sun. Solar power is renewable and free. It’s also a good way to charge up when you’re far from outlets. Here are a few interesting solar chargers for laptops and small electronic devices. (Be aware that you need direct sunlight to get a good charge with these products—cloudy skies and reflections on windows can interfere.)

The $350 Notepower 22, from Sierra Solar, consists of three solar panels inside a convenient messenger bag, and it weighs just six pounds. The charger doesn’t generate enough electricity to power your laptop, but it will replenish your laptop’s batteries or any 12-volt rechargeable batteries.

If you want to charge only devices such as iPods, smart phones, and digital cameras, you can choose a less expensive charger that will fit in your hand—for example, the $100 Solio charger (pictured top), from Better Energy Systems, or the $56 SC002, from Solar Style. One great thing about these little chargers is that they have batteries— fill them up while the sun is shining (or by using a conventional outlet) and then power your gadget whenever you need to.

[ Michael Gowan is a freelance writer who tries to practice as he preaches, as much as he can. ]

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