Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Backup utility comparison

I always expect the unexpected when it’s about unsecured personal data (photos, paintings, music projects, etc…) on my PC. I’ve been looking for a really good backup software for some time, with the following features:

  • stored backup profile
  • simple copy as backup method
  • incremental backup
  • delete orphan files in backup store
  • multipe source directories
  • multiple destinations for the same source (to be sure I use two independent external hard drives for backup)
  • freeware

I didn’t care about network or CD/DVD backup features, neither was I interested in compression and encryption modes. Until I found the real thing, I evaluated quite a lot of programs, just to mention a few of them:

  • Cobian Backup 9 (the winner!)
  • Tray Backup (very feature rich, but the GUI is a time journey to 1990)
  • Comodo Backup 1.0.4 (no multiple target support)
  • Backup Mill Vista (it simply didn’t work)
  • Backup Mill Open Source (way too simple…)
  • Ace Backup 3 (the multipe target mode did not really work)
  • SyncBack (no multiple target support)
  • Areca (sorry, I don’t remember…)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

DJ software comparison

Recently I’ve evaluated a number of DJ / music mixing programs for a forthcoming party. I chose the following selection criteria:

  • searchable music library and multiple playlists
  • automatic BPM detection
  • tempo and pitch modification
  • SYNC feature to automatically align tempo and phase (beats) of two tracks
  • automatic DJ mode (automix, cruise, …), so the program can be left alone with a playlist
  • auto gain (automatically set playing volume for tracks with different gain levels)
  • some effects, nice to have

Please note that MIDI controller support, scratching, looping, CUE points management, etc. were not relevant in my case. Programs I tested:

  • e-mix pro edition v5.4
  • Native Instruments Traktor Duo 3
  • Atomix Virtual DJ v5.2 (=Numark CUE)
  • Ultramixer v2.3.7.1
  • BPM studio v12.0.0 (no auto BPM detection, no auto DJ mode, no auto SYNC)
  • Native Instruments Beatport Sync (no auto gain, SYNC has to pressed manually after each track)
  • Native Instruments Tracktor DJ player (abandoned product)
  • DJ mix pro 300 (some auto DJ mode almost no other functions)
  • Rockit Pro DJ 4.2 (no auto BPM, no SYNC)

Programs in bold fully satisfied all the selection criteria, but there were still some differences between them. I’ve carefully tested the programs and finally came to the following result:

The winner is: Atomix Virtual DJ v5.2

Pro:

  • the best auto DJ mode of all time, seamlessly mixes tracks with even with significally different BPM. It automatically defines the optimal CUE points and the transitions sound really professional.
  • the most accurate automatic BPM counter tested
  • very fast track analysis
  • determines key (e.g. C major, D# minor) of a track and stores it in the music library. This way it’s easy to find a similar sounding track to mix within seconds! No other product had this feature.
  • downloadable plugins incl. skins, effects etc.

Contra:

  • The handling of the music library and working with playlists is not very straightforward
  • A relatively poor selection of effects

Second prize: Native Instruments Traktor Duo 3

Pro:

  • very professional look and feel
  • a wide selection of effects with chain support
  • Traktor supports up to 4 decks (only 2 in the Duo edition though)

Contra:

  • the auto DJ function does not really manage seamless transitions, it does not SYNC automatically
  • “kill” band filters (eliminating hi, mid or low frequencies) worked better in Virtual DJ…
  • at 44kHz it produced a strange noise using the directsound driver (ac97 on-board chip), I had to install ASIO4ALL to make it sound smoothly

Still OK: e-mix pro edition v5.4

Pro:

  • feature rich GUI

Contra:

  • BPM detection and SYNC somewhat fuzzy

Not bad either: Ultramixer v2.3.7.1

Pro:

  • multi platform (written in Java)
  • nice GUI

Contra:

  • BPM detection not relyable
  • no auto SYNC!
  • Having to maintain two different playlists to feed both decks is a bit of a mess

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