As I mentioned before (and have kept on whinging about) the main drive in my iMac popped its clogs and I had to get it replaced. As I was reinstalling everything I tried to figure out how best to prevent a possible future occurrence having the same impact and the best (i.e. easiest) solution was to have a RAID 1 set-up.

For the uninitiated, a RAID 1 set-up consists of a hard drive acting as normal whilst being mirrored (i.e. duplicated “on the fly”) by one or more hard drives of an equal size — whatever is written to the main hard drive is simultaneously written to the mirror drive(s). (Technically there is no “main” hard drive, simply a collection of two or more mirror drives.) If one of the hard drives fails for some reason, the system carries on as if nothing has happened using whichever mirror drives are available. If a mirror drive is disconnected and then reconnected at a later time, it is rebuilt so it matches the mirror drives still attached to the system. Confused? Good. ;^)

I have a RAID 1 set-up at its most basic — two mirror drives — so if one fails I need to replace before I can be “safe” again. I chose to do this not so much for data security but for simplicity. When my hard drive died however many weeks ago it was, all my data was safely backed-up but to use it again I had to get the drive replaced and then reinstall OS X and all the software I use and then reinsert all my data. With this new set-up, if a hard drive fails I still have to replace it but my system stays intact and I can carry on working without having to reinstall. It’s computing for the chronically lazy.

And the point of this entry is … ?

Whilst considering my data integrity strategy (I just spent about a minute thinking up that phrase!) I realised I needed a way of storing all my bits of data that can’t be easily saved — stuff like passwords for websites, email receipts, credit card numbers etc. I had several Excel workbooks dotted around with various passwords, numbers, website details etc. within and, while this worked, I hate most things Microsoft and only used Excel because some of it needed to be password protected. (I don’t hate Microsoft because I’m an Apple fan; I hate Microsoft because Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Access, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express et al are just shit. But, they do make good mice.)

There are few “personal information managers” out there but the one I decided to try is Yojimbo. Put simply, Yojimbo allows you to store all these niggly bits of information that are relatively unimportant but that you might just need to get to one day. You can add things like passwords, serial numbers, bookmarks, notes, PDFs and web archives to its database and retrieve anything at your leisure. You can do stuff like flag and tag items, organise items into collections and password protect anything individually.

It has a few handy features like the quick input panel which can be summoned at anytime with a customisable hot-key sequence — it looks at what’s stored in your clipboard and takes an educated guess at what it is. I copied to the clipboard and invoked the panel:

Finding your data is also easy: press another set of hot-keys and the main application window appears — you can then type in what you’re looking for and the results are narrowed down automatically:

One of my favourite features is the ability to save a PDF directly into Yojimbo via the standard Print dialog — a Save PDF to Yojimbo option is available when you click the PDF button:

This is especially handy for things like order confirmation web pages that advise you to “print this page for your records” and so on.

Another bonus is that Yojimbo-bo-bo will, like iCal, Address Book etc., work with your .Mac account so you can keep all your snippets of information synchronised across multiple Macs … should you be rich or lucky enough to own multiple Macs, that is.

A single-user license for Yojimbo costs $39 which at today’s exchange rate equates to around £21. I’m still using the demo at the moment and if things keep going as well as they are so far I’ll definitely be buying a legitimate copy.