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DeSantis still fights masks—despite COVID surge, court loss, expert advice, etc.

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DeSantis still fights masks—despite COVID surge, court loss, expert advice, etc.

Really? —

DeSantis is still penalizing districts for issuing mask mandates despite legal limbo.


A protester holds a placard outside an emergency meeting of the Brevard County, Florida School Board in Viera to discuss whether face masks in local schools should be mandatory.

Enlarge / A protester holds a placard outside an emergency meeting of the Brevard County, Florida School Board in Viera to discuss whether face masks in local schools should be mandatory.

As Florida’s stratospheric COVID-19 surge continues, Governor Ron DeSantis has appealed a judge’s ruling last week that overturned the governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools. The judge determined that DeSantis’ ban didn’t “meet constitutional muster.

In a notice of appeal filed Thursday, DeSanitis’ lawyers claimed that the appeal should trigger an automatic stay, keeping the governor’s mask mandate ban in place for now until the appeal is heard. However, as CNN reports, parents from six Florida counties have already filed an emergency notice to vacate the stay.

At least 13 school districts in Florida have already opted to institute school mask mandates, bucking the governor’s legally imperiled ban.

DeSantis’ move to appeal, which was expected, extends the governor’s mindboggling and escalating showdown with parents, school boards, public health guidance, medical experts, and a deadly coronavirus that has shown no interest in philosophical or legal arguments.

DeSantis attempted to bar school mask mandates by issuing an executive order at the end of July. The order hinged on the “parents’ bill of rights” law, which took effect in the state July 1.

Last Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper struck down DeSantis’ order, noting that the parents’ bill of rights law allows for policies such as mask mandates if they are “reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.” In Cooper’s judgement, school mask mandates would be permissible under the law as long as parents had an avenue to make school boards justify that they are, indeed, “reasonable and necessary.”

Mask support

Moreover, Cooper concluded that mask mandates do, in fact, appear reasonable and necessary. The evidence presented in the trial “demonstrates that face mask policies that follow CDC guidance are, at this point in time, reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical and public opinion guidance at this time,” Cooper concluded during an oral presentation of his ruling.

Since that decision, new data has only bolstered the use of face masks as part of a layered approach to reducing community spread of COVID-19. On September 1, researchers released results from one of the largest high-quality mask studies done to date, finding that surgical masks are effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. The study, involving more than 340,000 adults in Bangladesh, was led by researchers at Stanford and Yale and posted online as a preprint.

Use of face masks had already been roundly recommended by leading public health and infectious disease experts, particularly for children who are largely unvaccinated. While children have relatively lower risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19, they are still quite capable of becoming ill—even seriously so—and transmitting the virus to peers and adults.

With the surge of the delta coronavirus variant and vaccines still unavailable for children under the age of 12, COVID-19 cases are surging in children nationwide, and pediatric hospitalizations jumped nearly five-fold from late June to mid-August. Children are also making up a larger proportion of overall COVID-19 cases than ever in the pandemic. As the American Academy of Pediatrics notes, children have made up about 15 percent of the total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. But their proportion of cases jumped to 22.4 percent in the week ending August 26.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both recommended universal masking in schools—for teachers, staff, students, visitors, etc.—regardless of vaccination status.

Florida ablaze

Masking, vaccinating, and following other public health measures has been particularly critical for Florida, which has seen one of the sharpest and highest surges of COVID-19 among states in recent weeks. The Sunshine State has recently exceeded previous records in new daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. It’s now averaging around 20,000 new cases per day, surpassing its peak in January of an average of around 15,000. Deaths are also at an all-time high of around 240 per day. Pediatric hospitalizations have blown past previous records, now averaging about 68 new admissions per day and rising. Most of the new cases and nearly all of the hospitalizations and deaths have been among the unvaccinated. Only 53 percent of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated.

According to data from August and published by the CDC Friday, emergency-department visits and hospital admissions of children and adolescents are higher in states with lower population vaccination coverage and lower in states with higher vaccination coverage.

In a letter sent to DeSantis last month, more than 800 doctors blasted the governor for his “reckless” mask-mandate ban and for not doing more to promote vaccines for those who are eligible. “For children ineligible for a vaccine, the only protection they have against COVID-19 is for them to wear a mask, and for those around them to do the same,” the doctors wrote. “What’s heartbreaking and infuriating for us as doctors is watching children needlessly suffer while Gov. DeSantis rejects simple protections such as masks and vaccinations… Enough is enough. Florida needs to mask up, get vaccinated, and have a governor willing to lead.”

In addition to appealing last week’s court ruling, DeSantis is also moving forward to penalize school districts instituting mask mandates. Florida’s education commissioner announced Monday that the state was withholding funds from Alachua and Broward counties for mandating masks. The commissioner had already sent letters to nine school districts warning of a non-compliance investigation for the mask mandates and also threatening to withhold funds.

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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Table of Contents

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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