Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What happened at the July07 wefcpug

A crowded house celebrated the finale of this year's wefcpug meets, and with a summer break in mind, what better way to ensure peace of mind for Autumn restarts than by looking at ways to keep a Mac happy?

Backups in a nutshell: (not literally recommended except for squirrels)

If you want a bootable clone of your system disk then head for Carbon Copy Clone
It's a very small app (as the developer writes, actually a collection of Applescripts) that can clone a disc onto an external firewire drive. For intel macs especially, making such a drive bootable involves more than the old OS9 technique of dragging a system folder across. Oh, for such simple days! Plenty of info about this on the developer's site. It's donation ware - PayPal drinks money accepted.
Note that, although Carbon copy can do scheduled sync'ing of files, this requires another (free) routine (psync) which may have to downloaded too. Also note that CCC doesn't work with network attached drives.

For this, I recommended Chronosync which is a $30 app. Chronosync does work with networked drives - in my case, a 500GB RAID array on a G4 attached via ethernet - and is configurable as you like to backup folders, files on a schedule. It will even wake up the source Mac, mount and unmount the remote drive. The first run is obviously the longest, when the whole material is copied over, subsequent sync's will only copy over changed files: you can decide whether to mirror deletions, archive previous versions of files, exclude certain folders. The best feature for me is that the backup copies are a straightforward copy with the same hierarchy of folders, no fancy 'restore' software required. Chronosync can of course be configured to go into reverse mode, to restore say a complete set of User folders, but it's also easy to find individual files on the target machine, using Searchlight.

From experience, I recommend backing up the entire User tree, including the Library folders (which contains preferences, metadata as well as cache files) - but restoring with care when it comes to prefs etc. I don't myself backup the Apps folders this way - CCC is the way to go for that. Note that Chronosync is NOT recommended for system restores (ie bootable drives).

Yet to come, with the Leopard release of OS X, is the Time Machine, which it seems will do much of the above with a great 'back in time' interface.

If you don't have a backup strategy yet, and don't want to install extra apps yet, do at the very least use the routines built in to several of the iApps for backup of data. For instance, iCal and Address Book have 'backup database' options under 'File', and iPhoto and iTunes both have options to export albums and data.

Richard Harrison spoke very highly of AppleJack for routine maintenance as well as for persuading a misbehaving Mac back to work. It's donation ware, and runs in Single User mode (Command S on startup) - which is especially good if your system is ill and not booting up to the full login window. The app runs a set of Unix cleanup routines (checking permissions, purging caches) which, if you don't fancy Single User mode, can also be invoked using Onyx
- if you decide to download Onyx, make sure you choose the correct version (there is a 'Panther only' previous version on the page too).

And Finally
Despite all the helpful suggestions from the audience, Richard worked his way through a live demo of sound cleanup using Soundtrack pro. Many more of these demos to come in the next season, when we'll all have had time to unwrap and play with FC Studio 2....see you in September.

Do keep checking here on the blog for updates, news, gossip, and unfounded rumours.