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by Tom Nelson

You’ve been diligent about maintaining up-to-date backups of your Mac’s data by using Time Machine, but there’s a nagging worry in the back of your mind. How do you know the backups are any good?

That’s a good question, and one we should all ask about our backups. There are a number of ways to make sure your Time Machine backups are in good shape, and we’re going to cover most of them in this guide.

Before we move on to checking the state your backups are in, there’s an important demarcation in Time Machine technology to be aware of; a line in the sand, if you will. Time Machine backups created in OS X Yosemite and earlier have a more limited means of testing backups than those created in OS X El Capitan and later. We’ll include notes about which version of the Mac OS the verification method works in. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

restoreto1280

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Verify Your Time Machine Disk
Before we attempt to verify files on a Time Machine backup, it’s a good idea to make sure the Time Machine disk doesn’t have any issues. Start by turning Time Machine off, and then use Disk Utility’s First Aid to verify that your Time Machine disk is in good shape. If any errors are noted, use Disk Utility’s Repair Disk option, as outlined at the link above.

The Eyeball Method of Checking Time Machine
This somewhat simplistic way of checking on the status of your backups is performed by using Time Machine to restore a file or two, and then checking (eyeballing) the files to see whether they seem to be intact. Before you complain that this way doesn’t seem very reliable, you’re absolutely right, but it does provide a quick and easy way to verify that the basics of Time Machine and your backups are indeed working.

The eyeball method will work for any version of Time Machine or the Mac OS. The only prerequisite is that you have a Time Machine backup in place on your Mac:

Enter Time Machine by either selecting Enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu item, or launching the Time Machine app located in the /Applications folder.

Use the arrow in the Time Machine window to go back to an earlier time.

In the Time Machine Finder window, right-click a file and select Restore “file name” to… from the popup menu.

Time Machine will close.

After a moment you’ll be presented with a standard Finder Choose window to select a location to save the Time Machine file to. Browse to a location where you wish to save the file, and click New Folder. We highly recommend creating a new folder to restore to because a bug exists in some versions of Time Machine that causes all files that occupy the same folder as the selected file to also be restored. Restoring to a new folder will isolate the file if the bug occurs.

The file will be restored to the new folder location.

Open the restored file and examine it to make sure it’s in proper shape. This can be as simple as looking at the contents of a document, viewing a restored image, or checking file size and creation date.

If the file or files look good, and there were no disk errors noted when you ran Disk First Aid, then you can be pretty sure that your Time Machine backups are in good shape.

NoteIf you did have errors when you used Disk First Aid, it may be time to look into replacement drives. Unlike other storage media we use, we recommend not tolerating drive errors on backups.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Spotlight, the Mac’s primary search tool, was introduced with OS X Tiger. As most original versions do, Spotlight lacked a few features and had some minor issues, but for the most part it just seemed to work.

One issue that did come up a few times involved indexing, which is the process that Spotlight uses to build information about the contents of a specific volume mounted on your Mac. The indexing process that creates the metadata file that Spotlight uses can be long, and has been known to place a heavy load on a Mac’s resources, primarily CPU load.

indexinglion900

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The result of the heavy CPU load was a feeling of sluggishness as you performed other activities on your Mac, such as visiting websites or receiving email, but mostly while working in resource-intensive apps, such as those designed for multimedia.

With each release of the Mac OS, Spotlight’s features got better and better, but the indexing issues seemed to remain. For the most part, if you were aware of the Spotlight indexing process, it was simple enough to just wait the task out. After all, the indexing normally only causes an issue when a volume is initially indexed. Subsequent updates to metadata files for the volume are quick, and for the most part are hardly noticeable.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, a free application included with the Mac OS, is a multipurpose, easy-to-use tool for working with hard drives, SSDs, and disk images. Among other things, Disk Utility can erase, format, repair, and partition hard drives and SSDs, as well as create RAID arrays. In this guide, we’ll use Disk Utility to erase a volume and format a hard drive.

diskutility

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Disk Utility works with disks and volumes. The term ‘disk’ refers to the drive itself; a ‘volume‘ is a formatted section of a disk. Each disk has a minimum of one volume. You can use Disk Utility to create a single volume or multiple volumes on a disk.

It’s important to understand the relationship between a disk and its volumes. You can erase a volume without affecting the rest of the disk, but if you erase the disk, then you erase every volume that it contains.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Question: How do I eject a CD or DVD from my Mac? I inserted a CD into my Mac, and now I can’t figure out how to eject it. Where is the eject button?

Answer: It’s been a while since Apple has offered Macs with built-in optical drives that could make use of a CD or DVD. The last models were the 2012 Mac Pro, which could actually accommodate multiple optical drives, and the mid-year 2012 non-Retina 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple first removed the optical drive in the 2008 MacBook Air, but as of the end of 2013, when the Mac Pro was replaced with the newer model, all optical drives are gone from the Mac lineup, at least as built-in options. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for optical drives or the CDs or DVDs that are used in them. That’s why external optical drives have been a popular peripheral for many Mac users.

Which brings us to our question: How do you eject a CD or DVD from a Mac or an externally connected optical drive?

The Mac doesn’t have an external eject button on its CD/DVD drive. Instead, Apple made use of the ability of optical drives to respond to an open or close command sent over the drives electrical interface. By using the open and close commands the Mac offers several options for ejecting a CD or DVD.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Once in a while, for no apparent reason, you may encounter the SPOD (Spinning Pinwheel of Death). It’s that multicolored pinwheel mouse pointer that signifies a temporary delay while your Mac tries to figure something out. In this case, your Mac is trying to think but nothing happens, so the pinwheel keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning.

Luckily, the SPOD is rarely a sign that your Mac is freezing up.

It’s more likely that a single application is stalled or frozen. If that’s the case, bringing another application to the front or clicking on the desktop will likely bring the Mac back under your control. You can then force quit the offending application.

There’s a good chance, though, that the next time you try launching the application that caused the SPOD, you’ll end up seeing the spinning pinwheel again.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Have you been updating your Mac, adding memory or storage, or perhaps simply customizing how it looks? Are you the go-to guy for repairing a favorite toy? Do you wish you had a place to brew up a newfangled creation without imposing your mess on the rest of the household?

If so, then you have a DIYer heart, and could probably benefit from a dedicated area for your projects. It doesn’t matter if you’re just upgrading RAM now and then, or cobbling together an advanced supercomputer to rule the world, from refurbished Mac minis you’ve acquired (insert evil supervillain laugh).

In this Rocket Yard guide we’re going to look at setting up your own DIY workspace to accommodate projects of all sizes. We’ll cover work surfaces, lighting, storage, and anti-static needs, as well as tools and equipment that can help you with your projects.

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Image courtesy of Windell Oskay/Creative Commons

Counter and Table Space
For occasional small projects, you don’t need a great deal of room. One of my main workspaces is an older computer table that measures 20″ x 36″. It’s roomy enough for changing out RAM or adding storage on any of our home computers. It might be a bit cramped for more involved projects, but it gets the basic jobs done.

For more involved projects, I appropriate our kitchen table, which is 30″x48″. The extra room provides plenty of space for spreading things out, taking complex assemblies apart, and storing small parts and fiddly bits that always try to hide when you put things back together.

For a more permanent space for DIY use, I like a bench that measures 30″ x 60″ or 30″ x 72″. Notice I’m not going any wider than 30 inches. This lets me easily reach across the table without having to get up. You can adjust the width to meet your arm reach.

If you have reasonable woodworking skills, you can make a custom bench from dimensional lumber (1 x 4s or 2 x 4s), and plywood for a top. Otherwise, look to flea markets and garage sales for appropriate size tables, benches, or counters.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

One of our favorite pastimes is predicting what new Mac-related goodies will be coming down the pipeline from Apple. Let’s start with an obvious prediction: Apple’s Campus 2 will definitely open in 2017. Then we’ll finally be able to say the mothership has landed.

The nickname comes from the main building on the campus. It’s going to look as if a spaceship has landed and nestled itself into the surrounding terrain.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Apple expects Campus 2 to be up and running sometime in 2017. I imagine Tim Cook would love to give a few tours of the facility after WWDC 2017 so the summer developer’s conference may be a soft deadline for a ribbon cutting at Campus 2.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

The Mac is one of the most reliable computing platforms available, and can make a great platform for not only running the Mac OS, such as the current macOS Sierra, but also Windows and Linux. In fact, the MacBook Pro is a very popular platform for running Linux.

Under the hood, the Mac’s hardware is remarkably similar to most of the parts used in modern PCs. You’ll find the same processor families, graphics engines, networking chips, and a great deal more.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Running Windows on a Mac

When Apple changed from PowerPC architecture to Intel, many wondered if the Intel Macs could run Windows. Turns out the only real stumbling block was getting Windows to run on an EFI-based motherboard instead of the then much more common BIOS-based designs.

Apple even lent a hand to the effort by releasing Boot Camp, a utility that included Windows drivers for all of the hardware in the Mac, the ability to assist a user in setting up the Mac for dual booting between the Mac OS and Windows, and an assistant for partitioning and formatting a drive for use by the Windows OS.

Running Linux on a Mac

If you can run Windows on a Mac, certainly you should be able to run just about any OS that is designed for the Intel architecture, right? Generally, this is true, though, like a lot of things, the devil is in the details. Many Linux distributions are able to run very nicely on a Mac, though there can be challenges to installing and configuring the OS.

Installation and Drivers

The issues I’ve come across for getting a Linux distribution working a Mac have usually revolved around two problem areas: getting an installer to work correctly with the Mac, and finding and installing all the needed drivers to make sure the important bits of your Mac will work. This can include getting the drivers needed for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as drivers needed for the graphics system your Mac uses.

It’s a shame Apple doesn’t provide generic drivers that could be used with Linux, along with a basic installer and assistant, as it has done with Windows. But until that happens (and I wouldn’t hold my breath), you’re going to have to tackle the installation and configuration issues somewhat by yourself.

I say “somewhat” because I’m going to provide a basic guide to getting a favorite Linux distribution working on an iMac, as well as introduce you to resources that can help you track down drivers you need, or help solve installation issues you may come across.

Ubuntu

There are many Linux distributions you can choose from for this project; some of the best known include (in no particular order) Debian, MATE, elementary OS, Arch Linux, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, and Mint. I decided to use Ubuntu for this project, mainly because of the very active forums and support available from the Ubuntu community, as well as the coverage of Ubuntu provided in our own Linux How-To’s.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

The macOS Sierra release on September 20th, 2016 marked a few milestones. It’s the 13th release of the Mac OS, the fourth release of the Mac operating system based on place names (the previous naming convention involved cats), and the first with the new moniker of macOS instead of OS X.

In the roughly four months since it was released, Sierra has seen three updates that mostly addressed bugs and security fixes. Apple also released a fourth beta of macOS Sierra which, at least in beta form, includes a new feature, an unusual event for Apple, which rarely includes new features between major Mac OS releases (more on the new feature a bit later).

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

September 20th, 2016
Apple had already released multiple versions of the new macOS Sierra via both the developer preview program and the public beta program. Both beta systems are designed to give users the opportunity to work with a new OS, with the developer version being updated often and a bit more likely to have a few bugs. The public beta version tends to be more stable, but it still has the potential for bugs and crashes.

The first general release of macOS Sierra was meant to be stable, with few if any major bugs. Ah, the best laid plans…

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your Mac were lost or stolen? Your first thoughts may be about the inconvenience, or the expense of replacement. But when you take a moment to consider what’s likely stored on your Mac, you may realize that someone out there now has detailed information about just about every important aspect of your life, and the cost of replacement just became a secondary consideration.

That lost Mac may contain financial records, including people and businesses you owe money to, or who owe you money, tax information, banking and investment information, social security info, and credit card account data. And we haven’t even mentioned all those emails you’ve sent and received, or your entire web browsing history that’s now in someone else’s hands.

And it’s not just you that’s affected. The dastardly thief will likely find an extensive database of contactscalendar events, and messaging friends who can now all be contacted and phished more effectively because of the information contained on your Mac.

In honor of the approaching Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, we’ve put together a guide to FileVault on Mac.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

FileVault
One of the best defenses for preventing unauthorized access to your Mac’s data is to encrypt the information so that no one can access it without knowing a secret passphrase.

Apple has included a file encryption system since OS X Panther. The original version was somewhat basic, only protecting a user’s home folder, which didn’t always contain the information that needed protecting.

FileVault 2
In 2011, Apple replaced the FileVault system with a new full disk encryption scheme with the imaginative name of FileVault 2. When enabled, this new system can protect every bit of information on your Mac’s startup drive. With a bit of fiddling by the user, additional drives, either internal or external, can also be encrypted using the same technology, making your Mac, and all the information it contains, safe from most attempts to access the data.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog