Thank You SuperDuper!

Since I bought my Mac I have backed it up using SuperDuper! which was one of the recommended Mac backup applications. I’ve tested the backup to make sure I could boot from it but I’d never needed to use it in anger. Until today.

I had to reboot the iMac. It came up fine displaying the Apple logo and the spinner. Then the hard disk switched off and I was left looking at the logo and the spinner. That’s not right. Switched off and on and it was the same again. Feck. Another couple of goes and it was still the same. Time to reset PRAM. No difference. NVRAM? Still buggered. I booted from the Leopard DVD and ran a disk check. No issues. I ran a disk repair – no difference. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I did some surfing from the laptop and couldn’t really find any other step’s that would help. So it was time to finally use the SuperDuper! backup. It was time to restore!

I erased the disk and restored from the firewire drive. A couple of hours later I rebooted and I was back in business. Kind off. The backup was taken before the iPhone, iTunes and MobileMe updates and one they were on I synced with the iPhone…which wiped all the app’s from it. I had to download them, then install and set them up again. Annoying but nothing compared to the hassle and data loss had I not had that backup.

So thank you SuperDuper! for saving me tonight and hopefully this is a small lesson for anyone reading who doesn’t take regular backups. It also show’s that you should never assume a Mac is full proof. I just hope it was a one off glitch I experienced and it’s not a sign of impending hardware problems.

More Quickies

  • I prattled on the other day about backups and how SuperDuper is now out for Leopard. Since then Shaun Blanc has published a superb post on Bulletproof Backups. It’s a great read like most in his Mac Software Reviews (Coda is a great example).
  • Open source is good. Usually. This list of 50 Proprietary Programs and their Open source Alternatives has already delivered a couple of nice programs that I hadn’t heard of before. For Windows, Mac and Linux users.
  • Everyday Shooter is finally out this week for European PS3 owners. It’s only about 4 months after the USA release and while I appreciate it can take time to add languages the delay has been pretty sucky. Looking forward to it all the same. PS3 has got a great crop of arcade style titles now – just need to sort out their full price catalogue.
  • This week is my last week working for engineering at my current firm. From next Monday I’ll be working in IT, mixing analysis with a bit of hacking. For my sins I now have a laptop at work and boy do I miss my Macbook when I’m using it. I don’t think the hardware’s really to blame. It’s Windows. Well, maybe it’s both. Wireless on the PC is really flaky so much so it’s blue screened a few times, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. Sleeping/waking is also an issue for the PC compared to Mac. Even though the PC is newer and has a better spec than the Macbook it’s really slow in day to day use, probably down to the security software on the PC and stuff like Becrypt. It will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few months but in 4 days it’s reinforced my Mac loving opinions. Still, looking forward to new job. In fact, I can’t wait!
  • New Leopard update out tonight. Lot’s of fixes (> 300 Mb download) and just when you think thats the last update there’s some new graphic drivers to grab as well. Nice to see them addressing stacks list view and transparent menu bar (some of the biggest grumbles on Leopards release) in that they are now user options. Should have been there for Leopards release but shows how tight it’s original release date probably was. Impressive how quick the update is to download when you think about how many Mac users are downloading it right now.
  • Any good backup software for Windows? Need something to back up work laptop.
  • New Sony Ericsson Xperia looks like a great phone. Loving that screen resolution.
  • FancyZoom – nice effect for images that’s easy to add.
  • Frustrated with the amount of sites blocked at work. A well as the pron, torrents, e-mail, IM and normal stuff you’d expect it now extends to social networking sites (Facebook etc) and also Twitter, every hosted WordPress blog, anything to do with games and the playing/buying/reviewing off and some real oddball sites including some on Oracle. Bizarre, frustrating but I guess I’m at work and should be…working?

If you don’t backup

Then this could happen. How much is YOUR digital data worth? I’m backing up the laptop and desktop but the NAS isn’t which is something I need to fix and soon. I couldn’t afford to go to a recovery service to get my data back.

I make use of SuperDuper which makes backing up a quick and easy task, documents are also held on .Mac as a further backup and recent images are on Flickr. I’ve been lucky and never had a disk failure (touch wood) but I know people who have and it’s not pretty. Even just having an external drive and dragging your data over once every few weeks would be better than a total loss. I hope if you read this and more importantly the linked post above that you heed the advice.


If your in the market for an external drive and your computer has Firewire 800 then do yourself a massive favour and pick up an external drive which has Firewire 800 too. My old external USB couldn’t cope with backing up the desktop and laptop so I invested in a 500 GB My Book Pro and the speed difference is very noticeable.

Looking at the specifications for USB 2 & Firewire 800 tells you that Firewire should be faster but real world difference for me was that the backup was a fifth of the time using the new drive against old – much faster than I was expecting. Speaking of the drive I’m fairly impressed with it as it’s quiet and has a nice finish too it. It’s also easy to power down unlike many others. I also intend to use the drive for Time Machine but only on certain key folders.

I had another thought on Time Machine – not much use for laptop users unless they are attached to an external drive, which aren’t always portable or convenient.

WordPress Backup

Like most folk I back up my PC data pretty regularly. Cue usual joke of ‘you do back up, don’t you?’. One thing I hadn’t been doing is backing up this site. Using a couple of plugins this is easily addressed.

Download WP-DB Backup and WP-Cron and install as per instructions included with the files. The backup plugin allows you to backup the wordpress mysql tables (and any others of your choosing) to local or remote file or to an e-mail address. The cron plugin (cron is a Unix command for scheduling jobs) allows you to schedule your backups.

So I’ve made good use of my Google Mail account and now a backup of my wordpress database tables are sent to my account daily at midnight. Arguably overkill but better safe than sorry.

I’ve tried the backup files and they work a treat – this tutorial is an excellent guide for non sql folks. It amazes me how many people take backups but never actually test whether their backup solution works until they actually need it. Risky.

As for the files on the domain I have them sitting locally and do not remote edit them so they should be covered by my local backups. I can sleep safe at night knowing that:

a) This drivel can be recovered again
b) At some point this posting will come back to haunt me

No Room

I’ve been dithering for months now on how to sort out my storage ‘issues’. Thats digital storage I should add. Should be easy. Done it before – remove the current hard disks and replace with bigger ones. Pretty cheap, straightforward and after a wee bit of hassle I’ll have a massive amount of storage space.

However on so many fronts it doesn’t work for me. I want to access the data on the drives from any device. Xbox, 360, PSP or laptop. I also want it to be independant of a PC. My current desktop PC is so noisy and has too much oomph for just simple storage. I’m also going to replace the dekstop this year, probably for a laptop so any investment in the desktop now would be a waste (hasn’t stopped me before). The reason for the laptop is that I never use the desktop for games and I would gain from the extra portability.

I’d been swaying towards getting a NAS device so that my data is available on a network for any device to connect to and use but I just can’t find one that meets all my needs or that I’m comfortable that it’s a reliable solution. The 360 wouldn’t see that data either as it’s on a NAS device – it needs a bit of pc software to see media shares and to see video it needs Media Centre. Bah.

So – I’m plumping for a temporary solution. I’ll dig out the old desktop PC which is a lot quieter than the current one and either set it up as a normal PC with network shares or as a NAS device using NASLite. At least that way I’ll have more disk available and I’ll be able to stream on the Xbox. Long term solution is still a grey area. Might wait for more details on the PS3 and also make a decision on laptop first. Also need to factor in a proper long term backup strategy for all this data – it’s getting quite sizeable. As well as every new home having a solar panel it needs a server too, not as standard but definetly as an optional extra. I’m sure there’s a business opportunity there for someone with bigger balls than me.

Anyway – I’ll report back on data dilema’s once I get round to doing something. Hopefully some helpful geek will post up some other options.