Monthly Archives: December 2006

First Snow in 2005

It was the first snow of 2005 and we took the kids outside to play.

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Easy Backup with SuperDuper

A couple of months ago, my 300GB external hard drive decided to bite the dust without a proper 30-day warning. I considered myself lucky since I have copied most of my family iMovie videos and photos to DVD discs prior to the incident. However, I still lost a good deal of files that I wish I have backed them up. This is not the first time I lost data due to hard drive failure, so why did I not learned from my previous experience? The short answer: backup is too time-consuming and painful to do. Right after the incident, I purchased a WD MyBook external hard drive with 500GB in capacity and a copy of Intego’s Personal Backup X4 (PBX4). However, PBX4 seems to cause me more troubles than solving my backup problem. You can read about my PBX4 experience here. Based on recommendations from other Mac users, I downloaded SuperDuper and after a couple of weeks of usage, I decided to register for it–a $31 ($28 + tax) well spent.

Pros:

  • Painlessly clone your hard drive
  • Cloned drives are bootable
  • Registered version allows for smart backup, which I will discuss later
  • Easy scheduling for unattended backup

Cons:

  • Does not backup to CD/DVD
  • Does not backup from a FAT32 volume
  • SuperDuper in itself not a complete backup plan

The first thing I noticed about SuperDuper is how simple the interface is. To get started, I went through the following steps:

  1. Choose a source drive
  2. Choose a destination drive
  3. Choose the “Backup – all files” pre-defined script
  4. Click “Copy Now”

After confirming my intention, SuperDuper was on its way copying files away. A word of warning: By default, SuperDuper will erase the destination drive before copying, so be sure to move those files you want to keep off this drive prior to the cloning process. The initial copy will take a while to finish due to the amount of data SuperDuper must copy. Subsequently, the copy process will take much shorter time, thank to the Smart Update feature. With Smart Update, SuperDuper only copy those files that have been created or modified since the last backup. This save significant amount of time.

To fine tune the copy process, you can click the “Options” button. One of my most used customization option is choosing between “Erase then copy” or Smart Update. As the name implies, “Erase then copy” means SuperDuper will first erase the destination drive (yes, all files), then copy. The Options screen also allow advanced user to run scripts before and after the copy process. For a normal user, choosing Smart Update will be enough. The Options screen also tell SuperDuper what to do after copying (nothing, quit the application, restart from the destination, set the destination drive as the boot drive, or shutdown/sleep the computer).

From the Options, the user can also tell SuperDuper what to do upon completion such as restart from the destination drive, or simply quit SuperDuper. The Advanced tab allows even more fine-tuning options such as the ability to run scripts before and/or after copying.

Overall, I like SuperDuper for its ease of use, yet powerful backup features. I highly recommend this software for every Mac users.

Neat Desktop: Hidding the Dock

Of my “Neat Desktop” series, this trick does not require any additional software. By pressing Cmd+Option+D, I hide the dock from view. Pressing the same key combination will bring it back. However, I prefer to move the mouse cursor to where the dock used to be and the dock will appear until I move the mouse cursor away.

So far, I have used this trick and three applications (Spirited Away, Desktopple, and MenuShade) to accomplish a very neat desktop. I wish there is away to integrate all of these feature into one comprehensive setting so that I can turn everything on or off, or somewhere in between. Maybe Apple should add this feature in its next OS.

Here are the screenshots of what my desktop looks like before and after applying the four tricks:

Before:

After:

Neat Desktop: MenuShade

Once again, I would like to thank Merlin Mann for his pointer to this gem. MenuShade hides the menu to remove one more distracting piece of information from the user’s desktop.

The user can choose various degree of shading, from completely invisible to visible. For my MacBook, I choose to turn it completely dark so the menu bar disappear altogether.

Neat Desktop: Desktopple

Continue with my neat desktop theme, I also found another cool application: Desktopple. This little gem hides the icons on the desktop to give the user a cluster-free desktop.

As a matter of personal preference, I choose a near-black background for my desktop when hiding the icons. Others might opt for a different color, or even a desktop picture of their choice. I also turn on a hot key to toggle hiding : cmd+\.

While I am only using Desktopple for a few hours, I really love it and consider purchasing the pro version after a few more days of evaluation. Purchasing the software is my way to say thank you to the developer, not because I need additional features of the pro version.

Neat Desktop: Spirited Away

I just discovered this cool little application today and love it so far. Credit of the discovery should go to Merlin Mann who showed it on the MacBreak video podcast.

Here is my one-line description: Spirited Away hides inactive applications after a predetermined time.

Often, when I am working on an application, or even web-surfing, I easily get distracted by other programs that fill up the screen. Spirited Away solves my dilemma by  hidding other inactive applications. I have set the threathold to 10 seconds, but many people found it too agressive and opt for somewhere between one to 10 minute instead.

Spirited Away also allows the user to specify an exception: just click on the Spirited Away icon at the top menu and click on the application that you wish to exempt. For example, the user might want to exempt instant message (IM) applications such as iChat or Yahoo Messenger.

Since I like the application, I wanted to learn more about it. However, it seems Spirited Away has not seen an update since 2003, too bad.  Nonetheless,Spirited Away works well enough that I will keep running it for a long time to come.