Why you should get a second Drobo

I believe my Drobo is due for replacement, just to compensate for normal wear and tear. Could you advise me on which unit to buy? I will keep my existing Drobo in play, in case the new one goes down. Reviews say it’s good to have a backup unit because of the proprietary RAID system.

I’m real glad you are ready to get into a new Drobo. Like any tech, these enclosures don’t last forever. The advice you read — to maintain two of them, one backing up the other — is definitely smart. (Indeed, this policy applies to any storage scheme!) The Drobo remains the best, most flexible option for small businesses.

You have likely noticed that the Drobos appear to have gone up in price. Excepting the awesomely portable Mini, the manufacturer has eliminated its lower-end units, made five drive bays the minimum, and put the much faster Thunderbolt and USB 3 in all the models.

You will read negative reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Many criticisms are specious — “I want this to walk my dog and bake me an full-disk-encrypted pizza, and it doesn’t do that, waaaaaanh!” But some experiences sound legitimately nasty, albeit suffered by people who didn’t have backups, and who got upset that Drobo support didn’t provide a magic spell to save them from their own poor planning. Waaaaanh!

Still, the failures are real, and the Drobos seem more prone to them than other similar devices. So while I still prefer the expandability and simplicity of the Drobo, I would be remiss if I didn’t also draw your attention to the Pegasus Promise RAID.

All that said, if you agree with me that the Drobo is the best option for mass storage, this 5D is the one for most Mac owners.

And you’d get five (5) of these 1TB Seagate hard drives.

Submit a support request when you get the new unit, and we’ll get your storage all backed up and redundant!

If your Time Capsule shows a backup error

> I just got an error from my Time Capsule: “Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability Time Machine must create a new backup for you.” I went ahead and started a new backup, but how can I know that my backups are reliable?


“Time Machine completed a verification of your backups…”

I just got an error from my Time Capsule: “Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability Time Machine must create a new backup for you.” I went ahead and started a new backup, but how can I know that my backups are reliable?

Absolutely hitting Start New Backup was the right move!

All we need to do is make sure your Time Capsule has enough room to accommodate the additional information. If it doesn’t, we can archive the existing data to a separate drive.

So here’s what happened: Time Machine [italics mine] is the software that runs on your Mac, and backs up to an external drive or to a network device like a Time Capsule.

The wireless convenience of the Time Capsule comes with a tradeoff: It stores your backups in an encapsulated file called a disk image. It’s like a pretend disk, and like any disk, the file system inside it can corrupt. File systems are weak that way, which is just one of the reasons we keep a backup.

It may help to remember that a backup is just a copy of your files. You need to keep 3 copies of any file — a file doesn’t exist unless it exists in three places — and any of those copies is vulnerable.

Finally, I would recommend running Disk Utility on your Mac, just to make sure your main data drive has not itself become corrupt. Here are easy instructions!

Prepare for iOS 7

iOS 7 should pop up as an available update on September 18, 2013.

The new mobile operating system from Apple promises to be as new, revolutionary even, as the original iPhone. I, for one, am damned excited about it.

So’s ya know, you do NOT have to upgrade to 7 right away. The safe bet is to wait at least a few days, to see if any debilitating quirks squirmed their way through the testing process.

But for all you early adopters…

Let’s do some simple steps to make sure your iPhones, iPads and iPods touch are all ready for Apple’s latest mobile operating system.

Check compatibility

Your device will need to be compatible. Techcrunch has the skinny on that.

Back it up!

On your device, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup (at the bottom).

Swipe to the bottom of the page, and tap Backup Now.

Backup to iCloud

You can also be more thorough by doing a backup using iTunes.

Since you’re also going to update iTunes on your Mac, make sure Time Machine or your backup scheme of choice are working.


Run Software Update on your Mac, from the Apple menu. That will get you the latest iTunes.

Also, tap the App Store on your mobile gadget. Tap Updates, and then Update All.

All set

Now you’re ready. On your device, go to Settings > General > Software Update, and let the crayon-colored magic begin!

CrashPlan might be filling up your hard drive

OK, this is no longer a coincidence: All CrashPlan users should please check the free space on your Macs’ hard drives.
On your desktop, click on “Macintosh HD,” then go to the File menu > Get Info…

If the Space Available looks low, say less than 10 GB, it might be that (pardon the expression) a CrashPlan log has grown unusually large. Open up Macintosh HD > Library > Logs > CrashPlan, and look for engine_output.log. See how big it is. I’ve now seen 30 GB, 80 GB, even 600 GB.

Throw engine_output.log in the trash, and empty your trash (right click on the trash can or Finder menu > Empty Trash…).

If the trash won’t empty, restart your Mac and try again.

Perhaps your hard drive is full for other reasons, in which case the excellent freeware Disk Inventory X can help: http://www.derlien.com/downloads/index.html

Should I backup my computer?

Every computer owner must keep active, daily backups of all of their data. We like to use the 3-2-1 Commandment of Backups:

Thou shalt keep: 3 copies of any data, on 2 different media on-site, and 1 copy offsite.

Put another way:

A file doesn’t exist unless it exists in three places.

The 3-2-1 rule applies to any piece of digital data, however minor, small, or seemingly unimportant.

  1. Copy 1 is the drive inside your Mac,
  2. Copy 2 is an external hard drive in your home or office, which gets backups via the Time Machine software, connected either directly to your computer or over your internal network,
  3. And the 3rd copy happens across the internet, frequently to a service such as Carbonite or our current favorite, Crashplan.

We have established easy, elegant, and cost-effective methods to achieve 3-2-1, and we will work with you to find the solutions that best fit your business.

Here’s a scenario:

Let’s say you are maintaining good, solid, daily 3-2-1 backups. And then, in normal use, your Mac’s hard drive fills up, and you need to free up space. Before we do that, we just need to consider 3-2-1: if you delete something from your Mac, that means that you have to copy that stuff to a 3rd destination.

The easiest solution for that is simply another external drive. Think of it as an archive—you know you’ve got the data on Time Machine and Crashplan, so you can either do a manual, organized copy to the Archive Drive, or set some different software to automatically build the archive as you go, depending on your workflow.

It’s worth noting that Apple will release Mountain Lion this summer, which will let you set Time Machine copying to multiple drives. That’s going to ease a lot of our decisions in this arena.

Give us a call. We’ll help you choose the right devices, at the price that fits.

J2 News: Save on Support!


J2 the Whole Year Through – Annual Memberships!

Many of you have expressed an interest in a regular, monthly checkup. You want to make sure backups are happening and everything is healthy, and you want to hear about the latest ways I’ve found to make the digital life easier. So here’s the plan:

30 Minute Plan:Each month, you get a half-hour of phone consultation with me, and a 40% discount on the next hour of J2 service, whether it’s in person, by remote, or over the phone.

60 Minute Plan:Each month, you get an hour of phone consultation with me, and a 40% discount on the next hour of J2 service, whether it’s in person, by remote, or over the phone.

Each of these subscriptions will net you a 40% savings on our initial service each month! And you can upgrade from 30 to 60 anytime.

Homes and Non-Profs
30 Minute Plan
60 Minute Plan

I am really excited about this program, and about keeping in touch with you every month.

Call me today to sign up!


Bet you know someone who could use some Chicken Soup for their Macs! Tell a friend you know about us, and get an instant $20 for each household or non-profit you refer, and $30 for each business. Make sure our new client mentions your name!

To keep my business growing and evolving to suit your needs, I’d love to get your feedback. You know, how we doin’? You can help me a lot by writing a review either at our Yelp page or our Google Maps profile.

(Psst! Hey, business owners: Make sure your Google listing is accurate! Do a Google search for your business, then click on the link to the map, which should take you to the profile page. At the top of that, click “Business Owner” and follow the instructions to verify your ownership. Once done, you’ll be able to post pictures, hours, and other information.)


Many of you have met my new cohort, the excellent Mr. Drew Moynihan. Drew has extensive background in tons of computing environments, but more importantly, he has infinite patience and a deep-seated need to see things done right — the qualities I most want for our clients. I’m grateful for the insight and experience Drew brings to my team.

As always, J2 is my business, and your satisfaction is my goal, and my responsibility. Please call or text me directly at 210.367.3420 for any consultation, and the best line for scheduling is still 210.787.2709 or schedule@j2mac.com.

Thanks so much for reading, y’all. I’ll look forward to hearing from you soon!

Your man on the Mac,


Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

New Mac, need more wireless, how about a mini media server?, and ready for Google Apps!

• I’m replacing my 2006 MBP with a shiny new one which will arrive this week – a fully loaded 15”.


• What’s the best migration approach?

Your new Mac will ask if you have an old Mac, and instruct you through booting the old one to “Target Disk Mode,” and connecting the Macs via FireWire. Then you hit “Go,” and ALLLLL your stuff — user accounts and home folders, applications, support files, network configurations — will get brought over to the new machine, which will finish booting and reveal itself to be just like your old one.

• I use SuperDuper to back up to local disks at home and at the office.

I love SuperDuper, and really like to use it in conjunction with Time Machine. They can coexist on the same backup drive, even if you set SuperDuper to “SmartUpdate.”

• Shared drive for the family network – mainly as a music server – just hang a drive off the Airport extreme?

The main thing to consider about an AirDisk (disk attached to an Airport, or the built-in hard drive of a Time Capsule) is that there’s no easy way to run daily, incremental backups from the AirDisk to another storage device. So the AirDisk is really best (read: solely) used as a backup itself. For home media server, one of my top three most favorite projects currently — which, incidentally, also include setting up a Mac mini with OS X Server in a business, and hooking a business or household together with Google Apps — is putting a beautiful little Mac mini with Server in the central entertainment system of a household, plugging it into a big flat-screen with HDMI, and making it the kickass, full-throttled media jukebox for the whole family.

Plus, the mini becomes central file and backup storage for every Mac on the property. Time Machine from Mac to Server is so very sweet.

Important to say at this point that there are some great, small PCs coming out with Windows Media Center (ewwwwwww!) or, better, Linux. They can run a media front-end such as Boxee that is pretty easy to operate with a simple remote. But without question, even in spite of its high price tag, the Mac — running Boxee and Plex and Hulu Desktop and maybe an EyeTV One — is currently the best platform for the job.

• My colleagues and I are ready to transition away from an in-house Microsoft environment – we have an Exchange server for 4 people – to Gmail, cloud storage, etc.

I am, as I say above, fully ready to help any business of any size move to Google Apps. It, and services closely related, are the best thing that has happened to the internet since the Web. And we are very able to do work in Austin, and lots can be done remotely.

• Upgrade the home network – right now running one Airport extreme which is not sufficient to cover the house – at some point I may need a wiring guy to enable broader wireless coverage.

Certainly ethernet cable is always the most reliable mode of networking. Everyone with a home, however, should know about PowerLine adapters: run network through your home electrical system. Sometimes cheaper per drop, depending on the house, but always more convenient than hiring a cabling contractor, especially if you only need, say, one or two more drops to attach to Airport Expresses, which are great for extending an Airport network.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Our Current Methods

Attached: Our Current Methods
Message from info@j2mac.com:

http://bit.ly/j2currentmethods I am inspired to create a doc that has all of our current methodologies. I'm going to update it from time to time, and rely on Google Docs to keep revisions.

Google Docs makes it easy to create, store and share online documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Google Docs logo

The Usual Scenario

Client buys a new Mac

Typical Purchase

Single CPU for home or small biz. Client should walk out of the Apple Store with at least:

  • Mac

I think everyone should have a laptop as their main computer, buy maybe they really want an iMac.

  • AppleCare

Maaaybe someone wants to buy at Best Buy and get their extra coverage, but I want every Mac to have AppleCare. Businesses can negotiate for custom AppleCare quotes.

  • External hard drive
    (See the section on Backups for current software selections.)

This can be a 1TB or 2TB Time Capsule, but if they already have a wireless router, then an external drive with FireWire is essential. In San Antonio, the 3 brands that both are available and don’t suck completely are LaCie and G-Tech (Apple Store) and Seagate (Best Buy). 

The number of LaCie d2 Quadra drives we have unpacked and installed has probably entered 3 digits: FireWire 800 is now standard on every Mac except the MacBook, and the extra option of eSATA rocks. Until recently, we spec’ed the 500GB model, but since the 1TB unit is $154 on Amazon, that size has entered the sweet spot of price-per-gigabyte.



  • Consumers

If a client uses an email address given them by their ISP, we immediately start pushing them to sign up for a Gmail address. If they don’t want to do it, fine, but it’s easy to assure them that the process, described below, is quite easy and painless.

So, obviously you sign ’em up http://gmail.com. Then we turn on forwarding in the ISP’s webmail, and the vacation responder as well, to say, “Thanks for writing me. Please know that, from now on, you can find me at yaddayadda@gmail.com.” Also, in Gmail settings, we configure a filter that “labels” any mail sent to the old address as, for example, “satx.rr.com” or “sbcglobal” or whatever.

Other Gmail settings to tweak are: keyboard shortcuts ON, IMAP enabled, and HTTPS/SSL enforced.

Obviously, we are usually going to configure Apple’s Mail.app. See this hint for a good tweaking of Google’s recommended config for Mail (I am going to comment on that hint with a couple of amendments that I have found useful). But I want people to get familiar with the Google webmail interface. Show them filters and labels. Consider showing them Docs, Calendar, and Buzz, and even Wave if they’re a bit nerdy.

  • Businesses

Business clients are always asked who their email host is, if any. 

New Mac setup

  • Run Software Update.
  • Next, System Preferences:

    1. Desktop & Screen Saver: Turn off “Translucent menu bar,” and demo RSS screensaver.
    2. Security: Turn on the Firewall and enable Stealth Mode. Consider “Require password to wake from sleep.”
    3. Keyboard: Turn on “All controls” for a tab-able interface.
    4. Trackpad: Turn on “Tap to click.”
    5. Sharing: Anonymize computer name. Consider File and Screen Sharing for desktops, but turn off every service on laptops.
    6. Accounts: Configure second admin account called “Administrator,” with the same password as the primary user. On laptops, turn off “Automatic login.” On any Mac, turn on “Allow guests to log in,” and turn off “Allow guests to connect to shared folders.” Consider additional user accounts and fast user switching.
    7. Date & Time: Make sure network time service is enabled.
    8. Time Machine: (See section on Backups.)
  • Next, install freeware: See this blog post for Things I Download on Every Mac. Direct links are included.
  • Safari: Turn on Autofill for “User names and passwords,” and “When a new tab or window opens, make it active.” Set new windows and new tabs to open to “Empty Page.”
  • Mail.app: Bold unread messages. See above for configuring Mail for Gmail.

  • On-site
1 Partition on external hard drive. SuperDuper backup will live side-by-side with Time Machine.
Time Machine
SuperDuper (Carbon Copy Cloner is great, but just not as clean, and not anywhere near as FAST as SuperDuper. Also, CCC can’t co-exist with Time Machine backing up to the same partition.)
  • Off-site
MobileMe Backup is fine for basics. If they don’t have MobileMe, consider MozyHome (free) or Carbonite ($5/month and unlimited, use coupon code TWiT.)

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Do we need a server?

I remember the first time I became aware of the word “server.” For some reason it sounded very mysterious, something that required arcane tools and deep learning with the elves in the mountains.

Eventually, I came to figure out that a “server” is simply a computer — any computer — that provides “services” to other computers. If you computer can share its files, it’s a file server. If you turn iTunes music sharing on, your computer becomes a music server. If you have a shared printer, your computer has become a print server.

Apple makes it super-easy to turn any Mac into a server by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing (or Spotlight “sharing”) and turning on any of the services you need. Your Mac will then show up in the “Shared” section of any Finder window. Boom, you got a server.

That said, when most people refer to a server, they’re talking about some machine that doesn’t do anything else, a box that’s tucked away, maybe in a rack or a closet, and always on, with a nice big battery backup, maybe a few hard drives, and fans like a wind tunnel. And most servers on the planet should be that robust; I need Google’s mail servers or my web server at GoDaddy never to go down, or at least, if they do need a reboot, that there’s a backup server waiting next to it in the data center to kick in as soon as its brother goes down.

A lot of businesses have one or more servers at the workplace. Sometimes they’re just file servers, a central repository for the documents that everyone needs access. Sometimes they’re also mail servers. Running your email through a Windows Exchange Server housed in your office was a popular option among Microsoft-certified professionals at a time when outsourced email hosts weren’t as flexible or affordable as they are now.

Again, to be clear: most organizations with fewer than 40 or 50 users would be wasting precious money to purchase Microsoft Small Business Server, when they can sign up with Google Apps either for free or for $50/user/year (40 users for $2,000/year, versus an easy $5,000 just to install and configure, not to mention maintain and troubleshoot, a Windows Server).

So let’s say you just need to share documents among more than 10 people, and you need them available all the time, and time without them costs money. Until this last Tuesday, the best value in a server-class machine was Apple’s Xserve

Way powerful, way configurable, way manageable – The specs on each generation of Xserve have been increasingly impressive, and it starts at a $3,000 base price that has always included the $1,000 OS X Server (unlimited-client; Windows Server starts at 5 users, and costs $50 per user after that). Most Xserve buyers should expect to pay at least $5,000-6,000 for a properly configured unit with 3 hard drives, a redundant supply, external backups, and if one is smart, the AppleCare server support plan. I can usually have a new OS X Server set up, with a few connected workstations, in under 6 hours.

A Bit of History

Apple’s server software (a.k.a. server operating system, or “OS”) is Mac OS X Server, now in version 10.6 (a.k.a. Snow Leopard Server). For so many years, AppleShare server products (still promoted in Australia!) distinguished themselves in IT discourse only by being pretty crappy. It just didn’t have the moxy that system admins were used to getting from Microsoft Windows NT or its descendants. And when OS X Server came out — it was actually the first release of OS X — it was really more of a theory than an operating system. Even though it was built on the well-established UNIX platform, it was buggy and slow, and it had these really weird quirks that made it very frustrating. Certainly it was impossible for an IT administrator to recommend that a business rely on this system for their day-to-day operations. 

Today, OS X Server has evolved into a robust, stable platform, one that’s easy to set up, easy to expand and scale, and like the basic OS X (we might call it “OS X client”), Server is impressively compatible with other platforms and standards. Since OS X Server and the Xserve came into their own, and given products such as Xsan and Final Cut Server, Apple is officially a viable player in the world of business and enterprise.

The Value of a Server

Is all of this worth several thousand dollars to your organization? It sure can be, once you realize the other things you can do with a server, which I’ll get to in a second. First, I have to say that this article is inspired by Apple’s announcement today of a Mac mini server. This $1,000 box is now potentially my favorite item in the entire product line, as I think it spells great things for businesses large and small. Considering that Apple has now slashed the price of the software itself to an unbeatable $500 for unlimited users, buying into a Microsoft server product now just seems unwise and wasteful.

So what can you do with a server? Check this out:

  • File Sharing, Network homes, and Backups: We can tie all of your Macs to your server so that the “home folder” for each user account is stored on the server. This means anybody can use any Mac in the house, and use their own desktop and files and email and settings. And if one computer dies, you put a new one in its place, log that person in, et voila! You’re back in business.

    • Portable Home Directories: This includes laptops, which can sync their accounts to the server, backing themselves up whenever they’re in the office.
  • Software Updates: We can have the server download all your software updates, and the administrator can pick and choose which one should be rolled out. When someone logs in, even a non-admin user, they’ll have an opportunity to install the approved updates, and their Mac only has to go across the office network, not all the way back to Apple’s servers.

  • Preferences: You can choose apply settings for all users in one fell swoop: adding a printer, adding items to the Dock, or automatically mounting a share point [definition]; or perhaps restricting things along the order of parental controls, or preventing or allowing certain applications.

  • NetBoot & NetRestore: You can actually have your Macs start up from a disk image [definition] on the server. If you need to update all Macs, just update the image. A variation on this idea is to have the Macs install themselves from a central image.

Of all of these possibilities, certainly it is having a centralized place for data storage and backup, and for backing up your workstations, that makes in-house servers attractive, and possibly essential, for any organization of any size. 

Keep your head in the cloud

I say possibly essential, because there are now services on the internet, such as Google Docs and DropBox, that have begun replacing server hardware for many people. I am all in favor of using these online applications, with the sole caution that we don’t rely on them to back up our data. It is crucial to keep an on-premises copy of every piece of data that means anything to you, just as keeping an offsite copy is de rigueur in any comprehensive backup scheme. I use a Firefox plug-in that downloads all my Google docs, and I backup that folder to an external hard drive.

But if you need fast, reliable storage that all your computers can see, to centralize your data and keep your Macs humming in unison, there’s nothing like a properly configured OS X Server.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

So far, Snow good: 10.6 in brief

I like it. I like the speed. I like the sturdiness. I like that I can finally put the muthaflippin date in the slipper-lickin menu bar.

Big and small changes have made upgrading to 10.6 worth my effort. The assessments I’m most in line with say that Apple has dug in the closet for all the projects they’ve put off in the decade of OS X’s existence, and even some ― like date-next-to-time ― that have lingered since the 1984 Mac.

Before I go farther, I want to restate our official recommendation to clients: If you don’t have a compelling reason to upgrade, please wait to install Snow Leopard. Let Apple release at least the 10.6.1 or 10.6.2 update, to ensure that you don’t get bit by any of the bigger bugs. And please make sure you have complete backups before you install. Also, there are a couple of additional installers at the end that you may need.

Since the arrival of 10.6, I have listened to some maligning of 10.5. But our experience with the penultimate system was really smooth. So for me, Apple really didn’t have that far to go. Still, onward and upward.

I’m not going to list the little glitches and speedbumps I’ve encountered, as they are almost all quite picayune; I’ll venture that most non-power users who get into 10.6 early will have a very good experience. That said, problem-havers are always the loudest voices, on the Internet as elsewhere, and sites such as macfixit.com detail the issues many are having. The one I’ll mention, which is pretty specific, is that many of the system hacks and tweaks I have come to rely on, especially SafariStand, don’t work reliably in Snow Leopard, because Apple has deprecated the InputManager API. Developers will hopefully be able to find a way around that, because I need my Safari AdBlock, bad!

Finally, I’m very happy to report that I have Snow Leopard Server running on my network, and am similarly very pleased with its smoothness. It was a nice excuse to clean out the cobwebs and the failed experiments. So far, network homes and portable homes work great, and no issues with permissions or file sharing. I haven’t gotten Address Book or Calendar Servers up, but I’ve barely tried. iChat Server is logging something weird that I can’t find a fix for in the forums. 

Nu? Between iPhone 3.0 and OS X 10.6, it looks like 2009 is a much better year for Apple rollouts than what we saw with iPhone 2 or 10.5. What a relief!

Less than briefly,
Your Humble

Posted via email from j2mac’s posterous