Backups on Mac

My PC was on the way out - and so, after backing things up, I jumped. I'm now Mac user. I timed it perfectly, the PC died finally a day or so before the Mac arrived. Honestly, the Mac is great. For the average user there will be a little disorientation as things are done a little differently - but it really is nice, and there are plenty of 'switching' stuff on the apple website for the nervous. It's generally 'cleaner' - Installing programs, for instance, doesn't leave crap all over the hard drive.

When you get a mac, the first thing that will cause consternation is a one button mouse. It isn't a one button mouse - it just looks it. The supermouse has five buttons (one of which is a scroller) - and they are configurable by clicking on the system preferences in the dock (which looks lovely when the icons grow and shrink, which is another option to tweak if you want).

Exposé and Spaces are worth getting to grips with. Exposé is an easy way to move windows out of the way so you can see what window you need. I've set things up so when I squeeze my mouse, all the windows find a space so I can see what's what. Spaces let's you have several 'extra' monitors. I have it set up so if I move my mouse to the corner of the screen I can see several different desktops and move items between them - in this way I can be working on something on THIS screen, and have another task on THAT screen. I can also switch screens by hitting ctrl and a right or left cursor key.


Following my PC problems, I wanted to be sure my data was safe. The thought of losing years of photos was not nice at all.

So, this is what I have done:

I have an external hard drive running the excellent 'Time Machine'. Essentially you plug in a drive (best to reformat for mac use), switch on Time Machine and let it do it's thing. After the initial backup which takes some hours, it's fast and automatic. Every hour, time machine silently looks at what has changed, then it will update. If you want an old file that's been deleted, or an old version of the file, you click time machine and then can 'go back in time', grab the file, and copy it back to the current system.

I've also got a Western Digital 'My Book' network hard drive on the system - this came with backup software, and yes, my important files are backed up there.

I've also got 'Super Duper' - currently unregistered, but that'll change. This will make an image of the mac, a snapshot in time. A third backup.

Finally, I've installed Mozy for the Mac. I tell it what I want backing up (photos, mainly) - and it does it in the background. The initial backup takes ages, in my case it'll be days more, but after that, the changes won't take long. Mozy is an off-site solution, so if disaster strikes, I can at least recover the irreplaceable. Hardware can be insured and replaced. Data can't be.

This may all be slightly paranoid, but all of the above (except Super Duper) are automated (and Super Duper can be automated once registered). They're different ways of backing up, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I may lose hardware - hopefully, I won't be at risk of losing data.

What other software is useful? Well, I've registered Moneydance. It's not the easiest to get started with (it seriously needs a good beginners tutorial), but once set up, it's very good. I've got 'First Class' running (for the Open University). I've got Skype, MSN Messenger, Colloquy (for IRC) and Tweetie (for Twitter). All very good.

If I ever need to, I can also run Windows XP, as I've got Parallels installed. To be honest, I only ever drop into WinXP for digiguide - I wish there were an equivalent Mac program!

What about MSOffice documents? Well, iWork's 'Numbers' and 'Pages' is Excel and Word compatible ('Numbers' has some really beautiful spreadsheet templates!)... but heck, MSOffice is available too.

Yep, I'm very pleased I moved to a Mac. I'd recommend it.

In the interests of full disclosure: It's not all plain sailing, one problem is that I can't work out permissions on a shared folder - when I save a document there, the other user can read, but not write it. I want to set up a folder so both users (but not others we might add as guest accounts) have read/write access to anything there. Similarly, I want to set things so one user can read any file of the other by default, even files which aren't yet created, but not write. I'm sure it's possible, but I haven't worked it out. This problem didn't arise in Windows, as the user permissions were a bit laxer, of course, this could lead to other problems.