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iPontificateHello, New iMac Over Here!

by - January 21st, 2005

I just made my New Year's Resolution and so far I am doing great. I recently got a new 20 inch iMac G5 and I resolved to not rub it in other peoples' faces. That's right, I got a new iMac, son! What do you have, a Commodore 64, or maybe a Timex Sinclair with membrane keyboard and a cassette deck for storage? Well, I bet it feels like you do compared to my new iMac G5!

Dang it. That did feel good, though.

I also resolved to stop hanging out with supermodels while my wife is out. So far, so good on that one.

It wasn't perfect when I got my new iMac though. My new wide-screen monitor was too big for all of my desktop pictures. What was I to do? Actually, I am giddy as a schoolgirl over my new monitor for a good reason. I spent the last eight months hunched over my wife's 12 inch iBook, ever since my Power Mac G4 MDD bit the dust with a bad processor. The new monitor seemed absurdly huge when I first got it.

I also am a fan of soothing nature or landscapes for my desktop pictures. I really liked the ones that Apple used to bundle with OS 9 so much that I kept them in use in OS X as long as I could. But they only have a resolution of 1024x768, so they look really bad on one of Apple's new widescreen monitors.

Two of my favorite old Apple desktop pictures

Apple's new 20 inch monitors use a resolution of 1680x1050, which is insanely great, but unless you really dig that ladybug picture they ship with OS X, you are out of luck. A little creative Googling led me to some pictures that fit the bill exactly.

Mac enthusiast and photographer Daniel Kiechle claimed to have to same problem I had, but instead of whining about like I did (it lasted for days and my wife almost left me), he just took some pictures. And they are quite stunning and reminiscent of the old Apple ones, in my opinion.

If you have one of Apple's widescreen monitors, but specifically a 20 inch one, just head over to one of Daniel's three libraries of pictures. You can choose between library one, two, or three, or collect all three sets.

Two of my new favorite desktop pictures, courtesy Daniel Kiechle

With that problem solved, a new one quickly developed, and it is one that seems to be very common. It was the neverending search for a quick and easy backup solution. My wife and I had what may be an unusual situation, but I suspect it could be useful to a lot of Mac users.

Since Jennifer got her iBook back when I got my new iMac (my goal is to say "new iMac" several hundred times in this column), she very much wanted to be in charge of her own backups. She had lost data in the past because her iBook had been asleep when a network backup had run, and therefore not been backed up. She also hated the messages that popped up when she had missed a backup, distracting her from what she wanted to do.

"Is it too much to ask that I have my own drive to backup to when I know I have changed my address book or iPhoto library? I don't want to be prompted, I don't want to have to worry about I should put it to sleep or not, I just want to be responsible for my own backups. That way I will actually store my addresses on my Mac again."

Seemed reasonable to me.

I decided a network backup wouldn't work for us because I knew Jennifer would want backups that were quick, plus I no longer had a Mac that I could use as a dedicated backup server. I did have two external FireWire drives, so a plan started forming. I wanted a tool that would create an exact copy of our internal hard drives onto the external drives so they would be bootable, and in an emergency be plugged into any Mac and be up and running with as little downtime as possible.

In the past, I had used the excellento freeware (recently changed to donationware) program Carbon Copy Cloner for this purpose. However, CCC duplicates the entire contents of your drive each time it is run, and this can take hours. So for backup purposes, Carbon Copy Cloner was out.

A little research led me to the way excellento shareware program SuperDuper! by Shirt Pocket Software. It will duplicate your hard disk to external drive, but when you pay the US$20 shareware fee, it also does a lot more. The feature I was most interested was the incremental backup. The first time you instruct it to clone your hard drive it takes as long as Carbon Copy Cloner (in my case, about two hours). However, if you set it to smart update, thereafter it takes much less time (in my case about four to five minutes). And it works. You can see how this would encourage you to backup your data. And, I have to admit, I backup my data on a daily basis now. That is a first for me.

One of the features that SuperDuper lacks, but is promised for the next version, is a built-in scheduler. Fortunately, they have a workaround that I actually like quite a bit. They provide you with an AppleScript that, once you have set up SuperDuper to do your backups the way you want, will launch SuperDuper, perform your backup, politely pause for about five seconds so you can see how long your backup took, and then quit SuperDuper! (That last exclamation mark is part of the program's name; I am not that excited about doing backups.) I just dropped the AppleScript in my dock and click when I feel like protecting my life's work.

Jennifer prefers it to a scheduled backup as well, because it solves her complaints of having to have her iBook awake at a certain time to do her backups.

Now that I have solved the two first problems with my new iMac, I guess it is time to go play Halo or Mototrax on my new iMac.

I love my new iMac.

is an Idiot. He is the co-founder of IWS Interactive, a New York (and now Houston) based development company for Macintosh. Now he spends his time writing about, developing for, and getting clients to buy Macs. Oh, yeah, and he recently had a kid. So his days are filled with taking care of little Jack, then playing with his Mac. He wouldn't have it any other way.

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