Valuable TIPS & Advice for Computer Users Everywhere

Come here often to learn more and gain the most of your experience with computers.  The tips here are absolutely needed information.  Most are written for everyone- some cover more specific areas of crucial advice.

Important Mac Backup Tips- Time Machine, CCC, SuperDuper PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Monday, 28 June 2010 11:10

Time Machine, SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner can all be used for Apple Macintosh computer backups.

Time Machine offers a unique form of backup and should be your daily, up-to-the minute backup, but not your backup for real emergencies where time is "of the essence".  Many Mac users today use the highly automated Apple-developed Time Machine incremental backup system to keep their Apple files backed up to an external hard drive.  Time Machine's ability to regress back through calendar days to represent your Mac computer exactly as it appeared in the past is quite amazing, and restoring is quite easy- even almost fun!  However, if you just want to browse a Time machine backup- you can't. And if you want the ability to boot from a backup drive- Time Machine does not allow this.  You can only restore a full system, using a Time Machine backup, when you boot from your Mac operating system installation DVD and use ther Time Machine restore option on the Utilities menu.

Additionally, an eventual problem with Time Machine is that due to its incremental "style" of backup, it will eventually run out of disk space because it uses more and more over time.  A Time Machine backup always ends up larger than the used size of the drive it's backing up.

In contrast, SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) DO OFFER BOOTABLE BACKUPS.  This might allow you to keep working on a busy day when your Mac internal hard drive crashes.  When using the disk erase option (for the initial backup), the Carbon Copy and SuperDuper backups will be identical to and use the same disk space as the drive being backed up.

Important notes about the hard drive used for bootable backup: Mac users should use FIREWIRE drives ONLY for bootable backups. USB 2.0 drives are not supported on older Macs and are flakier on newer Macs, where some boot support is now claimed, especially because USB hubs can slow down if a slow device gets connected to the hub.  That said, it should be understood that not all Firewire drives are consistently bootable either.  LaCie and Maxtor One Touch are documented safe bets O(for example, they are mentioned as tested in the SuperDuper manual).  I've also had bootability success with Western Digital.  Seagate is now Maxtor so that brand is probably a safe bet.  In all cases, consider testing bootability during the drive warranty period, if it's important to you.  Choose an external drive with a Firewire 800 connection- not only because Apple is obsoleting Firewire 400- but because you'll get much better boot performance.

When creating a clone backup you should be VERY careful- you should understand that if you erase a drive to make it bootable- you will lose all the data currently on that drive. This is true for both Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper.  Moreover, unregistered SuperDuper ONLY offers the erasing clone option.   Thus, make certain that any needed data definitely exists somewhere else if it currently resides on the disk being elected for backup . Some CCC users  get confused because Carbon Copy ALSO backs up in non-destructive mode, so often you put files on a CCC backed up drive and CCC does not delete them when it backs up.  The erase-to-make-bootable option however will delete everything. 

A client recently had all her photos and music deletely completely and irreversibly because her daughter's friend, a computer science major, was a bit too "green" with CCC and used the erase option to create a bootable drive.  The Carbon Copy backup overwrote the old deleted data, making software and hardware data recovery impossible.  Moreover, it offers the ability to browse through the backed up file system rather than using a date-based funky interface, when you simply want a specific file, quickly, from the CCC backup disk.

Mac users should consider keeping at least two backup drives- a CCC clone or SuperDuper backup, and a time Machine backup.  The Time Machine drive can be left connected and backing up at its regular intervals:  The Carbon Copy Cloner backup can be done manually once per week or once per month, and then possibly taken off-site- or simply kept more away from the computer- because a remote or off-site backup is always a smart idea in case of fire, flood or electrical issues.

After doing an initial clone backup with Carbon Copy Cloner, or a registered copy of SuperDuper, you can continue the backup process with incremental backups, or you can recreate the cloine every time- it's up to you.  Recreating the clone might be useful when you've had significant updates to the Apple system, like an OS update from 10.6.1 to 10.6.4.

If you really want to use one external drive for both the CCC/SuperDuper backupand the Time Machine backup (not reccomended)- or if you want CCC/SuperDuper clones of multiple systems on one external hard drive, then- assuming that the external drive really is big enough for all of that- you can use Disk Utility to create multiple partitions on the external drive.  For Intel-Based Macs you need to create a GUID Partition Table for your partitions to ensure that they are bootable, for older PowerPC Macs you must create a different partition type, called APT (Apple Partition Map).

* If you want to restore an old PowerPCs files to a newer Intel based Mac, use the Migration Assistant with a firewire cable.

* If you want to back up your Boot Camp Windows system partition, you need to partition using a Windows format (NTFS allows larger files).  You may also want to use a Windows Backup application from within Windows- Windows Backup that comes with Microsoft Windows does not do complete clone backups- to get a full clone you need to look for a program like Norton Ghost.

Choosing more than one backup method for any computer is a wise choice.  Keeping multiple backups on several drives is a really good idea.  Good luck!

Last Updated on Monday, 28 June 2010 13:13
New Mac Owners: Add This Software to Your Mac PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Friday, 18 June 2010 15:09

 So you finally got your new Mac and you want to do all the unhindered web surfing possible, all the movie watching possible- and you want to be as productive as possible.  But you don't really want to spend more money.  No problem!

Following are Miko's recommendations for freeware software additions to a new Mac.  Although all this software is free, I recommend donating to the philanthropic organizations who develop some of this (especially OpenOffice/NeoOffice):

Section 1:  Software you'll need to watch every movie and music video and animation online:

  1. Adobe Flash Player
  2. Adobe Reader (the Mac comes with Preview but it's worth it to have both)
  3. Adobe Air
  4. Microsoft Silverlight (needed for Netflix and actually one of the few good Microsoft plug-ins!)
  5. Flip4Mac lets you play Windows Media Files through Quicktime
  6. Perian 1.2.1 adds additional media support
  7. VLC ( - plays basically every kind of video, even broken and corrupt videos, and plays DVDs, with more functionality than the Apple DVD Player

Section 2: Make the most of your Internet Connection

  1. Skype - who doesn't want free video conferencing with everyone else in the world?  You definitely want Skype, but you do NOT want Skype add-ins active in your browsers.
  2. Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome - having 3 browsers is better than one.  And actually, Chrome is the safest- safer than Safari- it vigorously catches Malware on websites

Free Office Suites- the Mac does nor come with and free office suite- really only TextEdit- and you can pay for iWork, but you also have these options:


You only need one of the two above.  OpenOffice appeared first in Windows, NeoOffice was some OpenOffice developers who created a version for the Mac- but finally, OpenOffoce has been developed for the Mac. They both are nearly identical, but they also HAVE begun to evolve separately.  So I'm not sure which of the two is better anymore, but they both offer a Word Processor, an Excel type Spreadsheet Program, a Powerpoint type presentation program, a Technical Drawing program, and a database program.

Multimedia editing and conversion:

Apple computers usually come with iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, iTunes & iDVD- all of which can work in some ways with multimedia files.  However, the following two free tools offer serious added benefits:

  1. Audacity- allows editing, splicing and conversion/export of audio files.
  2. Handbrake is sometimes he only way to convert a file to format you can really use, like for your iPhone or for YouTube.  for example, it does a great job with Windows Media files.  Download and install the 64 bit version for Macs with Snow Leopard or later.

If you want to make web pages, consider these web development tools, which are not as snazzy as iWeb, but they actually produce code you can read and edit (you can't work much with the crazy source code of iWeb site pages):

  • KomPozer
  • Coda

I hope this list helps- and enjoy your new Mac!  (PC users, I will create a list like this for you also).

TIP: "Smart Name" Your Files PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Sunday, 23 May 2010 00:00

TIP: SMART NAME YOUR FILES. Computer searches & search indexes for files really do hope that you have good file names. Try using all 32 characters available to you & add keywords to the filename. Use the first EIGHT characters for the most important part of the name- especially photos- so that you can identify them on machines that shorten names. Always rename photo files with event & date, on import.  Some of my clients have lost huge amounts of photos because they kept resetting the serial numbering in the camera (which you should also never do) and then they imported over older photos because they did not rename on import.

* Note that a filename like "Book-report.doc" is not particularly useful. However, maybe "animal-farm-201003-FINAL-report.doc" is more helpful, even if not perfect. No name will be perfect. As you name your files, you should think "what words will I remember this by:?  Also keep track of revision levels- especially with marketing file edits - "accahc-CEDR-cover-ver6-bluer.psd"

* Note that people think that the correct creation date of a file is always stored with it- but this is SO not true. The creation date OFTEN gets lost- especially when migrating files to a new computer or reading from non-rewritable media like a CD or DVD.  So put the important relevant file-associated dates in the name if you can- event date, created date, or the last modified date- for example- if it fits.  Sometimes, though, especially with business files, when you've run our of characters in a filename, the version level, and the keywords, are more important than the date.

On some computers you can have really long names, and when you can- what the heck- try using longer names, but always name with the most important powerful keywords starting at the LEFT, since different systems will have cutoffs at 8, 16, and 32 characters. If you work on different computers, you'll still need to know your files.  If you take photos to Costco or the Pharmacy to print them, you'll find that their machines only show maybe the first 8-16 characters on their photo printing computer screen AND on the back of the print.

If you really want to store some good search-indexable information about a file, and understand what metadata is- FILL the metadata with keywords. In most programs you can do this under FILE > PROPERTIES or FILE > document info. On a Mac you can type command-I while clicked on a file (or use Get Info from the menu) and add information to the file COMMENTS field.  In Windows you can right-click on a file, choose Properties, and then look for where it lets you add freeform data (look for "summary" or an extra tab). Metadata tags won't show in the name but they will help with many kinds of searches.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 May 2010 20:04
Font Perils! What You Should Know PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 00:00

Fonts can be nightmare-causing entities that at times are worse than computer viruses... and Mac users are NOT immune! Fonts work at a truly deep and structurally-important system level on ALL computers.  Their presence, location, use and health will contribute to how well your computer works, or if it works at all.  You never want a corrupt font.  You never want to mess with system-crucial fonts.  When you learn the havoc fonts can cause on ANY computer, you empower yourself to prevent system crashes and speed up your computer.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 13:26
READ MORE! Click here & learn to avoid FONT disasters
Miko's ITunes Advice & Tips PDF Print E-mail
Written by Miko   
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 12:39
  1. Always keep ALL music files within folders inside the ITunes Music folder. Never spread music in the same library across disks OR partitions.  You should really choose in Preferences to “Let ITunes Keep your Folder Organized” by artist and album, because then you’ll know when the metadata is wrong, &  it will track duplicates more effectively. 

  2. If your ITunes library is on an external disk & you pointed there in Preferences- NEVER start UP ITunes without that disk plugged in & powered on or the library might reset to the C (or internal main) drive. 

  3. When your music is all in one place and the location preferences points to the right ITunes Music folder, but the library gets corrupted, simply select ALL music in your list, delete it from the library BUT *NOT* from the disk, then File > Add Folder To Library > and point to ITunes Music folder and click choose/select to have it scour the entire folder and re-add all the music in there.

  4. Not all music files work with all versions of ITunes. If you once imported files to RealPlayer or Windows Media, you may need to use a converter to convert wma, ram, asx files, and others, to ITunes formats like aac and mp3.

  5. If your IPOD disk is smaller than your ITunes music collection, create a playlist of a size that will fit on the iPod (or iPhone) and sync the device only to that playlist.

  6. If you import music from a CD or DVD when not connected to the Internet, you may not get any of the metadata- artist, album name, or song title. Always be connected to the Internet when imported from audio CDs or DVDs.

  7. If you've ended up with lots of music without Track name, artist, or title, use SHAZAM on Android, Droid, G1 or iPhone to see if it might recognize the song artist, title and album.


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 May 2010 07:13