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OS X - Apps and Games Discussion of applications and games available for Mac OS X.

Tip: MacBook and Time Machine

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Member Since: Sep 22, 2009
Posts: 2
daleboss is on a distinguished road

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We switched our home to two MacBook Pros with Vizio monitors that have keyboard and mouse connected to the monitor. This gives us a great desktop setup by simply plugging the display, upstream USB, and power cables into the laptop. And it's a snap to disconnect the laptop to work with it elsewhere.

We got an external hard drive to share for Time Machine backups. We decided to use our previous G5 iMac to host this drive on our home wireless network. This has some advantages over using one of the laptops to host the drive:
1) If a laptop hosts the drive, the drive needs to be unmounted to take it away from the desk.
2) If a laptop hosts the drive, then the other laptop could not backup if the hosting laptop was being used away from the desk.
3) If a laptop hosts the drive, then it gives up processing when either laptop backs up.

Here's the tips:

1) We had been already backing up using the drive connected directly. When we moved the drive to the iMac, Time Machine ignored the existing backup stream and started a new one, doing a full backup. This is because TM uses a different format for backups if the drive is remote vs local. Lessons learned:
a) Do the first backup with the computers wired, since it's going to be a full one.
b) If your drive already has a backup stream, make sure you have enough disk space to hold two. If not, you may have to toss the existing backup stream.

2) Using the iMac to host the drive requires the iMac to be awake when the laptop wants to backup. Snow Leopard added a sleep option to wake up on such a request, but our iMac is a G5 which can only run Leopard and that doesn't have this option. The best we can do is set a time period that the iMac is awake each day, and that's the only time when backups will be done. We leave it awake 9-5, the usual work day.

Yes, we could use a Time Capsule instead of the iMac which doesn't have the sleep problem, and has some other features that are nice, but we want a fire and water proof drive since we're talking about backing up home business info. We could attach such a drive to the Time Capsule, but then we're spending money for the TC drive and not using it. And we have this iMac already that's available.
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Thanks for the tips, a lot of people will likely find this information useful. There is also the option of plugging an external drive right into an airport extreme. Giving you time capsule like function, while using the drive of your choice.

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Member Since: Sep 22, 2009
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We got the Airport Extreme, plugged in the hard disk, setup Time Machine, and we were off and running.

For a day.

Then it started to fail to start backups.

Talked to three support people in Apple, with varying stories. The first tried to get it to work. The second said that it was because I was trying to backup wirelessly and that I need to use an Ethernet connection. The last one stated emphatically that Time Machine cannot backup at all to a hard drive connected to an Extreme. This is only supported for Time Capsule.

I pointed out that Time Machine let me configure it this way, and that it did work initially. He insisted it is not supported, although it may work sometimes.

I pointed out that if it is not supported, Time Machine should reject such a configuration. He agreed.

I also pointed out that it is a reasonable assumption that if you can use Time Machine with a hard drive connected to a Time Capsule, that the same would be true for Airport Extreme. To him, this was clearly two entirely different situations. I suggested that Apple should have a prominent disclaimer in their sales materials (we bought at the Apple store) for the Extreme that this obvious use of the Extreme is not a supported feature.

We're (reluctantly) returning the Extreme for a Time Capsule. I'm disappointed in both the marketing and engineering of Apple in this case, both of which are usually the reasons I choose Apple products.
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