eXtensions - Wednesday 11 January 2017

Improving Connections to the new MacBook Pro - Backups and Data Loss (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Although the new MacBook Pro is quite a powerful machine in daily use, I have found one or two oddities when bringing the installation towards a perfect working situation. Some of these were inherited from the previous Macs I had used, others from the dire lack of accessories here.

When writing a summary of 2016 on my own site recently I made one prediction - that Apple's Q1 2017 financial results would be announced on 24 January. I was wrong. This will be on 31st and as always will have live audio transmission, although it is at about 5am here.

My look back at 2016 is available at:

As this week is the 10th anniversary of the announcement of the iPhone and I was there, I also put online some comments about the event.

2016 MacBook Pro models A problem with my 2016 13" MacBook Pro is disk space. That was the same for my 2013 MacBook Pro and the 2016 15" MacBook Pro as well when I used that for a couple of weeks as my main computer. Each had the 512GB SSD, which is now really fast. That does not help, however, when the disk is almost full.

With most documents in the cloud, the main space hogs are iTunes libraries (music, video and apps), and images. Although many of my pictures are accessed through Apple's Photos, I choose to store them on the computer. There is also a sizable collection of DSLR images and scanned negatives in Aperture libraries. The libraries contain albums and the photographs are in the albums.

I have several libraries going back about 10 years with most stored on external disks: several disks actually, both at home and in my office. The most recent files are also backed up on three Time Machine disks: two at home and one in my office.

If you have never lost data you might not understand this almost-obsessive concern. But you will. Whether through theft, natural disaster or a failed disk, one day you will run screaming down the street when a disk is no longer available. Trust me. Buy a disk. Buy a couple. Back up today.

In one of those nasty coincidences, a local reader wrote yesterday (Tuesday) asking for help about a disk containing all of a friend's data, including irreplaceable photographs, that was dropped and no longer works. He is seeking data recovery services right now (see below).

I had a burglary in 2007 and lost all my data. Since then a couple of failed disks and several moves to new computers have been carried out using backups. A harsh reminder came for Canadian photographer, Johany Jutras, who lost her life's work when all her disks were stolen (John Aldred, DIY Photography). This is why I keep additional copies of all my files offsite. The cloud is another solution.

Backup Disks Backup Disks

As I have a new LaCie USB-C disk (these rare beasts were also spotted last week in Central Embassy, where everyone goes), I copied all the backed up libraries onto this disk. I usually keep the last two Aperture libraries on the Mac, but just before New Year I merged these and deleted duplicated albums from the current library. Once copying to the LaCie disk was done, I deleted all but the most recent library from the disk and recovered 60GB of space, giving me 143GB free. That may last for a while.

Meanwhile, in another room I was working on the 2013 MacBook Pro, which I no longer need. With the arrival of the new MacBook Pro computers, I had not used this Mac for a while, although I had kept the battery charged. I just opened the lid and went back to where I had been working. There was a reminder that I had not backed up for several weeks.

The oddest experience when going back to this older Mac was the spongy feel of the keyboard: these new Macs have a crisp feel to the key strokes. It was like trying an older monitor after the experience of Retina displays: you know you have moved on.

I used the Recovery Partition (Command + R at start) and opened Disk Utility. I highlighted the main disk and used the Erase tool. I have bought a lot of software which I will not pass on to the next user, so wanted to start with a fresh installation. The main panel of the Recovery Partition gives access to a download of macOS which took a few minutes, but the Mac is now set up as a new machine.

Belkin cables

On Friday a package arrived from Amazon with the two Belkin USB-C to micro-USB cables I had ordered. As a number of the disks I have use the micro-USB to USB cables, each needs an adapter to connect to the latest Macs. The obvious solution is a suitable cable but they are just not available here, along with so many other useful accessories which can be bought in other countries.

Readers have pointed out that another USB-C hard disk has been seen here. This pales in comparison with the numbers available elsewhere. Amazon sent details of the Glyph Atom Silver, 275GB SSD ($129.95 - 4641 baht) which, like the LaCie disk, connects directly to the USB-C ports of the Mac. There are also 525GB and 1TB Atom SSD options, but these do not ship here. This was reviewed by Jeff Benjamin on 9to5 Mac.

Belkin cable Disk connected with Belking cable

The 1-metre Belkin cables I bought are beautifully made and gave me no problems at all when I swapped them for the older ones. I keep one at the office and one is at home. With a couple of adapters too I am fully connected and data is being transferred at fast speeds.

LaCie Disks
MacBook Pro with LaCie Porsche Design disks both connecting using USB-C
USB-C to micro-USB (left) and USB-C to USB-C

Data Recovery

Following the user problem with a hard disk, I put out a query to some local users who made suggestions where this might be possible. The services (not endorsed by me) are:

My thanks to those users who took the time to seek these out.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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