Out with the Old: Get Ready for the New

By Graham K. Rogers


When I was a teenager, I had a series of cheap, used cars. The criteria for changing those that lasted was either that the ashtrays were full or the tyres needed changing.

I do not drive much these days, but similar rules apply with my Macs. Not that I smoke nowadays. I have had my current MacBook Pro for almost three years and it has run almost faultlessly through three different versions of OS X. I have not powered the Mac down in all that time, apart from when updating software and changing the battery, with only two forced shutdowns. In short: a reliable machine.

That has changed recently and the "ashtray principle" applies: my hard disk is reaching capacity. Time for a change; but this time may be the wrong time. I write this just before what is likely to be a week of announcements from Apple and it may be that, as well as a new product, there will be updates to other hardware as well as software. By the time you read this, we will know; but I cannot wait. My hard disk is bursting at the seams.

With worn tyres, I might have had problems with grip, now I have problems with spinning cursors, serious time delays as data is accessed, the occasional seizure and -- serious this -- the first kernel panic for a long time. My MacBook Pro is running out of breath and needs a rest. I will pass it on to a friend, as I did my early G3 iMac which is still running.

two MBP computers
The Old and the New

When my MacBook Pro first arrived, the 2.16Ghz processor and 1G RAM was fine, although I quickly upgraded the RAM to 2G. Now the 15" MacBook Pro (which is the intended replacement) starts with 2.53GHz processor and has 4G RAM as standard. Hard disk options are all also larger starting at 250G, while my current 120G disk has about 18G spare on a good day.

in the box

Generation of logs takes up space; caches fill up too. After a couple of days, even emptying the Trash frequently, the available space is reduced to around 13G and problems are beginning to set in. A short-term solution would be to shut down when not working, but over the years with OS X, I open application after application and, if they are idle, no resources are being used. On a usual working day, I may have 20 or more applications open and ready for instant work.

Most will start up fairly easily, but some are resource-greedy. The Open Source NeoOffice always has a delayed opening, so this is better kept open. Aperture 2 has also slowed, especially since Snow Leopard was installed and this takes a while to start up as it, like iPhoto, reads all the library data. Another with a large library of data is iTunes. I am keeping my fingers crossed that a 64-bit Aperture 3 was one of the announcements last week. It is also probable that iTunes is due for an update.

Shutting down, means all of these have to be closed one by one and this can be slow as each packs away its data, putting it into the right places: any type of forced shutdown will circumvent this normal process and may cause troubles later.

In preparing for my next notebook Mac, apart from squirreling away the funds, I am already planning which data will be transferred and how. An Apple utility called Migration Assistant will do the job, but I prefer to take several days to transfer all data and install the applications I want manually. That includes a complete reinstall of the operating system on the new computer: straight out of the box. To some this may be overkill, but I believe that careful preparation, clean data and only installing the parts of the operating system I want, give me a computer without problems (until recently of course).

Migration Assistant Time Machine

I will be able to move the data across in a number of ways: direct from computer to computer using Firewire or Ethernet; from backups kept on two external hard disks (one of those kept off-site) and my iMac; and from the Time Machine backup. All applications will be installed as new. With Time Machine (like Migration Assistant) I could simply take everything from my current set up and put it on the new one; but that is lazy, and if there are any problems with data (such as with preference files) these could also be transferred. This is why I prefer the clean approach.

Whatever Apple released last week in terms of a new product was expected to be a game-changer according to the many rumours we were reading. I will comment next week on how it may work here in Thailand, if it is released in all markets, as well as any other implications.

Right now, it is time for another symbolic emptying of ashtrays.



Made on Mac

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