iMac speed improvements

I’ve been annoyed at the laggardly behaviour of our iMac, currently running El Capitan, 10.11.6 . We’ve had the old girl for a few years now and I was sure that successive OS X upgrades had left some crud clogging it up – somewhere!

Even though I had cleaned up the Login Items for each user in System Preferences, I suspected there were other App “helpers” still running.

(Follow along if you want to try this at home).

Make sure you have a good backup.

Start up in Safe Mode (Hold <Shift> throughout startup).

Open a Finder window and go to Macintosh HD/Library/Launch Agents

In my case, I found these files:

com.adobe.AAM.Updater-1.0.plist

com.adobe.ARMDCHelper.<a very long hex number>.plist

com.google.keystone.agent.plist

The first 2 related to Adobe Air and the Adobe Auto Updater. I thought I had deleted Adobe Air a long time ago but on further investigation I found it was still there! So I deleted it. I also deleted Adobe Acrobat reader because I no longer use it. I then deleted the .plist files. Of course, if you find similar files and you use Adobe Air or other Adobe products, you won’t want to delete them. Obviously your requirements will differ from mine.

The third file was more “interesting”. This is an auto update Daemon which Google uses to check for updates to products you have installed. In my case, the Chrome browser and NIK plug-ins. I decided to find out how often it “phones home”.

In Terminal, type:

defaults read com.google.Keystone.Agent and press <Return>

It spits out a lot of stuff about the Apps it checks, etc., ending with:

checkInterval = 18000;

Hmm. That’s every 5 hours. Overkill, I thought. So I changed the interval to once a week:

defaults write com.google.Keystone.Agent checkInterval 604800 <Return>

Of course, you could delete the daemon completely but I decided against that.

Lastly, I deleted the caches in Macintosh HD/Library/Caches, that’s  <File -> Select All> then <File -> Move to Trash>. I then did the same for each user in Macintosh HD/Users/<user name>/Library/Caches. This will remove any old, broken or corrupt caches which might be causing a problem. It is safe to delete the caches as OS X will create new ones the next time the user logs in.

Finally, I restarted the Mac (still in Safe Mode) and emptied each user’s Trash. Once that was completed, I restarted the Mac normally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GSAK Update

So the other day I got myself a new MacBook Pro. I chose not to use Migration Assistant this time around, so I could install everything from scratch and avoid the build-up of cruft from previous upgrades getting onto my new notebook.

One job was installing GSAK. The Wine install went like a dream and I was able to import the database from the old installation easily using the Restore command.

GSAK gave me a prompt that a new version was available as an update so I thought “what the heck?” and clicked the update link. I was expecting it to freeze as I was running in Wine, not a native MS Windows platform but to my surprise it simply ran the installer and, lo! I had upgraded to 8.7. Happy with that.

New Mac

My MacBook Air (Mid 2012) was getting a bit long in the tooth. Leastways, that’s my excuse. So earlier this week I caved in and bought one of these:

MacBook Pro in a box

In the past when I’ve bought a new Mac, I’ve used Migration Assistant as part of the setup process. This time I decided to start from scratch and set it up “as new”, installing applications and configuring settings such as email “longhand”.  It has taken a bit longer but the MBP is now exactly how I want it and it isn’t bogged down with the inevitable residual cruft you get from previous upgrades (which it would have if I’d migrated from a backup of the MBA).

First impressions: Design, like it. Smaller than my MBA. Keyboard is very different, I expected that from trying it out at the Apple Store. Display – Retina – is a huge improvement over my MBA. The Touch Bar looks to be useful, although I am still mostly using the keyboard shortcuts I’ve built into my memory over the years. I’ll let you know more as I use it. One thing I am missing is the MagSafe connector for the power cable, I really think that’s a retrograde step.

Anyway…

Next step: installing GSAK. !

Backups

So, the other day I deleted an App from my iPhone in an attempt to fix a bug, with the idea that I would re-install the App thus fixing the bug. I then had a bit of mild panic because I couldn’t find the App in the App Store to download. Fortunately I remembered that the iPhone ‘hides’ purchased Apps so when I looked there, there it was. Phew. Unfortunately re-installing it didn’t fix the bug but that’s a different story.

The point is, whilst I was panicking, I thought I could always restore the iPhone from the iTunes backup on my Mac. Then I remembered how old that backup was. So today I backed up my iPhone and iPad to my Mac. While I was there I backed up some other key data on the iOS devices keeping those backups independent from the catch-all iTunes one.

A word about iOS backups: although you can backup your iOS device to iCloud (and it’s great that it does this automatically if you leave your device on, locked & connected to a power source), it doesn’t  backup everything (e.g. Apps!). It’s certainly worth doing a periodic iTunes backup as well.

Hint: turn on Encryption before hitting that ‘Back Up Now’ button, that way it will save all your logon credentials, saving you loads of time if/when you come to do a restore.

itbup

One more thing. Don’t forget to backup your Mac’s HDD (using Time Machine or similar).

Apple Watch

What normally happens is this:

A new Apple product comes out. I have a look at it in an Apple Store and conclude that I don’t need or want it. Some time later I end up buying said product.

I think this particular product may be the exception to the rule.

Having had a look at them in their glass cases and examined a “Sport” model close up I can confirm that I won’t be buying one. I’m sure they are very nice and have lots of geeky features but that’s not going to tempt me.

I have a wrist watch (quite a nice one as it happens) which I use to find out what the time of day is. For everything else I have my iPhone. And my Mac, Oh, and my iPad.

If I was going to spend a lot of money on a watch I’d buy something more traditional which just tells the time.

Sorry, Apple.

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

IT Crowd - Roy

Yosemite has been playing nicely on my MacBook Air so I decided it was time to upgrade the iMac.

After doing all the usual safety procedures and testing the backups it was time to upgrade. The iMac has had a few OS X upgrades since I bought it – it came with 10.6 Snow Leopard – and I did consider doing a clean install. However the “normal” upgrade route has had good reports so I opted for that.

The upgrade proceeded smoothly to begin with and I left it to get on with it, however when I returned some time later it seemed to have stuck on the last install screen at 50% complete. I left it for about half an hour and nothing had changed so I did what any highly trained Mac technician would do.

I powered it off and on again.

That did the trick and the iMac booted happily. I had been pretty sure it had got stuck at the reboot stage of the process so turning it off and on again forced the reboot it should have done by itself. Just to be on the safe side I then restarted it up in Safe (or Single User) Mode (Cmd + S) and ran /sbin/fsck -fy. Next, I booted from the Recovery Partition (Cmd + R) and used Disk Utility to repair permissions on the iMac’s startup disk.

Since then it has been fine and I’m now in the process of reorganising my data files to take advantage of iCloud Drive.

Yosemite

When Yosemite first dropped I wasn’t in the mood to be one of the “early adopters”. Normally with a new OS I’d be straight in there but I put off updating from Mavericks and I think I did the right thing. Apparently there were lots of minor problems reported on the discussion forums, not least a problem with dropped WiFi connections. Anyway, I decided I’d wait for a point release and then of course I had my eye problem…

Now that Apple have released a further point release (OS X 10.10.2) which purported amongst other things to fix the WiFi issue I thought I’d update my MacBook Air for starters. Opinion is divided between those who simply update from whatever their existing OS was and those who insist that a clean install followed by a restore of their backed-up data is the only surefire way to a reliable system. I thought I would risk the former and use my backup plan to do a clean install and restore if necessary.

I followed my usual backup method – which is really about ensuring I have a good backup in case of a SNAFU – prior to starting the update. In other words:

  1. Backup to external disk using Time Machine
  2. Create a bootable clone of the entire Macintosh HD partition on an external disk (I use Superduper!).
  3. Test the clone by booting from it and testing the basic functions of OS X.
  4. Verifying the Macintosh HD disk.

No. 4 gave me a couple of disk errors. Nothing serious. Nevertheless I booted the Mac in safe mode (that’s booting it while holding down the CMD and S keys) and running fsck to check and repair the disk:

/sbin/fsck – fy

It found some minor file allocation errors and then returned the message “Macintosh HD appears to be OK” (which is always a good sign). I rebooted it as normal and downloaded the Yosemite installer from the Apple App store.

It pays to have a Plan B, which in my case would be to restore everything to its last Mavericks configuration – I have a backup for that! – but it’s very useful to have a stand-alone copy of the OS X installer on a USB drive. If you have that, you can boot from it and run diagnostics or repairs from there and/or install the OS from scratch if need be. A useful spin-off is that if you have several Macs to update to the new OS, having a copy of the installer on a portable disk saves having to download the large installer image onto each Mac.

Starting with Mavericks, Apple have made it easy to create a bootable copy of the installer. There are other ways of doing it but I think using Apple’s “createinstallmedia” utility is fine. Here’s the method:

  1. When you download the OS X Installer app, it places it in the Applications folder. This method assumes you’ve left it there. (Don’t forget, if you run the installer and update the Mac, the installer app gets deleted from the Applications folder afterwards, so you need to create the USB copy first).
  2. Using Disk Utility, format an 8GB USB drive and give it the label “Untitled”. Leave it connected to a USB port on your Mac.
  3. Open a Terminal window and enter this command:

    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app –nointeraction

  4. Let it run (takes a while!) and you will be left with a bootable USB disk containing the installer.
  5. To start your Mac from the USB drive, start the Mac whilst holding the Option (alt) key down. Once the Mac starts it will display the list of available bootable drives, select the USB drive from that list.

So, having tested my backups, downloaded the OS X update and created my USB installer, I was ready to undertake the update.

The Yosemite update was very straightforward (as Apple intended) and my Mac was soon up and running. I’ve left iCloud Drive off for the moment until I’m happy that everything is working as it should.

Moving Time Machine files – Deja Vu

Having got myself a new external hard drive I decided to move my MacBook Air’s Time Machine backup from the old disk (which was full) to the new one. It was at this point that I remembered that I’d done this before and, what’s more, I’d written a post about it. Anyway, that was over 18 months ago so I thought I’d try Apple’s official method again. Ha Ha. Last time Apple’s method didn’t work, maybe it’s been fixed…

Apple’s official method goes like this:

  1. In Disk Utility, partition your new HDD as “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” with a GUID partition
  2. Open the File Info window and make sure that “Ignore ownership on this volume” at the bottom of the “Sharing & Permissions” section is not checked.
  3. Turn Time Machine off
  4. Using Finder, copy the file “Backups.backupdb” from the old disk volume to the new one.

So I did this and, after an hour or so of happy copying, it failed. More accurately, it failed on specific files which it claimed could not be copied. To be honest I wasn’t surprised, given previous experience, so this attempt was made more as an experiment than with any expectation that it would work. Thing is, why does Apple continue to push this method when it has a reputation for not working? (You can look at the Apple Discussion Forums)

Last time I copied my Time Machine files, I used Carbon Copy Cloner to do a block-by-block copy but this time, I thought, Apple’s Disk Utility could provide the solution.

First off, I used Disk Utility to perform a repair of the old backup disk, to ensure that any file corruptions or permission errors were resolved prior to copying, as this could have been a reason for the Apple method failing. I did a Partition-level repair then a File-level repair. Interestingly, neither of these found anything to repair which sort of squashed that little theory. Ah well, on to the important bit. After formatting the new volume as per Apple’s instruction (above) I was all set. Here’s the method:

  • In System Preferences, turn Time Machine off
  • Connect both the old and new HDDs
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Select the original backup disk from the list in the left column and click the “Restore” Tab.
  • Drag the original backup disk volume (i.e. the one to be copied) to the “Source” field.
  • Drag the new backup disk volume to the “Destination” field.

 

  • Click the “Restore” Button.
  • The copy will take some time to complete. Once it has finished, the name of the destination volume will have changed to be the same as that of the original. This could be a bit confusing so eject the original volume.
  • You could change the name of the new volume but there is a risk (call that bitter experience!) that Time Machine will see this as a different disk and instead of carrying on as before, start a fresh backup and discard the backup history you were trying to retain in the first place. My preference was to simply eject the original volume before resuming Time Machine. After all, if the copy has been successful, the old one will no longer be required and after a decent period of mourning (just to be on the safe side) the old disk can be repurposed.
  • Back in System Preferences, turn Time Machine on. Enter Time Machine and check that you can browse the backup history. Do a sample file restore to check everything is working as it should. If that checks out, let it perform a backup cycle, afterwards checking that the backup history can still be accessed and restored from.

And that’s it. I won’t pretend this is a quick procedure. For some people it won’t even be necessary. You’ll need to consider whether you really need to keep a long range of backups stretching back a year or more. You could always keep the original disk somewhere safe for a while and allow Time Machine to start afresh with the new disk.

Lastly, if you do try either of the above methods, you do so at your own risk. What worked for me might not work for someone else. Before you undertake any file management activities make sure you have a robust backup of any important data.

Battery drain

Today my MacBook Air’s battery went from fully charged to 27% in a matter of a few hours, most of which was spent in sleep mode. Not good!

So I launched Activity Monitor and had a look at the Energy Impact readings. Wow! It reported Google Drive running at over 100. That was definitely not a good thing. So I closed the App down and re-launched it. This time Google Drive’s energy impact was at around 2.5. Much better!

I found that this issue has been reported in Mac discussion forums but not in any great numbers. So for now I’ll keep an eye on it, if the issue persists then I can always bin GD. Anyway, when Yosemite drops I will be able to try out the full iDrive experience. And if that’s as good as it’s cracked up to be, GD’s days will be numbered for me anyway.