Just in case anyone decides to try this

OS X Migration Assistant via network cable sucks. Even if it’s gigabit.

The new mini has arrived, and I decided to see if gigabit would be faster than my USB 5200rpm Time Machine drive for restoring a 40gb profile via the Migration Assistant. It was slooooow. I didn’t want to waste time setting up Time Machine, and I misread the free space on it, so after all that migration fun with the new backup drives I just said “bugger it” and wiped the Time Machine drive. The new initial backup is taking forever, so to be honest the network migration probably wound up around the same speed as direct TM restore would’ve been.

I know, I know… wiping backups is insane and stupid. I still have the second drive offsite with the old backups on it, but really I don’t think I care about historical backups that much. Just the protection of data. I might use the second drive as an experiment, see how TM handles backing up a new system with the same computer name (if it dies I’ll just wipe that one too).

On a lighter note, the new mini is suitably fast in the graphics department. I was totally delusional thinking it was anywhere near the speed of my desktop card (ATI x1950) but for the games I’ve been playing recently it seems fine. After looking at benchmarks, I certainly wasn’t expecting to play City of Heroes in full 1920×1200 resolution so that was a nice surprise 🙂

Now, on to formatting the old mini as a clean TV machine 😀

I never make snap decisions

For all of this excitement over the new mac mini, I’ve waited 3 days to actually order one. Taking my time for large monetary decisions is something I was trained to do from a very young age (along with not owning a credit card) and it’s constantly paying off. There was some rumors that using the base model with upgraded ram automatically increased the size of the shared VRAM – and that has now been confirmed.

What that means is I save myself $260 by sticking with the 120gb drive! I can easily pick up a speedy firewire 800 drive for far less than that when I run out of room. I’m not comfortable with upgrading a machine under warranty or I’d be buying it with 1gb of ram and saving myself even more with a cheap 4gb kit.

The extra time has had other bonuses too. I’ve found someone to buy my copy of iWork ’08; I’m picking up iWork ’09 for what will work out to be very little money. I’ve also been talking to Suneth who wants to sell his apple wireless keyboard. He very generously offered to sell it to me at a large discount; the price of a new wired keyboard with numpad. Since I get free shipping by ordering it at the same time as a new machine, it’s smiles all round 😀

A little price comparison

In an attempt to find out just how much Apple Tax I would be paying for this new Mac Mini, I did up a quick comparison with the Dell equivalent Studio Hybrid. The results:

Dell VS Mac Mini base systems

Dell vs Mac Mini upgraded

The base system difference is $400 but after applying the upgrades I want that drops to about $360. So is the extra money worth it for:

  • OSX + iLife ’09 vs Vista
  • Decent video card vs the crappy thing I’m already using in the old model Mac Mini

Considering I want this new machine for games, signs point to yes 🙂

Speaking of price comparisons though I was disappointed to discover that iWork ’09 is $30 more expensive than iWork ’08 was. So the $30 discount with a new machine means I get to pay exactly what I paid 6 months ago. The new features may be fantastic, but I don’t think they’re worth it for me at full cost.

Looks like I’m buying a new mac

After much excitement in the last couple of days, the new Mac Minis have arrived. The Australian store is still down and it’s well past sleepy time for me, so I’ll just say that I’m totally buying one.

I can’t remember the exact benchmarks but I’m fairly sure that the 9400M is close enough to the video card in my desktop machine that I can move my games over to it. Plus, now that I can finally get a mini with 4gb ram I’ll be able to look at running some VMs. I’ve been avoiding that with my current box after realising that I could spare less than 1gb for a VM which always ends badly.

One of the more interesting points I noticed is that iWork ’09 is available for a discount with new machines. I’ve been putting off the upgrade because I probably won’t use many of the new features, but at that price I’ll find someone to sell my copy of ’08 to 🙂

Bring on the new TV setup!

The Australian store is kinda up, and wow the price increase for the higher spec model is nuts. It’s nearly as much as I paid for the old version after adding the AppleCare warranty. Still, I think I’ll need the extra video ram… even if I have no use for the bigger HDD.

For my American readers playing at home, the $799 you pay translates to about $1260 here. Gotta love the $140 markup we pay, huh.

Does speed matter for backup drives?

Something I noticed very quickly last night after migrating my Time Machine partition was the drive speed. If you have ever wondered why Time Machine sometimes takes forever on the “preparing backup” stage you’ll likely find this message in your console:

Node requires deep traversal:/ reason:kFSEDBEventFlagMustScanSubDirs|kFSEDBEventFlagReasonEventDBUntrustable|

In english, that means the backup cache (FSEvents) is out of sync (it’s the fancy background process that tracks drive activity and makes Time Machine so fast). “Deep Traversal” means that your entire drive must be scanned and compared to the Time Machine drive before the current backup can proceed. I regularly see this when rotating my backup drives, but not always.

On my old backup drives this takes a grand total of 9 minutes. After pointing Time Machine at the copy of it’s data on my new drive however, it took 33 minutes. The question is, should I care? Subsequent incremental backups went at their usual pace (4 seconds to backup 600kb and delete a backup from 24hrs ago).

This drive is going to sit (eventually) in a place that I don’t notice it except on Friday morning when I unplug it to be rotated. It’s not like my mac seems to notice the difference, USB drives don’t putting any noticeable load on my CPU. If it takes 1 minute or 1 hour it isn’t likely to bother me either way unless the mac goes to sleep in the middle and it doesn’t finish the backup.

Considering the benefits I get (no noise, drastically reduced power usage, only 1 cable instead of 3) I think I can live with this minor flaw.

Well that’s worth knowing

My migration has gone quite well with one rather interesting exception. My general storage partition is fat32 so that I can transfer files between my mac and windows machines; this apparently doesn’t play well with Disk Utility’s copy disk option.

The data copied fine, but the copied partition is the same size as the old one leaving me with a 60gb hole in my new drive. Oh well I’ll just have to start again copying it the old fashioned way 😉

Fun with backup migration

I bought a 250gb Seagate FreeAgent Go last year for transferring files around, and was absolutely amazed at the size and weight. After using it for a while I have decided that these drives will make a perfect backup solution; like most 2.5″ external drives it is impossible to know it’s active without looking at the glowing lights on top. This is in stark comparison to the drives I’m using now (see my most popular post ever for those details).

Take another look at my old desk setup. By the time I posted that I had already moved the big clunky backup drive off the desk and into a cupboard (via a very long FireWire cable) because the noise was so annoying in an otherwise fairly quiet room. I originally bought those drives because I wanted something cheap and user-servicable for the eventual day that the drive fills up. They definitely filled that need but at the same time you definitely get what you pay for.

The FreeAgent Go drives may be a little more expensive than the build-it-yourself models, but as well as being whisper-quiet they only need a single USB connector and it turns out Time Machine backups use even less space than I thought. Thanks to my rotation policy Time Machine’s weekly backups are spread across two drives – so with 2 instead of 4 per month on each drive I can only assume that the speed at which my backups are growing is halved. In the 4 months since I purchased the drives I have only created 85gb of backups (aided by the exclusion of my download and VM image folders). Who needs to worry about filling a 320gb drive at that rate?

It quickly became clear to me that I could use my existing FreeAgent drive for backups; 250gb is obviously plenty of room. I needed a second 250gb to continue my weekly rotation and then a new drive to store the data from my old 250. Prices have dropped so much in the last 4 months that the 320s are now going for the price of my first 250 so I went for a blue 320 (to help differentiate them). I had to lose a few USB devices but they’re all happily plugged in to my Mac while I do the migration:
(Compare that to the old desk to get an idea of how much better my desk looks. And yes, that’s one of the free Apple stickers on my old storage drive :)).

The first problem came when I was partitioning the new general storage drive. I have a pretty weird setup with 4 partitions; a 7 and 15gb for work, 60gb for the bootable backup and what’s left goes to general storage. Unfortunately, Disk Utility doesn’t like to play ball with partitions smaller than what will fit on the pretty little graph – it just never seems to get it right. This caused me a few headaches because even at 1920×1200 the smallest I could make a partition on the graph was 12gb and I need that 4th partition to be 7gb for a reason.

My solution, of course, was both crazy and brilliant at the same time:
vertical fun
I love my 24″ Dell monitor (one of the originals, with 5 inputs and a swivel desk mount). I haven’t used the vertical rotation in a while, it’s always easy to forget just how wide these monitors are 🙂

Once all that was done, I had to think about migrating my Time Machine backup. I wasn’t totally concerned about wiping the wrong drive (having an offsite backup relieves so much stress from this process) but it would still be annoying so I did a bit of research on migrating Time Machine drives. I’m not the first one to do this of course – and as any experienced OS X hacker would know, the best solution is using Disk Utility’s copy disk option. I have used DU’s restore feature before, but never read the fine print that said it could be used to duplicate partitions 🙂

I ran the restore process on my general storage partitions first; I needed to migrate the data to the new drive anyway, and if something went wrong I wouldn’t lose anything critical. After I was satisfied I began the big migration… DU reported nearly 1.1 million files on the TM drive so I was very glad to be doing a fast block copy with a full verification pass. No wonder people trying to use file-based copy methods have so many problems!

I hope this post is useful to someone (my last Time Machine post certainly has been). In the meantime, USB transfers apparently don’t take much CPU so I’ve been using my computer as normal while waiting for the copy to finish. This meant chaining a few USB hubs together – my USB Device Tree looks like an actual tree now 😀

A final jailbreak update

I’m hooked, no two ways about it. Stacks is just so cool that I have to throw a video in:

I use it in the mode pictured with 5 apps in the fan style, but you can also add more and get the grid effect. I don’t use it because the grid effect is a tiny bit slower and with my iPod button in the stack I want opening it to be as fast as possible 😉

The highlight of the last few days was discovering that there is a ScummVM port for the iPhone. I had been using it on my DS via a flash cart but the screen res on the DS is a little low so you either use a zoom mode or put up with odd scaling issues. That’s not a problem on the iPhone 😀

All told, I’m a jailbreaker for life now. LockCalendar means that I actually take note of upcoming events (although that’s rumored for inclusion in a future firmware update), SBSettings gives me instant access to wifi/3g/airplane toggles, and Categories + Stack gives me a nice, clean, extremely quick to navigate two pages of app icons. I’ll finish with a quick update to other things I’ve mentioned previously:

  • I no longer care about losing IntelliScreen. I’ve already mentioned that LockCalendar is fine with the latest update, and StatusNotifier gives me little icons next to the battery at the top (I don’t use the big ones on the lock screen) which are more than enough to let me know when I have unread email.
  • A respring is definitely required to re-hide updated App Store apps that were previously hidden. Not a huge surprise, really.
  • My battery life doesn’t seem to be particularly affected now that I’ve gone through and removed all of the jailbreak apps that I wasn’t using – including a few that ran as background daemons. Most of my visible hacks are springboard-based addons (SBSettings, LockCalendar and Winterboard Themes) meaning the only new background task is Scrobblerd. My last.fm profile has finally started updating with things I listen to on my iPhone! 🙂
  • I was quite surprised at how little difference my themes and MobileSubstrate plugins made to memory usage. Thanks to SSH access I can look at the details – I turned off all of my themes and uninstalled a bunch of stuff but the Springboard memory usage stayed around the 20-25mb I see with them on. I haven’t noticed any game slowdowns at all so I’m pretty sure none of my other apps will be affected by the jailbreak 😀
  • Bandwidth usage hasn’t been a problem. I’ve used less than 30mb in the week since I noticed the sudden increase; all of my app downloads (both jailbreak and normal) have been on wifi. Even after enabling the Google Calendar Sync and with hourly IMAP mail checking my data usage barely moved all day today.

For the record, if Apple ever add an option to view calendars on the lock screen (and scroll through events up to a week in advance) then I would consider returning to the basic firmware. I could even live without the easy 3G setting that I originally did the jailbreak for. But now that I have a constant reminder of what is on my calendar I’m actually using it and remembering upcoming events or todo items that I’ve logged in it. That’s something I’ve been trying to achieve for ages and is more valuable to me than anything else I’ve gained from the iPhone.

The continuing adventures of jailbreak

Things aren’t always peachy.

  • Solutions for lock screen status updates are still under investigation. Nothing really comes close to IntelliScreen for functionality, but I’m going to investigate Lock Widgets before I make a final decision. I’m really going to miss reading my mail on the lock screen if I do ditch IntelliScreen, it combines new mail updates from both of my email accounts 😦
  • The only alternative for IntelliScreen’s event list is LockCalendar and it’s a mixed bag. The 0.2 release (current when I was testing it) had some very nasty bugs. However, what was going to be a rant has turned mild after I found the developer feedback thread and discovered that a new release has just been pushed out fixing every problem I had.
  • SBSettings doesn’t play nice with the SSH server. BossPrefs had an explicit “do not start ssh server on boot” option, but now whenever my phone boots I have to remember to turn it off. I could just uninstall it – it’s an optional extra anyway – but I think having shell access to fix problems will turn out to be invaluable while I’m still learning how it all works.
  • When you upgrade an app in the App Store, and the app has been hidden, it isn’t hidden anymore. I keep using the “update all” button instead of updating one at a time, so I haven’t had a chance to find a good workaround. But it looks like a simple respring is the easiest fix.
  • I really hope I can get through tomorrow without a respring. I want to know what the battery life is like with all of this stuff running and when you reset the counter doesn’t start until you fully charge again 🙂
  • I see reports all over the place that IntelliScreen chews battery. It didn’t seem too bad to me, but I think that will be the excuse I use to stop using it and just read my email the normal way.
  • Stack is amazing and just like the real thing, but you need to combine it with iBlank to create a blank icon where the iPod button normally goes.
  • Dock is a nice idea, but I keep trying to change the category by pointing at it where currently you can only change category with your finger below the category list. Writing this off as non-intuitive and not worth running another background process for (yet).
  • Google sync (see previous post of excitement) can wait until tomorrow. I just realised that my OS X calendar syncs with Plaxo, not Google. Some Assembly Required before I turn that on. And dropping Plaxo will mean no more syncing with Hotmail (not that I really need to anymore).

Adventures in Jailbreak software

I figure that while I’m on this learning experience it might be fun to document some of the things I’m learning along the way. Lessons so far:

  • Backgrounder works as advertised, but it sucks. Apps pop to the front rather than smoothly zoom in from the centre; after months of the proper app switching style this is quite jarring for Safari and Mail and unresolvably annoying for Categories. Without the background wipe the icons in each Category “folder” float on top of the normal springboard icons so you have to use the non-transparent black background option.
  • BossPrefs was cool, but SBSettings is amazing. All of the really useful settings are now available without loading a separate app; this baby is a springboard extension so it just pops down on top of the current app 😀
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SK4x26z674 (only the first half of this one is showing off features, you don’t have to watch it all).
  • The custom carrier logos for Australia look so much better than the defaults (at least for Optus).
  • I need to watch my downloading. I forgot to check my data use before jailbreaking, but between leaving exchange on 24/7 and downloading new jailbreak apps via 3G (they were mostly tiny, biggest I remember was 7mb) I’ve used 300mb in a week. Wifi will be seeing extensive use for the rest of this month 😦
  • I don’t know if it will fit my needs but Stack looks like a lot of fun to play with.
  • 5 pages of apps might not sound like much, but after moving 27 game apps into one category and 15 apps I don’t use much into another, I’m down to 2 pages on my springboard. It’s so much better!
  • Be prepared for a lot of crashes in the first 48hrs as you set your jailbreak apps up and figure out what you want to keep. Anything that modifies the springboard has to reset it, including adding an app to a category; this can sometimes go wrong as categories crashed the springboard instead of resetting it at least 6 times today. A springboard reset doesn’t take as long as a full phone reset but it’s still annoying (shuts down the iPod) and chews up the battery.
  • Intelliscreen is better than I expected. I need to get rid of it before I find myself paying $10 to keep it 😉
  • iWood is a good theme to start with after you jailbreak and install winterboard (I’m only using the background image so far).