chris barr


Restoring from a Time Machine Backup

It’s usually a good idea to wipe off your hard drive and start fresh once every year or so, regardless of what OS you run. In the past it’s been a thing I’ve dreaded mostly due to the huge time commitment involved. My process before was to:

  1. Make sure all important files were backed up (1 hour minimum)
  2. Wipe the hard drive and re-install OS X (1-2 hours)
  3. Reboot and install OS updates (~30 minutes)
  4. Copy all the backed up file back onto the machine (~1 hour)
  5. Install all software needed from installation disks and the web (3-4 hours No thanks to Creative Suite…)

Needless to say, that’s pretty much an all day event. It involved so many steps that were spaced out just enough so that you couldn’t really leave and get anything done. It can also cause a lot of mental stress because you’re always worried with “Did I remember to back up my _____???” In the end, it was worth it though, I got rid of all kinds of junk that had built up and I ended up with a faster machine that’s no longer bogged down.

Enter Time Machine. I began to use this last year and haven’t looked back yet. For those that don’t yet know, Time Machine is Apple’s brilliant and easy backup solutions. You just designate another hard drive for backups, and once an hour it makes a copy of all the files that have changed. Because of this I have pretty much everything I’ve worked on since the beginning of 2008 – and multiples copies of it.

For those curious, I choose to trust my data with a Drobo, which is like RAID for dummies. I’ve got two redundant 1 Terabyte drives – I feel my data is safe.

One of the best new features in OS X was the ability to use that Time Machine backup as a way to restore your computer to a previous state. This is perfect for you if your hard drive crashes, or even if you’re having problems. My initial thought was that if I was having problems, wouldn’t restoring from Time Machine just restore the problems as well? In short, no. Time Machine only backs up your user data, no system files are backed up and noting that can be re-generated will be backed up (things like caches and your spotlight index).

Recently my Macbook Pro was feeling pretty sluggish. Videos didn’t play smoothly, applications took forever to load, and importing and browsing through my photos in iPhoto was painfully slow. It was time for a clean start. Lucky for me, Time Machine removes the majority of the steps I listed above. Basically all that needs to be done now is:

  1. Wipe the drive, install OS X
  2. Restore from Time Machine
  3. Install OS updates

Now this isn’t a quick process, but it’s no longer a thought intensive, worrisome, all day process. So if you’re in a similar situation to mine and you’re already using Time Machine, lets get started! Follow the jump to read more.

time-machine-1 First, you obviously need to make sure you’re using Time Machine. I’ll assume you know how to do this already, but go ahead and make one last backup just to be sure you have the most recent version of all your files. Next, insert your OSX install disk, open the installer, type in your password and your computer should restart and boot from the CD. Go ahead and unplug your Time Machine drive for now, just to be safe.


Select your language, and then before continuing, go up to the Utilities menu and select Disk Utility. In the Disk Utility, select your hard disk on the left (not the hard drive, the actual disk). On the right, click the Erase tab. You could just click the Erase button right here, but when I erase a hard drive I want to be sure I’m actually erasing the data and not just the index. Your choice, but I’d recommend this next step for thoroughness.

time-machine-3Click the Security Options… button, and a pane will slide down with some secure erase options. Select Zero Out Data. If you’re really paranoid, or work for the DOD, select one of the other options. Hit OK, and now ask yourself if you have really got everything you need off the hard drive, there’s no going back after this. Take a deep breath and press Erase.

This part may take a while since it literally goes over your entire hard drive and writes Zeros on every sector. I’ve got a 160GB drive in my Macbook Pro and it took about an hour or two.

time-machine-4Now is a good time to go run some errands, get some lunch, or do the laundry. Once this is done, close out the Disk Utility and continue with the standard OS X installation. I highly recommend a custom installation, be sure to not install languages you don’t speak, and printer drivers for printers you don’t own and will never own. Now is a great time to get to that ironing you’ve been meaning to do.

After OS X finishes installing you will be presented with the migration assistant. Plug in your Time Machine drive, and select to transfer your data from the Time Machine drive. Select which drive to transfer from, and then select what dat you want transferred. Usually you’d want to restore all your data, so I’d say just go with that. This part may take a while to calculate how much will be restored, so just wait a few minutes and then continue when it lets you.

time-machine-6If you haven’t caught on on LOST, now is a great time. I had about a years worth of backups, and it took around 2 hours to restore completely, just enough time to re-watch that season 5 premiere! Once that finishes, just enter in your information and that should do it. You now have a fresh install of OS X, but will all your data just as before!

First things first though, head up to the apple menu and select Software Update to make sure you’ve got all the latest updates. Install them, restart, and check again. Some updates require others first, so you may get a new set of things to update after the first round of updates. That’s it, you’re done!

Something to keep in mind though is that Time Machine does not back up anything that your Mac can re-build itself. This includes things like your Spotlight index, caches, and your Mail index. The first time you open Mail, you will probably see something like the image below. No big deal, but it’s just something to be aware of. The same thing goes for opening programs for the first time, it’s going to ask you if you’re sure you want to do that since it’s the “first” time it’s been opened on this fresh system.

Hope that was helpful to someone. I tried this process without knowing for sure how it would work, and it turned out to be exactly how I imagined it would be – easy.

(EDIT 1/31/09) – After doing this restore and using my computer for a few days I noticed that Time Machine was no longer doing regular backups! Turns out that for some reason Time Machine is set to Off be default after an install of OS X. Be sure to go into the preferences and turn this back on to continue backing up your data!

Flash Drive Evolution


I’m constantly amazed by how disk storage is constantly growing larger, yet takes on a smaller form factor at the same time. Take a look way back in 1956 when IBM made the worlds first hard drive called the IBM 305, a 5 Megabyte disk that actually had to be transported via forklift and airplane! It weighed in at just over 1 ton and cost $160,000! Today 5MB of space is hardly enough to store a single song or photograph. It’s just a tiny amount to us today, but back then it was revolutionary.

Several years ago I purchased a 256MB flash drive that I could keep in pocket for about $20-$30. This is over 50 times the storage at 1/8000th the price of IBM’s first hard drive! Again a few years later I spent another $20-$30 and bought a 1 Gigabyte flash drive for a similar price, and roughly half the physical size. When compared to IBM’s original, this has 200 times the storage!

I usually use my flash drives to transfer my music from my home to my work computer, or share photos with friends. All of these take up a considerable amount of storage, so I decided it was time for yet another upgrade. I had heard about this awesome little KingMax 8GB flash drive that’s roughly the size of a paperclip and only cost me $12 + shipping. To top all of that off, it’s completely washer/dryer safe as well!

We’ve really come a long way in storage. Check out my USB flash drive heritage.

newusbdrive1 newusbdrive2


Favorite Music of 2008

Thinking back over all the new music I discovered this past year, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite albums (in no particular order). Not all of these were released in the past year, it’s just that I’ve discovered them in the past year.  They’re are amazing albums I can listen to over and over again.  If you haven’t heard anything on this list, go get it right now!

There’s links to download music after the jump, and there’s even some free stuff too!

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

This album is one of the most heartfelt works I’ve ever heard. The story behind this album is that lead singer Justin Vernon’s band band fell apart, his relationship ended, and he got sick. He decided to move to Wisconsin and live in his fathers’ cabin in the woods for 3 months completely alone. He never intended to write any music, but all the daily chores and just the time being alone inspired him to write this album. It’s an extremely mellow and relaxing sound, lots of acoustic guitars and vocals, and I highly, highly recommend you listen to this album! This list of albums aren’t in a particular order, but there is a reason I put this one first.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles

Imagine the sounds an Atari 2600 would make if you threw it into a pool. That’s a pretty good description of what Crystal Castles sounds like, but I’d say this description from Wikipedia puts it best: Their musical style has been described as having “ferocious, asphyxiating sheets of warped two-dimensional Gameboy glitches and bruising drum bombast pierce [the] skull with sheer shrill force, burrowing deep into the brain like a fever”. If you’re a fan of electronica-rock, then this is the ultimate.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Jack Conte

Jack Conte – Sleep In Color/VideoSongs Volume I

I first heard about Jack Conte on Digg when one of his amazing videosongs was submitted. He’s an incredible artist with some very rare real talent. He produces every aspect of s songs all by himself. All vocals, all instruments, recording, etc. He can play nearly any style of music, but I’d venture a guess that if you enjoy Radiohead, they you’d enjoy Jack Conte’s music. If you’re not sure, you don’t even have to buy anything, head over to his YouTube page and watch a few of the videos. I’ve also written about jack previously on my blog.

Website | YouTube | Buy Nightmares and Daydreams on Amazon, buy them all on iTunes, or buy them right from his MySpace .


Santogold – Santogold

I’ve never been a big fan of rap or R&B music, but then again Santogold doesn’t consider herself to fall in either of these genres. She’s said in interviews that she draws a lot of inspiration from 80’s pop songs, and that’s certainly evident. Regarless of how it’s classified, it’s just good music.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

As a huge Death Cab fan, I had to give this album a listen and it certainly did not disappoint. There are tons of great songs on this album with some very funny and sometimes thought provoking lyrics, my particular favorite being Your New Twin Sized Bed. If you’re a fan of other Death Cab albums, be sure to give this one a listen, it’s another winner.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.


Tigercity – Pretend Not To Love

This album was brought to my attention by an old friend from Full Sail, RG Lacandola. He put a few of the songs up on the now defunct and I just fell in love with it. They’ve got a very 70’s vibe to their music with a little bit of modern indie rock thrown in there as well. My favorite track on the album being Are You Sensation.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV

An amazing 4 disk collection of over 2 hours of purely instrumental music by the incredible Trent Reznor. You can get disk 1 completely for free on their website, or just get all 4 disks for a measly $5. That’s not even an option, you have to buy this one for that price! I’ve written abut this album on my blog previously, and I go into a lot more detail there.

Buy it on Amazon or their website.


MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

MGMT is about as indie as you can get musically. Very heavy on the keyboard electronica, and nearly every song is about living free and apart from what everyone else wants. It’s just a great, upbeat, feel good album. Listen to it.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

There Will Be Blood OST

Jonny Greenwood – There Will Be Blood OST

There Will Be Blood was an incredible movie that you should have seen. One of the things that makes the movie so great is the amazing soundtrack to go with it, composed by none other than Johnny Greenwood, guitarist for Radiohead. It’s his first soundtrack ever, and he really blew me away with this one. Imagine if Radiohead only had a full orchestra and had to score a movie (which is pretty much exactly what this is) – yeah, amazing. You can relive so many moments from the movie by listening to just the music, and that’s certainly a measurement of success for a soundtrack.

Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

I first learned about the Mountain Goats from some great interviews Merlin Mann did with the lead singer Peter Hughes (watch part 1, and part 2).The lyrics can really be profound at some times, and each one really paints an entire story in your mind of what’s going on and how this person feels at the time. This is a great album, but if you’ve never listened to any of the Mountain Goats before be sure to go back and listen to a lot of their older stuff as well.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

William Shatner

William Shatner – Has Been

Yes, it’s the actual William Shatner, the one from Star Trek. What really drew me into this album, oddly enough, was the producer – Ben Folds. Ben is one of my all time favorite artists, so if he produces an album I know it’s something I’ll like. Overall, it may seem like a bit of a strange album because it’s just Shatner reading over music – no singing. The music is great, and the “songs” themselves are full of imagery and stories about life, failures, love, and opinions. It’s without a doubt a very unique album, I encourage you to listen to it even if it’s not quite your cup of tea, just once at least.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds

Final Fantasy is another rather strange band, since most of their songs are based on either the storyline or music from video games, as well as having a very heavy use of the violin and piano. It sounds a bit odd, and it truly is, but it’s something worth listening to especially if you’re a bit of a video game nerd – you might recognize a few things and connect.

Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Daft Punk

Daft Punk – Alive 2007

Ah, Daft Punk. Some Brits that dress us as robots in tuxedos and play techno. What’s not to love? Alive 2007 is a live album from their 2007 tour, with all their old songs reinvented. Each track just flows right into the next without ever a pause – which is truly amazing for a live album. If you’re a fan of Daft Punk or techno music in general, this is an absolute must! Also, I’ve written about this album before on my blog.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

Bat for Lashes

Bat for Lashes – Fur and Gold

Strange band name, strange album name, strange music. Strange but good, it can be almost haunting at times, I mean just take a look at this video for What’s a Girl To Do? – it reminds me a lot of Donnie Darko. If you like that song and the vibe it gives, chances are that you’ll like the rest of the album. It’s a great listen. I’ve written about Bat for Lashes previously as well.

Website | Buy it on Amazon or iTunes.