Utility software

Mac 911

Media Meltdowns

I have converted many old VHS tapes to DVD-R, using name-brand media. When I tried to view one of my DVDs 18 months later, it stalled, skipped, and stopped dead in its tracks. I watched the DVD right after burning it, and it played perfectly. I thought that once I made a successful DVD, it would last basically forever. What’s going on?—Mike Volpe

Although the folks who manufacture DVDs claim that the discs can last for years, they base that claim on lab tests designed to simulate the aging process. When it comes to the real world, only time will tell.

Factors that can contribute to failing media are poor quality (not all DVDs are created equal), humidity, sunlight, and abuse. But you can lessen the impact of these factors.

To begin with, buy good media. Those in the know suggest that Taiyo Yuden’s products are reliable and stable when treated well. A Google search will turn up American companies that sell this Japanese brand. Next, carefully store your discs in an environment that’s as moisture- and sunlight-free as you can find—for example, in an airtight container with a silica gel pack, tucked away in a cupboard. And you should, of course, put discs back in their cases rather than leaving them atop a hot AV amplifier or letting your five-year-old use them as Frisbees.

Your tale of woe also demonstrates that one should never rely on a single backup to a particular medium. The more copies you make, and the more different media you use, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to recover your data down the road.

iPod Insurance

I know that iPods suffer glitches with some frequency, and reloading all my tunes is quite a tedious and frustrating process. Is there an easy way to store a perfect clone that I can put back on the iPod in case of emergency?—Bob Marketos

Mike Bombich’s $5 Carbon Copy Cloner can do the job. Connect your iPod to your Mac and launch Carbon Copy Cloner. From the Source Disk pop-up menu, select your iPod. From the Target Disk pop-up menu, choose the hard drive where you want to store your backup (see “Prone to Clone”). Click on the Preferences button; in the sheet that appears, enable the Create A Disk Image On Target option. Click on Save, click on the lock icon next to the Clone button, enter your administrator password in the resulting sheet, and click on OK to dismiss the sheet. Click on the Clone button, and the program will begin cloning everything on the iPod to a disk image on the target drive.

If you need to restore this backup to your iPod, first erase the iPod by installing the latest iPod Updater. Then, on the target drive, double-click on the disk image to mount it. (It will be called name of iPod. sparseimage, where name of iPod is the name of your iPod.) Launch Carbon Copy Cloner, choose the mounted disk image as the source, and choose the iPod as the target. Click on the lock icon again. Once you’ve entered the required password, click on the Clone button. Carbon Copy Cloner will copy the data stored in the disk image back to the iPod. Once the process is complete, your iPod will regain all the music and data it had when you first cloned it. Naturally, it won’t have any music or data you’ve added since then.

Another alternative should be available by the time you read this: ProSoft Engineering’s $59 TuneTech. ProSoft says that in addition to backing up your iPod, TuneTech will repair it, optimize its playlists so they’re more efficient (meaning that your iPod’s hard drive has to spin up less often, thus saving the battery charge), salvage some deleted files, shred data, duplicate the iPod’s contents to another iPod, and scan the iPod’s drive for damage.

Simpler Spotlight

Is there any way to make Spotlight search just document names and not the contents of the tens of thousands of files I have on my hard disk?—Ron Belisle

The best solution I’ve found is to enter your search term inside quotation marks. Although this doesn’t narrow your search to just document names, it does narrow it to instances when those words appear together. For this reason, the closer you come to the file’s full name, the more accurate your results will be.

For example, if I enter

Mac 911 invoice
with no quotation marks, Spotlight offers 151 matches (and would offer scads more if I used an e-mail client that Spotlight indexes, such as Apple’s Mail ). Some of these results contain those three magic words in the document’s title. When I enter
“Mac 911 invoice”
, with quotation marks included, however, I see 30 results, all of which have the words Mac 911 invoice in the title. But note that this trick works only when you enter entire words. If I enter
“Mac 911 inv”
, for instance, I get bubkes.

There’s no need to worry about iPod accidents—you can use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a perfect copy of your data and restore your iPod for next to nothing.

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