When backups go bad: The problem with using network drives with Time Machine

Everyone needs to backup their data. No matter what’s on your Mac, if you lose files, you’ll be in a pickle. You may be able to work solely in the cloud, using services such as Dropbox, Google Docs, or Microsoft Office, but there are still essential files on your Mac.

Kirk’s first law of data protection is this: “It’s not a question of whether your hard drive will fail, but when.” If you’re lucky, and if you upgrade your computers frequently enough, you may never see disk failure, but trust me: it eventually happens.

Apple is well aware of this, and its Time Machine backup software is designed to make backups automatic and idiot-proof. Introduced in 2007 with Mac OS X Leopard, Time Machine has saved a lot of bacon over the years.

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Hey Apple, let me control my iCloud Photo Library

Compared to many people I know, I don’t have a very large photo library. With about 1,300 photos, it takes up just under 6GB on my iMac. Many of my friends have thousands of photos and videos, and their libraries take up tens of gigabytes. But I don’t have any young children, and I don’t shoot a lot of photos when I’m out and about. (I do have two cats, one a kitten, who’s been getting snapped lately though.)

I recently noticed that my iPod touch, which I use for listening to music and for testing iOS betas, was running out of space. The culprit was my iCloud Photo Library. Even though I had the device set to optimize iPhone storage and not download all my photos, it was doing the latter. It had apparently downloaded all my original photos and videos, all 6GB of them. On a 32GB device, which also contains apps and music, that’s quite a lot of storage used up.

photos settings ios Apple

These are the settings I had on my iPod touch. It ignored them, and downloaded all my original photos and videos.

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No internet connection? Be prepared for iTunes to drive you crazy

It’s no secret that the iTunes Store is so tightly integrated into the iTunes application that it’s almost as though they were Siamese twins. As your local copy of iTunes has become increasingly linked to Apple’s cloud, it has become dependent on internet access.

But what if you don’t have internet access? Your connection is down; or your router is broken; or you simply don’t want your computer to connect to the internet? Well, iTunes will remind you of this, over and over and over. In such a case, iTunes will pop up an alert every single time you play a song and every time one song finishes and another one begins.

itunes network Apple

If you don’t have network access, you’ll see this dialog whenever you try to play anything. Over and over and over.

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Hey Apple, it's time to give up thinness for a bigger battery

Apple has a problem with batteries. In fact, the problem is so serious that the company had to make a radical decision in the latest update of macOS: they removed the battery time indicator. This appeared when you clicked the Battery menu extra in your menu bar, and it displayed an estimate of how much battery time was remaining on your laptop. Apple claimed this was removed because it was inaccurate; yet that indicator had been present on OS X for as long as I remember.

What suddenly made it inaccurate? The fact that many users are seeing far less than the 10 hours of battery life that Apple advertises with the new MacBook Pro? It wasn’t just Consumer Reports that saw this problem; lots of users and reviewers have seen it as well. (Note that there are a couple of ways to see that estimated battery time if you really want to.)

Apple has been touting “all-day battery life” for years, and only some users actually see their power lasting that long. I’ve never gotten anywhere near a full day’s power on any Apple laptop, and my 12-inch MacBook, bought in 2015, has some of the worst battery life I’ve seen in a long time.

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The Mac App Store Purchased list needs to be more user-friendly

The Mac App Store was a minor revolution when it first started doing business back in 2010. Like the iOS App Store, it lets you easily buy, download, and update apps that you can use on multiple Macs. It also serves as a conduit for updates to Apple software: both the operating system and Apple's apps, such as iTunes, Pages, Xcode, and others.

For many users, it's a great way to buy apps. It offers a single location to get software, and you pay Apple using your on-file credit card or gift card balance. You don't need to worry about giving your credentials to an unfamiliar website, you don't need to store serial numbers, and all your updates come through a single conduit.

But there are plenty of reasons to not buy from Apple; a number of key developers have pulled their software from the Mac App Store, because of the impossibility of having demo versions and upgrade pricing. (This article gives a good list of pros and cons of buying from the Mac App Store.)

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It’s time for Safari to go on a memory diet

I like Safari. I’ve used Apple’s web browser for most of my work since it was released. I do use Chrome and Firefox for certain tasks, but Safari is my default browser.

I like the way Safari has tabs, and how you can pin tabs to keep windows available all the time while only taking up a tiny amount of space in the tab bar.

I like Safari’s Reader feature, the way it connects with my keychain to store passwords, and the ability to sync bookmarks, favorites, and other data with my iOS devices.

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iOS

Apple, let us choose the apps we want to use in iOS

Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems provide a full suite of applications that allow you to do most of what you want without downloading any additional apps. You can browse the web, send and receive email, manage calendars and contacts, and much more, all with the stock apps included in macOS and iOS.

But on macOS, you have the choice to not use those apps. Say you want to use Microsoft Outlook instead of Apple Mail; you can make this change, and when you click a link to send an email, Outlook will open. Or if you want to use Chrome instead of Safari, the same thing will happen: URLs you click will open in Google’s browser.

change browser

In macOS Sierra, change the default web browser in the General pane of System Preferences. To change the default email client, go to Mail’s General preferences.

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