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#833: Installer Magic, One Player to Play Them All, Backup and Cloning


Hello all,

More perfect weather this week, just in time to rescue my wife’s tomatoes from me and my family. Between sweltering heat and crushing downpours, her tomatoes-in-a-bucket have just had a rough summer. I may not have drilled adequate drain holes in said buckets, but I’m going to blame Mother Nature and my busy life instead. That being said we now have a ton of green tomatoes hanging in the sun finally happy and healthy and on the way to being ripe. While our gardening effort wasn’t all I imagined it would be back in March, it certainly hasn’t been a total write-off, and of course it fascinates the kids which is half the reason I do it in the first place.

Jon has a great article this week about some ways to deal with what I still find to be a questionable decision by Apple to make its newest OS versions essentially only available as downloads. The newest upward trend on our support line (behind the perennial winner “I can’t connect to my wireless network”) has been the call that starts: “So I was downloading Lion and….”. It is inconvenient, awkward, and I feel unfairly creates a dependence on high-speed internet to perform a basic and vital service on computers. I like analogies, and when I heard Mountain Lion was download-only I thought “That is like selling a car with no spare tire.” Unfortunately I have learned they now do that as well. So it goes, I guess. The way of the road, as my buddy Ray would say, it’s the way of the road.

Thanks for reading,


  Installer Magic  

With Lion and now Mountain Lion, after purchasing the OS from the App store, the first step is downloading an installer app. This installer app, which can be found in your Applications folder, is a powerful and useful tool. Before allowing it to complete the install of the newly updated version of the OS, you should copy that item to an external HD or USB memory stick as this will allow you to make a portable install device for future installs.

The installer app, like all applications, is a package. If you should right-click (or control-click) on the Install Application icon you can choose from the contextual menu to Show Package Contents. In the new Finder window that opens there will be a single folder labeled Contents that all of the goodies are inside of. The most important folder inside Contents will be SharedSupport. Should you open the SharedSupport folder and drag the InstallESD disk image to the left hand column in the application Disk Utility, you will then be able to burn the installer to a disk: a DVD for Lion or a Dual-Layer DVD for Mountain Lion. You can also use the Disk Utility and an adequately sized USB memory stick to create a bootable install device.

There are other things that you can do with the InstallESD disk image. By double clicking the .dmg file you can mount the disk image and be able to access its contents through the finder. When the Disk Image mounts you will be presented with the structure of the bootable OS installer, Library, System and, amongst other things, Packages. The Packages folder contains the installers packages for the individual installers for the System, Language Support and applications such as Safari.

Why is this important? After completing migration from a failing Macbook Pro to a new machine this week, the unit was returned because of a failure of a single application. Instead of installing the entire OS again on the unit, the solution was to install the single application from the installer package found inside the InstallESD disk image.

  One Player to Play Them All  

Back in the olden days of computing (6 or 7 years ago) playing a particular video on a Mac could sometimes be quite a challenge. In order to play a certain type of video file, you would need a specific video player to go with it, and in the computing world there are many, many different video formats! There’s Flash Video, Raw DV, Windows Media Video, Real, MPEG 1, 2, and 4, DivX, AVI, Matroska (MKV), Xvid, 3ivX, and many others. All of them would either require a special player or a particular type of “codec” (coder/decoder – kind of similar to a plugin) in order for your computer to know how to translate that video file into something that you could actually watch and enjoy.

On the Mac, OS X tends to stick to a small handful of video formats, all of which QuickTime does a pretty good job of working with. However, if any of you readers out there have friends with Windows-based PCs, or even certain brands of video cameras, you may be aware that playing videos that they send you is not always an easy task. This is where something like VLC Player comes in.

VLC Player is a lightweight, free, and open source application that has the ability to read just about any common video format in the known computing world. Not only can it play all of the video formats that were mentioned previously (and more!), it also has the ability to play from streaming video sources as well as close to two dozen different audio formats.

While the latest version of VLC for Mac requires an Intel based Mac and OS X 10.5 or newer, if you have an older computer (even one that is PowerPC based) you can still find versions from the downloads page that will support your machine.

If you’ve ever found yourself stuck trying to play a video that QuickTime simply refuses to touch, do yourself a favor and try out VLC!

Download VLC Player here.

  Backup and Cloning  

Backup is always an important subject that I discuss with my consulting clients. Time Machine is Apple’s built-in technology that backs up all your files, including multiple versions of files that have changed. You can restore your whole computer after a hard drive failure, or just restore individual files that may have been deleted.

I always recommend having an external hard drive or Time Capsule for Apple’s Time Machine backup, but some people want the extra protection of additional backups. There is a new option in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, where you can use multiple drives for Time Machine, and it will alternate between them. This is a especially great for clients who want to backup at two locations, such as home and office, or primary home and vacation home.

Another popular backup option that can supplement Time Machine is a clone backup. A clone backup uses a extra hard drive to make an exact duplicate of a drive. The advantage is that you can boot from this drive in an emergency. However, clone backups are not meant to keep files that you have deleted, so you should also have a Time Machine backup on a different drive.

In the past I have almost always gone with SuperDuper! because of its easy interface and its Smart Update option, where the clone operation does not re-clone everything, but just updates the clone disk to match the current state of the original drive. Carbon Copy Cloner has always been another popular choice, and the new paid version has a great feature where it can also create a Recovery Partition on the clone drive, something that SuperDuper does not do. The Recovery Partition is a new feature in Lion and Mountain Lion where you can boot with the option key held down and boot from a special partition to run disk repair, OS reinstall, password reset and other options.

Whatever backup strategy you choose, just make sure you backup all of your disks! If you are using any external drives for extra storage, make sure those drives are backed up just like your internal drive!

Our consultants can help you choose what strategy to implement and can configure backup for all your computers, and even off-site network backup. See all of our consulting offerings here.

  The World Famous Small Dog Garage Sale  

It’s that time of the year again! Our famous Garage Sale is happening now!!!

Over the past few weeks, we’ve scoured the warehouse from top to bottom searching for the coolest closeout deals. We’ve emerged with all sorts of Mac goodies in addition to some dusty 78s, a candle holder and some truly fantastic hand knit doilies – just kidding! (or am I?)

Orders will be taken ONLINE ONLY via our website, and there are NO PHONE ORDERS PERMITTED.

These deals won’t last long, so get while the getting’s good!

View the Garage Sale here.

  Western Digital 3.5 inch 320 GB PATA Hard Drive | 50% off  

Western Digital Caviar Blue 320 GB PATA Hard Drive | 50% off


Increase your storage capacity and save $50!

Please note that this is a Parallel ATA drive, not a Serial ATA drive. If you have any questions about what kind of internal drive your machine uses, please email us:


  Adobe Student and Teacher Software | Save up to 80%  

Adobe’s Student and Teacher Editions are full versions of their software sold at a discount for the academic market. With our specials you can save even more, all the way up to 80% off of the standard pricing!

If you are a student, teacher, or other staff member at a public or private school, from elementary through college, that offers full-time instruction then you are eligible to purchase this software. Please note that valid academic ID is required to purchase and activate this software. See all requirements here.

See all Adobe Student and Teacher Editions here.