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#880: DIY Fusion Drive, The Trials of Data Recovery, Time Machine Buddy,


Hello Readers,

There has been a lot going around in the Apple rumor mill about testing on the iPhone and iPads. The rumor is that Apple is trying out designs to make these iOS devices bigger to compete with the likes of Samsung and HTC’s current mobile offerings. The rumor is that the overall size of the iPhone would be extended past the current generation’s 4-inch size, and the iPad would boast a reported 13-inch display (rather than the current 9.7-inch).

I hope this never leaves the rumor mill, because I’m a big fan of the size of the iPhone 5 now, and am a fan of the iPad mini over the regular iPad. They have gotten excellent reviews at their current sizes and I don’t see much need for the extra space; tablets are supposed to be portable. We will have to see what Apple will choose to do with the next generation of their iOS devices.

This week, we have quite a diverse selection to read about here at Tech Tails! Kyle writes about the trials of recovering data. Chris writes a great article about the ins and outs of DIY Fusion Drives and Jeremy has a great article about an application called Time Machine Buddy.

Enjoy the great articles and feel free to give us your feedback!


  DIY Fusion Drive  

Some of you may be aware of the so called “Fusion Drive” technology available as an option in the newest line of iMacs (released late last year). This software technology allows for two different physical internal drives to be acknowledged as one by the system. The idea is to have one of the drives be a solid state drive and one a traditional hard disk drive. As you go about your digital business, the system learns what data is accessed most frequently and allocates it onto the SSD for the fastest read/write speeds. Subsequently, it puts less-accessed archival data onto the HDD where speed is not required.

For those speed hounds and DIY lovers out there, this pseudo-RAID technology can be brought to devices other than the new iMacs. According to an article by Tom Nelson found here your machine just needs to be able to run OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2 or later). If your machine is up to snuff and you feel comfortable undertaking the task, then here is a tried and tested method of making your own Fusion Drive:

Prep for Fusion

  • BACK UP YOUR DATA! Goodness, this can never be emphasized enough, but in this case I can say unequivocally that the data will be erased on both your HDD and SSD in order to complete the fusion. Best bet is to use an external hard drive and make a Time Machine backup.
  • Create a bootable copy of the 10.8.2 or later installer on an 8GB thumb drive.
  • Install both the HDD and SSD in your machine.
  • Boot to your installer thumb drive by holding down the option key during startup.
  • Open Terminal (in the utilities tab in the menu bar).

Terminal Commands
In Terminal you will enter the following commands. Please write these exactly as they appear. The exception being, any words in quotations will be replaced with information you discover as we go. This will become clearer as you go.

  • diskutil list
  • Press Return
    you should see a list of available drives — take note of the disk identifier correlating to each drive; you’ll be able to tell by the size.
  • diskutil cs create "drivename" "driveID1" "driveID2"
    The drive ID is the number from the previous note and the name is whatever you want it to be.
    To make sure we’re on the same page, an example of what this command should look like is: diskutil cs create Fusion disk0 disk1
  • Press Return
  • Wait while the command is running. When it’s done, continue.
  • diskutil cs list
  • Press Return
    Copy the Logical Volume Group ID, which is a string of alphanumeric characters separated into groups by hyphens. Then note the free space available, which will be transcribed in GB even though it appears in TB i.e. if there are 1.1TB available, you will write in the next step 1100g
  • diskutil cs createVolume "groupString" jhfs+ "volumeName" "size"
    The groupString from before is what you copied, the volumeName is what you want to appear beneath the icon on the desktop (typically Apple names this Macintosh HD). For example the command could look like diskutil cs createVolume 352D9D2B-E0F2-4A16-B583-A257802EC74C jhfs+ "OWC Fusion" 1100g and yes, there are quotation marks in that command because whenever you want a space involved you use quotations
  • Press Return
  • Quit Terminal

Wrapping It Up

  • Now you’re back at the main install screen, so select the icon for the Fusion drive you just made and proceed with installation. An internet connection is required for this process to complete, as downloadable updates need to be installed.
  • Use Migration Assistant to restore your Time Machine backup and BAM, you’re done.

This process may look tedious and difficult if you’re not comfortable with Terminal, but I assure you it is straight forward if you’ve read everything carefully. Please be in touch if you try this and your computer explodes, that would be a first for me! But please don’t tell me I didn’t warn you to back up your data first.

  The Trials of Data Recovery  

Data recovery is a service that doesn’t always yield results, and having done it a few times, I know that whenever a hard drive or a solid state drive fails, the data on it has a very good chance of being lost forever. There are tools that can help recover data in the event of a failure, but please know that nothing is guaranteed.

The process of rescuing data can also be very time consuming; we had one project on the tech bench that ran for ten days trying to extract data from the drive. Something was pulled off, but whether or not it is intact data instead of nothing but 1s and 0s of gibberish has yet to be determined.

One tool we use is Data Rescue by Prosoft. It’s a handy OS X software to have to try and extract information, but if the drive in question has failed, expect it to take anywhere from hours to weeks to fully scan the drive. There was a project I was working on a while back, and the Data Rescue scan took three days and the subsequent extraction took four. Thankfully, we were able to extract the customer’s valuable data on that one.

One problem that has been coming up a lot is that the board on the hard disk itself gets shocked and it no longer is seen by anything it’s plugged into. We’re unfortunately not able to extract any data when we see this type of failure. Next step: DriveSavers. Thought not cheap, they have the expensive equipment to be able to pull the drives apart and read the data directly from the platters inside.

Another type of failure is physical failure — you know, when there is a clicking or grinding sound coming from them as they attempt to spin up and function. People ask me all the time what makes a drive fail, and my answer is that it’s most commonly when the machine is dropped, bumped, or generally handled roughly. Anything can really cause the little read/write heads inside to nick the platters and scratch them.

“Bad Blocks” are another form of failure, wherein the platters themselves are no longer able to hold information. Any information written cannot be retained, causing corrupted data. Once a hard drive starts having bad blocks, it’s only a matter of time before the drive fails completely.

Moral of this story? Back up your information to another hard drive or utilize a cloud storage backup service!

  Time Machine Buddy  

Apple knows how important it is to back up, so they created the Time Machine application. Pre-installed, user friendly, and set to perform seamless automatic backups every hour, Apple users no longer have an excuse to NOT back up their data.

However, as simple as Apple has made it to prevent catastrophic data loss, sometimes Time Machine just doesn’t behave. This becomes complicated because Apple doesn’t advertise immediate solutions on how to resolve the issue of your drive not completing scheduled back ups.

I thought I’d provide a simple solution that can save you a phone call to AppleCare. It’s called Time Machine Buddy — a free download from apple that gets installed within your widgets. What this neat little app does is provide a more in-depth look at the processes that occur during a time machine backup.

You can download the app here.

After you install it and save it to your dashboard, connect your drive and run a Time Machine back up, and watch Time Machine Buddy start logging the activity. Even though most of the computer language may seem foreign to the average user, there is one log in particular that’s worth looking for as your Time Machine progress bar runs on for infinity.

“Node requires deep traversal.” In a more simplified way, this means that Time Machine’s app is having an issue with saving backups to your drive. This can quickly be remedied with a reformat of your external drive, and re-running Time Machine.

Of course, this requires that you either save your most current back up to another destination, or that your current system is up to date with any important data. To reformat your drive, simply open up Disk Utility in the Applications < Utilities folder, select your problematic external drive, select the “Erase” tab. Once it completes the reformat, open up Time Machine, select the freshly formatted drive, and voila! Time Machine will resume its back ups successfully.

  Sign Up for our KnowledgeWave Trainings!  

It’s your last week to sign up for Small Dog’s three training sessions at KnowledgeWave in South Burlington, Vermont — ideal for businesses and IT professionals who have an interest in what iOS (mobile operating systems) and working on the Mac OS can do for you.

  • iOS (iPad/iPhone) For Business, Tuesday, July 30, 9am-12pm
  • iOS (iPad/iPhone) Technical Training For IT Professionals, Tuesday, July 30, 1pm-5pm
  • Mac OS X Technical Training For IT Professionals, Tuesday, August 6, 9am-5pm

Why register? If your business is new to Mac or iOS, or if you’d like to maximize how ‘going mobile’ can improve your productivity, these business-centric trainings are ideal. You’ll learn how to seamlessly integrate Macs, iPads and iPhones into your business.

All classes are held at KnowledgeWave, 30 Community Dr. #5 South Burlington, VT 05403.

To learn more, and to register, click here.

*Note: Participants are encouraged to bring their own iPads and iPhones.

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