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  • To move your Time Machine backup to another disk, use Disk Utility

    Update July 12th 2018

    A reader let me know that since macOS 10.13.4 (at least) Finder’s copy behavior has changed and will respect hard links. This means that the backup will no longer dramatically increase in size. It will still take hours “Preparing to Copy”, though.

    I’ve not tested this, and until I do my recommended way of copying a Time Machine backup is still using Disk Utility. If you’re feeling adventurous however (and have a bunch of time to spare), you might want to give Finder a go first.

    Time Machine is a great way to store incremental backups of your Mac. It’s pretty efficient too, using only a relatively small amount of disk space. Still, there are reasons to switch your Time Machine backup to another drive. Maybe your disk is showing signs of failure, or it’s simply running out of space. Moving your backup is not as easy as it seems though.

    I have several backup disks and was using them rather inefficiently, that’s why I wanted to move my Time Machine partition to a new disk. After trying several ways to make this happen, I’ve come to the conclusion that using Disk Utility is the only reliable method. But first, let’s go over every method I’ve tried that didn’t work:

    Finder (takes a long time, increases size)

    Apple actually recommends using Finder to move or copy a Time Machine backup, by simply dragging the Backups.backupdb to another drive. These are the steps they tell you to take:

    1. Check the format of your new backup drive.
    2. Set permissions on your new backup drive.
    3. Temporarily turn Time Machine off.
    4. Copy your backup data from your original drive to your new drive.
    5. Set Time Machine to use your new drive.

    Things will go differently than you might expect on step 4 though. First, it’ll take many hours before Finder actually starts copying; it spends this time preparing to copy. And while it’s copying you’ll notice that the copy will grow a lot bigger than the original backup.

    Terminal commands (increases size)

    1. Open a Terminal window (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app).
    2. Type in the following command (without the $ sign and replace [Time Machine Disk] and [Destination Disk] with the relevant paths in your setup):

    $ cp -a "/Volumes/[Time Machine Disk]" "/Volumes/[Destination Disk]"

    This actually starts copying files straight away, but you’ll notice after a while that this method also increases the size of the copy several times over the original.

    Funny story: I actually spent several hours copying files using cp -r instead of cp -a. The -a parameter takes into account symbolic links and such, while -r doesn’t. The backup would’ve been corrupted.

    Always copy folders and packages using cp -a.
    – Me, after wasting several hours

    Disk Utility

    This comes with a few downsides, but it actually gives you an exact copy of the original data.

    Downsides

    • You can only copy from a disk or partition to another disk or partition.
    • The destination partition needs to be at least the same size of the original, probably a little bigger.
    • It’s a little more complicated than simply dragging the Backup.backupdb folder to a new disk.

    Upsides

    • Relatively quick.
    • The copy is the exact same size as the original.

    Currently, it’s the only way I know to reliably move a Time Machine backup to another disk. I don’t understand why Apple advertises using Finder instead of using this. Anyway, here’s how it works:

    1. Open Disk Utility (/Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app).
    2. Check the format of your new backup drive. It needs to be a GUID partition and formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
    3. Temporarily turn Time Machine off.
    4. In Disk Utility select the new backup drive.
    5. From the “Edit” menu item, select “Restore…”.
    6. In the menu that pops up select the original Time Machine drive.
    7. Wait…
    8. Set permissions on your new backup drive. Get Info on the new drive in Finder and make sure “Ignore ownership on this volume” at the bottom of the “Sharing & Permissions” section of the Get Info window is unchecked.
    9. Go into Time Machine and select your new drive to backup to.

    Restore the Time Machine backup on a new drive

    And that’s it, you now have an exact copy of your Time Machine backup on another drive. 👌

  • Matt3o's Whitefox keyboard was worth the wait

    They say you shouldn’t skimp on a great mattress, because you spend so much time with it. As someone who writes (code) for a living, the same could be said about a keyboard.

    After much anticipation, I’m delighted to be able to type this article on the Whitefox keyboard designed by Matt3o.

    The Whitefox keyboard

    Packaging

    The packaging and setup is special. It came in an almost completely white box, with a small note inside. It’s mentioned a few times that this is the first batch of Whitefox keyboards and that more are on the way.

    Note mentioning this is batch one

    The blue and white USB cable came included with the keyboard. Also in the box are feet and a few pads to raise the keyboard at a more comfortable angle and stop it from moving around. The board needs to be opened up to install the raised feet. This might seem cumbersome, but knowing the keyboard’s build-it-yourself heritage, this is actually a cool detail. The inside looks as brilliant as the outside.

    The PCB of the Whitefox keyboard

    Matt3o signed the bottom of the board, like an artist signing a piece of art.

    Matt3o's signature on the bottom of the keyboard

    Setup

    I got a little confused after hooking it up, because some output didn’t match up with the label on the keycaps; the backspace key didn’t remove anything, but added a ‘' on the screen. Luckily this was easily fixed using Input Club’s Configurator.

    The Whitefox keyboard comes in a variety of layouts: Vanilla, ISO, Aria, Winkeyless, The True Fox (the one I have) and Jack of All Trades. I think every board comes pre-programmed with the Vanilla layout. I’ve customized the default True Fox setup to include a number of special functions that I use regularly, like: volume, media, LED brightness etc. I’ve also changed the modifier keys to match Apple’s standard. You can get my custom layout on GitHub.

    Input Club's Configurator

    Typing

    The typing experience is excellent. I opted for Cherry MX Blue switches, which means they’re loud, but delicious to type on. The aluminium body is sturdy and doesn’t flex, no matter how hard you slam the keys. You can actually hear the key hitting metal when bottoming out a key a little too rough. It feels industrial and built to last.

    If you plan on typing in a more crowded environment, I would suggest going with the silent-but-tactile Cherry MX Brown switches.

    The keyboard has a hand-built touch. Mine isn’t perfect. There’s a dent in the aluminium on the bottom right corner and one of the screws isn’t as tight as it should be. Nothing I can’t live with, but something to consider if you decide on getting one.

    Conclusion

    Getting one is not that easy, though. The Massdrop is over and while Input Club lists the keyboard on its website, you can only signup to be notified when they’re available again.

    I’ve tried quite a few mechanical keyboards. My previous favorite being the KBParadise V60 I wrote about earlier.

    KBParadise V60 with custom orange-grey keycaps

    The Whitefox exceeds the KBParadise V60 on every level. The only downside I can think of is its price tag. I joined the Massdrop and ended up spending $217 (€202 on my creditcard bill). I actually expected to pay close to €300 with duties and taxes, but luckily customs let it through. That’s a lot of money for a keyboard, but–like a great mattress–it’s worth it.

    Closeup of the arrow keys on the Whitefox keyboard

  • You can manually manage your iTunes library

    Syncing across multiple devices is difficult, so Apple conveniently ruled out the option of syncing your iTunes library on your phone or tablet with multiple Macs.

    I have two Macs, which means I never used the option to sync my iTunes library with any of them. Better yet, it’s kept me from using iTunes at, all on my devices.

    The reason I looked into this issue again, is that I really wanted to watch some WWDC videos on my iPhone during a commute. Sure enough, as soon as I added the videos to my iTunes library it popped up this notification. It tells me that it will erase all kinds of things from my phone and then sync with the iTunes library on this Mac, instead of my other one.

    I did some searching online and figured out that you can actually manage your iTunes library manually 😱. The setting is very easy to find:

    1. Connect your phone.
    2. Open iTunes and select your phone.
    3. From the menu on the left, select ‘Summary’.
    4. Enable ‘Manually manage music and videos’.

    Manually manage music and videos

    After enabling this preference (on every device). You get a completely different interface to transfer music and videos to your phones and tablets. It doesn’t sync automatically (obviously), but if you have multiple Macs this works much better. 🎉

    Manually adding videos to my iPhone

  • Your keyboard looks better with custom key caps

    Most mechanical keyboards can be customized in various ways. The easiest alteration you can do is probably replacing the key caps with something that’s more your taste.

    I joined a Massdrop for these Tai-Hao ABS Doubleshot key caps and replaced the old key caps on my keyboard yesterday.

    Instead of yanking out the original caps immediately, I laid out the new ones first. This made the process of putting them in smooth and easy.

    Laid out all the keys, removed the old ones, put the new ones in

    👌👌👌

  • How to manage eye strain

    Eye strain is a very real problem for anyone who works with computers on a daily basis. I wrote an answer to this question on Quora: “How can I protect my eyes as a software engineer?”.

    As someone who writes software for a living, enjoys reading, playing video games and watching tv series, eye strain is something that I have to actively manage to avoid sore eyes, dizziness, headaches and feeling tired.

    For me, the exercises that are described in some of the other answers aren’t sufficient. These are some of the things that I do that aide me in all but overcoming the issue.

    Consider glasses

    Have your eyes tested. I’m very mildly myopic myself and have astigmatism in my left eye. Being myopic isn’t that bad; I can see perfectly fine without my glasses on, but astigmatism can make working with text on computer screens absolute hell.

    Consider the picture below. My left eye sees everything like the bottom left quadrant. Glasses and contact lenses can easily overcome this.

    A table showing the different variants of astigmatism

    Find alternatives to screen time

    Your phone and tablet aren’t the best way to read articles or books. Get an e-reader instead. You’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable e-paper is to look at.

    Find podcasts and audiobooks that you like. You can enjoy those even with your eyes closed.

    I have a 1.5 hour commute and would spend much of that time glued to my phone. Getting a Kindle and subscribing to podcasts has reduced that time to near zero.

    Sleep well

    I try very hard not to grab my phone when I wake up or go to bed. The bright light feels especially hard on my eyes. I’ve also noticed that I feel more rested when I don’t spend an hour scrolling through 9GAG and Quora before going to sleep.

    These are the things that help me avoid sore eyes. I’d love to hear any other tips. It’s getting harder to avoid looking at screens all day and I think we need all the help we can get to save ourselves from straining our eyes too much.