A Fix for Time Machine's Backup Failure

Posted by Aaron West at 1:30 PM in Mac, Leopard

Returning home from the Adobe Community Summit I knew there were a couple of things I had to do. Getting a bit of rest and hanging out with my wife and son were at the very top of the list. Closer to the bottom was plugging my MBP into a power brick in order to backup my computer to my Time Capsule. Little did I know it wasn't going to be as easy as usual.

After plugging in and initiating the backup, Time Machine took over 20 minutes to prepare the data - it simply displayed "Preparing data" for what seemed like ages. Finally, it finished the prepare data phase and displayed how much data it was backing up, about 5.3 GB. I'm simply amazed that one weeks worth of work could generate 5.3 GB of changed data. Realizing it was going to take Time Machine quite a while to copy 5.3 GB wirelessly to the Time Capsule I shut the MBP's screen about 80% of the way and decided to return to the living room to do other things.

A few hours later I came back to my MBP to see the following message:

First, many thanks to Apple for giving me a useful error message I could do something about. Pfff. I tried several things to get Time Machine working again including rebooting, reconnecting to the Time Capsule, and simply restarting the backup process. All failed with the same error message.

After hitting up Google for answers (Google always seems to have answers you know) I found a few posts on the MacCast forums that seemed promising. A user by the name of "karinlord" deserves credit for the right set of steps to mitigate this problem.

I believe my problem started when my computer decided to sleep in the middle of the backup process. I am unsure if this occurred because of my systems preferences or whether I actually shut the computer lid enough to force it to sleep. Regardless, Time Machine seems to freak out if it gets interrupted during the backup process. When this happens several files and folders are left on your backup volume that deter any subsequent backups.

To get Time Machine going again, you need to remove the errant files with the following steps:

  1. Ensure your backup device is turned on and connected to your computer (wirelessly or wired, it doesn't matter)
  2. Turn off Time Machine using the big button in Time Machine preferences. NOTE: I did not execute this step and was still able to fix Time Machine.
  3. Make sure the backup volume (which is just part of the backup drive) is mounted to your desktop/Finder. You may have to initiate (and subsequently cancel) a Time Machine backup process in order to see the drive on the desktop or in Finder.
  4. Access your backup volume in Finder (it should be named "Backup of your-computer-name..." or something similar) and double-click into the "Backups.backupdb" folder.
  5. Next, click into the "your-computer-name" folder. You should see a bunch of folders with dates. These are all the dates corresponding to days you ran a successful backup.
  6. At the bottom of the folder listing will be one or two things you need to move to the trash. You may see only one or both of these, but delete the file that starts with a date (it should be the date the backup failure started) and ends in ".inProgress." Also delete a file named "Latest" if it exists.
  7. Return to Time Machine preferences and turn Time Machine on. Remember, I was successful without performing this step.
  8. Initiate a backup using the Time Machine drop-down in the menu bar or wait until the next scheduled backup run.
  9. A final but important step, be patient. Time Machine may sit in "preparing" mode for a while. It's important to at least let it run for an hour or so to see if the process will continue actually writing files to your backup volume.

If you continue having problems and are unable to get Time Machine to perform a successful backup, I recommend running the following command in Terminal. This command will let you view your system log - where Time Machine errors are located - in order to [possibly] get a clearer picture of what is causing your backups to fail.

sudo grep backupd /var/log/system.log


My Home Theatre

Posted by Aaron West at 10:40 PM in Personal, New Technology, Mac

It's done. Finally. Our home theatre is 100% installed and functional. The whole idea of building a home theatre started about two years ago. My wife and I are very much into music, movies, and TV and for nearly two years we have toyed with the idea of completely reinventing our living room experience. Until last week that experience included a 27" analog TV, DVD player, VCR, and two gaming systems (Wii and PlayStation 2). Today, the experience includes a complete lineup of high-definition video, high-fidelity audio, and a seamless integration of nearly everything digital in our lives. For the full story of how we created our home theatre - including pictures and the equipment we used - read on.

Continue Reading


A few days ago I posted about hooking up a 27 inch Dell monitor in my office at work. Marcin posted a comment asking how I was able to use my MacBook Pro while the lid was closed. I responded that it just worked. Since then, I have hooked and unhooked my MacBook Pro a dozen times or so with the lid closed and have had mixed results. I did some searching today to see if there is a set of steps you can follow to keep from having issues - the issues being the laptop doesn't wake up after plugging in the external display and/or unplugging it.

Sure enough, there is a set of specific steps which you can read about on Apple's site.


Dear Apple: I Don't Get It

Posted by Aaron West at 10:17 PM in Mac, Leopard

I was cruising around Apple's Web site the other day when I happened upon the OS X product page. I was immediately presented with an ad (well, not so much an ad as a photo) for Leopard which is shown below. What the heck Apple? What does this ad mean? What do you mean I can add a new Mac to a Mac? Are you serious? Further thought on the ad produced the idea that perhaps their message is that by buying and installing Leopard (on your existing Mac) you are effectively getting a new one. If that's their point, I think they missed the point of advertising. This has to be the worst attempt from Apple in a long time... they typically are so great at advertising.


NetNewsWire is Now FREE!?

Posted by Aaron West at 2:12 PM in Mac

Just a few months after I renewed my NetNewsWire software, the folks at NewsGator make version 3 free. They've decided to do this with NetNewsWire, FeedDemo, and several other pieces of software in order to gain more community traction with their enterprise offerings. I'm excited about this change, mainly for what it means to the folks who have not tried their excellent software. In paying for NetNewsWire, I always felt I was spending good money on a fantastic product I use nearly every day.

To read more about this change, check out Nick Bradbury and Greg Reinacker's blog posts.


Flipping through the February 2008 edition of Macworld tonight I noticed an add by MacHeist touting $400 worth of software for $49. I didn't know anything about this, but last year MacHeist ran this same deal selling 10 different Mac apps for $49 over a one week period. Last years deal included TextMate, ShapeShifter, Disco, Pangea, RapidWeaver and more.

This year, starting tomorrow actually, the sale begins again. The MacHeist Web site is already beginning to list the applications they will be selling in a few hours. So far, 1Password, CoverSutra, Cha-Ching, iStopMotion, Awaken, and TaskPaper have been announced. Best of all, 25% of your purchase goes to the charity of choice (charity options are listed on their Web site). If you're interested in a good deal, check out the offer. Even if you would use a few of the apps it'd be worth $49.


Those who follow my blog know I'm a bit of a productivity hound. Well, I want to bring you up to speed on a little secret. It's not so much a secret really but it's exciting nonetheless. The OmniGroup - a company whose software I cannot live without - is releasing their latest product, OmniFocus, in the next few hours. OmniFocus is professional grade task management software built around the popular book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Allen's book has done wonders for me personally and professionally, and OmniFocus has complemented the book greatly. I've been using OmniFocus in pre-release form for a little over a week and I'm absolutely hooked! The features it provides are amazing and accessing those features is super simple and quick. That's what you need when you're goal is to get "stuff" out of your head and into a trusted task/project management system. But don't take my word for it. Cruise on over to the OmniFocus Web site or watch a video demo of all the things OmniFocus can do for you. If you give it a try, be sure and drop me a comment letting me know what you think. Now, get back to those tasks!


I recorded a short video that demonstrates two new features in Leopard's Dock: Stacks and spring-loaded folders. I also show a little known setting that adds a nice visual feature to Stacks.

Get Adobe Flash player

The following code is shown in the video and placed here so you can copy it and paste it into Terminal.

defaults write mouse-over-hilte-stack -boolean yes
killall Dock

The Stacks tip shown in the video is not my own. Credit goes to this page.


iPhone Unlocking - A Video Blow By Blow

Posted by Aaron West at 5:13 PM in iPhone, Mac

I previously reported iPhoneSIMFree's ability to unlock the iPhone. Here's a video that shows the process of using iPhoneSIMFree's utility to unlock an iPhone. NOTE: I have not tried this myself (and won't, I'm already locked in on an AT&T contract).


More iPhone Unlocking News

Posted by Aaron West at 12:04 PM in iPhone, Mac

Macworld reports (August 24, 2007) several sites/companies lining up with ways to unlock the iPhone this week. Sites such as and Uniquehones plan to begin selling their unlocking software as early as this weekend. Other enthusiasts don't plan on selling their technique. Instead, they are offering up already unlocked iPhones on eBay.

Click here for the full story at Macworld.


iPhone Unlocked!

Posted by Aaron West at 1:42 PM in iPhone, Mac

According to Engagdet, the 6-person team from iPhoneSIMFree has successfully unlocked the iPhone so that it can be used with any carrier that supports SIM cards. For information and to see a video of an unlocked iPhone in action, click here.


I've been adding to my overall programming skills recently, learning how to develop Mac specific software. I love Web development and spend the better part of 60 hours a week building applications professionally and personally. However, I've always had a small interest in learning how to build desktop applications and a recent idea of mine has spurred some new development.

Not knowing exactly how to do what I want to do, I've been learning the nuances of Xcode/Cocoa/Objective-C development through reading various tutorials and documentation. The first app I've built - a currency converter - is extremely simple but represents the core concepts of Cocoa development including Xcode, Interface Builder and the Objective-C language.

Xcode is Apple's suite of tools that allows you to build on the OS X foundation and the power of UNIX with high-performance development technologies. Included in Xcode is Interface Builder, a design environment used to create the UI of your applications as well as the class-based, object-oriented portions needed to wire up the communication between model, view, and controller. Objective-C is the language of choice for describing your classes, objects, and the messages that bring the two together. Xcode also includes the GCC compiler allowing you build and link your applications and create native installers for various versions of OS X (including 64-bit versions).

While I'm closer to learning what I need to bring my original idea to fruition, I still have much to learn. To download and try out my first application click the Currency Converter link in the Download pod to the right or just use the link provided below.

Download Currency Converter


I was pilfering through the net looking for information on developing for the Mac menu bar in Xcode when I came across a pretty cool article on Apple's Web site. If you are at all interested in programming Java and you want to learn more about the Eclipse platform you should check out this article ( It's all about developing Java applications in Eclipse. It covers the Java perspective, Xcode, and XSwing.


Apple Announces iPhone

Posted by Aaron West at 2:40 PM in Productivity, Mobile & Devices, Mac

Few surprises this week as Apple announces their latest hardware invention, the iPhone at the Macworld 2007 in San Fransico.

The iPhone combines a mobile phone, a widescreen iPod (with touch controls), and an Internet-enabled communications device, in one svelte handheld.


Select All Checkboxes in iTunes

Posted by Aaron West at 12:56 PM in Music, Mac

It's December which means it's time to break out the Christmas tunes and get into the holiday spirit. I have several hundred Christmas tunes in my library and to keep them from playing during "Party Shuffle" sessions throughout the year, I de-select the check box by each track. Well, it's time to select these boxes so the tracks will be played as iTunes progresses from track-to-track. But who wants to individually select hundreds of check boxes? Not me. Today I discovered you can control-click (command-click on Mac) one check box in your track listing and all check boxes will be affected. Since this affects all the tracks you are currently viewing, you may want to create a smart playlist with just the tracks you wish to modify.