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January 24th, 2009

A Little Household Computer Upkeep…

[Geek Alert…]

Well I installed the new 1 terabyte data drive into Bagheera (the art room computer) and copied the contents of the backup drive back over to it.  When that was done I did another Unix diff on the two drives and when it all looked good I restarted Bagheera with the new drive in place.  Because last time iTunes had given me the least amount of trouble, I started it up first.  As it so happened, this time around it was iTunes that gave me the most trouble, but I eventually got past it.

When I first installed the secondary data drive into Bagheera, I moved my iTunes library over to it on the theory that it having it there would give it space to grow independently of the system drive.  Replacing a system drive because you need more space is a bear of a chore, compared to replacing a drive that holds nothing but data.  And anyway the iTunes music library is data, as opposed to iTunes itself which is an application, so it belonged on the data drive.

As I recall it, last time I did this I simply went into the iTunes preferences dialogue and re-pointed it to the Music folder on the data drive and everything worked again.  This time when I brought Bagheera back up, iTunes had somehow convinced itself that its music library was now on the friggin’ backup drive and pointing it back to the new data drive did not convince it otherwise.  How that happened I have no idea.  In theory, the music library appeared in both places: the new data drive and the backup drive, which I had not dismounted when I rebooted Bagheera.  My guess is the backup drive appeared in the search path first somehow, and iTunes ignored the new drive and automatically re-attached itself to the library on the backup drive. And I could not convince it to go get its music files from the new drive no matter what I did.

After a little digging around online I found out that you have to let iTunes copy its library over to a new drive itself…you can’t just copy it yourself and then point iTunes to the new location.  So…first you point iTunes to the new location by going into Preferences and in the Advanced menu change the iTunes Music Folder location.  Make sure you have "keep the folder organized" and "copy music into the music folder when adding it to the library" checked.  Then you have to go to File -> Library -> Consolidate Library and iTunes will then copy all the music files from the old location to the new.

This was incredibly frustrating as I’d already copied the damn music files…but apparently iTunes now exerts more control over them then it used to…probably to strengthen the DRM technology, although Apple is said to be getting rid of all that soon.  You can’t just copy them yourself and tell iTunes where they are now.  You have to let iTunes do the copy.  So I sat there and watched iTunes copy over every music file I’d already copied over but when it was done it was satisfied and I could play my music again.

Next I fired up Aperture expecting another hassle.  See…I’d just replaced a drive is all.  When I formatted the new drive I gave it the same volume name as the last one, which is "Bagheera_Data_1".   So in theory all the files were in the same location pathwise.  If IMAGE_123.tiff was located in /Volumes/Bagheera_Data_1/Photos/Digital/California_2007/IMAGE_123.tiff on the old drive, then on the new drive wouldn’t you know it, it’s located there too.  Simple, no?  But as I said before, Aperture (and apparently iTunes now) uses a hidden volume serial number to locate where files are, instead of just the volume name.  So when I brought up Aperture last time with the new drive mounted it thought it was missing all its master image files, even though no, they were right where they always were, just on a new drive.  Why Apple does it this way I have no idea but it’s goddamned frustrating. 

And when Aperture came up so slowly that it seemed to have hung I thought for sure I was in trouble.  But apparently the Aperture 2 has smarts enough built-in that when it sees its master file references all broken it goes and looks for them in the most logical places…like…oh…the same Unix pathspec as before.  Wow…what a concept.  But that was why it was so slow coming up apparently, because when it did come up it had found and re-attached all its master image files correctly.


While all this was going on I decided to also start the process of migrating the Macs here at Casa del Garrett from OSX 10.4, otherwise known as "Tiger", to OSX 10.5, otherwise known as "Leopard".   I decided to use Akela, the 12" G4 Powerbook, as my guinea pig.  Akela has several devices installed on it, and some critical software like Photoshop (you are allowed to install one copy of Photoshop on a desktop computer and a laptop so long as both machines are yours).  It also had the Wacom tablet installed on it too, for times when I went on a road trip and I wanted to be able keep on doing my cartoons on the road.  I wanted to see if a straight system upgrade would break any of my critical applications and the Wacom or not.

I have two Macs here at Casa del Garrett: Akela and Bagheera.  So I need two licenses for Leopard.  But really, I only need one install disk.  So I asked one of the nice Apple droids at the Apple Store at Towson Town Mall if I could buy two licenses on one install media.  No, says she, not two…but you can buy a family pack of five licenses.  Well, says I, I don’t need five, only two, so I reckon I’ll just buy two individual install discs.  Oh, says she, but a family pack costs less then two individual install disks.  What??? 

It’s true.  One OSX 10.5 upgrade disc costs $130.  A family pack license, which includes the install disk of course, costs $200.  So buying five licenses, even though I only need two, saves me $60. Not bad, except I’m wasting three licenses…and before anybody asks, according to the license terms I can’t just give them to anyone who doesn’t actually live under my roof, unless they’re a family member off in school somewhere.  But my nephew is running a Windows laptop (which I bought him), so he doesn’t need it.  My niece will probably be running a Windows laptop too when it comes her turn.  But I have to like Apple for making it cheaper to buy five licenses then two, when they could have just priced the family pack such that it was a deal only if you were going to buy three or more.  It saved me $60 bucks.

I backed up Akela and tested the backup by booting off the backup drive before installing Leopard.  If this was the only thing Apple did better then Microsoft I’d be running Apple products here at home all the same.  Being able to recover from a system disk failure by booting off the backup drive is wonderful.  You just can’t do that with Windows…the license branding scheme alone prevents it and Windows has always been funky in the way it uses special hidden files that you can’t copy to a backup drive while its running in order to operate.  Unix like systems, which is what MacOS is these days, don’t do that to you.  At some point I’d like to get something like that going on Mowgli, but booting off a USB drive on an Intel box is more problematical.  I don’t think Mowgli’s current hardware allows it.  On the Mac you can boot off of external Firewire drives, but at least on the PowerPC machines not off of a USB drive.  I think you can on the new Intel based Macs though.

Installing Leopard on Akela turned out to be a very simple process, and so far everything looks good.  I’ll give it a more thorough test tomorrow.  In the meantime, everything is still looking good on Bagheera.  Since Bagheera is so important to my art room work, I’m going to work with it for a couple weeks I think, before proceeding on with my plan, which is to upgrade Bagheera’s system drive and then upgrade it to Leopard.  The current system drive on Bagheera is only 75 gig and I’m up against the line on it.  300 gig drives are selling at Best Buy for around $60, so I may just buy one of those and install it when I’m convinced the data drive upgrade didn’t break anything.  One thing at a time.

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