Time Capsule timing

Q. I’m curious about using Time Capsule to back up my Macintosh wirelessly. How long does it take?

A. That’s a really good question. One of my pet peeves as a roving IT consultant is how many clients of mine don’t appreciate how important backing up their data really is. The problem is no one can tell you when a hard drive mechanism will fail. Tape backups can be damaged by exposure of heat, cold or magnetic fields and CDs and DVDs can get scratched, dirtied or broken leaving them useless. Unfortunately the majority of users are oblivious to the dangers of data storage.

Last year Apple has introduced “Time Machine”, to automatically back up your data to any attached hard drive. “Time Capsule” is an Apple Airport Base Station (internet router and wireless access point) complete with a server grade hard drive with a special network version of Time Machine.

All computers using Mac OS X 10.5 can connect to the Time Capsule and be backed up on the network. By entering a password older Macs and PCs can connect as a network drive for manual backups and file sharing. Like most back up technologies it starts by backing up every file on your Mac (you can decide to exclude files or folders.) After a complete back up it then backs up incrementally, backing up new files or files that have been modified.

The initial back up takes over 10 hours. The back up over Ethernet took much less time. Afterwards Macs back up about once an hour. Each back up is only accessible by the Mac that created the backup. Time Machine can restore you Mac in case a disaster. Your data is important to you, so get a Time Capsule or at very least use Time Machine with a removable drive.

Mac OS X fonts

Q I often seem to have problems getting fonts to load with Suitcase. Either I have to restart Illustrator or I get warnings of font conflicts when the offending font is not open.What’s going on?

A. This is a common query with users on MacOS X. Fonts continue to be problematic whether you’re using Suitcase XI or Font Book. However, this gives me an opportunity to explain some preventive maintenance that you should perform regularly.

To begin with you should “fix permissions” on your Mac on a regular basis (once a month or so.) To do this go to “/Applications/Utilities/” and open Disk Utility. You will see you hard drive listed on the left. Select it by clicking on it. Then under the “First Aid” tab click on “Repair Permissions”. You’ll often find something that needs to be repaired as permissions get altered by software installers and some system updates.

Next, this is the Font part, you should search your Mac for “Adobefnt.lst” files. These are font caches created by Adobe applications – you can safely send these to the trash because they are regenerated as required by the Adobe apps (Illustrator, InDesign and PhotoShop). If you’re a regular Adobe app user you’ll find many of these.

Another area that requires serious attention are font caches. The Mac caches fonts when they are loaded to make subsequent loads faster. When a font is opened, the complex file is examined and the results are stored in a cache file. From time to time these caches can get corrupt and cause font display problems and incorrectly report conflicts.

The easiest way to clean these up is to download “Font Finagler” from “homepage.mac.com/mdouma46/fontfinagler” (formally know as Font Cache Cleaner). Font Finagler will locate all of the font caches on your Mac and delete them. When it’s finished you’ll reboot your Mac and start with a clean slate. The next time you load the font(s) the information will be stored in a font cache.
Performing these steps, repair permissions, remove font lists and caches on a regular basis should keep your Mac running smoothly.

Font is a four letter word

Nothing can bring Quark Xpress to it’s knees quite like a corrupt font. In fact, the whole operating system can suffer. With the introduction of Mac OSX, and it’s ability to use multiple font formats the future looked bright. Missing fonts can still be a headache but at least now when a customer sends a PC TrueType font you can use it. A corrupt fonts can wreak havoc over your Macintosh, which entitles us to say that, “Font is a four-letter word.”

MacOS X seemingly has added another level of complexity to the management of fonts. Fonts can be stored in several locations and are activated in a particular order creating confusion for the average user. Certain fonts are required by the operation system, as well as Apple own applications, so removing them or deactivating them can lead to trouble.

Recently, I was called in to investigate a case where Mail would work intermittently. The user would open the application but the Message Viewer window would not open. Initially, it looked like corrupt Mail preferences. We moved the preferences to the desktop, launched the Mail application but the program still didn’t work.
If you’re having a problem with an application, one of the first things you can do is recreate the application’s preference file. Another trick is to create a second user account, then log in with that second account and test the applications. Nine times out of ten, the application is fine – the problem is the user’s preferences file(s).

You’ll find your application’s preferences in the Preferences folder under your own home folder. (Eg /Users/[yourlogin]/Library/Prefernces). Look for a file ending with “.plist”, with a similar name as your application. In the case of Mail – you would look for “com.apple.mail.plist”. Note: If you delete this file you would be prompted to recreate your mail account login. The other common problem with Apple’s own applications occurs if you move them from the Applications folder. Restore the program to its original location and it may behave.

Returning to the Mail problem, I discovered many other Apple programs were misbehaving. Safari, System Preferences, Mail and even Font Book wouldn’t open properly. In most cases we had to “force quit” the applications. This user was using Font Book to manage her fonts.

Apple has included Font Book as a method for dealing with fonts. It has been improved for the latest system, MacOS 10.4 as Font Book 2. While it enables users to create font sets and has a utility for resolving font conflicts, it is still not as flexible as Third Party applications such as Extensis Suitcase, Font Reserve (and FontAgent Pro) for managing fonts, because they don’t interfere with the operating system – when adding fonts. There are also shareware tools such as FontFinagler for fixing font issues. Most users may deal with a few fonts in their daily workflow, but if you’re a publishing professional, then you know you need a robust font management tool – that can deal with hundreds of fonts and font versions.

In MacOS X, there are several locations for fonts to be installed. The first location belongs to the System “/System/Library/Fonts”. These fonts are best left alone, they’re always active and some are absolutely required by the system.

The second location are the Library fonts “/Library/Fonts”. The third location is the User fonts, “/Users/[yourlogin]/Library/Fonts”. Each user has his own fonts under his home folder. The fourth location is the Classic fonts, “/System Folder/Fonts”. These fonts are available to MacOS X applications even if Classic is not running.

The last two locations are Network fonts and Application fonts. Network fonts are located on a MacOS X Server. Application fonts are stored the Library under Application Support.

If you have duplicate fonts installed, you should be aware of how you Mac deals with them. If the system finds duplicate fonts, then it follows a specific order to activate them. First, it will look in the Application’s own font folder. Second, it will look in the User’s font folder. Third, it will look in the local Library font folder, then Network, System, and Classic font folders.

To resolve the mystery of the applications that wouldn’t open we had to delete Font Book’s preferences. The two main culprits are “com.apple.FontBook.plist” and “com.apple.ATS.plist”. Deleting these to files and rebooting the Mac, restored the functionality to the Mail (and other) applications. Then we were left with the task of figuring out which font was corrupt.

Occasionally a font may appear garbled. If that’s the case then there may be a problem with your font caches. Here you’ll need to remove the following files from “/System/Library/Caches” com.apple.ATS.System.fcache, com.apple.ATSServer.FODB_System, and fontTablesAnnex. You’ll need to be an administrator to do this. Remove the “com.apple.ATS” from the “/Library/Caches” folder, and also remove the “com.apple.ATS.plist” from your own Preferences. Once you’ve done this, restart your Mac.