Getting Your Back Up

Yesterday I got my computer back after almost three working weeks of repairs. I won’t go into the frustration experienced by having to pay €350 to replace the video card on a €2000 iMac barely 18 months old (Grrr!!), but I did want to talk about the importance of performing regular backups. During the repair period I was able to work almost normally on a slower, oldercomputer (a Mac mini) using a borrowed screen.

The old 17″ screen I had to use temporarily.

None of my clients noticed the difference as I had backup copies of all my files thanks to Time Machine and/or Dropbox. Developed by Apple, Time Machine is a utility which creates incremental backups of files that can be restored at a later date. You can restore the whole system or just specific files; it captures the most recent state of your data, and as snapshots age, they are prioritised progressively lower compared to more recent ones. It’s a system I use because I work on a Mac, but plenty of other systems exist, whatever your computer of choice. has carried seven different polls on the subject of backups, most recently in October 2012, when, in answer to the question “The computer you are working on right now fails suddenly. Do you have a backup system in place?” only 54.7% of respondents replied “Yes”. In a February 2012 poll 45.9% replied that they carried out backups on an external hard drive, while 13.2% said they had no backup device. And in July 2011 25.2% said they performed a backup “only when [they] remember[ed]”!

Hopefully I’m preaching to the converted, but please don’t forget to back up regularly – you never know when something unexpected can happen. Have you ever lost important files? What backup system do you use, and how often do you use it? Let me know in the comments below.

Back with my iMac

Back with my iMac

P.S. If you have your own blog(s) don’t forget you can back it(them) up too. It’s very easy – for WordPress go to Dashboard > Tools > Export and for Blogger go to Dashboard > Template > Backup/Restore. (For more details see: Ten minute tip – Back up your WordPress blog and How To Back Up Your Blogger Blog).

Tweaking Productivity

Over at Translation Times, Judy Jenner recently mentioned one of her bad habits as being Shiny Object Syndrome, i.e. getting distracted by something else when you should be concentrating on the task in hand. In my case the shiny objects are definitely e-mail and Vienna (my RSS feed), and to a lesser extent Twitter and Facebook. One of the reasons I get so distracted by e-mail and RSS is that both have a bright red ‘unread count’ badge which appears in the Dock on my iMac. Since I upgraded to Mountain Lion there are also notifications that appear on the opposite side of computer screen. Help! When I’m working I find it very difficult to avoid the red badge and am generally not happy unless nothing is showing there – but constantly interrupting myself like this is not conducive to concentrating on my real, paid work.

So this week rather than just submitting I finally got round to doing something about it. On my computer I’d configured Mail to check for new e-mail every 15 minutes and Vienna for new RSS feeds every hour, and I haven’t changed that. But in the Preferences of the current version of Mail (6.2), surprisingly, it’s no longer possible to hide the unread count. After a bit of snooping around on the internet I found the solution – you need to go to System Preferences, where you can turn off the notification alerts, as well as uncheck the Badge app icon. However I did add an application called Mail Unread Menu which allows you to have a tiny icon in the menu bar at the top of the screen with the number of unread e-mails – much less distracting. For Vienna it’s easier, as in its Preferences you just need to select ‘Do nothing’ under ‘When new unread articles are retrieved’ (a discreet icon remains in the menu bar). I could of course just hide the Dock which shows all the software icons, but I prefer when it’s visible.

The Notification center for Mail in System Preferences

Having done this I definitely found it easier to concentrate on the work in hand, as I had less distractions. And just a few clicks are needed when I need or want to change things back again.

What adjustments have you made to help your productivity? Please share in the comments.