Monday, November 13, 2006

Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups

by Joe Kissell

Since I have used OS X from day, I was very anxious to analyze this book and see how it compares to my actual experience. While I don’t agree with everything the author wrote, the advice is solid, well explained, and very reliable. Every Mac should ship with this book.

Unlike other books written for the IT crowd, this “Real World” book omits the boring details about why you should do certain tasks, and gives readers specific instructions on what to do daily, weekly, and yearly basis. You can open up the book and immediately start keeping your Mac in tip top shape.

There were certain aspects of the advice I, and many other Mac professionals, would disagree with. The advice isn’t incorrect, just not Universal (pun intended!). There is not one solution that fits all situations. Kissell acknowledges other opinions on these subjects. He actually quotes a variety of experts who disagree with his advice. In this industry, it’s pretty rare for a expert to admit there are other perfectly valid, and polar opposite, opinions. I really appreciated Kissell’s lack of ego. Again, this is “Real World” and in the real world two doctors can both be excellent and, yet have very different opinions.

For example, some experts believe repairing permissions is absolutely critical while Kissell indicates this procedure has no redeeming value. His panel of experts gave different opinions allowing the reader to dras their own conclusion. (Personally, I recommend repairing permissions before any Apple update and any time you have problems), This book is his opinion and suggestions on proper maintenance. Unless you have a logical and justified reason not to follow his outstanding advice, treat his advice as gospel and follow it to the letter.

In spite of the great maintenance advice Kissel gives, his advice on backups is second to none and should be required reading for anyone who has anything of value on their Mac. Why can’t Apple explain it this easy (oh, that’s right, they want you to upgrade to Leopard with built-in rudimentary backups)? He is going to save readers thousands of dollars in emergency data recovery costs. I suspect Kissel will be getting cookies baked for him, invitations to weddings, and wedding proposals himself. With Kissel’s help, data loss can be eliminated in our generation! Seriously though, Kisssel realizes that people won’t do everything he suggests, and he acknowledges that fact and creates good/better/best type scenarios for backups. People get intimidated by backups, and just ignore it—the same reason people don’t go to the dentist. In the last chapter of the book, Kissel take the most popular backup program out there, Retrospect, and takes you step by step through proper backup and restoration. Even the least technical among us can easily follow his advice and not wake up in the middle of the night in fear of data loss.

This book is one of the best organized I have seen. This is not a technical reference to be used only when you have a question, but a practical how-to guide with all the information you need at your fingertips. Not only does Kissel refer to shareware programs with eact download to download them in context of the chapters, but Appendix B summarizes all the programs mentioned in the book, the program features, and where to get them. Wow—why don’t more books do that. The last page of the book summarizes everything you need to do to maintain your Mac. Most Mac users should rip out that page and keep it near their computer—taunting them to actually do the things they learned in the book.

This book is probably going to win some major awards and should be given as a gift to any Mac user who cares about their data. Every small business should follow his advice to the letter. Too often, people think because Macs are so realiable, they won’t fail. While they tend to have less problems than Windows computers, Macs need Maintenance and Backups too!

Pros; Hands down the BEST book on backups and specifically Retrospect. Great maintenance advice given in a straightforward easy to follow manner.

Cons: This book will put lots of technicians out of business. He’ll also kill the entire data recovery business, as well as a good share of therapists who counsel people after data loss. Good for consumers, bad for professionals like myself J. Just kidding….maybe.