To Speed up the First Time Machine Backup, Don’t Stop and Resume!

When doing the first Time machine backup to a network drive we saw average speeds in the 2-3Mbps range.

However, when we shutdown the Mac then resumed the backups, the speeds dropped dramatically (to 30-80 Kbps)… enough so that the estimated time to completion skyrocketed from 15 hours to 16 days.

Presumably, Apple does certain first-time back optimizations for speed, since the first backup is invariably large.

So the lesson is: do not stop the first backup. If you must, it is probably faster to just delete the partial backup and restart from scratch.

Recover User Data When Mac’s Filevault2 Won’t Boot

One of our Macbook Pros running Lion mysteriously stopped booting after a perfectly ordinary shutdown.

All of the advice online failed to help (such as trying Diskwarrior – which could not unlock the drive, running Disk Utility via the Recovery Partition, and even various adventures with Terminal, all of which indicated the System on the boot partition was corrupted).

The gist of advice online is that
(a) whatever is not backed up is lost,
(b) a full erase/system install will be required.

Turns out that (a) was not true at all… if (“when”) filevault corrupts your system, you can access/backup the user files via a different computer.

Removing the drive and plugging it into an external dock connected to another Macbook allowed full access to all User files. So we were able to copy all the files, erase the disk, then restore from an older backup, then replace the user files.

Easiest workaround for Mac’s intermittent ‘disappearing cursor’ bug

If you’re one of the many dual-display Mac users plagued by Apple’s annoying disappearing cursor, the easiest way to get your cursor back is to drag a window from the working display to the no-cursor display, (If the display that is working correctly doesn’t have a window open, right-click the desktop and choose ‘get info’ which will open a small info window.)

You don’t have to drop the window onto the other desktop, simply drag it over, then drag it back. For some reason dragging something restores the cursor.

IF THAT DOESN’T WORK: The problme also seems to go away if you sleep the displays (keyboard shortcut Control + Shift + Eject) then hit a key to wake them back up.

The quick, easy, free way to send mail-merged email from a Mac

Suppose you’d like to use your Mac to send a couple hundred* customized emails once in a while, importing the recipient’s email + name + other data from a CSV file.

You’d think it would be a piece of cake.

Turns out, Apple Mail is worthless in this respect. Open Office has a built-in mail merge feature but it is poorly documented and horribly designed and works even worse. There is a Mac app called MailMergeApp, but it’s useless if you need to merge data from anything other than your Address Book.

Here’s how to do it using free software, and get it working in a few minutes:

1) Install the Thunderbird email client, at least for the purposes of sending merged-emails. (You don’t have to throw away your favorite email client.) We installed Thunderbird and configured it to use a dedicated outbound email address*.

2) In Thunderbird, open Tools > Addons and find and install the “Mail Merge” addon.

3) Follow the detailed step-by-step instructions on the Mail Merge webpage.

We particularly like the “send later” feature which creates each email and puts it in your Outbox, so you can make sure it all looks good before you do File > Send unsent messages

** Note, if you’re sending from a non-bulk-sender account (such as a typical Gmail or Godaddy email address), just keep in mind you probably have a maximum of 250-500 emails you can send per day. *