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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Living Without: iMac – part two, it's back

Living Without: iMac – part two, it's back
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Jul 1, 2015, 10:14 AM
Last week we told you what happens when Apple recalls your iMac; in our case, pulls it out of your hands in order to do its recently-announced 3TB hard drive replacement. We also told you that if your iMac is from between December 2012 and September 2013, you should check Apple's site about this and get it sorted. Get it looked at and seen to. However, we then said we expected that this week we'd be telling you: "it came back, we signed more paperwork, we got on with our work." There was more to it than we'd expected, though, and that's only half because we went through more withdrawal symptoms than we imagined possible.

We're about to show you the second most boring photo we've ever published on MacNN. We don't care. This is our baby come home to us, and if that seems excessive about a Mac, you still understand it when you can't conceive of anyone being soppy about a PC.

The day after last week's article, the courier company that collected our iMac phoned up. They said it was confirmed, our iMac qualified for the replacement -- they really said that, as if we'd been waiting for the news. We'd used that website, it had said yep, you need this. Then Apple had rung us, looked into it and said yep, you need this. So the news wasn't a shock.

Yet, it was a pleasant surprise because they were phoning for one very specific reason: "Do you have a current backup?" We must've been asked this five times during the whole process, and it did get to be funny, but good on 'em for checking. They would not do the replacement, they said, until we had positively confirmed that we definitely had a current backup. The firms that Apple uses will be different everywhere, but here in the UK it was an outfit named Amsys, and they deserve a tip of the hat for professional service.

They're so good that if they offered therapy, we'd have taken it. We'd have needed it, too. On the MacNN podcast, editor Charles Martin pointed out that we'd done two smart things: we had a spare Mac to work on and -- yes, yes -- we had a current backup. The spare Mac was an old 2008 MacBook Pro with a broken keyboard, though: compare that to a 2012 27-inch iMac, and it's either a sea of numbers and dates, or its made you wince. We winced. Unfairly, as it turns out, because that MacBook Pro did well.

It just did well quite slowly. Plus, even though we plugged in the iMac's old keyboard in order to get it to work, the position of the MacBook on our desk strained our arms throughout the week, and we're now wondering if Amsys offers physiotherapy too.

The current backup -- did we mention that we had one? -- was definitely a smart and a flawless job. It was so smart and so flawless that we're using it right now, even though our iMac came back this morning. From the courier delivering it to our getting to use it for our work was definitely under 10 minutes, maybe under five, and we spent longer undoing the box than anything else. That's because we plugged in our backup drive and booted the Mac from that. Remember that this iMac has an entirely new and empty 3TB drive, yet in the time it took to start up, we had all our old applications and documents exactly where they were. This is our old iMac back in operation, instantly.

Or nearly instantly. When you buy a new iMac, you are taken through setting it up but when it's had a hard disk replacement in this kind of process, that drive is already a fully working OS X installation -- it's just not yours. We'd read the documentation that came back from Amsys, so we were prepared for this but, still, it is strange and it is so very wrong to see someone else's username on your screen when you start up your familiar Mac. The username was Amsys, and the company told us the password to sign in. We barely looked at it: we just set the startup disk to be our external backup, and restarted it.

Tonight, when we're done for the day, we'll wipe the iMac's new drive and copy everything from the backup. From tomorrow, this will be our old iMac, working without external life support, and our backup will turn from a working drive to a safe copy again.

Some months ago, by the way, we worked through a whole series of backup applications: Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper and ChronoSync. Each one had advantages, each one was good, we ended up recommending every one of them and simultaneously feeling honest, but less than helpful. Let's be helpful now: faced with Apple saying we really needed a current backup right now, and faced with our knowledge that we'd need to carry on working without the iMac, we turned to Carbon Copy Cloner.

That business of having to work without the iMac raised some issues. We did try booting the MacBook Pro with that external backup drive, and it worked: OS X Yosemite 10.10.4 worked on our 2008 machine. It just worked so slowly that we couldn't get anything done. So it was an interesting experiment, but within ten minutes we were back to booting off the MacBook Pro's own OS X 10.2. Curiously, we didn't miss a lot of Yosemite: we'd have thought we would, but the different screen size, the different form factor, it somehow meant we hardly noticed.

Certainly we did notice that we couldn't AirDrop anything to the MacBook Pro. We were more troubled by how we had to reinstall various apps like TextExpander in order to keep going. We'd updated TextExpander since we last used the notebook, so it's fair enough -- but it's surprising how quickly you get used to Apple and iCloud just popping all your apps back on to your machine and updating them for you.

It took some adapting to remember what was and wasn't on the MacBook, it took some deciding what was worth putting on and what we could live without. It also took a lot of adapting to the smaller screen, and that led to the biggest surprise of the whole time without our iMac: we like full screen mode.

Seriously, we've quite well recognized how useful it is before, but we felt it was more useful for other people than us. We were right. Writing the first sentence of this in Simplenote on the 27in iMac, we tapped the now-familiar full screen key stroke and then we tapped it again immediately. Full screen on one app is simply ugly on a large screen like this. Yet on the smaller MacBook Pro, it was not only pleasant to work with, it hid the Mac's menubar, so it hid the clock. Who really looks at that clock in the corner? Apparently we do, because without it, we worked for longer, we were unexpectedly relaxed -- practically blasé. It'll be done when it's done, we'll leave when we leave. We weren't ourselves at all.

It was relaxing, it was actually relaxing. Can't be having that. Now we really can't: full screen on the iMac just makes everything stretched out horribly, and Simplenote doesn't play nicely when you go back out of it (it doesn't word wrap correctly on screen; the text is fine, but it believes it has a much wider display area than it does, and nothing you can do fixes that without quitting and relaunching the app).

Yet here we are, back on our iMac with its 27 inches of utter beauty -- this is the 2012 model, it's not even the Retina one, and still it is beautiful -- and here we are with Apple Music now blasting out of our speakers, and we're hankering just a little for the good old days of the MacBook Pro. Like most nostalgia, we wouldn't actually go back voluntarily, and we know that the present day is vastly better. Yet a usable full screen mode, we could do with that.

Perhaps when OS X El Capitan is here, we can get near to it with the split screen view that lets you fill the screen with two applications. That's for the future, though. For now, please excuse us as we hug our iMac.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Jul 16, 2015 at 03:24 AM. )
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Jul 1, 2015, 10:46 AM
I must have missed it... what is *the* most boring photo that's ever been published on MacNN?
Malcolm Owen
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Jul 1, 2015, 11:53 AM
The one from the previous article, showing the box before the iMac went off for repair...
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Jul 1, 2015, 10:10 PM
Maybe you could further explain how you used your CCC backup to re-instate your backup on the new iMac hard drive. Did you do a straight copy from the backup to the newly wiped drive? Did you run a reverse synchronization that copied everything from the CCC backup to the iMac new HD? Did you use Migration Assistant to get the info back??? Thank you.
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