Apple Time Machine

Do you use an Apple Mac? If you do then Time Machine is a great way of backing up your files from your machine to an external drive on a frequent basis.

So some quick tips about Time Machine:

  • Dedicate at least one external hard drive to Time Machine, don’t be tempted to use it for other files as well. It reduces the capacity. If you need an external drive for other files buy another drive.
  • Leave the drive connected all the time. If you are using a Macbook (Laptop) then an external drive that connects to your network or your router (Western Digital MyCloud) is a good alternative to one hard-wired to your machine.
  • Buy a large drive, the bigger the drive the longer Time Machine can keep backups for before it starts deleting old back ups.
  • If you buy a larger drive at a later date, it is possible to transfer your previous backups to the newdrive, see this article for details. I’ve done this a few times and it’s fairly involved but follow the steps shown and you should retain all your previous backups.

Time Machine keeps:

  • Hourly backups for the past 24 hours
  • Daily backups for the past month
  • Weekly backups for all previous months

The oldest backups are deleted when your drive becomes full.

How useful is Time Machine?

  • If your Mac has a hard drive failure and you have to replace the internal drive, when you turn the machine back on having installed OSX then the machine will offer the opportunity to restore the machine from the most recent Time Machine back up.
    • This back up will restore all your data, settings, passwords, desktop files, photos, music, in summary everything.
    • Occasionally you will find you will have to put in product codes to activate software.
  • The restore process can take a few hours, I ran mine over night the couple of times I’ve had to do this.
  • You can restore individual files, say you had a file on your desktop some weeks ago. Then you can enter Time Machine and track back and find the file again by literally going back in time. You can then restore that file. If a later version exists then you can opt to replace or keep both versions of the file, which is useful with changing files.
  • You can split your Time Machine back ups across more than one drive, Time Machine then just uses each drive in turn. This helps to increase the overall security of your back ups in the case of an external drive failure.
  • Running Time Machine will not slow down your machine, it all happens comfortably in the background and you will hardly notice it happening.

Problems with Time Machine?

Occasionally you might get an error message that says that Time Machine hasn’t been able to verify the latest back up. There seems to be very little you can do about this about from starting the process off again. Time Machine will start a new back up and delete the old one. This is a good reason for using more than one external drive for Time Machine back ups.

In my case I use a locally connected USB external drive as one Time Machine drive and a network connected MyCloud drive as the other one.

On rebooting the external drive will not always be picked up. Let me explain.

The external Time Machine drive icon is normally shown on your desktop on your Mac and it will look like this:

A normal non-Time Machine drive will look like this:


On start up or rebooting if your Time Machine drive looks likes the ‘Yellow/Orange’ drive above it might be functioning ok as your Time Machine back up drive, but just to be certain there are a few simple things you can try to ensure it turns to ‘Green’

  1. Starting with the simple test. Hover your cursor over the Finder icon on the dock (normally at the left) press the ‘Alt’ key on the keyboard then ‘Right Click’ the mouse and then left click on ‘Relaunch’ Finder will relaunch and then check to see if your drive icon has changed to ‘Green’

If it hasn’t then go to the next step.

2. Go in to System Preferences, Time Machine. Click on Add or Remove Back Up Disk and then click on your external drive again, then ‘Use Disk’

You can then close System Preferences. If the Time Machine Icon hasn’t turned ‘Green’ try relaunching Finder again using the Alt, Right Click, Relaunch routine again. It should then turn ‘Green’ and all should be working as it should.

As reboots of Macs is normally fairly infrequent, you will not be doing this that often.

Every so often you can check in Time Machine System Preferences, this is will show the latest and oldest back up dates, how much drive space you have.

If you disconnect your Time Machine drive from your computer, Time Machine will politely remind you that you haven’t backed up for n weeks with an on-screen message after about 10 days. Hence why it is always best to keep the drive connected when ever possible.


This has been a lightning tour of what Time Machine can offer, but it really is a useful feature built-in to OSX that you should be using. External drives are not expensive these days. So get one and get using Time Machine… And remove the drive to a safe place if you are going away for any length of time.

Cabin Zero Bags and Packing Cubes

I have been living here in rural France for coming up to six years now. I frequently travel back to UK and other European cities by air or train and occasionally by car.

Travelling can be a joy if you have the right luggage. You don’t have those moments at the airport wondering if your bag is going to fit within the restrictions imposed by the budget air carriers or that you will not have any spare capacity for a little bit of shopping from where ever you are travelling to. You also want something that is hard wearing and comfortable to carry, those gates at the airport can be some distance from the train station and I’ve not mastered using a skate board quite yet!

My Cabin Zero bags satisfy all of these requirements and more. I’ve had the two bags now for some time (the blue one below and a grey one), on some trips I’ve used both bags, it has been easier to use two of these bags than one larger suitcase. Traversing the Paris Metro can be a nightmare with a wheeled suitcase, there are lots of steps and rough surfaces in places. Also the Cabin Zero bags fit in to the overhead rack of the TGV trains easily. No contest really.

Naturally I only use one of them on airline flights, but the Cabin Zero bag was designed around the size limitations for such flights. I’ve developed a packing list that lets me have everything I need for a weekend away and as a bonus it all fits neatly in to the Cabin Zero backpack.

Cabin Zero bags come in two different styles and a large range of colours, it’s best to see the current range on their website than for me to try and describe it. Here is the description from the website:

The ‘Classic’ ultra-light cabin and travel bag in features a large 44 litre capacity, side compression straps, top and side handles, a front zipped pocket with inside zipped and mesh pockets.

Additional standard features include:

  • Built in Global Luggage Tracker, powered by Okoban
  • Lockable Zippers on main compartment (lock not included)
  • 10 years warranty (upgradable to 25 years free of charge if you ‘like’ us on FaceBook)
  • Thick padded shoulder straps
  • Fully Lined

Volume: 44L 
Weight: 760 grams (approx)
Dimensions: Fits 55 x 40 x 20 cm
Composition, Outer: Waterproof polyester, Lining: Polyester

Cabin Zero Ultra Light Cabin Bag Cabin Zero Bag reverse side

One issue I had the first time I used my Cabin Zero backpack was trying to keep the contents in order. Making the journey through security easier and without the contents spilling out everywhere. I solved the problem with some cheap packing cubes (small nylon zip bags) these help me organise the contents in to logical order and things stay where they should when you carry the bag and when you have to open it and retrieve things.

The ones I originally bought in London where ‘ok’, but I wasn’t 100% happy with them. I commented on the Cabin Zero Facebook page that I thought the whole experience and utility of using the bag would be improved with the addition of some packing cubes to the range of accessories. They acknowledged my message and thanked me for the idea and they said they were working on exactly what I had suggested.

It is always nice dealing with companies that listen to their customers and then exceed their expectations when they deliver a new product. Cabin Zero offered to send me a set of their new packing cubes as a thank you for being a loyal customer, naturally I said yes and I looked forward to receiving them in the post.

I received a set of three Cabin Zero Classic Packing Cubes promptly in the post and unpacked them and inspected them. Compared to the ones I bought from a store in Oxford Street store in London, they are a huge improvement on the ones I have been using. They are made from top quality materials and the icing on the cake is that they are fitted with YKK zips, this brand of zips are also used on the Cabin Zero backpacks as well and they are extremely tough and well made. They are acknowledged as being the best zips made. Therefore they should last for years of service.

The Cabin Zero packing cubes currently come in two sizes of Medium (25 x 17.5 x 8cm) and Large (25x35x8cm)   They are made with a nylon outer and polyester interior lining. Each bag has a carrying handle so you could use it easily on its own outside of your bag.

Medium Packing Cube

Large Packing Cube

In common with the Cabin Zero cabin size bags the packing cubes are also equipped with a luggage tracking tag, which lets you register your bags and packing cubes with Okoban which operate a notification service should your luggage go missing somewhere on your travels anywhere in the world.

The packing cubes are a very practical size, not too big and their dimensions mean they fit in to the overall dimensions of the Cabin Zero back packs perfectly, a set of three (2 medium and 1 large) also don’t take up all of the capacity in your bag, there is still plenty of room for a jacket, laptop and other things like your toiletries, or another set of packing cubes even.

Filled Packing Cubes

Filled bag Large packing cube below the medium size

I’m very pleased with this addition to the Cabin Zero range and I can’t wait to use them on my next trip, sadly that isn’t until early May… but my wife has been eyeing them up and she has offered to ‘test’ them out for me in a couple of weeks time. She is a published author and has already tried the packing cubes out for size for her books, it looks like I will have order her a set as well.

Thank you to Cabin Zero for supplying the samples.