dropbox

Tag: dropbox

Nuclear Explosion

Making your Mac Safe to Sell

So. You’ve upgraded your Mac and you’ve decided to sell your old Mac. Just how do you go about removing all your personal data?

Erase Everything! (The Nuclear Option)

If you’re not worried about leaving Apps on for the lucky purchaser or free beneficiary of your new Mac then the best method is the Nuclear option:

1. Boot from the Recovery Disks

2. Open up Disk Utility and select your Hard Drive

3. Pick Erase from the options and then click on “Security Options”

4. You should be fine with selecting the First Option and then hitting Erase

5. But if you want to be MORE secure then options get safer down the list, but…

6. Just remember the more Secure the erase the longer it’ll take, especially for large disks!

A More “select” Erase (The Precision Bombing Option)

If you’re running a newer version of Mac OS than came with your Mac and/or you don’t want the hassle of erasing the disk and then reinstalling the software then this might be the

How To Securely Empty the Trash

First we’ll want to make sure that when we delete stuff Finder is not just removing it’s file location (which makes files easily recoverable for those in the know) but that it’s securely deleting the files by writing over them with gobbledygook.

To do this once all you need to do is add the files to the trash and then go to the Finder Menu and select “Secure Empty Trash…”:

Secure Delete from the Finder Menu
Secure Delete from the Finder Menu

But as we’re probably going to be doing a lot of deleting it’s probably best to go to Finder and set this as the default preference. So if you click on “Preferences” instead of  “Secure Empty Trash…” it’ll bring up this window:

Advanced Finder Preferences
Advanced Finder Preferences

Where you should make sure that the box labelled “Empty Trash Securely” is ticked and now each time we empty the trash as normal it’ll be deleted securely.

Deleting Apps

Most people who sell or gift their Mac leave some if not all of the applications installed, but if you’re deleting any of the apps then you’ll want to make sure that you do it properly, and there is just the app for that, they’ve even been so bold as to tag it “the Uninstaller Apple Forgot”.

AppZapper

AppZapper makes sure that all the little hidden files that an App installs are also deleted. This is especially helpful if you’re uninstalling programs that are available to all users, as these will create preference files, etc, in the root library rather than your user account library. It’s well worth the $12.95 purchase price, and I’m pretty sure that there is a free trial.

I use a version integrated with Hazel that I bought years ago so I haven’t checked).

Don’t Forget System Preferences

If you’ve installed any custom system preferences then to remove them simply launch System Preferences and right-click on the appropriate custom system preference and select “remove preference pane”.

User Files

So you’ve copied all of your user files from the Mac onto a spare hard drive, usb stick or (my personal favourite) your dropbox account and you now want to delete your user data, the best way to do this is to go to Users in System Preferences:

Accounts Preference Pane
Select Accounts Preference Pane
Accounts Preference Settings
Create a New User

and select accounts. Then if it’s locked as in the above picture you’ll have to unlock it before you proceed so click and enter the password. Then you can select the little + button at the bottom of the User Name list to add a new user, which takes you to this window:

Add New User

Make sure you select a new Administrator account (no it’s not the default) so you’ll have to click on the list and select Administrator like below:

Select Account Type
Select Account Type

Then create a new account administrator account, name it as you like and give it an easy to remember password, say “password’, the new owner can always change it to something better.

Once you’ve created your new account, you can safely log out of your current account and into the new account and once in you go straight back to the Accounts section of the System Preferences. And instead of adding a new account, select your old administrator account and click the – instead of the – and delete your old user account.

Oh and make sure you tell it to delete the user home folder. And that you empty the trash securely.

And you’re done. One “pretty clean” Mac.

Notes for the Security Conscious

PS If you want to be extra cautious once you’ve done this you can use Disk Utility to erase the empty space on your Hard Drive, which will give it another good going over.

PPS This method is itself reasonably secure but the only truly secure way is to opt for the Nuclear Option or even better don’t sell your Mac with the Hard Drive.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

FileMaker Pro

Upgrading FileMaker Pro from a Trial Version

So over the weekend I needed to install FileMaker Pro 11 to a customer’s new computer, unfortunately they had misplaced the CD, but total disaster was averted as they had emailed me the serial number when I had first installed FileMaker for them on the old computer.

So my main problem was how to locate a copy of the software so I could install it. I thought this would be relatively simple as I had a .cdr copy of the installation disk stored on one of my hard drives. So I dropboxed it and gave it a couple of hours before I returned.

On my return I discovered how difficult it is to get Windows 7 to deal with certain file types. So .cdr was out, .iso was is. I used one of my customer’s Macs to run the conversion and dropboxed it back to the new PC. Ah, but Windows 7 can’t automatically mount an .iso.

So off to google, found a great little program called PowerISO which will allow you to mount a .iso and more importantly, will do it for free. (Mind you’ll have to note that it created CD Drive mapped to D: which caused us quite a bit of confusion later on…)

So once I had my .iso of FileMaker created and mounted, I discovered to my irritation that I could only find the .mkpg and no .exe. Oh where oh where was the .exe? Despite searching high and low I couldn’t for the life of me find it.

So it was back to the drawing board. And then it occurred to me why not just install the trial version and upgrade it? So off it was to filemakertrial.com to download the Windows trial version. Ten minutes later I had the copy in the downloads folder and ran the installer.

But where to upgrade the trial to full version? Oh wait there is no simple way to do it? Really FileMaker? You couldn’t make it a little easier than buying the full version, downloading it,  uninstalling the trial and re-installing the full copy?

I was sure that there must be an easier way. Especially as I already had a licence but simply no available copy of the Windows version of FileMaker. And I was right. Although FileMaker definitely did not make it easy to find.

So here are the instructions you’ll need: “Converting FileMaker Pro Trial” but remember that you’ll have to uninstall the trial version first and if you need to install more than one copy you’ll have to change the serial number each time before running the setup.exe

Other than that the only thing I think worth pointing out is that I could have downloaded and installed a cracked version of the software in a fraction of the time it took me to figure this out and that is largely due to the truly atrocious FileMaker site search.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

FileMaker Pro

FileMaker Custom Function for File Path to @Dropbox

From the second version of my first database (back in 2002) I have used my FileMaker databases to control the creation of a structured folder system to enable the efficient and uniform storing of structured data for each of the businesses I have worked with.

Early on in my development of FileMaker systems I stumbled across the fantastic plugins offered by Troi Automatisering, in particular their File Plugin, now at version 5, which I will be creating this custom function to use.

This plugin enables me to create, with relative ease, a series of fields and scripts that allowed the automatic creation and opening of folders and files straight from the database. Relatively simple if you’re running FileMaker in a closed network, but it starts to get more complicated very quickly.

I’ve had the good fortune to design almost exclusively for Mac only networks (phew) although I have had to deal with mixed environments where my customers are still in transition from PCs to Macs so I’ve had to ensure that any system is compatible with both.

The Preparation

Determining the Windows System Version:

Since the route to the Documents folder hasn’t ever changed in Mac OS X I don’t need to worry about the version used, however, this is not the case in Windows where there is a different file path to the “My Documents” folder on Windows XP and the new versions Vista and Windows 7.

So I need to use the Get ( SystemVersion ) Function to determine whether or not the user is using Windows XP or a newer version. According to the FileMaker help the function returns the following information for Windows:

5.1 for Windows XP SP2

6.0 for Windows Vista

So I needed a test for which version of Windows is running. I did attempt to design my own custom function to determine this, but perhaps because I was unwell I wasted a good deal of time messing around with this before I came to my senses and looked at Matt’s github page.

His os.versionName custom function (which I’ve renamed as os.versions) is a quick and easy solution to this problem, which can go well beyond my needs, but will achieve what I want by returning the name of the Mac or Windows OS running on the users system.

It returns a simple easy to interpret name from the Get ( SystemVersion ) so the 5.1 response from the function is returned as “Windows XP” or 6.0 is returned as “Windows Vista”.

Dealing with Windows Folder Path Separators:

Windows file paths use the “\” separator. For some reason you can’t easily use these in FileMaker calculations (if someone knows why please let me know in the comments). So I’ve taken the easy step of creation of new global variable $$windowsnetworksymbol to contain the “\” separator.

n.b. To ensure this variable is set each time the FileMaker file is launched I’ve added it to a script called “Set Global Variables”, which I run as part of my start-up script.

Dealing with Mac Folder Path Separators

Mac file paths used by the plugin are formatted with the “:” separator. The only other thing you need to worry about is that a file path starts without any separator.

Get (DocumentsPath) Function

It is the product of this function that we have been working towards editing. The basic idea is to be able to call the Get ( DocumentsPath ) Function and then edit it’s product to point instead to the location of the Dropbox folder (assuming it is installed in the default location).

The Get ( DocumentsPath ) Function will return the following:

\C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\My Documents\ in Windows XP

\C:\Users\Your User Name\Documents\ in Vista or Windows 7

And we know from my earlier blog post: Default @Dropbox File Paths that the default file paths for Dropbox are:

\C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\My Documents\My Dropbox\ in Windows XP

\C:\Users\YourUserName\Documents\Dropbox\ in Vista or Windows 7

/Macintosh HD/Users/YourUserName/Dropbox/ in Mac OS X

So now we have all the building blocks in place it’s time to construct our custom function:

The path.dropbox Function

The function itself is relatively simple once we have done the above preparation. It has no parameters and is made up of a simple Case Statement which asks two questions:

1. Is the user running a version of Windows XP?

2. Is the user running either Windows Vista or Windows 7?

If both these questions are negative we will assume that the use is running Mac OS X.

Once we have determined which OS the user is using we will then grab the documents file path using the Get ( DocumentsPath ) Function and then reformat it to be compatible with the Troi File Plugin.

Formatting for Windows

We use the Replace Function to make this assessment:

Replace ( Get ( DocumentsPath ); 1; 3; “” )

This will replace the “\C:” part of the resulting Get ( DocumentsPath ) with simply “”.

We encase this Replace Function within a Substitute Function so that we can substitute the “/” separator for the “\” separator contained within our $$windowsnetworksymbol and get a properly formatted Windows file path for the Troi Plugin. So we get:

Substitute ((Replace (Get(DocumentsPath); 1; 3; “”)); [“/”; $$windowsnetworksymbol])

With both Windows File Paths to the Dropbox we then simply need to append the correct location which we can easily do by adding:

& “My Dropbox” & $$windowsnetworksymbol in Windows XP

& “Dropbox” & $$windowsnetworksymbol in Vista or Windows 7

Formatting for Mac

We again use Replace Function to remove the leading “/” and as before encase this within a Substitute Function so that we can substitute the “/” separator for the “:” separator. So we get:

Substitute ((Replace (Get(DocumentsPath); 1; 1; “”)); [“/”; “:”]; [“Documents:”; “”])

As you’ll notice we have also added to the Substitute Function a statement to replace the “Documents:”, which will strip back the Mac File Path to the User so we can then append:

& “Dropbox” & “:”

which will get us to the default location for the Dropbox on the Mac.

The Final Function:

Case (

os.version = “Windows XP 64-Bit” or “Windows XP”; Substitute ((Replace (Get(DocumentsPath); 1; 3; “”)); [“/”; $$windowsnetworksymbol]) & “My Dropbox” & $$windowsnetworksymbol;
os.version = “Windows 7” or “Windows Vista”; Substitute ((Replace (Get(DocumentsPath); 1; 3; “”)); [“/”; $$windowsnetworksymbol]) & “Dropbox” & $$windowsnetworksymbol;
Substitute ((Replace (Get(DocumentsPath); 1; 1; “”)); [“/”; “:”]; [“Documents:”; “”]) & “Dropbox” & “:”

)

Please note that I have not yet had the opportunity to test this on a Windows system, but I’ve followed paths that worked in the past. As soon as I have had the opportunity to test it I will post any corrections here.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Default @Dropbox File Paths

So I needed to know the default file paths for dropbox on the Mac and different versions of Windows for a Filemaker Custom Function I’m building and couldn’t find a simple listing anywhere on the internet so if you’re interested here they are:

Default Dropbox location on Mac OS X:

Macintosh HD/Users/YourUserName/Dropbox/ or more quickly ~/Dropbox

Default Dropbox location on Windows XP:

C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\My Documents\My Dropbox\

Default Dropbox location on Windows Vista & 7:

C:\Users\YourUserName\Documents\Dropbox\

Source

I found these from the otherwise helpful dropbox Wiki. Check it our here.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Dropbox

Using Dropbox to share Word Templates

So. Dropbox is my favourite file sharing tool. One of the things I use it for, and you can too, is to share Microsoft Word Templates. On Mac this is relatively easy and you can use the following instructions.

I have a file in my dropbox called masters and within that a file named Microsoft Templates or though you can name it whatever you want. So if you want to share your masters folders across multiple accounts, follow the instructions below (for Microsoft Office for Mac 2008):

1. Open up Word and then select preferences:

Word Preferences2. Then select File Locations:

Word 2008 File Locations

3. Then select Workgroup Templates (this allows you to separate personal local templates and word templates you want to share):

Select Workgroup File Word 2008And once you’ve selected the folder in your dropbox you can begin centralising your word templates! Excellent.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Dropbox

Flood Recovery

Well, over the weekend one of my clients offices was flooded by a burst pipe from the apartment above. As I took the call on a surprisingly nice Sunday morning (no snow!) I thought that she couldn’t have imagined for a worse start to the new year.

I have spent the last few days assessing the damage over the telephone with her. At the moment we don’t know if the Macs survived the power surge that knocked out the mains electricity, after all surge protection only goes so far. What she hasn’t had to worry about, however, is her data.

About two weeks before Christmas I finally persuaded her to take out a 50gb account with Dropbox. So if the computers are toast, we can setup new ones, link them to her Dropbox and be up and ready to go in no time. She has also been using Google Apps Standard for the past year or so, so her email is safe, as are her calendars and contacts.

Whilst we wait for permission to move the computers from the insurers to a place where we can see if they work I have been able to email her essential documents, as and when she has needed them straight to her Google company email account on her Blackberry.

So all in all what could have been a disaster six weeks earlier, has been an unsurprising inconvenience but in the end not a disaster. Phew.

Thanks go to Dropbox and Google for making this possible!

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Bye Bye CDs / DVDs

So it’s the week before the New Year and like most of you out there I am considering my resolutions and doing some general spring cleaning. Now for geeks (and particularly those of an OCD bent) this normally includes a spring clean of various computer systems. And this year my focus has been on my CDs and DVDs.

Over the years I’ve built up a large collection of CDs and DVDs to which I’ve burnt backups of my systems, old client systems and the like. In fact I have a four stories high CD holder that my grandmother bought stuffed to the brim and overflowing to an artful stack carefully balanced on top.

Eva Solo CD HolderI also have a much more artful and pleasing desktop CD holder from Eva Solo that perches by my iMac and gives me access to those essential daily CDs and DVDs. (Did I seriously just write that? Honestly I can’t remember when I last used a CD or a DVD… Snow Leopard installation perhaps?) Anyway if you fancy one for yourself you can buy it from Amazon here.

Unfortunately although I’ve always taken basic care of my CDs I’ve never been one of those people who is insistent about always putting them immediately back in the case (or paper slip rather, I’ve way to many for actual cases) and over time they’ve become scratched and generally worn down as this rather imperfect medium for storing information tends to get. (Did anyone seriously think they’d last a decade? I’m struggling with ones five years old).

Anyway as I started to transfer the CDs to my collection of HDs it quickly became apparent that I was going to have to give them a little more tender loving care than I thought. Now I can just about hear the sigh of some you reading who always take perfect care of their CDs and DVDs, but in my defence it’s perhaps because I stopped buying CDs when I got my iPod or because I never really got into DVDs beyond a service like LoveFilm but I never thought about how damaging a few scratches could be.

So demanding an easy, quick solution, using just what I might have around the house, I remembered an old geek tale that you could repair damaged CDs with banana skins. Surely it couldn’t be true… but what the hell, I had some bananas, was a tad hungry so it seemed the way to go. But before embarking without instructions I did a quick google and returned these instructions. So rummaged through the kitchen and came up with a not too brown looking banana (it is the holidays), some window cleaner, some kitchen roll and a handy duster.

So all good to go, I picked a CD that had been giving me some difficulty. One file was repeatedly refusing to copy across (the kind of frustration I was looking to remedy). Not reading the instructions right the first time I had eaten the banana (seriously was I gonna waste it on some CDs) so I had to just use the skin. And after a couple of rub downs, followed by some squirts of window cleaner, the CD was looking better, and low behold when I inserted it into the drive it copied the file.

I was now on a mission and five hours later (did I mention I had a lot of CDs  / DVDs – 158 if you want to know) and some 22.4 Gb of data transferred I was all done. Now I just have to find a sensible way to dispose of my CDs rather than sending them to landfill. Any ideas would be welcomed in the comments.

Oh and for those of you wanting to know if it’s sensible to push all of your backups on to some local HDs can I point you to my earlier post on dropbox where most of my files have now been backed up to. Great system.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Never rely on one backup solution

So continuing my posts on my virus stricken computer drama, see the earlier posts “Poking a hornets nest” and “Dropboxing my way out of a crisis” I had decided after the crisis with iSure (which we had been paying £8.30 a month for the privilege of using and had replaced with a free 2gb dropbox account) to see if we could place the accounts files in the dropbox.

Unfortunately it became clear after a day or so that this solution would not work. As the accounts files (Quickbooks Pro if you need to know) were accessed from two different computers very quickly duplicates started to appear. So it was off hunting for another solution. Fortunately I had one up my belt. I’d been using Mozy since it first went into beta on the Mac and I thought it’d be ideal for this.

So again taking advantage of another free package, some 2gb before you need to pay, I installed it on the accounts computer and went back to sharing the file over the company network. So dropbox might have failed in my enterprise to handle these particular files (I suspected it might, but c’est la vie) but Mozy came through for me and provided a quick and easy solution to my problem.

In most of my personal dealings I use Mozy’s free service to backup the libraries of my MBP, whilst using dropbox to manage my files (I have a lot of files so I am using the 50gb account for that) as a type of replacement NAS as my one of my good friends @tsmarsh termed it. And I have to say it’s worked well for me so far and helped me out of a few sticky situations, so I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for a peace of mind.

The benefit to these services when used free is that you can recommend them to your friends and family and get a little extra space each time someone takes up your referral, meaning it can satisfy a great deal of your needs without you having to spend a dime. All in all using this solution for my client has led them to a saving of £99.60, which in a recession the pennies truly count.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk