Time Machine, Don't Move Your Desktop Without It
June 16, 2012

Time Machine, Don’t Move Your Desktop Without It

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com

Often, computers and frustration seem to go hand and hand. Whether it´s because we simply cannot connect to the Internet, or because a file that should've been saved wasn't, we can all relate to each other when it comes to giving our beloved electronic devices a five-finger slap.

Computer software engineers work hard to ensure those frustrations we sometimes face happen less and less frequently. It may be impossible to take human error out of the equation when it comes to machinery, but Apple introduced one feature a few years ago that at least makes an attempt.

Just this week, my dad, a veterinarian in Whitehouse, Texas, texted me that his server at work crashed, leaving weeks of unbacked-up data in limbo and unable to be accessed. But, to back the story up even further, nearly five years ago Steve Jobs and his team of Apple engineers envisioned a day Dr. Randy Rannals would have this very problem.

The beauty of what makes Apple so great, is how well engineers look-ahead in their programming to try and anticipate certain scenarios that could happen, and then prevent them from happening. There could be a feature, or even a simple command, that you never knew about on your computer until the moment that you needed it. Not every feature on Apple's Mac operating system is written out in detail, but each one has its particular purpose. In my dad's case, one feature reached its fulfillment on Monday.

Time Machine was first introduced by Apple on its Mac OSX 10.5 operating system, or its "Leopard" release. The purpose of the utility is in case you ever threw away a file, you could go back in "time" to days, weeks, months or years on your computer to recover the important document that at one point you thought unimportant.

As with all things, there is a catch to ensuring Time Machine works. A storage drive needs to be set up with it in order for it to function. Dr. Rannals is the kind of tech-savvy guy that will try and use every last function he can on his computer or smartphone. So, once Time Machine became available back in 2007, you can bet he set up a hard drive and put the new feature to work.

As cool as Time Machine is, it´s one of those features that you never really use, or even know it´s there, unless you need it. And, for most people, you never really need it. So for some it seems lackluster, while others may have forgotten altogether that they set it up. However, the moment you need it is that very same moment you remember why you choose Apple products.

Dr. Rannals was working at his office on Tuesday when that moment came. After years of having his computer set up on a network, and his clients files being hosted on a server and not a file cabinet, his electronic co-worker failed him.

The server failed, and he was left with that alarming feeling you get when your stomach twists and turns knots from both frustration and stress. He knew he hadn't backed up his server on his flash drive in a few weeks, meaning loads of client data, patient history, lab data and plenty of other things that make a small-town veterinary office run were gone.

Under the scenario where Jobs and his Apple team never invented Time Machine, Dr. Rannals would have spent up to a month of man hours having to manually re-enter patient, client and income data into a computer. He said it would have undoubtedly resulted in at some permanent patient data loss.

But, about 27 years ago, Randy chose Apple. Even in the 1990s, when Jobs had temporarily left the company and the world was screaming Microsoft, he stuck to his guns and what he knew to be the superior products.

Instead of spending weeks having to manually re-enter data up at his office, he gets to play golf, hang out with his very talented son and his new fiancé, and plan his vacation to Colorado. By simply hooking-up his Time Machine to another Mac, he navigated his file Time Machine had created for him from its most recent update that day, and dragged it to the current computer desktop. What could have been hours of work, turned into a moment of bliss that he was proud to be a Mac user.

"I've lost the hard drive on a few other Macs over the years," Dr. Rannals told redOrbit in an interview." And we are constantly preached at to make frequent backups and few people really do. It made sense to use it to take the 'me' out of the equation."

On behalf of all frustrated computer users who have chosen the Jedi way, and were not swayed by the "Dark Side" Microsoft offers through cheap devices, we thank you Apple.