Macintosh Troubleshooting

Make a bootable Mac OS X USB flash drive for repairs

I am always on the go working on a variety of Macs. As reliable Macs can have their bad days and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. We have all been there, and it only takes that one time faced with a repair not having the right utilities or maintenance tools. I always have a USB flash drive with me that is ready for all situations that require me to diagnose, repair or maintain Mac OS X.

The best device I have in my arsenal of repair equipment is my Iron Key USB flash drive loaded with a bootable copy of MAC OS X. With this clean installed system you can pin point most problems that the main drive might have troubles isolating. I tend to have 3 or 4 of these USB keys, one for each Mac OS (10.4, 10.5 and 10.6). I used to lug around a big bulky portable drive but with more reliable USB flash drives available portability has become a great added tool.

Getting Started
To start you will need to have a USB based Mac, either Intel or PowerPC based on what you plan on repairing and at least a 16GB USB flash drive, I use the a S200 16BG Ironkey from Amazon. SanDisk also carries a reliable drive. Lastly you will need a version of Mac OS X.

  1. Plug in your USB flash drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities)
  3. Select your flash drive in the list on the left.
  4. Click on the Partition tab and select “1 Partition” from the Volume Scheme drop-down menu.
  5. Enter a name for your USB flash drive (I called mine “Lifesavor OS X”)
  6. Under Format select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”. Make sure the size is somewhere around +/- 16GB.
  7. Below the partition display click the ‘Options’ button.
  8. Choose “GUID Partition Table” from the popup window and click OK.
  9. With you setting chosen click the ‘Apply’ button. Disk Utility will take a minute or two to complete this task.
  10. Insert your Mac OS X installation disc.
  11. Double-click the ‘Install Mac OS X’ icon and progress through the installer until you get to the screen that says “Mac OS X will be install on…”
  12. Click the ‘Show All Disks’ button and select your USB flash drive.
  13. Click on the ‘Customize’ button and a new window will appear.
  14. Un-check all of the items except ‘Essential System Software’. Save space and don’t check ‘Rosetta’ and ‘QuickTime 7’.
  15. Click OK to Install. The rest of the process should be automated and might takes about 30-60 minutes.
  16. Once Installation is complete test the flash drive by booting it up. Restart your Mac and hold down the Option key to choose your flash drive manually. HINT: You will need to do this in the future also to boot to the drive.
  17. After restarting using the USB flash drive follow the set up prompts just like you would a new computer.
  18. Once the OS is running launch Software Update and make sure that your flash drive OS is up-to-date.
  19. Finally install any third party diagnostic utilities you may have. For example, Alsoft’s DiskWarrior is an invaluable tool going beyond what Disk Utility has to offer.

DONE! Although booting to a flash drive is a bit slow it does the job and is convenient; a lot lighter than dragging a book of CD/DVD’s around. Hopefully you will never have to use it but having it available is a great portable emergency too for troubleshooting your Mac.

Mac OS X GarageBand Tips

Combining Two Garageband Projects

I have been working with Garageband since it first came out and have seen it evolve into a pretty powerful audio editing program. I primarily use Garageband for my Podcasting but have used it to create ring tones and music. To help in my podcast production process I started using a “template” that I set up that included my intro music and my primary voice-over. I had this saved to my desktop and when ever I wanted to create a new podcast I simply duplicated it. Recently I discovered an easier way of doing this that has been available since Garageband 3.0! You can simply combine two songs into one by importing one project, or a part of a project, into the one you are working on. Before you get started make sure you store your GarageBand projects or their Alias are located in GarageBand’s default location ~users/Music/GarageBand/. Otherwise you will not be able to access them within the Media Browser. I have mine within a project file and created an Alias by selecting the Folder and hold down the Command+L and placing that within the default folder. Next:

  1. Launch GarageBand
  2. Open the Media Browser located in the bottom right hand corner of your window.
  3. GarageBand Media Browser

    GarageBand Media Browser

  4. Select the Audio tab at the top of the Media Browser inspector.
  5. Navigate to where you have your GarageBand files stored. NOTE: By default it is your user’s ~/Music/GarageBand folder.
  6. Select and Double-click the project you want to import. NOTE: If you haven’t opened it from within the Media Browser before, GarageBand will most likely warn you that project was not saved with an iLife preview. You will get a dialog asking you to open it in GarageBand so that you can save it with an iLife preview.
  7. Click ‘Yes’
  8. Close the project you just opened and re-open the original song.
  9. Re-open the Media Browser again and drag the song you just converted into the current project.

GarageBand Media Browser

Drag-and-drop the song you just converted into the current project

The newly imported song appears in an orange track with a small guitar icon next to its name in the timeline. The orange color indicates it’s an imported project. If you need to further edit the song you just imported, do the following:

  1. Double-click the imported track in the timeline. This opens up the Track Editor.
  2. Click ‘Open Original’ in the Track Editor.
  3. Make the changes you want to the imported project, then save and close it.
  4. GarageBand re-opens the project you started with and informs you that the imported project has been modified. A dialog will ask you if you want to update the imported region. Click ‘Update Region’ button.

That’s pretty much it. The process is a bit of a back-and-forth requiring you to make frequent changes to both projects. I found however that if the track you are importing is mostly complete and ready to go you are just focusing on the track you are importing to. In my case my intro is pretty standard what comes after that is what I tweak! Working this way this technique works pretty well.

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