Thursday 27 January 2011

Syncing a MacBook Air with another Mac

My website: Wedding Photographers in Kent

I invested (at least that's how I justified it to the wife) in a new 11" MacBook Air (1.6GHz / 4GB RAM/ 128GB SSD spec) for Xmas.  I wanted a machine that I could use to run my business in the event of my primary Mac Pro failing, but also portable and powerful enough to be able to take to weddings and start the post-production workflow (ie importing to Lightroom and rendering previews with my standard development settings.)

As soon as I switched on the MacBook Air it was recognised by my Aiport Extreme Base Station and was able to access the Mac Pro. This allowed me to transfer most of my key data. So far, so good.

I had quite specific requirements for email though (and I was not interested in a mobileme account with Apple - for numerous reasons.) I use Gmail in conjunction with Apple Mail and store all my client enquiries and emails in On My Mac mailboxes - of which there are hundreds. I've therefore always used Gmail as a POP server. Gmail is unable to replicate the nesting of mailboxes that I have in Apple Mail and is therefore of no use to me in IMAP mode. I wanted both computers to be able to receive email, but for the MacBook Air to mirror the way I store emails on the Mac Pro.

I copied the Home/Library/Mail folder and the file found in Users/Home/Library/Preferences from the Mac Pro to the MacBook Air. Set up like this, however, the two computers are in competition to collect mail from the Gmail server - messages can be only collected once. The trick is to add 'recent:' before the email address and user name in Mail-Preferences-Accounts. As follows (to avoid any misunderstandings):

Email address:
User name:

Both computers will now receive all emails - that are sent to you and that you send.

I then purchased ChronoSync, a very useful piece of software which allows for the synchronisation of folders and files between Macs. I set it up so that the Mail folder and file on the Mac Pro are replicated at the end of the day on the MacBook Air (not a bidirectional sync) - it only copies over files that have been changed so it takes less than a minute to synchronise.

I also use Chronosync to keep other important work-related folders synchronised. I could have used it to synchronise iCal and Contacts but there is a more sophisticated way of doing this. These programs are designed so that changes can be made on two computers and then merged during synchronisation. With Chronosync one file would overwrite the other and hence only changes on one computer would be kept. Numerous pieces of software are available to take advantage of this functionality but I opted for the free version of SyncMate.

So now both computers have all my key data in the format that I'm used to and I have full control over how this happens.

Please feel free to share your Mac syncing experiences.

My website: Kent wedding photographers

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