On Land

Environment Information
At Rill Architects we run ArchiCAD on macOS. If you work at Rill, this is your stuff. If you don't, but you work in ArchiCAD, you may find something interesting. Anybody else, I don't know.

Roundup of issues with daily shutdown, data backup, and power failures.

Automatic shutdown

Computers use a lot of energy, even when idle. They also create heat, which in the summer makes you pay double. For this reason, we set the workstations to shut down automatically in the early to late evening, depending on when (I think) you leave. Before they shut down, they are backed up remotely by the server.

The machine will not shut down if there are unsaved documents. The various apps will present save confirmation dialog boxes, and without you there to respond to them, they will sit there all night. Further, certain apps are crabby about quitting themselves, so the shutdown may stall, and in the morning you'll see a dialog about how some app stopped the shutdown. The big miscreant in this category is 4D. Safari under Leopard also has the annoying non-feature of presenting a confirmation dialog when you try to quit with multiple tabs open. (Turn this off in Safari preferences.)

So. Make a habit of closing out of your work before you leave, but don't shut down the machine. Obviously, saving often is good policy, especially at the end of the day. Save everything, close and quit everything, log out, walk away.

There will be times when you want to keep the machine running overnight, such as creating a VR object. Be my guest, but these are exceptions. Here is a silly question: "Does this mean we can't run VR objects?" If such a process is running, the machine will not be able to shut down automatically.

As for sleep, our machines are set to never sleep. The remote backup routine does not reliably wake the machines from sleep, so it's out. Too bad, it saves energy.

Retrospect Backup

All of the creative and administrative assets of the office are stored on the server. This includes project files, libraries, shared external reference modules, office documents, images, etc.

This is a good time to remind you that working on project files stored on the local machine is against Rill Architects policy. Always open work files from their server locations; the Hotel, Carrot, etc. There is no performance impairment in working this way.

We run Retrospect, an old, venerable, but glitchy, backup software on the server. All the server volumes are backed up every day, in the middle of the day. Additionally, the Hotel (projects volume) is backed up again in the late afternoon. Additionally plus, all the server volumes except the Past Projects are backed up daily to a portable disk that I take off-site.

All workstation machines do their own backup via Time Machine. In addition, Retrospect backs up all users' Home folders each evening. This is primarily to preserve email and preference items. iTunes libraries are explicitly not included in this backup. These folders are too large, and the material is not Rill Architects' responsibility.

To be clear, personal files on your machine in general are not Rill Architects' responsibility. You are welcome to have them, but you must not rely on our data safety measures where they are concerned. Get an external hard disk or a pile of DVDs.

Yes, this is a legalistic disclaimer. It may be that we have your stuff backed up, you just can't count on it.

Time Machine

Time Machine is a feature of Leopard, OS X 10.5. It is an nearly idiot-proof automatic backup app. It does not use a server, rather it backs up the entire internal hard disk to a local external disk. As of now, everyone is on Leopard (or Snow Leopard, 10.6) and everyone has a Time Machine disk. Time Machine is invisible and, in my experience, reliable. (It also has a level of UI zootiness that will probably never be surpassed in an Apple product.) If you need file recovery, you should go to Time Machine first.

TM backs up once every hour. It keeps the last 24 hourly backups, the last month of daily backups, and weekly backups until it runs out of space on the disk. That will take a while. When space runs out, you'll get a new external disk that's twice as big or half the price or both. Storage is cheap as dirt.

Note that because TM covers the whole hard disk, any personal files probably will be backed up, though the legalistic disclaimer is still in effect.

Retrospect client

Retrospect Client is the local application that allows Retrospect on the server to back up the local machine. Its icon is a red cube. The client should always be 'On', though the app does not need to be running. To check that it's on, launch the app. It is a simple window where the only thing that concerns you are the On/Off radio buttons. Make sure it's on. It sometimes mysteriously turns itself off.

When the client is on, you might periodically get a message saying either that a script completed successfully, or that you haven't been backed up in so many days. 'Successfully' is always good. Don't worry if it says there were x number of execution errors; this is normal. 'Not backed up' is always bad; let me know at your earliest convenience.

But look, if the client is 'Off', you won't get any notices, and you will gradually forget the client exists. Remember to check it. Keep it in the Dock.

From my (the server's) end, I make a habit of checking that all the Retrospect backups have run. If I notice your backup has failed, I will come over and check the client.

If you have a data loss event, and Time Machine fails for some reason, get me to help you with a Retrospect restoration.

Loss of power

Sometimes the power goes out.

All the machines have a dedicated power backup device (Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS). This is basically a battery which is always charged as long as the power is on. When the electricity fails, the battery supplies power to the computer for a few minutes. (I don't know, and it depends. 5-10 minutes, let's say.) The goal in a power failure is to save your work and shut down the machine. 'Just finish this one thing' is not part of the save/shutdown process. If Archicad is in the middle of a long process (drawings update, e.g.) and isn't allowing you to stop it, you may need to force quit (Cmd+Opt+Esc).

While your machine will continue to run from the battery, your connection to the server will likely be lost. This means two things:

1. You cannot simply "Save" any file which is open from the server. Which, see above, is most of them. You must "Save as" to a location on your local machine, such as your Desktop or Documents folder. When the crisis passes, your first task is to move those files onto the server, writing over the old ones.

2. You will get a warning dialog that several volumes have become unavailable. When you see this dialog, click 'Disconnect'. It can take some time for this dialog to appear, during which the machine may become unresponsive (rainbow beach ball). Be patient. (Actually, in Leopard the Finder is much quicker on the uptake here.)

NB: Archicad handles sudden server disconnections much worse than the Finder. For example, if AC starts looking on the server for library parts and the Carrot is not available, AC can hang, making it impossible to Save As. Again: No working allowed. Save locally and quit.

When everything is closed and quit, shut down the machine via the Apple menu.

If there are unattended machines still running, be a good teammate and check that any work open there is saved.

Once the machine is off, you can turn off the UPS if the beeping noise is driving everyone crazy. They're under the desks in the dark.

When Power comes back

If the server is off, turn it on. This means you. Should you wait for someone else to do it? No, you shouldn't.

Replace any files you had to save locally. Delete the local copies to avoid confusion later.