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Keeping your Aperture Library Accessible 24/7, Worldwide

PhotoJoseph's picture
November 11, 2010 - 8:38pm

Long ago my Aperture library grew beyond what I could — or wanted to — carry around on my laptop. I keep the main library on a desktop Mac (currently a 2.8 GHz iMac 27" Core i7 w/ 8 GB RAM) and add working projects to it as I came back from jobs or travels, which of course got a lot easier in Aperture 3. But there are times when I’m away from my system and yet need to get to a photo on there. Perhaps a client needs something that I wasn’t expecting, or I want to send something to a potential client; whatever. I want to be able to get to my photos anytime, from anywhere.

Remote Access

I use MobileMe’s “Back to My Mac” feature to access my system remotely, which may not be perfect but it works well enough. These days it’s a lot more reliable than it used to be.

Incidentally, I also have the $14.99 app Desktop Connect by Antecea Inc. installed on both my iPad and iPhone, which allows me to connect to the computers in my house while on the same network (I’m sure there’s a way to set it up so I could access them remotely as well, but in those cases I have my laptop, so I’ve never bothered). Why on earth would I want to view my 27" iMac on a 3.5" iPhone screen? One word: monitoring. Often I’ll walk away from the computer leaving it importing or rendering some big job in Aperture or Final Cut Pro and don’t want to babysit it. But when I can keep an eye on the computer from the iPhone or iPad… well that’s kind cool.

See, you CAN run Aperture on an iPhone!Of course you can pinch and zoom in, and completely control the computer. It’s really quite good.

Uninterrupted Power

The last piece of the puzzle was always power. I’ve usually lived in areas where brownouts and blackouts were rare, but that’s not the case right now—so I finally invested in a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). I bought the Cyberpower CP1500AVRLCD from for just over $150, which frankly I thought was a steal. I was under the impression these things were a lot more expensive! And at 1500 volt amps, it’s way more power than I need.

For anyone not familiar with a UPS—it’s basically a big fat battery that you put in-between your wall power and your critical computer components. It protects against brownouts and in the event of a full blackout, will actually power whatever is plugged into it for a certain amount of time—determined of course by the size of the battery and the draw your gear is pulling off of it. Minimally, it gives you time to properly shut down your system and hard drives, instead of just yanking the power as would normally happen in a blackout. If you have a UPS that’s big enough, you can keep working for a while before shutting down, or ideally, until the power comes back up.

With my iMac and a stack of hard drives plugged into it, it’s using under 15% of the power, and estimates a runtime of over 45 minutes on battery! Since blackouts are rarely that long, odds are the system will never have to shut down. But here’s where this gets really cool, and why I’ve bothered to write this post.

I didn’t realize that the Mac OS has UPS support built into the Energy Saver control panel. You connect a USB cable between the UPS and the Mac, and you get a new option in the System Preferences > Energy Saver.

That’s pretty slick! Notice I’ve set mine to never sleep (which is how it’s normally set up), but let the display sleep after just one minute running off UPS. I want to maximize the duration of the battery, of course.

Clicking on Shutdown Options… gives you some very impressive control as well.

You can choose at what point the computer will actually shut down. Since this is a desktop Mac, putting it to sleep then losing power completely isn’t ideal. I assume that there’s no hibernation state on an iMac like there is on a MacBook; without power, while sleeping, how would it hibernate? Maybe I’m wrong, but I figure better safe than sorry. If the blackout has outlasted the UPS battery, I want the computer to shut itself down, properly. 

Notice in the dialog above you have three options of when the computer will shut down—after a duration of UPS battery use, or after a time or a percentage of battery power remaining threshold is crossed. If you select more than one option, as soon as the first threshold is crossed, the Mac will shut down.

I have no idea how reliable the feedback from the UPS to the Mac is on time remaining or battery remaining, so I chose to enable both of those. Notice I have them both set at a few notches above the minimum. I want my system running as long as it can, but I also don’t want to push the limits too close and end up losing power before the Mac properly shuts down. If I’m heading out of town I’m pretty good at only leaving Aperture running (or nothing at all, and I’ll just launch what I need when I log in), but still… better a little extra safe, right?

But what happens when the power comes back on after it’s been off for so long that the system has shut down? Will the computer start back up again?

There’s the “Start up automatically after a power failure” option that’s enabled, but if the Mac shuts itself down properly, then I don’t think that will trigger it back on when power comes back online. So if you click on the Schedule… button, you can get to the final controls that you need.

I’ve set mine to “Start up or wake” at 6:00 am every day. That way even if it shuts down at 6:01 am, I know that within 24 hours, the computer will start itself back up again. And I figured most blackouts seem to happen late day or night, but never early in the morning. Maybe I’m imagining it, but this seems to improve my odds of getting the system back online sooner rather than later.


There’s no 100% way to guarantee that your system will always be online and available. So many other things could go wrong that you can’t control, such as with your ISP—even if the Mac is running properly, you can’t connect to it without an internet connection to the outside world. But the more you can control, the better your odds, and adding a UPS into the mix certainly takes that reliability up a notch.

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