chhotii: (Default)
Recently Apple released version 10.5.3 of Leopard. Since I found out about it through Software Update bugging me, *NOT* from someone complaining on a mailing list about its bugs, I went ahead with testing Time Machine again.

Verdict: Still not satisfactory.

This time I noticed, while trying to back up a computer that has a few different user accounts (the computer that Jon and Joseph both use), that if you log out during a Time Machine backup, it stops backing up. Uh... excuse me? Users aren't supposed to log out, least the backup not happen? What???????? Even more weird, the backup that was running when I logged out seems to have been invalidated, or something. Before I logged out, the progress thingie said "4.98 GB of 26.6 GB", but, after re-starting the backup after logging back in, it said "34.4 MB of 26.6 GB". If almost 5 GB was backed up before, why doesn't it say either "34.4 MB of 21.6 GB" or even "5 GB of 26.6 GB"? No credit for the 5 GB backed up before logging out?

This may be because I'm trying to back up the machine in question over the network to a drive attached to a different Mac. Perhaps a backup to an attached drive would keep on going. Not really acceptable, though: we aren't going to buy a separate large external hard drive for every computer here.

Altogether Time Machine seems to be too tied to one user's account. I've been reading a lot of forums and seen mention of problems where Time Machine fails because some file has an unknown group or doesn't belong to the user it should belong to or some such thing. Retrospect doesn't have this problem. Somehow (I suppose because an Admin user authorizes the Retrospect Client) Retrospect manages to back up everything, regardless of who owns what file.

I'd be more willing to find work-arounds for Time Machine's quirks if Time Machine seemed more trustworthy. As far as anyone can tell, if Time Machine hits an error on a file, it doesn't just log that problem and go on; it cancels that hour's entire backup. You might never get a complete backup, due to files you don't even care about, if it trips up over and over again.
chhotii: (Default)
Oh, Time Machine held out such promise. And it seemed so brilliantly simple, I thought, what could go wrong?

Plenty.

1) Learn from folks that have been doing backup software (such as Retrospect) for years: If you get stuck backing up one file, just log the error, move on to the other 8,362 files that need to be backed up.

2) Which means... Oh yes, you are going to need a log! Shit happens, get over it, don't blithely assume that everything will always go perfectly, and give me a log! (Yes, truly dire events usually get mentioned in Console, buried somewhere with all the other error messages from everything else. But having to dig around in that mess makes me a whole lot less productive than when using Retrospect, which has its own dedicated log.)

3) And if I'm going to be reading the log (even if you do try to hide it in Console) you have to demystify the error numbers. Error -1101 doesn't tell me anything. Retrospect, in contrast, has a web page listing error numbers, telling what they mean and why you might get each one. Don't be in such denial about the possibility that errors might occur.

4) And when errors do occur, and f**ks up the backup... Could you give us some tool that fixes the backup? Deleting the backup, re-formatting the drive and starting over from scratch is not acceptable.

5) Given that an error might mean backups all gone... It makes us really really frightened when the backup status says "Preparing..." with barber pole strips on the progress meter for an hour. It scares the crap out of me, actually. Now I understand that sometimes it has to check the entire file system before it can figure out what it needs to back up incrementally. But couldn't it tell us that that's what it's doing, and give a progress meter for that process? Otherwise it just looks like it's stuck.

6) Apple Knowledge Base article says that computer names should only contain letters, numbers, and a couple of punctuation symbols (. and _ probably). But... the computer gives itself a name that violates that rule by default: the name defaults to something containing a space and a ' (for example "Alex's Computer"). Yes we can re-name the computer, but you didn't test this on computers with default names? What kind of monkeys are running the testing lab out there?

7) Speaking of testing... Did they notice this week that last month's label on the star field timeline is "December 2008" on any machines? I noticed. Uh, December 2008? If Time Machine can pull up data from December 2008, wow, I'm impressed. (And it sure would save us a lot of money if we could just pull a year's worth data out of the star field rather than have to pay subjects, book rooms in the research center, buy supplies...) But, no, dingbats, it's not a time machine, it's a bug.

Retrospect has bugs too, but Retrospect doesn't blithely assume that nothing will ever go wrong. I can work with Retrospect. With Time Machine, all I can do is bang on the desk in frustration.

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