Time Machine is Working Again

Recently, I blogged that Time Machine Failed Me. You can read it there, but there is a bit more to the story.

I had turned Time Machine off. After all, every time (yes, every) it tried, it failed. (In an earlier post, I mentioned an error that occured when I didn’t check the state of my PowerBook before shutting it down. That was my error.)

But, I still used and relied on SuperDuper!. And then the unthinkable happened. For the first time, SuperDuper! failed. Red type in the SuperDuper! window told me, “SuperDuper!: Failed to copy files from Macintosh HD to firewire.”

I looked at its log file. The log file is fascinating. I’m… um… seasoned, I suppose is a good word for “old.” I’ve been around a while. I remember doing backups onto 9 Track Mag Tape. You did that with “everything” on the system stopped. Even in more modern times, Backups have given trouble if the system was trying to write anything. SuperDuper! clearly keeps trying and trying. (And, yes, I have booted from and recovered files from my back-up volume.) But, I digress. The last line of the log said this:

| 05:50:20 PM | Error | SDCopy: utimes /Volumes/fredpb2-boot-leopard/ System/Library/Automator/Apply Quartz Composition Filter to Image Files.action/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/main.nib: Invalid argumentn: Invalid argument
So, I tried again. Same error, different place. I ran DiskUtility against the FireWire HD. No problems. I ran it against the system HD. Again, nothing to repair. So, I wrote to Shirt Pocket’s feedback address at 17:57:53 -0400. I got a response from customer support (I am joking a bit… “customer support” is the owner and operator, head programmer, and perhaps the only employee, David Nanian). A few hours later I got this response:
It looks like your destination volume failed during the backup. Please power off both the Mac and the backup drive. Wait a few minutes, and then simplify the FireWire bus to just the drive (if there was anything else attached – especially an iSight, iPod or hub).

Power back up, and then use Disk Utility to repair the destination volume (use the buttons on the right side of the Disk First Aid tab, not the left side “repair permission” buttons). Repeat until there are no errors indicated.

When that’s done, give it another try, and let me know if that helps!
“Especially an iSight,” eh? Darn. I do have an iSight which I cleverly plugged into the FireWire socket on the back of my external drive (since it took the only FireWire port on my PowerBook).

I unplugged the iSight camera, started a backup, and went to bed. This morning I found that it had worked without an error.

Which brings me back to Time Machine. I figure that same iSight camera might have been the problem. So, I restarted Time Machine. And it worked throughout the night (and throughout today) also. So, I’m using Time Machine again. But, I am trusting SuperDuper! Apple has… Steve Jobs, somewhere. SuperDuper has David in Weston, Massachusetts, who wrote the thing and responds to email late at night. Even when he is on vacation!


E-Mail Cleanup

While this series of articles is Mac-specific and Mail-specific, most of the tips offered can be used with other e-mail clients on other platforms. It is all about productivity. I know people who have no such scheme and are burdened by the guilt (or just stress) of hundreds (or more) unread or “undealt-with” e-mails in their inbox. As the waiter in the 1971 television advertisement for Alka-Seltzer urges his customer, “Try it, you’ll like it.” Unlike the customer, trying these suggestions should lessen the need for an antacid.

Here are other excellent resources for getting a handle on e-mail. And, as you probably know, handling ths problem is very important. (See the comment in Hi-tech is turning us all into time-wasters, that says, “Even the beeps notifying the arrival of email are said to be causing a 0.5 per cent drop in gross domestic product in the United States, costing the economy $70bn a year.”)

So, the additional resource:
Both are from Merlin Man.



I like to write. I journal. I blog. I don’t do either enough. I write, sometimes, for my day job. (But, writing for government contract deliverables—and who else even talks like that?—is something completely different, and can be life-sucking to a writer. But, I digress.) I just can’t seem to schedule a regular time to write, and this bugs me. So, I need to find a way. All that to point to an excellent column by Kurt Vonnegut. If I read this correctly, he wrote it in 1999. It popped up on a newsreader and I am pointing it out to you. It is How to Write With Style. If you write, please read it (it is very short). His summary:
  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble, though
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Pity the readers


Time Machine Failed Me

I’m disappointed in this “run it and forget it” thing. Others have seen this. Most probably have not. I mentioned it in Time Machine Error. Well, it continued to happen. Sometimes it would fail with a pop-up message saying, “Time Machine Error. Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while creating the backup directory.” Very helpful. What am I supposed to make of that, let alone Mom and Pop or Aunt Ida? So I opened Time Machine and clicked the red “i” in a circle, assuming it meant “information.” And that pop-up said… the exact same thing.

I turned off TM. I used Disk Utility to Verify and Repair. It would not verify or repair. Now, Disk Utility helpfully tells you, “Click Repair Disk. If the repair fails, back up and erase the disk.”

Back up where? And why? It is bad. Why back up a bad disk. So, I have no choice but to erase it and start Time Machine captures again. Why? Why not? I am glad I routinely back up on another volume using SuperDuper! Oh, and I need to select “Change Disk…” in Time Machine and pick the same, now zero-ed out, disk. And I’m fairly smart. Again, how could Mom and Pop or Aunt Ida do this?

Help on my Mac turns up a topic entitled, “Time Machine stops backing up to external disk.” Promising? No. It says to 1. Open Disk Utility and 2. Click the Partitions Tab.

Funny. No such Tab.

Apple, this rots.


E-mail “Stationery”: Just Say “No”

Short version: using e-mail ‘stetionery’ is evil. Don’t do it.

In my posting Leopard: The Good Stuff I say
One feature Mail could have done without: stationery. Stationery is terrificfor hand-written mail. All it does is add an image attachment that may or may not be seen as a “background” to the e-mail. (Many times it will not show upit depends on the e-mail client. The user will then click on the attachment to see it and it will make them wonder why you send them a fabric swatch.)
I have repeatedly suggested against it every time someone has mentioned it in the Apple discussion forums. I’ve written, “As I’ve stated before on these forums, just because it looks good in your e-mail client does not mean that it will display correctly in someone else’s. Sometimes the ‘stationery’ will be transmitted as an attachment. The recipient will get your e-mail and an attachment. They will have to click on the attachment to see it. And they will see the ‘stationery’ only. It would be like sending a postal letter with the words written on a plain white sheet of paper, and sending along with it a nice piece of colored stationery.”

A friend sent me e-mail the other day. He “signed his name” at the bottom with a GIF image of his handwritten name, “Joe.” It, was, of course, an attachment. It showed up fine in e-mail, but when I forwarded the message, I forwarded his plain text e-mail plus the attachment with his name.

Someone else consistently sends me e-mail with a fancy signature image, containing her company logo. Every time I reply—and include the e-mail—the fancy signature is sent along. She replies, and now there are two copies if it, and so on.

You, the sender, have no control over what the recipients’ e-mail client can and cannot view. Sticking to plain text e-mail means that you can communicate with the greatest number of people. If you must have fancy fonts, and colorful backgrounds, send it in a PDF.

Plain text is best.

Use Rich Text if you must.

But, don’t use stationery (unless it is in hard-copy, postal mail).

Data Classification

I provided some input into an article by writer Mathew Schwartz, who quotes me in the article Classify This! 10 Best Practices to Jumpstart Your Data Classification Program.

I’ve often pointed out, here and elsewhere, that there is, as the writer of Ecclesiates says, “nothing new under the sun.” Mr. Schwartz wrote about this last week (and it is timely and too few of us are doing it). And I wrote these words in February 1999 (almost 10 years ago).
Security policy planning entails starting with the mission needs. Identify the crown jewels through data classification. Classifications might include “dont care,” sensitive, financial, competitive, legal, privacy-related, etc.
Re-read my old article at Foundations of Enterprise Network Security.


It’s not just who you are, it’s who your friends are

I’ve saved this clipping in my “BlogMe” mailbox since February. How to Hack Into a Boeing 787. In a nutshell (in case the article is gone or you don’t want to bother) all variants of the jetliner “have three on-board computer networks. One network is for flight safety and navigation, a second is for administrative functions and the third handles passenger entertainment and Internet access.” You know the punch-line, right? All three are linked. (Probably, were, as Boeing says the design has been fixed.)

It reminds me of a story.

It takes place in 1992 or so, DARPA was funding a small computer security company to securely connect The White House (really the Executive Office Building) to the Internet. They came to this security company and asked “Do you know anything about ‘Internet firewalls?'” People at the company did. After lots of talking and planning someone with a clue said, “We need to do a network survey.” “Why?”

“We need to see what else is connected to your network.” Now remember, this was 1993, before everyone including your Aunt Tilly was on the Internet. Long story short, the company did the network survey and found that the White House network was already on the Internet. They were connected via NASA Goddard, which, at the time, was well-known in the local IP community for poor network security. They would have had a firewall in their front door with an unlocked back door.

Back to the jetliner. People tend to make these mistakes. Why, or why in the world are—sorry, were—the networks interconnected? I don’t know but experience tells me it was probably to save some copper (or fiber). No matter how smart you are (and the Boeing engineers are smart), always, always, always bring someone else in to look at your plans. And make sure some of those people know something about security and risks.

I heard from someone “in the know,” who shall remain nameless.
“How to hack into a 787” was erroneous from the very beginning. It was a scare story launched by someone with no actual knowledge of the systems in question.

While there are connections between the sub-networks on the B787, the interactions between the passenger-accessible network and the rest is strictly firewalled and sandboxed. The only data connection between the cabin network and the flight network is a very limited one that allows the cabin crew to talk to the flight crew over the IP-based interphone system.

Having actually read the Specification Control Documents (SCDs) which control the design of the system, I can tell you that they were designed with data security issues very much in mind.

Well, certainly good news, but my point remains. These are the times when you don’t just bring in application experts, or networking experts, but also security experts.

Other Cocktails

As I have previously mentioned, a gin Martini is my drink of choice, “up,” with an olive. I prefer Gordon’s, not because it is Bond’s gin of choice (and anyway, the Gordon’s of the original novel’s time was a higher proof), but because I like the taste. I do enjoy other cocktails at times.

Another favorite is a gin Gimlet, a very nice cocktail, made with 2 oz. of gin and 3/4 oz. of Rose’s Lime Juice. There are sweeter versions, but this is the ratio I prefer. (In Raymond Chandlers The Long Goodbye,Terry Lenox tells Philip Marlowe A real Gimlet is half gin and half Roses Lime Juice…”) Again, very cold, up with a lime quarter.

And when I am in a very quiet, contemplative mood, it’s a Vesper. In the novel Casino Royale, Bond ordered thusly:
“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.
Alas, you can’t get Kina Lillet anymore and that’s arguably a lot of booze. I go with the recipe in my signed hardcover copy of Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century.
  • 2 oz. Gordon’s gin
  • 1 oz vodka (I don’t care what kind)
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
  • a dash of bitters (to simulate the Kina Lillet and to give a light pink glow)


More on Big Bang Mark2

Right, not really. Previously, I blogged about ‘Big Bang’ project put off to 2008. Well, holy moley, it is 2008 and time is running out! So, I was amused by Some fear debut of powerful atom-smasher. (“Atom-smasher.” I like it.) “Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on,” said project leader Lyn Evans. But, what really got me laughing is:
David Francis, a physicist on the collider’s huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.

“If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here,” he said.
Well, really how far away could one get from the Earth being swallowed by Switzerland? (And no, I don’t really think CERN will cause a black hole. Just the same, imagine the insurance they have to carry!)

Notes from a Boring Meeting

Every meeting can start with a contest. Everyone “plays” or demonstrates what his or her phone sounds like when it “rings.” The one with the most obnoxious one wins. Second place wins for the most embarrassing. These ratings are assigned by the group.

In the Beginning

I had to chuckle. No, it really was an “LOL,” as my kids text. I read Hints of ‘time before Big Bang,’, in which we read, “A team of physicists has claimed that our view of the early Universe may contain the signature of a time before the Big Bang.”

Okay, let me get this straight. The Cosmos as we know it did not explode into existance from nothing at the event we know as “The Big Bang.” It exploded from something? What? The Cosmos-1?

There is this very basic, foundation of… what? sense versus nonsense? “Ex nihilo nihil fit.” Out of nothing, nothing comes. It doesn’t really matter how many big bangs there were. You either believe in an eternal self-existant cosmos or… No, we’l leave it at that. A cosmos that has existed for eternity past is so much safer.

Easy Spam Filter

I just need to figure out how to code this up: IF
  • The From: address is all in capital letters
  • The word “widow” is in the message body
    and either
    • The Subject is “greetings in the name of the lord!”
    • The Subject: is in Hebrew (this won’t work for everyone, I know)
it is spam.

Conventional Wisdom vs. Wisdom

In February, Dark Reading published, The Myth of Conventional Wisdom. I posted a comment. A rebuttal really. It is no longer on the website. (No comments or discussions are for the article.) I think the discussion—what Tim wrote and my opinions—might be useful to present here. So, read his piece (let me know if the link no longer works; I saved a copy). And then read what I suggest, below.
I believe you’ve misused the term “conventional wisdom.” Conventional wisdom are things that are generally accepted as true by most people, not by experts in the field. I suggest that if you ask experts in the field—and for grins, let’s stick with people who have been in the business for more than 2 years—you will find that none of the things you mention came as surprises. In fact, they could have been, and have been, predicted. But, using the correct definition of conventional wisdom, I agree with your assessment of conventional wisdom in the info security realm. You write, “The problem with IT security is that it’s not a conventional discipline. It changes with the nature of the business and the nature of the threat.” No. Particulars change, but fundamentally there is nothing new in the attack space, and has not been in years. Neither of the examples you give of zero-day attacks (are we really surprised that attackers go for the low-hanging fruit?) and identity fraud surprised experts in the field. The public believes that because loss of 100,000 credit card names and numbers will lead to more people exploiting more cards. The expert knows that you are still more likely to have you card number taken and used by the young waiter who served you last night.

And what network or security expert said that “DNS systems were unassailable”? Steve Bellovin discovered flaws in DNS almost 20 years ago and security extensions to DNS started in the late 90s. But, yes, “conventional wisdom”—which we see is no wisdom at all—would say otherwise.

“IT security ‘wisdom'” is far from “fleeting.” We just continue to forget the past, and believe that everything is new and needing new solutions. “The security pro” who forgets the basics and neglects what has worked before “will surely be the first one attacked tomorrow.”