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Wed, 30 Jul 2008
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!

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Wed, 16 Jul 2008
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. (If you are interested, the log is here.)

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.

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Sat, 28 Jun 2008
Time Machine Error

As I mentioned in System Back-ups, I have and do use SuperDuper! for backups, but since installing Leopard, I also let Time Machine do it’s thing. Today, it was showing an error condition. When I queried Time Machine (I opened it then clicked on the little “information” icon, next to the error) it helpfully told me “Unable to complete backup. An error occurred while copying files to the backup volume.” I tried again. Same thing. I used Disk Utility to check the disk. No problems.

So, first I did a back-up using SuperDuper! I use a different partition for that. Then I queried the Internet, which, as we know, knows everything. I found the solution.

Apparently, Time Machine was interrupted during the last time it was run. Now, a power outtage can do that, and we had one today. But, this was user error. I turned my machine off last night when going to bed. And I did not check to see if it was running.

It was a simple fix. I found it, via a search for the error message, at the MacCast Forum. The answer, from forum user “karinlord,” was:

If Time Machine gets disrupted for any reason during a backup (e.g., hard drive unplugged, power failure) it seems to get stuck. Occasionally it gets stuck for reasons only known to Leopard. It’s a known bug on the Apple discussion boards. What has worked for me is the following:
  1. ensure hard drive is powered on and connected to computer
  2. turn off time machine
  3. go to your backup volume, backups.backupd, “your computer name”, and then select and trash “In Progress” or “Latest” (it will be the last one in your backup folder listing)
  4. turn Time Machine back on
  5. either wait for the next backup cycle, or what I do to be sure things are working right: force an immediate backup (control-click on TimeMachine, select “backup now”).

This worked for me.

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Mon, 24 Mar 2008
Leopard: The Good Stuff

I’m just going to touch on a few things, as Apple certainly has—with greater flare—shown off Leopard’s features.

First, almost everything worked. I had a few glitches, as I describe in Leopard: The installation and Leopard: Problems.

First, SuperDuper! had already provided Leopard support, and it worked. Although I can see using Time Machine, to recover the state of individual files, I like having a complete, bootable image that I control. This may change over time. (No pun intended.)

Time Machine. It is cool, neat, etc. As I just said, I can imagine the need and using it. I have only played with it.

Spaces really helps my productivity. Under Tiger, to avoid some clutter, I used to have my desktop display be my “main display” and my Powerbook display be my secondary. It sat off to my left as you can see here. With Spaces, I just keep my PowerBook lid closed and don’t use that display.

As you can see (click for larger image), I have 4 spaces set up. In the image, space 1 has my Mail program and a web browser showing. Space 2, my instant messenger windows. Space 3 has my iCal. And in Space 4, I have a few X-term windows up, connected to different systems.

Mail and iCal now work more closely together. Mail allows you to create “To Do” items, which show in your Mail, but also show up in iCal. Here is an example:

I miss the side drawer display in the old version of iCal. To Do Items are show on the side (as before), but details appear in a pop-up window. More on that in a bit.

Mail also recognizes content that might be a calendar event. This is very nice. Here are two examples. First, I received e-mail that had information about a university commencement. Note the option it gives me. I did select Create New iCal Event, which brought me to here.

In another e-mail, someone invites me to meet for breakfast. I “hover” my mouse over the text, pick Create New iCal Event, and create the event in iCal.

As I said, I miss the way iCal used to display information in a side panel. Now one needs to double click on the even (just like the To Do Item, earlier) to be able to see details and edit the event.

One feature Mail could have done without: stationery. Stationery is terrific—for hand-written mail. All it does is add an image attachment that may or may not be seen as a “background” to the email. (Many times it will not show up—it 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.)

Finder changes. The jury is out on the changes to the sidebar. I find it a bit cluttered and haven’t had time to figure out how to fix this. Networked systems that are reachable and “shareable,” show up under SHARED. Much of the time. But, just this morning as I wrote this, everything had disappeared until I connected (via SMB or NFS) again to the linuxserver. Then it showed up there again.

Of course, I like Quick Look, and I am sure I will like it more as I use it more.

Oh, and Dock and its “reflective 3D” look? I turned it off. Too much candy upsets my stomach.

Right after I talked about SHARED in Finder, all the systems disappeared. This is a complaint in many forums and discussion groups on the Internet. I bet if I went to my local Apple Store I’d see all the systems on their net. I just wonder how? Remember the picture above with local systems showing under “SHARED” in Finder? Now, nothing. And when there is nothing in SHARED, SHARED doesn’t even show up. And a day later? All back.

With regard to Spaces… At work, at APL, I am still running Tiger on my 15″ MacBook Pro. I wish I was running Leopard. Today on a conference call, I needed to have about 6 documents open. I wish I had separate work Space available in which to group the documents I needed for the call, while still being able to jump back to a space with my e-mail and browser. As it was I had to have all of them opened on the one “space” I had.

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Sun, 23 Mar 2008
Playing with the Dock

You can find a lot more about changes to the Dock in Leopard elsewhere on the web. I just want to mention something I found and did. I wanted to group my Microsoft Office applications together in a “Stack.” Stacks are mentioned on Apple’s site, and a Stack is what is springing up in this picture:

Leopard will not let you just select a group of files and make a Stack from them. You can only make a Stack from a directory (folder). So, to get Word, Excel, and Powerpoint into one Stack I did the following.

  1. I created a directory under /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004 I called OfficeApps.
  2. I selected the three applications, did a Make Alias for each (right mouse button when selected), and moved the aliases into the new folder.
  3. I then dragged the folder to the right side of the Dock.

Now, when I click on the Stack, I can click and select the application.

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