Borkware Miniblog

March 21, 2008

Fun (?) with Time Capsule

Filed under: whining — Mark Dalrymple @ 2:22 pm

The Time Capsule I ordered a while ago has arrived. Woot! Remote Backup Nirvana is coming my way!

So far, it’s been working out “eh”. It took a couple of tries to get it onto my WDS network, and I’ve gone through a number of scram-the-backups-and-redo-from-scratch getting things set up. Here are a couple of first impressions.

  • Enjoy the UI glitches, like this one that asks for a username but there’s no place to put it. bukkit.png
  • is *not* your friend. I had a large number of deleted messages that were getting stated on every backup. I’d need to backup a few megs, which would take two minutes, and then it would sit at “Backed up 10Megs of 10Megs” for 5-10 minutes, all of which was looking at mail messages. It turns out I had a lot (over 65,000) of “deleted” messages that weren’t in the trash, weren’t in any mailbox, but showed up if you command-L while viewing the inbox. Control-clicking on the mailbox and choosing “Erase deleted messages” did nothing. I had to select each Inbox (I have 3) and choose “Erase Deleted Messages in Selected Mailbox” from the menu (or use command-K) Once I did this, a backup (including an email check) is about two minutes from “Backup now” til it completes.
  • If you have encrypted disk images where you store your pornographic re-enactments of the Smurf saga sensitive financial data, you’ll want to use the Sparse Bundle format, which will only back up bands of data that have changed, vs the entire disk image.
  • Anyone with the Time Capsule disk password can see all the backed up data. Unfortunately, you have to supply this password (or an account password) when choosing a disk, so someone can look in their keychain and get it. So best to put your Smurf porn sensitive financial data on those Sparse Bundle disk images.
  • I haven’t figured out the best way to back up the backup. There’s not (to my ability to find) a way to limit a particular backup set to a given size, like “only back up 300 gigs so I can fit it onto this laptop drive in an enclosure and stick in the bank lock-box”. There is an “Archive the Time Capsule disk to another USB disk” which might be useful, but I had hoped to be able to back up to smaller-profile disks.
  • I’ve had some “could not mount backup” situations after sleeping the machine in the middle of a big incremental backup (I had done serious violence to my message directory tracking down the issues I described earlier). I’ve also had this happen when ejecting the TC disk during an initial backup. No warning, it immediately ejected, and then would not re-mount. I had to delete the sparsebundle file on the Time Capsule and re-do my backup from ground-zero. So if you’re time-capsuling a laptop that you may want to shut down on a moment’s notice, even if it’s in the middle of a backup, run some tests before committing to it to make sure this won’t happen to you.
  • Also, which is even more fun, is that spotlight has decided to index my time capsule backup volume. Before it decided to do this, backups were ~2 minutes for a no-op. Now they’re back up to 6-10 minutes, with mdworker going bonkers in fs_usage until I eject the Time Capsule backup volume (which usually auto-ejects once the backup is done) I can’t add the backup volume to the spotlight opt-out list:
    Picture 10.png

    And mdutil -i off /Volumes/blah doesn’t turn it off either. Even a reboot didn’t help. Sigh.

Hopefully once some of these annoyances are worked out I think Time Capsule will work out a lot better in backing up my, and the wife’s, MacBooks. Before this we had an “rsync to a DL-DVD-sized dmg on a Mac mini” setup, and hoped it didn’t fill up the disk image, plus waiting for a DL disk to burn, and hope it didn’t fail part-way through with media errors.


  1. Ditto. This sums up my experience except that I haven’t run into troubles with, yet.

    Comment by J-Man — March 24, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  2. You’re experiencing 2 things at once here. Time Capsule & Time Machine.
    Most of what you’re dealing with though are the quirks of Time Machine.
    In particular, it sees all databases as single files. If something changes in them, it will back them up again. If it changes while the backup is going it will start again at the beginning of the “file”.
    Entourage is an example of something that causes this.
    Web developers often have this issue while running MySQL.
    ad hominem…

    As for, it is one of the worst parts of the interface that there is nothing blatantly telling you that there are mails in’s own trash that have not been deleted. Developers are going to have lots of those from mailing lists. Time to use those ‘rules’ in Mail. Undeleted Mail trash remains inside ~/Library/Mail inside the individual account’s directories there. Thus, it gets backed up.

    In the end, wireless backups are convenient, but we’re probably still a generation or two away from enough wireless bandwidth to make them truly practical.

    Comment by John Joyce — April 8, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

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