iTunes installer débâcle
November 13, 2001 5:42 AM   Subscribe

iTunes installer débâcle Backups are insufficiently sexy: “This time Apple deserves the lion’s share of the blame for creating an operating system that can’t be backed up and restored reliably many months after the initial release. For this reason alone, Mac OS X cannot be considered acceptable for serious use in many situations”
posted by joeclark (10 comments total)
TidBITS has, as always, an interesting and informative perspective, but for all intents and purposes, this is a dp.
posted by disarray at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2001

Disagree that this is a dp. I say it's related to prev post but TidBits is talking about some fundamental issues affecting OS X overall with regard to backups, not just because of the iTunes installer problem.

My feeling is that OS X is still not ready for the average Joe but is getting close. I've kept things rather simple in my installation and just back up my Documents directory on a regular basis to CDRW. The TidBits article is balanced, it's not just a plain attack.

I will say that now that I have 10.1, I am rarely using OS 9.
posted by mmarcos at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2001

Is this a purely Apple failing, I wonder? Is there a simple way to restore an XP installation "reliably" without having to resort to reinstalling the whole thing?

Also, backup devices have fallen drastically short of hard drive space nowadays.

Agree with disarray - this could have easily been posted to the first of three friggin' iTunes threads...
posted by hijinx at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2001

I liked the article a lot and I think Adam Engst is right on to be calling Apple out for not nudging along those who would provide backup solutions, if not helping them outright to bring a product to market. He's wrong - a backup solution DOES help sell boxes, at least to corporate customers.

At the same time, is the bar a little higher on the Apple side of the world in this respect? If you have a good backup regimen on the Win side of the world, could you restore backed up data to a new drive and just use it all? I assume you'd have to reinstall Windows and your apps, whereas in the Mac world it would be a one-step restore (under 9.x and earlier).
posted by mikel at 6:55 AM on November 13, 2001

All of the Unix machines I operate right now have vendor-provided backup software but in a previous life I ran a System V box on which I rolled my own: started a find in /, pruned the output a bit to skip over /proc, piped the pruned find output to cpio, and sent the files to the scsi tape:

#cd /
# find . -depth -print |grep -v \/proc\/ |cpio -ocvB -O /dev/tape

These backups restored a complete functioning system just fine. Are we saying that Mac OS X isn't "Unix enough" to perform backups this way? Or is there some other problem? (My last Apple was a ][+).
posted by jfuller at 7:14 AM on November 13, 2001

Any cron job you want to set up will work fine. I've tried it.

Besides, any time I've hosed my system (twice, both my fault entirely), I've rebooted and one of the boot steps is "repairing system". When I'm dropped off at my desktop, everything's peachy again.

I was even able to downgrade from 10.1 beta to 10.03, which was impressive, considering my difficulty trying similar steps on Windows2000.
posted by jragon at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2001

Is this a purely Apple failing, I wonder? Is there a simple way to restore an XP installation "reliably" without having to resort to reinstalling the whole thing?

Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Backup

System Restore is a micro level way of doing this too, but I don't like the perfromance hit.

I'm not sure this is a critical failing tho... there's nothing stopping you from mirroring the drive on any OS, right?

If you have a good backup regimen on the Win side of the world, could you restore backed up data to a new drive and just use it all?

If you are using a full backup, or a utility like Norton Ghost, yes, but I don't know many people besides Sys admins who would bother. Just backup your data, not your programs and junk, which means you have to reinstall.
posted by malphigian at 7:22 AM on November 13, 2001

From what I have read, this isn't an issue of Apple nudging developers to make compatible backup software, it is an issue with Apple fixing some things that make bitwise backups possible. The hangup appears to be with hard links in 10.1. From a Dantz FAQ:



Q: Why isn't Retrospect Backup available for Mac OS X?

Retrospect Backup version 5.0 for Macintosh, a "Carbon" application designed to run under both Mac OS X and Mac OS 9, has been in development since late 1999. Creating a backup application that is fully aware of the duality present in Mac OS X's file system is no easy task. HFS+ flags, data and resource forks, hard links, UNIX-style file permissions, and other file metadata must be properly backed up and restored.

When Mac OS X v10.0 first shipped, it lacked several capabilities that Retrospect and other storage-class software, such as DVD Player, iTunes, and Toast, require to function. Apple conferred with Dantz and other developers to determine just what was required, and has been working diligently to add these capabilities to Mac OS X.

Q: Doesn't Mac OS X v10.1 meet Retrospect's needs?

While Mac OS X v10.1 does include the level of device access and arbitration that Retrospect requires, it does not solve several issues that prevent Retrospect from successfully restoring a complete Mac OS X system to a functioning state.

For example, there are currently issues around hard links in Mac OS X v10.1. (Hard links are akin to aliases in Mac OS 9, only with fixed paths.) These issues prevent Retrospect from properly backing-up or restoring hard linked files. Many hard linked files are present in Mac OS X, and it cannot be fully restored without them--the OS requires these links to boot.

Apple is well aware of these issues; their OS engineers have been working closely with Dantz and are resolving these issues right now.
posted by machaus at 8:19 AM on November 13, 2001

How about: boot from CD, make a disk image of main drive onto backup drive. I'm assuming that works, no?
posted by sylloge at 9:34 AM on November 13, 2001

OK. I use OSX as my only OS every day all day. I backup my system regularly in a way that I think is easier and better than what a Win or MacOS9 user could do:

I have a Powerbook G4 with a 10GB internal drive.

Once a week before I hit the sack I use the Disk copy application to make a disk image of my 10GB drive on an external 30GB Firewire drive.

Once every few weeks I run a command that tars up this 30GB drive (including my disk image) across my network to my EXA ~30GB tape drive which is connected to my linux box (they just brought out a firewire model, too.)

If my 10GB dies, I can boot from the firewire drive, reinstall OS10.1 on the 10GB from the disk Image I have there (to restore drivers and boot info) and then mount and copy the disk image across.

If my Firewire drive dies I restore from tape the same way I back up.

What's the issue? And imho, this Dantz response is masking the fact that they have not been keeping abreast of networked UNIX backup and restore issues when they should have been... OSX has been out a long time now and there are many open source, mature UNIX network backup packages out there that solved these problems more than a decade ago that they could check out or use, not to mention commercial products that they could license.

Besides, I restore Solaris installs with the same linking issues with dump/restore all the time -- it is very, very simple. The bitwise restore problem being caused by hard links is, hmm, well possibly part of the story. I am skeptical because of my UNIX experience -- this stuff is a bit of a no brainer on UFS partitions, perhaps there are problems with HFS+ based OSX installs? Either way this is not noted in the release and after my experiences with Dantz taking ages to support tape mechanisms that Linux automatically supported and then charging me for it I suspect that this is another developer making excuses for it taking a long time to port MacOS9 code to UNIX.

Now, the one thing that Apple could do is to unlock the System Restore Utility that they ship with Macs so that It could write any disk image to a disk instead of only working with Apple-blessed ones. This would shorten my restore process from 2 hours to less than one and would greatly improve the mood of mac techs across the globe. That would be great.
posted by n9 at 10:50 AM on November 13, 2001

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