leopard preview

August 7th, 2006


There is nothing sexy about backup. That is why no one does it, ever, and every six years or so everyone loses all their data completely. Having said that, Apple’s new “Time Machine” feature in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 looks like just about the sexiest implementation of backup that I’ve ever seen. Also, it seems like it might be transparent and non-intrusive enough so that people will use it.

What’s really needed here is a complete divorce from the “save file” metaphor. That’s left over from when we used 400K floppy disks. Having “Time Machine” kicking around on a Mac is going to (ideally) save people from severe data loss issues, but as far as versioning, it’s only going to help if they’ve remembered to save their documents with enough frequency. I’d like to take see Apple take “save” even further than that: everything I do as a user on a computer should be “saved” into a database, and everything change I make to every document, every word I type, should be able to be “rolled back” to any state in the past. That’s how Aperture works, and that’s pretty much how a lot of web apps work, and that, my friends, is the way of the future. We need to stop expecting the user to save and backup, because if twenty years of desktop computing have taught us all one thing, it’s that we all don’t save or backup nearly enough.

The rest of the “Leopard” features? Meh. I can’t bring myself to get super-excited over any of them, although Core Animation looks h.o.t.t. and the new Intel-based towers are nice, super fast, bla bla bla… but I can’t get juiced up over this. Am I missing something?


9 Responses to “leopard preview”

  1. Ben says:

    Perhaps they should turn the Documents (etc) folder(s) into a transparently-hidden-behind-Finder CVS or SVN repository.

  2. Jeff says:

    That looks to be sort of what they’re doing — OS X can now detect changes in the filesystem (prior to 10.4, it really couldn’t — that’s why sometimes you’d save a file in an app, look for it in the Finder and not see it!), so I suspect that those changes are being used to trigger a backup.

    But what I’m thinking of would require a massive change in the way data is stored at the filesystem/OS level. It’s a little like Sun’s ZFS, maybe.

  3. Aaron Lewis says:

    I always thought of Apple’s OS as cheap (OS 8 and 9 always cost $99, I think). But versions 10.1 through 10.5 are costing about $129 each, right. They have come out on the order of once/year, and although they each involve some key updates I don’t want to do without, I think only 10.4 maybe crossed the $100 value mark.

    So you see what I’m saying, right? I’m whining cause I want 2 or 3 nifty new features with paying so much. There should be $40 upgrades if you have turn in the last version’s disks. The 90-day upgrade window for recent purchasers isn’t long enough, either.

    The response is really that if you don’t think the upgrades this year are worth it, wait until next year, and pay $129 for 2 year’s worth, or grit your teeth and wait longer to get more value.

    It’s still better than waiting 5(+?) years for one big upgrade from M$, all criticisms of the product withheld.

    But I do dislike the suggestion from Apple that each year’s 0.1 increment is like a full new OS.

  4. Gene says:

    Well, I think one of the upgrades worth the $$ this time is the long-awaited transition to 64 bit — although, I’m a little disappointed that I had to wait 4 years to get a 64 bit operating system for my (now obsolete) 64 bit G5 tower.

  5. Ben says:

    Perhaps noteworthy is the Volume Shadow Copy feature of Windows Server 2003, which is, IMHO, the stupidest attempt at such a “Time Machine”-style feature. You have to periodically schedule VSC to make copies of all the files that have been modified… talk about hit or miss – it’s not a trigger-based system. Plus, with 800 copies of everything lying around, VSC is perhaps the most storage-wasteful system evar.

    I just hope Apple’s version is much better, and I have faith that it will be.

    My only problem is that those “every six year” failures is that they usually encompass a head crash of some kind (i.e. physical damage), rendering things like VSC, Time Machine, and ZFS totally useless. It doesn’t matter if your file system makes 100 copies of each file if the whole disk is unreadable…

  6. Jeff says:

    Yep, speaking as a former Maxtor customer, you’re right… Apple does make a point of pointing out that Time Machine is going to work with external drives and network servers, which are both excellent ways to back up.

  7. Elliot says:

    Regarding the drive crash, I heard that you can select an external disk as an option for saving Time Machine data. Now sure whether my source is credible or just blowing smoke, but thought I’d put that out there.

    How is it that everybody is failing to mention the cool new iChat green-screening trick?! That might actually make me want to use the video chat feature! (Well, once or twice anyway.)

  8. Jesse says:

    Steve makes it pretty clear that it’s not done, and there are a few features they’re not showing of yet. I’m with John Gruber (daringfireball.net) – I think a major finder upgrade is in the works.

  9. Jimmy says:

    Great Norton’s Ghost!!