Category Archives: OS X

Why you should keep multiple backups

I spent the weekend a) in Huntsville with the boys and b) in a fog of cold medication. In fact, I called in sick to work today, which is really unusual for me. A coworker e-mailed me to ask for a couple of documents I’d written, and when I saw her e-mail (I called in sick, not dead, so I was still checking e-mail), I couldn’t find the files in SkyDrive on my Surface Pro. “Oh,” I thought. “I must have checked them in to our SharePoint site.”

Nope.

“Maybe they’re on my work desktop.” A quick RDP connection and… nope.

Now I was beginning to freak out a bit. I knew I had written these documents. I knew right where I’d left them. But they were nowhere to be found.

I went back to my MacBook Pro, which is sort-of my desktop now.… nope.

Then the fog lifted, oh so briefly, and I figured out what had happened.

For some reason, about a month ago, the SkyDrive client for OS X started pegging the CPU at random intervals. It was still syncing, most of the time, but when it started burning the CPU it would kick the MacBook Pro’s fans into turbo mode, so I started shutting the app off until I explicitly wanted it to sync. (This reminded me of the ancient technology known as Groove, but let us never speak of it again.) Eventually I got tired of this and started troubleshooting the problem. The easiest solution was to remove and reinstall the app, so I did. Before doing so, I made a backup copy of the entire SkyDrive folder, renamed it to “Old SkyDrive,” and let the newly installed app resync from the cloud. Then I deleted the old copy.

Fast-forward to today. I realized what had happened: the documents had been in the old SkyDrive folder, they never got synced, and now they were gone.

But wait! I do regular backups to Time Machine when I’m in Mountain View. I looked in Time Machine… nope.

“Oh, that’s right,” I muttered. “I created those files and ‘fixed’ SkyDrive last time I was in Huntsville.”

But wait! I also use CrashPlan! I fired up the app… nope.

Then I noticed the little “Show deleted files” checkbox. I checked it, typed in the name of the files I wanted, and in 90 seconds had all of them restored to my local disk.

So, the moral of the story is: a) make backups and then b) make backups of your backups. Oh, and go easy on the Benadryl.

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An offer for Tim Cook

[note to readers: I encourage you to repost, retweet, and otherwise spread this offer. It's legit; I am happy to help Apple in any way that I can. Since I don't have any Apple execs on speed dial, perhaps social media will get this to the right folks. ]

Dear Mr. Cook:

We’ve never met. You’ve almost certainly never heard of me. But I’m going to make you an offer that I hope you’ll accept: I want to help you quit making such a mess of the world’s Exchange servers. More to the point, I want to help the iOS Exchange ActiveSync team clean up their act so we don’t have any more serious EAS bugs in iOS. The meeting hijacking bug was bad enough, but the latest bug? the one that results in Exchange servers running out of transaction log space? That’s bad for everyone. It makes your engineers look sloppy. It makes Exchange administrators into the bad guys because they have to block their users’ iOS devices.

These bugs make everyone lose: you, Microsoft, and your mutual users. They’re bad for business. Let’s fix them.

You might wonder why some dude you’ve never heard of is making you this offer. It’s because I’m a long-time Apple customer (got my first Mac in 1984 and first iPhone on launch day) and I’ve been working with Exchange for more than 15 years. As a stockholder, and fan, of both companies, I want to see you both succeed. Before there was any official announcement about the iOS SDK, I was bugging John Geleynse to let 3Sharp, my former company, help implement Exchange ActiveSync on the phone. He was a sly devil and wouldn’t even confirm that there would be an EAS client for the phone, but the writing was on the wall– the market power of Exchange Server, and the overwhelming prevalence of EAS, made that a foregone conclusion.

I’m an experienced developer and a ten-time Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for Exchange Server. I have experience training developers in Exchange Web Services, and I know EAS well; in fact, I was an expert source of evidence in the recent Google/Motorola vs Microsoft case in the UK. As a long-time member of the Exchange community, I can help your developers get in touch with experts in every aspect of Exchange they might want to know about, too.

It’s pretty clear that your EAS client team doesn’t know how Exchange client throttling works, how to retry EAS errors gently, or all the intricacies of recurring meeting management (and how the server’s business logic works). If they did, the client wouldn’t behave the way it has. They could learn it by trial and error… but look where that’s gotten us.

I’m in Mountain View, right up the road. Seriously. Have your people call my people.

Peace and Exchange 4eva,
-Paul

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Filed under OS X, Security, UC&C

CrashPlan “Cannot connect to backup engine” errors on Mac OS X

I recently updated to Java 1.7 for work, and after doing so I noticed that CrashPlan was no longer performing backups. (I’m a bit ashamed to admit how long it took for me to notice though!) The company’s support forum suggests uninstalling and reinstalling the client, which didn’t fix the problem. A bit more searching identified the problem: CrashPlan expects Java 1.6, the official Apple version, and it gets unhappy if you replace that with 1.7. The instructions here outline a workaround: you have to stop the CrashPlan background service, modify its configuration file to point to the official-Apple version of Java, and then restart the service. Happy backups!

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Filed under General Tech Stuff, OS X

Backups and MEC

tl;dr edition: don’t let this happen to you.

I’ve been working on a couple of iOS applications for my upcoming talk at the Microsoft Exchange Conference. Since MEC starts in just over three weeks, this has become a matter of some importance.

Side note: I often talk about “the Exchange tribe” as a shorthand way to talk about the community with people who aren’t in it. The MEC team has posted a bunch of speaker photos which may help put some faces with the names. These pictures don’t show everything; for example, you can’t see Greg Taylor’s sense of humor, the color of Jeff Mealiffe’s most excellent glasses, exactly how much Scott Schnoll looks like SA Martinez from 311, or what Devin Ganger is trying to karate chop. The pictures are useful for recognizing who’s who, though the rumors that Ross Smith is making a set of MEC speaker trading cards is false as far as I know.

Last night, I unplugged my laptop, tossed it in my bag, and headed for SFO for the redeye to DFW, thence to Huntsville. This morning at DFW, I pulled out the laptop again to work on my code a bit. I had made a stupid mistake the other night: I created a class based on UIViewController instead of UITableViewController, which means that Xcode refused to link the class definition files with the view controller itself in the storyboard editor. That caused a variety of bad behavior, including an inability to link selectors for the “done” and “cancel” buttons in the view 

I realized my mistake right after I had deleted the view so that I could recreate it. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just restore it with Time Machine.” This, despite the fact that my main Time Machine backup is on a disk back in Mountain View.

So, I tried to do that; I opened Time Machine, found my source folder (/Source/ExOOF in this case), and restored the folder from its most recent update at midnight. Switching back to Finder, I accidentally opened the project in Xcode. I quit Xcode and noticed that Finder was asking me whether I wanted to replace the folder or not. I said “yes” and was greeted by a mysterious Finder error.

Long story short, my working copy is now gone. I can’t restore the Time Machine copy either, as the local replica only contains the project file, not the source code.

“No problem,” says I. “That’s why I have CrashPlan.” A quick trip to the CrashPlan app revealed that… I back up /users/paulr only. When I first set up CrashPlan, I didn’t have anything in /source, so I didn’t back it up. Duh.

So, bottom line: my source code is safe and sound, on a disk on my desk in Mountain View that is completely inaccessible remotely. My app development will have to wait until I get back to Mountain View. I suppose I can work on the accompanying slides, but where’s the fun in that?

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Filed under FAIL, General Tech Stuff, OS X, UC&C