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jefman 03-23-2006 11:43 PM

feedback from a first-time backup
hi -

i just completed my first successful (i hope!) backup! thought you might like a bit of feedback, mainly about the stupid mistakes i made...

my plan was probably the most typical one - to make a full backup to my external drive, onto a sparse image so i don't need to repartition, but to exclude a few large folders that really don't need backup (eg. garageband loops). i know you "highly recommend" backing up the whole drive, but for many people that probably isn't practical. anyway, the fact that SD lets me do exclusions easily (and make a bootable copy) is a great improvement over my old method, which was to move these files to a temporary folder, drag the rest to a folder on the external drive, then move them back. i've tried some other backup programs, like retrospect, but they were too awkward. i really don't need incremental backup - i don't want to save a new copy of my 100MB inbox every time i download my mail!

the manual was very helpful, although i think it provided perhaps a little too much information right at the beginning. by the time i had read ten or twenty pages about various options like the "sandbox", automatic scheduling, network backups, and so on, i was starting to get a little weary. but no problem, i guess one should understand what's going on. i made it through (but i doubt my mom would have!). by page 25 i knew what i needed to, how to create a script to exclude the things i didn't want to back up.

my first real problem came when i finished making the script, and clicked the "close" button. i was asked to save it, and i did so, to a folder in my home directory where i normally would keep a document like this. but then i couldn't figure out how to select it for use! now, there's a short sentence at the top of page 25 that says to save it "with an appropriate name in the default location". well for me the "default location" is that folder in my home directory... ok, let's try again - this time i'll just put it where the file save dialog opens up. ok, "standard scripts" - so i clicked on that and saved it there. which ended up actually inside the application itself! fortunately i understand this concept and know how to control-click, show package contents, etc. - but for most people i think we are not in kansas anymore...

i think this is a bit of a rough spot in the user interface - SD shouldn't let me make this mistake. if copy scripts don't work unless they're saved in the correct folder in "applications support" then i shouldn't be presented with a file dialog that lets me save it somewhere else. the easiest thing would be for SD to silently save them in the right place. personally i would rather see it work in a more "mac-like" way - if i create a script related to my own files, i'd like to be able to save it as a document where i want, and to double-click on it to run it. that document should also include the other options for source and destination, what to do during copy, and so on, rather than those things magically being remembered from the last time i did something. in other words, any work i do setting up configuration, i would like to keep in a document separate from SD itself, in my own folder and not in Application Supprt. i know this is quite a departure from how SD works at the moment, but as i said it seems more "mac-like" to me.

after that, things went smoothly, and a while later i had my backup image. i mounted the image to have a look, hoping that it would look just like the original drive. i noticed a couple of things that were different. i think it would make people feel more secure if you explained any differences between their backup image and the original drive, in the manual.
- folders such as Applications etc. just have generic icons. i understand that's normal, and that they should come back on a restore, but again you might want a note about that in the manual.
- in the root directory, there's a file called "Desktop DB", and an empty folder called "dev". i understand that's probably normal, but i think they should perhaps be hidden.

on the other hand, there were things i somehow expected *would* be different:
- my Firefox webpage cache folder, and a bunch of other things in ~Library/Caches were copied, i kind of assumed they wouldn't be. you should either not copy them, or tell people to empty their caches before backing up.

well that's about it for now, all in all a good experience so far. hope these comments may be of some help to you - although not as much help as SD has already been for me!

dnanian 03-24-2006 12:06 AM

Thanks for the feedback. I'm not entirely happy with the way scripts work, but I have to prioritize what gets done, and that particular bit was lower priority than some other things.

Originally, when we had an installer, you couldn't save scripts into Standard Scripts, because it was Read-Only. When we moved to drag-and-drop install, that changed, and not entirely for the better. But, the install is much easier.

The manual is, in general, designed to be used two different ways: as a cover-to-cover read, and by dipping into. That's why I call out the various sections on the first page, hyperlink things, and attempt to make each standalone as much as possible. Most users -- although not all -- don't need to read much more than the Backup chapter, since they use a standard script... but, as always, I improve these things every release.

The changes on the backup are due to the way Finder handles the boot volume vs. non-boot. We copy things exactly as they are: if they're not "really" hidden on the source, we don't "really" hide them on the destination. Doing otherwise would mean it's not really an accurate copy.

Our objective is not to make the "smallest" copy, but rather an accurate one. Copying caches doesn't hurt anything, and means that a full restore will have that information there for you (copying doesn't make the cached information invalid)... of ourse, since size seems to be your focus, you're welcome to handle your various caches as you'd like. Just be careful, and test your backups.

Hope that fills in some blanks -- thanks again for the feedback.

jefman 03-24-2006 10:39 AM

hi dave -

actually i'm glad you prioritized other things - like making the backups work! the fact that this was pretty much the only thing that went wrong (and it was a minor thing) is impressive.

if you do get a little time to work on it, it could go something like this:
- when you select "new copy script", you're prompted for a name for it (check to see the name isn't already used) but not a save path.
- when you select "close" after editing it, you're prompted with save/don't save/cancel, but again not a save path. just save it where it should go.
- under Copy-->Using, add a "Delete Selected Copy Script" menu item below "Edit Selected Copy Script".
...i think that would pretty much take care of it.

the manual is quite good really. supporting several types of backup, to various kinds of media, is of course going to be more complex (and important to do right) than ripping a cd to itunes.

i understand the difference between boot/non-boot volumes' icons etc., i just thought other people might not - but i shouldn't speak for other people. the only thing that surprised me personally was seeing the "dev" folder - don't think i've seen that before (without also seeing /bin, /sbin, /var, /etc). for a second or two i had the feeling "oh, it didn't work right"...

about caches & file size - it's true, well i come from the days of doing backups onto floppy disks, so probably i'm a bit obsessed with it! but really, backing up 10-20GB of garage band loops, DVD studio templates, /Developer, etc. is a waste of time and space when i've got the original install discs right here. in the end my total backup was under 20GB.

again, these are very minor things, nothing to complain about! just thought a view from the first use of the software might be helpful, while it was fresh in my mind...


dnanian 03-24-2006 11:16 AM

Thanks for the follow-up, Jeff. There are a lot of different ways to expose the scripting functionality, and -- with your feedback and others -- I hope to come up with something good, once it gets higher priority.

Understood about the other points. Our focus is really to get the user up and running again as quickly as possible. Breaking out (and finding) all the various install CDs/DVDs and running through that process again, to save a few gigabytes, just doesn't seem to be the way to go to me. With a full backup, you just boot right up from the copy and everything -- Garage Band, Developer stuff, DVD Studio, the works -- all work. And, on top of that, they're not partially installed/mismatched based on system updates and the like, where changes can be made.

Which isn't to say you shouldn't do it. Just that I try to present what I consider to be "best practices" in the 'Guide and UI, and given the cost of time vs. material, hassle and expertise, it seemed best to encourage people to back up everything.

Thanks again!

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