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The Time Machine Rip-off Myth August 13, 2006

Posted by rjdohnert in Opinions, Tech News.

Daniel Eran has written a blog post that he thinks debunks Paul Thurrotts and my stance that Time Machine is a rip-off of volume shadow copy among other things. His article is much less organized than pauls and he goes oiff into this whole rant. Well, lets see where to start.

How to Lie with Facts
In the case of The Time Machine Rip-off Myth, Thurrott was attempting to distract attention away from Apple’s Leopard announcements. As the proprietor of a website called Windows SuperSite, he could naturally be expected to advocate Microsoft’s products. That’s his job.

When you are aware of someone’s position, you can evaluate their bias. Knowing Thurrott likes Windows doesn’t mean his opinion in other matters is worthless, but it helps in understanding the motivation behind the comments he makes. However, things get slippery when people pretend to be something they are not.

Thurrott plays up a fantasy of impartiality. He says he uses Macs and PCs, and makes comments about how much he likes interoperability. This suggests that the things he says can be taken as face value, as if he is an unbiased reviewer of technology. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

He can talk all he wants about about how he owns Macs and how he uses iTunes or loves the iPod, but everything he writes is carefully slanted to misrepresent facts and stir up pointless, bullshit controversy that does nothing but contaminate productive discussions about the merits of a technology. No amount of his complaining about Vista serves to balance that out.

Thurrott isn’t contributing an interesting take on the importance or value of Apple’s announcements, but rather just doing a simple smear job that pulls various tricks from the fundamentalist extremists who use the radio and web to stir up ignorant, religio-nationalistic jingoism. Here’s how it works:


This is called; When you dont have facts attack the other mans integrity. And he is trying to fool other people by trying to sound important. Im not Paul Thurrotts biggest fan but he does write some pretty interesting stuff a lot of the time. But, Paul, in this case , was absolutely right take it as opinion or as fact take it any which way you want.


Unraveled with Extreme Prejudice
What is Time Machine? Apple presented it a solution for Mac users, allowing them to run through backups to retrieve files, photos, contacts on their own, without needing to understand how to write a search query or navigate a backup program.

Apple has a standalone Backup program that works a lot like most existing backup programs. Part of the problem with their Backup is that it’s tied to a .Mac account, and is a download, not an integral part of Mac OS X. Windows XP includes a revised version of the NT Backup that Microsoft has included with Windows for a very long time. Nobody uses either one, but at least in Windows, it is available. “
What is time machine? Its a blatant copy of Volume Shadow Copy. No more, no less. Whats different about it? Apple added a nice GUI like they did to other features it blatantly copied from Microsoft such as Fast User Switching, Spotlight and Outlook Express. Why do I say Outlook Express? Because the stationary function Apple built into Mail.app has been in Outlook express for awhile, just like it took from the Kontact team other features it added to Mail.

What’s New About Time Machine
Backing up and restoring files obviously isn’t new; innovations frequently improve upon things that aren’t. As reader John Davis pointed out, “James Watt invented the steam engine, but he didn’t invent steam, the boiler, fire, or the fact that water expands when heated.” In the same respect, Time Machine delivers some very new things.

The first new thing about Time Machine is its simple visualization that makes restoration something users can do themselves. I’ve run backup services for all kinds of systems; one of the biggest problems for backup system administrators is having to perform restorations for the user.

Like I said, it added a simple GUI. Hardly makes the concept, new or makes Pauls arguments obsolete and doesnt show Pauls Windows zealot side either.

The interface for restoring files from backup is complex and potentially dangerous, if users don’t understand where they are directing their set of restored files.

Users also have to be experts in understanding where their missing data might be. Windows XP exposed backup shadow copies in the Explorer Previous Versions view. That’s good for standalone files, but does nothing for users trying to restore data if they don’t know where the file is. In the case of restoring contacts or photo albums, the data they are restoring isn’t even a file, it’s a component of a file.

Actually, its not dangerous and if you do indeed need a system admin as Daniel is saying then they should have no problem restoring the files and doing so effectively. Im getting confused as to whether Daniel truly knows how to administer a Windows machine. I have had to restore home directories and all kinds of Data with Volume Shadow Copy with no problems.

That’s the second entirely new thing Time Machine does: track data for users in a non-file centric model. The demonstrated search through Address Book, using search results, is very much a new and interesting feature. It works like people think, not as system administrators plan. Do Windows users even know that Outlook has stored their personal folder of contacts in:

C:/Documents and Settings/username/Local Settings/Application Data/Microsoft/Outlook/user.pst?

Good luck finding that and restoring it using Volume Shadow Copy: that file path is invisible by default!

As I thought, Daniel cannot tell me he has actually found that path as it doesnt exist. “/” is found in UNIX based systems “\” is the path seperator for Windows based systems. Any experienced admin would know that.

So Time Machine flies far beyond a server backup tool. Apple has delivered a new way to think about using Macs. Front Row demonstrated the initial idea, and now Time Machine is demonstrating how to use this new capacity to make even normal and boring tasks easier and more visually intuitive.

Apple has delivered a new way to backup and retrieve data using a concept already delivered in an OS but did nothing but add a nice GUI to it and use animations. WOW. Next thing you know, he will be touting the superiority and totally innovative idea of Spaces.

Actually, the evidence of Leopard’s excellence is pretty clear from the reaction of developers actually at WWDC. People are already avoiding Vista because it’s not for sale yet.

This was one of his rants; and of course he links to a developers blog who isnt even a Windows developer. I think Daniel needs to quit drinking the Apple kool-aid and quit watching the “PC Guy” video on Apples site. No Windows developer that I know of is avoiding Windows Vista. I was more impressed by the improvements in XCode than I was with Leopard. And I wonder if I contact the DTrace developers how much code has Apple actually given back, and if they did how much of its usable and not obscured and crippled by Apples developers like they did with KHTML.



1. Drhule - July 28, 2008

Actually TimeMachine’s features almost exactly mimic a program, I used to use about 15 years ago, called GoBack. I forget the original developer, but Norton/Symantec took it over and abandoned any further development of the utility.

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