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Interview with Mike Bombich,
Author of Carbon Copy Cloner

Published: 10/23/2003

Matthew Culmore and I had an idea to post a Q&A with Mike Bombich of Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) fame (we're both big fans of that utility). The following is Mike Bombich's answers to our questions on CCC (present and future features), OS X Panther and other topics. (Comments in italics are mine, comments in red are Mike Bombich's of course.)

Q: Is an update to CCC needed for 10.3/Panther?

Bombich: The present version will function fine, though the location of one of the files that should be deleted to ensure a trouble-free transfer of the system to a different computer has moved. If you use Airport for connectivity and need network connectivity in the Classic environment, you should use the newest version of CCC (Version 2.3 is now available). I encourage everyone to download the latest version of CCC when it is released as it provides one bug fix specific to cloning to a G5 in target disk mode and several other improvements and bug fixes.


Q: Are there any unique uses for CCC that is not evident on the surface? Any new features planned for CCC? New items you are working on?

Bombich: Probably the most unique use of CCC is the creation of disk images. I think that many people underestimate the power of disk images. In fact, the Disk Images framework is my most favorite aspect of Mac OS X -- it is incredibly rich in terms of the number of disk image formats that it supports (and this has increased dramatically in Panther). What you can do with these disk images is just starting to be discovered, though several technologies rely almost entirely upon them such as NetBoot, Apple Software Restore system deployment, and Panther's new File Vault security system.

I have plans on incorporating some more features of the Disk Images Framework in CCC, specifically I plan to take advantage of shadow files for creating incremental backups. I don't have a release date yet for that functionality, but I have been working on it for several months and I am fairly well along.


Q: I have heard of people that wiped a new G5 disc/OS X (G5) install and cloned their previous (PowerBook, G4 tower, etc.) OS X install to the G5. Isn't this a bad idea? (Since there were G5 specific 10.2.7/.8 versions.)
How should someone in this position use CCC to transfer their files to the G5?

Bombich: Yes, it probably is a bad idea. AppleCare explicitly states that there are separate versions of Jaguar for the G5 and other computers and I would follow their recommendations. Right now we (the customer) are really in an awkward phase of G5 deployment because Apple is required to maintain two separate build trains for the G5 and other machines. While this is not the best situation for anyone to be in, I'm confident that things will get much better with Panther. For now, its best to just hold tight and stick with the OS that the G5 came with (and any applicable updates).

At the same time, I still believe that there are options for people who want to transfer data from their older machines to their new G5 so they can start using it immediately. Specifically, you can use the synchronization features of CCC to transfer everything but the "System" folder from the older system to the G5. While I can't guarantee that this won't cause problems, I have received several reports that this has worked for people.


Q: Does the retail 10.3 install include G5 libs/support in its standard install on any Mac? (i.e. Would cloning a 10.3 install from a PowerBook or G4 tower have all the files needed for fully support of a G5? 10.2.7/10.2.8 had special versions for the G5)

Bombich: As far as I know, 10.3 will be a Universal installation. So yes, in theory you should be able to clone a G4 system to a G5 without any problems.


Q: Is there a way to 'refresh' an existing CCC backup later without cloning the entire drive? (example - I clone my disk in October, then in November I want to refresh it with any changes that have been made on the original drive since the last clone operation)

Bombich: Yes. Mount the disk or disk image in the Finder and select it as the target in CCC. In the prefs, indicate that you want to Synchronize the source to the target, then proceed as usual. If you do not use CCC's synchronization feature, you MUST format the target disk (thus you need to copy everything again). Failure to do so typically results in a corrupted Netinfo database.


Q: Would it be practical/possible to add a feature in CCC to create a backup of just the changed files from their OS X install? Again thinking of this as a way for someone to save disk space on a backup drive.

Bombich: ;-) Yes, working on it.
With my next version of CCC, I plan to use it regularly to do incremental backups to my 30GB iPod. I prefer this to my current rsync setup because I travel frequently and don't have a backup routine for when I'm on the road. Besides, a daily incremental backup offers a lot more protection than a full nightly backup.


Q: Have you considered adding a compressed option to CCC? (Would not be bootable but compressed backups would save disk space for people that have many macs, but few backup drives.)
(Helios' backup util has this option)

Bombich: No, actually I hadn't ever considered that. A compressed disk image must be read-only, therefore, you must first create a read-write disk image, copy everything to it, then convert the disk image to read-only-compressed. This takes up a lot more space during the backup process than the final image takes, and many people would be confused if they run out of space on the target drive (and it takes a lot more time, especially on slower machines). If I receive enough feedback, though, I'll consider it. Implementing that feature would be trivial.


Q: Why doesn't CCC have an option to backup to a network volume?

Bombich: I have received a lot of feedback about this. The first thing that people need to keep in mind is that CCC is built upon the tools that come with Mac OS X (except for psync). Currently (in Jaguar) there isn't a built-in method for copying files to a network volume and maintaining proper permissions and ownership. There is some hope for the tools in Panther though, I'm investigating.

However, there is a way to create a disk image backup on a network volume. First you need to mount the network volume, then select "Clone to folder" from the file menu and choose a folder on the remote volume. Be sure to check the "Create disk image on target" option in the preferences. This process should be easier in a future version, and I'm looking into whether KeyChain scripting can make this possible for unattended backups.


Q: Several times while cloning with CCC I have received a dialog that said I did not have the permission to copy a specific file, even as Admin user and when permissions had been repaired previously. (Note - apple's repair permissions I believe only checks files with receipts/apple installed files-Ed.) Why is this? Also, it seems a config file in Adobe Studio (Exchange) never wants to clone-why?

Bombich: Please send me the logs... without more specific info its hard to say. What is Adobe Studio? (see http://share.studio.adobe.com - online tips, gallery, training, etc.) In the past I have noticed that certain files that have ASCII character 13 (a Mac line feed, or carriage return) cannot be copied. This has to do with how I get a list of the items at the root level. If that's the case we can work together to resolve it.

I strongly encourage people to save the log when such errors occur. The "Submit Bug Report" item in CCC's Help menu makes this process fairly painless and also gathers any crash reports. Finally, if you've already quit CCC, the logs should be saved in ~/Library/Logs.

One thing I have seen in the past (though not specifically in CCC) is an error related to changing the ownership or permissions of the Remote Desktop preference file in the Classic System Folder. This occurs because the file is locked, but shouldn't occur in CCC because the command is executed with root privileges.


Q: For apps like Photoshop that install system files in other than the user folder, is there a way to clone just those files to another system/disk? (i.e. To move your Photoshop 7 or CS install to another Mac without having to reinstall from the original CD)

Bombich: Whenever I want to move Photoshop to another disk (and I only do this for testing, sheesh, don't send the police after me ;-) I just copy the /Library/Application Support/Adobe folder to the other system. This contains all the additional files that Photoshop installs (I believe). Adobe products are pretty clean about where they install files, I've been pretty pleased with them. Other apps, not to mention names, occasionally place files in the /System directory which is completely inappropriate (except for kernel extensions). CCC doesn't provide a mechanism for finding just those files, though, I always examine package contents ("Show Files" in the Installer app) and installer logs to determine where files are installed.


Q: What role do you believe Haxies and other third-party system software/mods play in the varying success/problems with OS X Updates? Aren't they often a primary source of problems, or are update problems more likely a result of bad system hygiene? (i.e. never repairing permissions, no usage of utilies like Disk Warrior, suspect RAM, etc.)

Bombich: I only use a modest number of hacks including the Application Enhancer and WindowShade (awesome stuff!) and I typically try to avoid installing lots of interface "enhancements", etc. Most of that stuff is just junk that in the long run tends to slow me down. Its fun to install some goofy apps occasionally, but I always delete stuff when I'm done with it.
As for regularly running disk utilities, I just don't do it. Perhaps I'm just lucky but I never have needed to since I installed OS X for the first time. If I ever need a disk utility I have to say that Disk Warrior has never let me down and flat-out amazed me other times.

At the same time, I am extremely anal in how I manage my system. I maintain impeccable organization of my files (though yes, my desktop is often cluttered). What I mean by that is that I don't use the root level of the drive for storage of files. If an app installs something there, like an installation log, I toss it or file it accordingly. I tend to install applications in an "Applications" folder in my home directory and I keep my home directory on a separate partition. Also, I occasionally take a look at my login items to delete anything that I didn't put there and I take a look at the list of running processes on my system to see if any background applications are running that shouldn't be.

I also tend to wipe my system before doing major upgrades. First I back up my disk to my server (I actually use rsync for this, but CCC works fine to a FW drive), then wipe the system drive and do a clean install. It takes some time to get everything back to the way I like it, but I just use the backup as a reference. I think a good clean system is an important thing to have every so often. You take showers occasionally don't you? Your system could use it occasionally as well. I suspect that an Archive and Install is the recommended way for end users to perform this task.

Note: I avoid installing 3rd party OS X mods, but for those that do - I'd recommend checking the website of the software vendor for any updates or compatibility notes before installing an OS X update - especially a major update like Panther. Ditto for any 3rd party drivers or utilities you use.-Ed.


Q: What do you estimate is the ratio/percentage of CCC users that actually donated/paid to use it?

Bombich: Less than 1% for sure. I really can't complain though, I have received a LOT of very positive feedback and that always thrills me. Originally, I never intended to charge for CCC at all. It was only upon the insistence of some early users and my wife that I decided to provide a method of accepting donations.

Interestingly, it seems that a lot of people started providing "donation-ware" after I published CCC. I think this is great because, as a college student, I never paid shareware fees and often felt pretty guilty about it, even if I didn't feel like the app was quite worth the asking price given how much I used it. Donation-ware gives the user the chance to try and trust the app before committing to it.


Q: Do you pay shareware fees?

Bombich: Yes. Especially after becoming a developer, but as soon as I had a steady job, my wife and I decided that it was very important to pay for shareware apps that we use regularly.


Q: What are Your Favorite Utilities? Tools you just can't live without?

Bombich: rsync and psync. Those tools are just awesome. For workflow, I really like Disk Copy and WindowShade. I really miss Disk Copy in Panther (yes I know its functionality is rolled in to Disk Utility, but its just not the same). And of course the Terminal, I really like tinkering with Unix. I really like BBEdit too.


Q: Are there any problems being an independent developer and working for Apple?

Bombich: First I need to state that I don't develop software for Apple (just need to be explicit). I like it a lot, with caveats. I have access to so many intelligent people and that makes it pretty easy to get intelligent answers to difficult questions. Also, developing solutions for customer problems is encouraged and I get a lot of positive feedback from the Apple community. At the same time, I must admit that there is always a fear that I could lose ownership of my software. Fortunately most of it is open source and in the public domain. The other drawback is that my job at Apple is extremely demanding. Balancing home life, travel/work, and software development is difficult. Unfortunately, its end-user support of my software that has suffered most extensively. This is really difficult for me because I was always very proud of answering every email that people sent me for support. Since buying a home in June, I've found it increasingly difficult to find time to answer any of my personal email, including those for software support.


Q: What was your role in the .Mac Backup Utility, if any?

Bombich: None.


Q: What is your opinin of wireless use (either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) with backup utilities?

Bombich: I would lump Wi-Fi into general networking. 802.11g is finally fast enough that it's worthwhile to use it when backing up to a network. As for Bluetooth, I just don't think it has the bandwidth to provide a workable backup solution for any large number of files.


Do you feel like Apple copied your ideas with the new functionality that is built into Panther Server? (with specific regard to the new features of NetBooting) (This question may or may not be relevant to the audience, but is relevant to the lab manager-types that use CCC and NetRestore)

Bombich: For the last three years I have been pushing and pushing to get that functionality offered and supported by Apple. Perhaps thanks to the success of and feedback about my tools, its now here! The only reason I ever developed my tools is because I wanted Mac users to HAVE that functionality. That it is built in to the server AND SUPPORTED is the best thing that could have ever happened. I'll will be happily moving on to my next great idea, as it seems I never have time to write all the utilities that I'd like to.


Q: What do you think of the new G5 Systems?

Bombich: I first got to play with a G5 at WWDC in June. I spent a few minutes stumped about what I could do to really push it to the limit. Finally I decided to do a Select-All in the Utilities folder and Command+O to open everything simultaneously. I was shocked when the Dock filled in under a second with the 20 or so apps and they all completed launching within about 5 seconds. I am absolutely thrilled with the G5 and I think it will really start to turn some heads.


Q: What New Technologies and Devices would you like to see next from Apple?

Bombich: I want Apple to buy Tivo and make home entertainment media really easy. I recently spent about three hours trying to figure out how to plug my VCR/DVD/Receiver/TV/etc together -- it was a real pain. If Apple made a Tivo-like receiver that could communicate with your computers, stream media, etc, all that stuff would surely be easy to setup. An iFridge would be nice too. If Apple doesn't act quickly, all of our refrigerators will be running Windows!


Q: What advice do you have for someone just getting into Mac developement to best prepare for the future? What code do you write in the most? What do you think of XCode? What was your path as a budding developer to where you are now?

Bombich: I would encourage them to start with Objective C and XCode. I write all of my tools in AppleScript Studio, and while it enables me to write apps extremely quickly (I just wrote a BOM viewer app in 20 minutes the other day), there are limitations that you just don't have with straight Cocoa. Overall, I have found the Apple Developer Tools to be pretty easy to learn and use. Interface Builder especially allows you to implement so much functionality without touching the code.

In college, I took an intro to C++ class thinking that I may use the skills for Ecological modeling. In Grad school, I bought one of the original Bondi iMacs and immediately started tinkering with AppleScript. I liked it because it easily allows you to manipulate multiple applications and even do some remote management. At one point I played with a little Java after my wife suggested learning a language with which "I could get paid to develop apps". We laugh about this now because AppleScript Studio allows you to develop "real" applications that people are willing to pay for. Because I only develop software as a hobby, I unfortunately have never had the time to learn Objective C. Thus, here I am as an AS-Studio developer.

As I've only used XCode for a few days, I'm still experiencing some growing pains with it. There are a couple things that didn't make it from Project Builder to XCode that slow me down a bit. I also haven't had a chance to learn the new Fix and Run features, but I'm really looking forward to the timesavings once I learn those features. Overall XCode is very nice, once I get a little more experience with it I think I will be very happy.
-Mike Bombich

www.bombich.com



Thanks to Mike Bombich for the Q&A and to Mattew Culmore for helping make it happen.-Mike
The next article in this series has been posted - see the Q&A with Ryan Rempel, Author of Xpostfacto utility for installing OS X on legacy Macs.



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