Weird Time Machine AFP Error – solved

This was a first. I just rebooted the OSX server to free up the Time Machine volume – after getting the ubiquitous “volume is in use error”.

When Time Machine on my Mac next ran, I got this weird error “The network backup disk does not support the required AFP features”. This was the first time that I’ve seen this error. I googled around for the error, and even on the Drobo web site. I didn’t get any useful information… so I logged onto the server to look for errors.

There were no messages in the Server app’s Alerts pane. There was nothing unusual in the Drobo Dashboard. However I did notice that Time Machine was switched to “off”. WTF? A service on the OSX service that was NOT running after a reboot? Perish the thought! (I reboot my servers about once or twice a year. A properly running Unix server should never “need” a reboot.)

So I turned Time Machine back “On” in the Server’s app. There were no existing Time Machine volumes set up in the pane. So I had to direct the Time Machine back to the folder that I had set up on the Drobo to store the backups. Very strange indeed.

When the backup tried to run on the Mac again, I had to go into the Time Machine preferences and choose “Add or Remove Disk” to reconnect the back up. It’s running once again…

This is why I also use Background Backup to backup all my Macs. I never have issues with that service. You get what you pay for.

iPhoto, Drobo and Mac Mini media server with Plex

Q. The disk space on my Mac is almost full and I’d like to store our family photos on an external drive and store the family videos from my second MacBook on the storage device as well. How can we move the files if we get an external drive or Mac Mini Server?

A. To begin, both of your Mac computers use iPhoto to manage your photos and home movies. One of the key features of iPhoto is that it has a built in database and protects your photos by storing them with a special file called “iPhoto Library”.

Because of the way it is set up iPhoto can be tricky to manage. In order to maintain the integrity of the database Apple converts the iPhoto folders into a special folder type called a package. All of the photos and movies are stored inside to protect them.

You can use iPhoto to move files, as you can’t manually access photos or movies directly. iPhoto does have the ability to Export selected images to other locations such as folders, to a Mobile Me gallery, to the web or as QuickTime slideshows. You can also upload individual files to Flikr, FaceBook and email them. iPhoto will even resize the images to make them smaller for emailing and uploading.

Keep in mind that your images can be quite sizable and movie files are much larger, depending on your camera settings – up to several gigabytes in many cases.

You can manually manage images using export or by dragging them out the Desktop or you can download “iPhoto Library Manager” ($20). iPhoto Library Manager will let you manage your photos in more than one library. You can create a new Library on another drive and move or merge photos between libraries. You can also use iPhoto Library Manager to split larger libraries. The makers of iPhoto Library Manager ( ) also make PowerTunes which will help manage iTunes Libraries.

In second part of your question you mention a great idea – setting up a Mac Mini as a media centre for the entire family. It can also support larger drives as you storage needs increase. The Mac Mini Server includes a full, unlimited version of Mac OS X Server 10.6. As well as offering centralized storage for the family the Mac Mini Server can also be used as a Time Machine location for the Macs on your home network.

With respect to storage options, you might want consider a Drobo – which is a robotic raid that can be expanded by adding successively larger drives. Using up to four SATA hard drives, the Drobo automagically formats and creates a storage space larger than any one drive. You can start with one or two 1 TB drives and add drives until it’s full… but it doesn’t end there. You can swap out the drives and put in larger drives to increase your storage without reformatting – mixing any number of different sized drives and manufacturers. The Drobo spreads the data across the drives and creates redundancy by using a small portion of the space for parity.

As the space fills up the Drobo will signal you with colored lights to put in a larger drive. If one of the drives fails, the Drobo lights will indicate that it needs to be replaced. The Drobo comes in 4 drive, 5 drive and 8 drive versions, so you can move up to a larger Drobo by moving the drives as a group. The Drobo will sort things out no matter what order you put the drives.

You can install the Plex Media Server to manage and play back your media on the Mac Mini (or any Mac) as a media server. Based on the popular open source Xbox Media Center, the Plex interface presents your media; music, movies, TV shows and photos. Using the Plex application, a wifi keyboard and an Apple Remote you can navigate and play your media on your Mac connected to your stereo system and HDMI TV. You can also stream media right off the Internet.

This document was created with Pages for the iPad, Air Sharing for the iPad, Drop Box and exported as Word via Mail on the iPad.

Re Unarchiving a Time Capsule archive

This is a follow up to an archived thread about “unarchiving” a backup of the data from a Time Capsule.

I have just started working with my second TC dual band and I have several Macs including a MacBook Air – which takes 17 hours to do the initial back up. The Time capsule is NOT a server. When you try to mount the drives on your Mac and copy files from one TC drive to the other the files are actually brought to your Mac via your network and then written back. (I have also not figured out how to connect two TCs together – you can connect them between one WAN to the other’s Ethernet port but cannot access the drives. Also server software knows you are copying to drives connected to the server so it handles the data directly between the drives.)

So I finally discovered the “Archive” function on the AirPort – which will archive an entire TC drive to a drive on the TC’s USB port. It’s reasonably fast. Next I moved and connected the USB drive the new TC but again we are back to copying to the Mac and back again. For example it said it would take 35 hours to copy 150 GB of data from the USB drive hanging off the back of the TC.

Reading the response to the thread above – which was not helpful to the poster – it dawned on me. Connect the USB drive to a spare Mac and copy the files back to the new TC – which would take half the time. Currently I am copying my 80GB backup of the Air to the new TC and it says it will take 6 hours. (The backups on the TC are sparse disk images so they are actually hundreds of little files in a package so will take much less than that but the Finder cannot really estimate the time.)

What we need is an ability to “restore” and archive with Airport Utility.


Fix Time Machine’s broken volume.

Q. I am having trouble with Time Capsule and I don’t think that it is backing up. I get an error saying that the back up disk image could not be mounted. How can I fix this?

A. Time Capsule, as you may know, is an additional tool to help users back up their Macintoshes wirelessly over a local network. Users running Mac OS X 10.5 aka Leopard, can take advantage of the new easy to use back up feature Time Machine. That way they can protect their valuable data in case some disaster strickes their computer.

Time Machine and Time Capsule will back up data every hour that the Macintosh computer is up and running. Initially it does a complete backup and then in tracks and backs up any changed files. With the back you can recover a file or the entire computer’s system and data if either is lost somehow.

Some users have experienced similar problems with the initial versions of the Time Machine. For every Mac that it backs up it creates an image of the hard drive in the form of a sparse disk image. A disk image is a file that behaves like a removable hard drive and a sparse one doesn’t have a fixed size so it can grow as required. For some reason, the sparse image may get damaged – afterwards it may not be able to mount normally, so that it can be read from or written to.

The fix for this is simple. Your Time Capsule should appear in the Finder’s Side Bar. Open a new Finder window if one is not open. If you don’t see the sidebar click the white lozenge in the top right corner of the window. Open the Time Capsule’s drive where you will see one or more “sparsebundle” files. Look for the one that matches your computer’s name along with a jumble of letters and numbers. My computer’s Time Machine file is named “macbook_001b639842a7.sparsebundle”. The jumble represents you “Ethernet Address”, which you can find under Network in System Preferences.

To fix the problem – simply rename the file by changing a few letters or numbers. The next time that the Time Capsule backs your Mac up it will see the file is missing and it will create a new one. After a few days of successful back up you can delete the older back up file.

Time Capsule timing

Q. I’m curious about using Time Capsule to back up my Macintosh wirelessly. How long does it take?

A. That’s a really good question. One of my pet peeves as a roving IT consultant is how many clients of mine don’t appreciate how important backing up their data really is. The problem is no one can tell you when a hard drive mechanism will fail. Tape backups can be damaged by exposure of heat, cold or magnetic fields and CDs and DVDs can get scratched, dirtied or broken leaving them useless. Unfortunately the majority of users are oblivious to the dangers of data storage.

Last year Apple has introduced “Time Machine”, to automatically back up your data to any attached hard drive. “Time Capsule” is an Apple Airport Base Station (internet router and wireless access point) complete with a server grade hard drive with a special network version of Time Machine.

All computers using Mac OS X 10.5 can connect to the Time Capsule and be backed up on the network. By entering a password older Macs and PCs can connect as a network drive for manual backups and file sharing. Like most back up technologies it starts by backing up every file on your Mac (you can decide to exclude files or folders.) After a complete back up it then backs up incrementally, backing up new files or files that have been modified.

The initial back up takes over 10 hours. The back up over Ethernet took much less time. Afterwards Macs back up about once an hour. Each back up is only accessible by the Mac that created the backup. Time Machine can restore you Mac in case a disaster. Your data is important to you, so get a Time Capsule or at very least use Time Machine with a removable drive.