Friday, November 21, 2014

Browsing Versions of a File in Time Machine

Lukas Mathis:

In Time Machine, the selector for picking how far to get back is finicky, and hard to use. As far as I can tell, it’s impossible to know when specific files actually changed, unless you manually step through the history and check the file’s modification date. The UI doesn’t properly support what is probably the most common use case: getting back the most recent good version of a single file.


All I needed was for Time Machine to show me what versions of a specific file it had backed up, so that I could pick the one with the most recent modification date. Not any old version — the most recent version. But I can’t tell Time Machine to just show me what versions of a file it has. Instead, I’m (sluggishly, because Time Machine’s UI apparently requires more power than the most recent Tomb Raider) stepping back through Time Machine’s version history, painfully trying to figure out which specific instance of the files it shows me is the one that I need to recover.

tmutil looks very useful and can remove the Time Machine metadata that would ordinarily be messed up if you tried to manually restore from a snapshot. But it doesn’t seem to solve this particular problem. The easiest way I’ve seen is BackupLoupe, however even that will show you an entry for each snapshot containing the file, rather than each distinct version of the file.

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I'll second the recommendation of BackupLoupe as a highly useful tool in such scenarios. But yeah, none of the available tools really does the job the way one would want.

And Lukas is funny:

Your backup software’s file recovery feature, though? That’s not the place to put the single weirdest UI in your entire operating system.

When you’ve lost a file and you desperately need to get it back, you’re already in a bad place. The last thing you need is for your computer to suddenly transform into something completely unfamiliar. When you already think you’re screwed up, you’re usually not in the mood for learning a totally foreign user interface.

I’m freaking out, and Apple is sending me on an LSD-fueled trip through a star field.

But I'll play devil's advocate, and disagree with him on the metaphysics here.

Apple, via the GUI, is cueing you in that you've just landed in hell, (or, more optimistically, the Bardo.) So you now are through the looking glass, in a wondrous world where you need to laboriously eat different pills and mushrooms until you locate the last good modification of a file.

It's fun! It's like a video game!

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