Patience, young grasshopper

I installed a program recently that overwrote some scripts in a folder. Scripts that I had already customized. I guess the developer thought, “Hey, if Apple can overwrite user customizations with impunity, then so can I.” They should have simply renamed the original files, but that would have taken an extra line or two of code.

No problem, I’ll restore from Time Machine. Hmm… Time Machine won’t launch. Oh, it seems it’s still running. The app always used to run at the same time allowing restores while backing up, but maybe this is yet another Apple “improvement.” I’ll wait.

Nope. Time Machine still won’t launch. I’ll worry later about fixing another of the never-ending bugs in macOS High Sierra—or as I like to call it—macOS Stoner. In the meantime I guess I’ll have to resort to using Arq Backup. And into the rabbit hole I fall…

Unlike CrashPlan and Time Machine that show you the files, and then let you choose the backup version, Arq does it backwards; some may say “differently” but I say “backwards.” Arq shows you the backup versions for the outermost folder. So you have no idea where in that huge list of backups that nested file got modified and backed up again.

“Patience, young grasshopper.”

But Tom, you say, Arq allows you to search for the file. Yes and no. Definitely, NO. But since I’m a glutton for punishment (you already knew that because I use macOS and Arq) I decided to search anyway. After waiting a few minutes (yes,minutes) for Arq to read the packlist of the outermost folder, it showed the list of backup dates. Useless. Then I used the search box to search by filename. After several more minutes, the first copy of the file it found said it was modified today. I looked in the Finder at that file, and it said the file was last modified December 12, 2015. So who is lying, macOS or Arq. Honestly—it’s a toss-up. I don’t know which to trust.

Then Arq started showing two more matches for the same file. The latest match said the file was modified while the search was running. I didn’t even open the file, let alone change it. Three matches with modification dates within an hour and I know I haven’t touched that file for ages. I think maybe macOS is telling the truth and Arq is lying.

Great! So Arq found some files. Not the right ones, mind you, just files with the same name in the wrong folder. Meanwhile, Arq’s search remains in progress. I know the file is in a different folder, yet Arq can’t seem to find that. Since Arq gives no progress indication of how far into the search it is and the time remaining, I’m gonna guess it’s about 666 lifetimes from now. No computer search should take tens of minutes with no indication of when it’s going to complete.

Since I can’t remember exactly when I installed that program that overwrote my script, I don’t know which of the backup dates to choose. Lucky for me, the program that overwrote the scripts used the installation date. Not all installers do that. Some use the date their file was last modified. I lucked out so I know which backup I need to select. If Time Machine would have worked, always a crapshoot, then I’d have had the file restored within a minute. For Arq, it’s going to be on the order of 15 minutes, not including the time it takes to write up this post as I work through the procedure.

Now imagine that you didn’t know when the file got overwritten, or corrupted, or whatever the reason you have to restore a file. Arq forces you to open each outermost folder backup, drill down to find the file, note its date and/or size manually, decide it’s not the right one, try another backup, drill down, remember the previous file’s stats, check against the one you’re looking at now, and on and on until you find what you think is the right file to restore. It took me 30 seconds just to open one backup and drill down to find the file. This is ludicrous!

While this works fine if you know exactly when you want to restore from, it fails miserably if you just want to compare all backups of that file together to compare their modification dates and sizes. Like CrashPlan does, and to a lesser degree, Time Machine.

Since you can’t select more than one item with Arq (I know, I know, but I didn’t write the damn thing) I selected the folder encapsulating the three scripts I wanted to restore. Arq managed to restore these files totalling 66.4 KB (kilobytes) in just under 5 minutes. I am not kidding. Something Time Machine can restore in seconds, took 5 minutes with Arq after telling it exactly what files to restore.

Arq will either teach you patience or give you high blood pressure. As for macOS, it drove me insane years ago.

Update 17:40:

It turns out all I had to do to “fix” Time Machine was to log out and back in. If I knew it was going to be that easy, I’d have saved a lot of time and done that instead of trying to restore from Arq.

Author: Tom

Destroyer of software. If I haven't tested it, it hasn't been tested.

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