Time Machine + My Book Live = molasses

In today’s posting, I present some simple performance data for My Book Live when used to backup Mac OSX using Time Machine.  Spoiler alert: your initial backup might take a day or three – and that’s no exaggeration.

But if you have the patience to wait, I’ve found so far that it’s a good substitute for the $500 Time Capsule that comes with the same drive space (3 terabytes).

My Book Live (MBL) is a great product if you just backup files here and there.  But, power users need to have some patience.  While it’s reliable Network Attached Storage (NAS), it’s not made to chew on mounds of data quickly.  If you keep your data backups to under a couple gigabytes a day (max), you won’t be disappointed with its performance.  But any more than that and it might be worth looking around for a more enterprise NAS solution if you want to see your backups finish quickly.

Now if only Western Digital had a My Book Live version that came with 2GB (gigabytes) of memory, they’d have a sure fire winner of a product on their hands … I’m convinced.

I have been noticing my Time Machine backups for my Mac have gotten considerably slow when backing up to My Book Live (MBL).  I’m guessing … only guessing … that it’s because the MBL only comes with 256 megabytes of memory.  That makes the MBL a quite a bit underpowered for its advertised task.   Especially when you’re me and you need to backup several gigabytes a day.

At any rate I thought I would share some simple benchmarking results.  I calculated these numbers manually – by timing backup rates with a stopwatch.

The Time Machine backup is very slow.  I’ve isolated the problem to the Time Machine server running on the My Book Live.  Here’s how:

  1. My mac and the MBL NAS are connected to a switch using hardwire … no WiFi involved.
  2. I transferred a 1 gigabyte file manually from the Mac (Mountain Lion 10.8.2) to the Public shared drive on the MBL.  Took 54 seconds.  That’s pretty good.  That’s 8 billion bits in 54 seconds, or about 148 megabits per second.
  3. I can get similar rates when I transfer from the mac to a time machine that is hardwired to the same switch.
  4. I have the iTunes and the other media server off on the MBL.
  5. The MBL is set to not sleep.
  6. When backing up with Time Machine, the rates drop significantly:
    • took about 7.25 minutes for the drive to allow the mac to connect to it and prepare the backup.
    • The backup numbers in Time Machine seem to stall … just when you think the service on MBL has stalled, the numbers tick up rapidly for a time, then stall again.  When backing up to Time Capsule, the numbers don’t stall that much.
    • I timed a Time Machine backup and watched it for six minutes.  714 megabytes were backed up in 6 minutes.  That’s 5.7 gigabits in 360 seconds, or 16 megabits per second.

The overhead the Time Machine server gives us when running on My Book LIve is pretty big, 148 megabits straight file copy drops down to 16 megabits for Time Machine.  I haven’t run the same comparison for overhead for an Apple Time Capsule yet.

Show iTunes in the Cloud Disabled in iTunes 11

I’ve been going nuts wondering why my iCloud purchases in iTunes 11 won’t show up.  I had the checkbox set to make iTunes show my iCloud purchases, and they were being shown, but they suddenly disappeared.

And, so did the option in iTunes preferences called “Show iTunes in the Cloud Purchases.”  It’s not there!

iTunes 11:  iTunes in the cloud ... gone!

iTunes 11: iTunes in the cloud … gone!

I’m going to go kick the neighbors dog now, and pretend that dog is the product management at Apple.

Update: Others have reported that the fix for this is to log out and log back in of iTunes.  But that turn-your-head-and-cough style of workaround probably isn’t intended.  But, it does work.

The REAL Apple iTunes 11 Release Notes

It’s 3:48 AM, and I’ve spent the last hour trying to get a simple thing done on iTunes.  It’s not working.  Reading the release notes didn’t help either, but I thought I would at least re-write them for people who are faced with the same thing:

About iTunes 11.0.2

The new iTunes includes a dramatically simplified player, a completely redesigned Store, and iCloud features you’ll love (if you can actually use the product due to us leaving out the obvious usability use cases) — despite all our hard work and stunning design, this is the most useless best iTunes yet.

  • Completely Redesigned. We left out the part where we don’t make it obvious how to download all your iCloud purchases at once. Some of you can expect to spend a good hour trying to find a simple “Download all purchases stored in the iCloud” function.  You’ll probably give up in complete frustration.
  • A new opportunity to rant on the Apple forums, and A New Store.
  • Play purchases from iCloud, but just don’t download them all at once to your new overpriced Mac you spent good money on. We would prefer you click on the little cloud icon on EACH and EVERY song you’ve purchased. Your music, movie, and TV show purchases in iCloud now appear inside your library. Just sign-in with your Apple ID to see them. Double-click to play them directly from iCloud or download a copy you can sync to a device or play while offline.
  • Up Next. It’s now simple to see which songs are playing next, but it doesn’t really matter because that’s useless until you go through hundreds, perhaps thousands of songs to click that cute little cloud button to download each one.
  • New MiniPlayer. You can now do a whole lot more with a lot less space, except download all your iCloud purchases at once.
  • Improved search. That little cloud next to each song is a great reminder that you get to click on it hundreds or perhaps thousands of times to download each and every song – one at a time.  We hope you don’t go crazy in the process, but it’s never been easier to find what you’re looking for in iTunes. Just type in the search field and you’ll instantly see results from across your entire library. Select any result and iTunes takes you right to it.
  • Playback syncing. iCloud now remembers your place in a movie or TV show for you. Whenever you play the same movie or episode from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV, it will continue right where you left off.

This update adds a new Composers view for music, improves responsiveness when syncing playlists with a large number of songs, and fixes an issue where purchases may not show up in your iTunes library. This update also includes other stability and performance improvements.

For information on the security content of this update, please visit: support.apple.com/kb/HT1222.

Windows SHA1= c247ece76d06101867ec11191aead1cebc46ea32

Windows 64 SHA1= 14ccca67b9ba181bfb126de028d3e6aa4df3b684

Mac SHA1= e8eba6c2b83b9e24116a9944c808525bed260aa0

Migrating Mac OSX Time Machine Backups to My Book Live

I have been looking for a simple, cost effective, network backup solution.  I have OSx 10.8.2 Mountain Lion.  All the solutions available are way over priced, considering the cost of hard drives these days.

I had given up, until today, when I was at Best Buy.  I was just going to get a USB cradle that would take an internal hard drive and connect it to my Mac over USB.  I already have one and it’s worked very well.  But that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted more of a low end SAN solution so that I didn’t have to have my computer on just to access the hard drive.

Then, while looking through the shelves at the USB 2.0 and 3.0, I noticed one external drive with a network connector on the back:


Front of the My Book Live small Network Access Storage (NAS) device. The network router shown is not included in the package of course.

Back of the My Book Live

Back of the My Book Live

The device seemed to work well right out of the box, and I’m sure you can use it without much configuration work.  It’s obvious Western Digital set it up to be as ready to go out of the box as possible. Which is a rare thing for non-Apple products.  So, I was impressed.

I did however have some non-standard setup tasks to do.  One of those setup tasks for me was to copy my existing Time Machine backup archives to the new drive.  Necessary because the drive was now going to serve as my primary backup drive.  So I made sure that the Time Machine server was active using the web interface of the device itself (which is actually pretty nice).  Then I followed the instructions on this Apple knowledge base article:

Time Machine: How to transfer backups from the current backup drive to a new backup drive

There’s a step in those instructions where you copy Backups.backupdb to the top level directory of the Time Machine partition on the drive (which for My Book Live is created automatically – there’s no formatting the drive necessary or allowed, only a factory reset).  So, I tried that and up popped this error message on my Mac:


error: The volume is the wrong format for a backup.

I panicked.  I really needed my NAS drive to function well as a Time Machine backup.  Queue the suspense music.

So, I perused the Interweb forums for an answer, and eventually just decided that I would have to simple let the Time Machine backup create a new backup.  Sigh.  Dreck.  So, I clicked “OK” here to close the error dialog, and nothing was copied.  I then started Time Machine preferences, and selected the new partition on the My Book Live as the new disk.  But, I also happened to have my existing Time Machine backup drive connected to the computer at the same time.

Low and behold, a window pops up, asking me if  I want to replace the old Time Machine backup drive with the new one.

With two Time Machine drives present, you can choose how you want to backup.

With two Time Machine drives present, you can choose how you want to backup.

The “Use Both” button was highlighted.  But I clicked the “Replace Behemoth” button cause I only wanted one backup drive active.  Queue the “we might be out of the dark woods” music.

The other choice I had was to use both drives at the same time and let Time Machine to alternate drives.  I thought that was interesting, because it suggested that my existing backup files might be copied over to the new drive if I chose to replace the old one.  So, I clicked the “Replace” button.

As Time Machine got to work on the backup, I noticed that the size of the backup was several times larger than the amount of data on my hard drive.  That suggested that the old backup was being copied.  A quick check of file system in Time Machine confirmed that my old backup data was in fact being transferred to the new drive.

For all the complaining I’ve done on Apple’s support forums, bad language and all, I can honestly say this feature compensates for a handful of times I’ve been frustrated by my Mac or external hard drives for one reason or another.

Nice Job Apple!  Queue your favorite Wagner symphony.

You’re still the king of the farm when it comes to features that keep my data safe.  This makes the high prices of Macs … well … a about 2% more bearable.