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Thu, 12 May 2005
SuperDuper!, Safari, and Spotlight

Today I registered my copy of SuperDuper!, which is program for backing up (cloning, really, since it doesn't do conventional incremental backups like Retrospect) Macintosh volumes. I had been using Carbon Copy Cloner, but I wasn't convinced that it would work on Tiger volumes, particularly on the metadata.

In particular, I was concerned about preserving all the "Where From" information kept by Safari. So I was ready to try SuperDuper!, having had a recommendation from Morgen. It did the backup pretty speedily, and even rebooted onto the backed up volume after it was done (a nice touch).

However, when I checked files that I had downloaded with Safari, I found that all the "Where From" information was gone. I sent a note off the the SuperDuper! tech support address, and got a very speedy reply from Dave Nanian at Shirt Pocket. Dave was very responsive, and I sent him Bob Ippolito's post about copyfile. He did some more research and discovered that:

the metadata importer isn't actually extracting that information from the file. Instead, it's being explicitly added/tagged by Safari (no doubt because there's no real association with an importer here), and it's not done in a 'classic' metadata way -- it's being shoved directly into the Spotlight index.

That means that information is lost if you recreate the index, too...

That was a nasty explanation, but one which also explained the behavior documented by Scott, namely that "Where From" info does not survive being copied by cp. It turns out I had later used the source volume, my PowerBook's internal drive in Target mode, as an external drive on Julie's new PowerBook, which caused Spotlight to reindex the drive (for reasons I still don't understand). And sure enough, now the "Where From" data was missing on the source drive as well.

Dave's revelation about the "Where From" data being stored in the Spotlight index (instead of as metadata on the actual files) is going to save me a lot of grief -- I was planning to use that feature a lot. But now it seems much less appealing since it's hard to know when the Spotlight indices get nuked.

My conversation with Dave goes above and beyond what I'd call "support". Not only that, I hadn't even registered SuperDuper! yet -- I planned to if it worked for me, but I was in the middle of proving that out, and I didn't mention that to Dave at all. This kind of support is why I'm happy to "pay for software". I put that in quotes because in my mind, I'm not really paying for the software, I'm making sure that Dave has time to continue to be amazingly responsive to questions like mine, to write on his blog, and to continue improving SuperDuper! Would I prefer SuperDuper! to be open source? Sure, but even if it was, I'd still have paid Dave the $20. That's one reason I like being on the Mac. I love all the small developers like Dave, Brent Simmons, and Adriaan Tijsseling.

[23:21] | [computers/operating_systems/macosx] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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