News

From Hell’s Heart I…Oh, Never Mind! Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If it's not one thing, it's nothing, at least this time.

We'd developed the current Beta of SuperDuper using the most current Developer Beta versions, based on the feedback of various testers (and, of course, our own testing).

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we'd researched the problem we had copying El Capitan, and we came up with a way of getting the drive copied, although System Protection was disabled on the copy until the OS was reinstalled.

We thought it was critical to release that as soon as the Public Beta was announced, to ensure that the larger pool of public testers had access to it - we didn't want that audience to go without the ability to back up. And it's been working great.

Turns out...

Apple fixed the problem with copying the "com.apple.rootless" attribute in the Public Beta! So, with the release of our Beta 2 (download below), we've included the ability to copy with that EA preserved, and thus system protection is maintained on the copy as well. Plus, there's no need to erase when restoring.

This is all great news for users: basically, copying will work as it always has.

You can download the improved/de-improved Beta 2 here. Enjoy!

Uncovering our rootlessness Thursday, July 09, 2015

Every new OS X release has its own special challenges, and OS X 10.11 - which I still have trouble referring to as "El Capitan" - is no different. And in our testing (which we commenced immediately upon availability of the developer preview), we found that we couldn't make a copy of an El Capitan disk due to the new system protection or rootless feature.

Rootless mode is a good thing, for the most part. It makes OS X more secure by protecting various system folders, ensuring that even applications that obtain escalated privileges through trickery (or hacking) can't mess with these critical locations. (It also means that jailbreaking iOS 9 is likely to be much more difficult, for those who care about that kind of thing.)

In our investigation, we've found that a new Extended Attribute -- com.apple.rootless -- is used to mark files and folders with this new protection. No process other than certain Apple-signed-and-authored ones can remove or write this attribute, and files and folders marked with this attribute cannot be changed. However, those files and folders can be read and copied.

This means that, for those using El Capitan, we can't hint obliquely that we're compatible, as we have in the past, where our current version worked even though we couldn't declare that compatibility until the final build. This time, the current version of SuperDuper is dead in the water on El Capitan. It just won't work.

But don't dismay: we've worked to change that. I'm happy to say, to those of you who are on the Beta (and those who are going to join the public beta today), we've developed and tested a Beta version of SuperDuper that makes bootable copies of El Capitan. There's a link to download it at the end of this post.

But please don't skip down there. Keep reading.

There are a few minor caveats, and some things to keep in mind.

First, and most importantly, OS X 10.11 is in Beta, and so is this build of SuperDuper. While we've been super careful about changing as little as possible, El Capitan is a big update, and there may be things that don't work. There may be things that don't work as well as you'd like. If that's the case, report the problem to the appropriate party. We're happy to get the feedback, and I'm sure Apple is as well.

Operationally, there are some known, minor issues. The most inconsequential one is that Repair Permissions is no longer available under El Capitan, so we disable it in Options. I can't say it will be missed.

Since we can't write the com.apple.rootless EA, SuperDuper removes it during the copy. That means the backup -- while fully functional and bootable -- is not an "exact copy" of the source. Specifically, SuperDuper! must disable the system protection feature on the backup, and cannot recreate it when you restore.

That's a relatively minor difference, but it's an important one. After restore, your system becomes vulnerable to the kinds of attacks that Apple is specifically protecting against.

It's easy to regain full system protection features: you simply need to reinstall the OS from the App Store. You can do this at your leisure, but doing it as soon as possible means you're less vulnerable (even though that vulnerability is quite small). It's a painless process, and it writes the fresh OS under your existing applications and data. As an added benefit, it will speed up your boot process, since it'll recreate certain caches that non-special-Apple-programs can no longer update.

Also, for this version, if you want to restore over an existing El Capitan install, and there are changes in protected system folders, you cannot use Smart Update (because we can't overwrite those protected files, or write to those protected folders). We're hoping to remove this restriction in the next release.

That's it for now! Thanks, as always, for using and recommending SuperDuper: we appreciate it, and couldn't do it without your support.

Download away!

SuperDuper - Now with added Superness! Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (I'm @dnanian) may have read that we were slightly surprised by Yosemite's release, which came out a week earlier than we expected. Fortunately, we were ready with a compatible, tested version—but it wasn't as optimized as we wanted it to be.

Basically, we knew we had reliable and safe copies of Yosemite, but there were cases where our change detection was too conservative, and thus we were copying too much.

In some cases (for users of the f-secure antivirus program, for example), we'd end up copying some files every time they ran, even when Smart Update was used, due to f-secure's crazy use of Extended Attributes to mark files as "clean".

We also found a case where some of the data in the file was being compared when it didn't need to be. This was, of course, "safe", but it was also sub-optimal (and obviously wrong).

I'm happy to say that we've spent much of the last month completing the additional work we wanted to finish, as well as polishing and improving 2.7.3 based on the feedback we've received from users.

Not only have we fixed the cases where extra or unnecessary copying was done, we've made significant improvements across the board: copying is faster than ever; some longstanding (though minor) UI issues were fixed; we've even radically reworked the way we ask the system for the list of attached volumes, which should eliminate the delay some users experienced when launching and completing copies.

We've even fixed the animation bug that caused the update notice to not fully display for some users. Unfortunately, since the code that displays the update is in the "current" version, not the "new" version, some of you are going to see the problem again with this update (and I'll be getting thousands of emails about it). Future update notices should display correctly (except in one case, hence the Bullwinkle reference in the release notes)!

Finally, we've added specific support for Backblaze's ".bzvol" folder, which is now not copied during regular backups (as recommended by Backblaze), and any existing .bzvol folders on a destination are preserved during Smart Update.

All in all, I think you're going to really like v2.7.4.

As always, thanks for using, recommending (and hopefully registering) SuperDuper!

Take a breath Saturday, February 22, 2014

Well, that took longer than we though it would, mostly because we wanted to make sure we got very broad external testing coverage before release (extremely important when we make changes to the copy engine), but I'm happy to say that SuperDuper! v2.7.2 is now available.

To summarize the changes made:

  • Full Mavericks support, including the return of auto-mount and auto-eject for scheduled copies.
  • Scheduling has transitioned to launchd from cron
  • New volume size information available in the source and destination pop-ups
  • New volume information tooltips for the source and destination pop-up lists
  • Warning in the "What's going to happen?" section of the UI when the source drive has significantly more data than the capacity of the destination
  • Improvements to "Backup on connect" to help with a launchd bug in "WatchPaths"
  • Works around a problem in Mavericks with Spotlight handling (where mdsutil can't talk to mds and returns IPC errors)
  • Improvements around prebinding (only done when strictly necessary)
  • Elimination of the rare "Copy Job" unclickable dialog
  • Smart Update speed improvements
  • Scheduled Copies window will re-open on launch if open on quit again on 10.8+
  • Applescript launch no longer loads default settings on 10.8+
  • Large EAs no longer return "result too large" errors
  • Scheduled copies no longer generate annoying and incorrect "controlling your computer" security prompts
  • Now requires OS X 10.6 or later (but 2.7.1 still available for those using 10.4 and 10.5)
  • Various other optimizations, changes, and things I've forgotten because I am old and broken

Thanks for your patience as we've worked to get the release out, and enjoy the new and improved features!

Paving the Road to Hell Sunday, December 08, 2013

I think it was around Leopard's release--which seems like forever ago--that we ended up being later than expected with an update to SuperDuper. Since we've missed our internal target for release of 2.7.2, I thought I'd write a quick blog post to fill you in on what's going on, and why we haven't released the update yet.

First off, the update we have in external beta right now has been working really well for quite a long time. We're basically getting no reports of failures, which is a good thing, since it confirms internal testing.

However, we noticed two things in 2.7.1 under Mavericks, being used by the broader population, that we needed to fix.

The (demonic) MDS Daemon

As some of you may know, Spotlight's indexing daemon is called "mds", and runs automatically. It's loaded by launchd, and does its thing transparently, at low priority. Most of the time you won't even notice it.

In the past, we've temporarily turned mds off with mdsutil during the SuperDuper copy to stop it from indexing the backup during creation.

Which was fine, until we were hit by that dog's big wave.

Under Mavericks, on a few systems, mds seems to be crashing (in some cases it's been unloaded, rather than using the Privacy tab of the Spotlight preference pane). When this happens, mdsutil now throws an error, indicating that it can't talk to the daemon, and we stop. Re-running will often work (since mds gets reloaded), but it's intermittent and annoying.

We're going to stop disabling mds in 2.7.2 to work around this problem. Remember, you can always disable Spotlight indexing of a backup with the Privacy tab in the Spotlight preference pane (as long as you're using Smart Update): something I'd generally recommend since it also prevents backup results from showing up in a Spotlight search.

Extended Attributes of Unusual Size

Way back in Tiger (as I recall, it's been a while), Apple added Extended Attribute support to HFS+. The pretty standard getxattr/setxattr/listxattr calls were supported, and we've been using them to copy the attributes ever since their introduction. Mostly, they used to be small.

These days, Extended Attributes can be quite large (compressed files are actually stored, in some cases, in the resource fork EA), so we've always tried to copy them 256K at a time (to avoid allocating gigantic amounts of memory--they can be up to 2GB in size). This seemed to be fully supported by the get/set APIs, and worked fine.

However, in Mavericks, we started getting ERANGE errors on some (again, very few) user systems.

It turns out that the failure happens when a non-ResourceFork EA turns out to be larger than our 256K buffer. These are super rare, but we've found a few users who had PDFs with kMDItemComments that were gigantic (on the order of 2MB) and some GIFs with corrupted kMDItemWhereFroms that were huge and contained image data.

After carefully reviewing the code along with the current version of the man page (a tip of the pocket to Rich Siegel for helping out with a code review), we've determined the cause of the problem, and it's definitely our bug.

Basically, the com.apple.ResourceFork EA, where large compressed file data is stored, supports chunked reads and writes. Surprisingly, other EAs do not (even though they can be just as large, as mentioned above), and thus must be copied in one go, even if they're as large as 2GB. We were trying to copy them 256K at a time, which failed as soon as we went to the 2nd chunk, and we'd never hit a large, non-ResourceFork EA until Mavericks' release.

This took much too long to figure out. But now that we've determined the cause of the problem, and have fixed it in a way that maintains efficiency (and doesn't unnecessarily bloat our memory footprint), we'll have one more beta build and get the result, assuming success, into your hands.

Thanks for your patience. While you wait, you can try to diagram the last, terrible sentence of the previous paragraph. Good luck!

Mavericks Tuesday, October 22, 2013

So, it's been a while!

For the tl;dr crowd out there, SuperDuper! 2.7.1 backs up Mavericks just fine, so we've got you covered, day-and-date, with backups.

In addition, I'm happy to announce that we will, have an even better Mavericks-compatible release 2.7.2 available shortly.

For more patient readers, here's some hopefully interesting detail.

Despite few visible changes, we've done quite a bit behind the scenes to bring back the cool automatic volume mount/eject feature that stopped working in Mountain Lion because of some new "security features". (It should also eliminate that intermittent, weird, unclickable "Application isn't running" panels and the like that occasionally happened to a few users.)

But every OS release presents new challenges, and Mavericks is no exception.

As you may know, our scheduling feature runs a little application called "Copy Job" behind the scenes. Copy Job gets launched by the system, figures out what the scheduled copy should be, and then launches SuperDuper! to actually do the copying.

When Copy Job starts, one of the first thing it does is ask the OS whether SuperDuper! is already running. That way, it knows whether or not it should quit it at the end of a successful backup.

For some reason, in Mavericks, this check (and a second one that checks whether Growl is running) now generates a scary security warning that claims Copy Job is trying to strangle kittens or some such—and then doesn't give you an easy way to disable the warning (it's a multi-step, confusing process, as you'll see).

We've found a way around this prompt, but it requires that you delete and recreate your existing schedules once 2.7.2 is released. To be blunt, that sucks, I wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm truly sorry for the hassle.

On a slightly sad note, the new 2.7.2 version drops support for Tiger and Leopard (10.4 and 10.5). It's become too difficult to build and test new versions that are compatible with these years-old OS versions (hard to believe, I know, but Tiger came out in 2005, and Leopard in 2007).

2.7.1 will still be available, of course, and can still be used with those older OS versions.

The new 2.7.2 version is in the final stages of testing, and will be available for automatic upgrade shortly as a free update.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for using, trusting and recommending SuperDuper. We couldn't do this without you.

30-day notice of awesomeness Tuesday, September 04, 2012

We've been pretty happy with the way v2.7's been behaving out there in the Big, Beautiful World, but as my previous posts indicated there were some bugs that we needed to deal with.

And deal we have: I'm happy to announce the v2.7.1, available today, has resolved the vast majority of them:

  • We've fixed the "too many open files" error, and the "index out of bounds" exception. While we were doing that, we improved our error handling even more, and added additional, more specific diagnostic messages during a failure that will help you (and us) pinpoint the cause of disk errors when they occur.

  • The statistics in the "status view" and in the log have been corrected. Previously, they were underreporting the number of files and bytes copied in some situations (even though the files were being copied as they should have been).

  • 10.4.11 users had a minor problem with Growl notifications that has been dealt with, too.

A fix for automatic mounting under 10.8 is still in progress (it's not a simple fix, even though we know what to do).

That'll do it for now—we'll head back to the code mines to work the remaining seam while you surface dwellers enjoy.

Hope you had a great Labor Day weekend!

Talkin’ about 2.7’s rollout Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two blog posts in two days - shocking!

The rollout of 2.7 is going well: this is probably the smoothest new version release we've had. But, of course, when you go from "small batch testing" to "large batch testing", you find some things that slipped through the cracks.

Here's what we've found and what we're working on - save for the first two, these are all extremely rare (fewer than ten users affected by all the issues combined), but I thought they might be interesting:

  1. As mentioned in the previous blog post, automatic mounting of ejected local volumes doesn't work under Mountain Lion when time-triggered schedules run. A fix is still in process.

  2. Some users on 10.5 and earlier are getting errors during the update process. If the update doesn't install automatically, you can download it from the Shirt Pocket web site and install manually.

  3. We've had a few reports of a "too many open files" errors in the log. This seems to have to do with some copy-retry logic for busy files. Investigation continues: if you're encountering this (unlikely), quit all active applications and retry the copy.

  4. Another three or four users are getting an exception with an "index out of bounds" error. We're pretty sure this is related to folders whose case has changed on a case-insensitive volume: we're trying to optimize for that, and update the case of (rename) the folder on the destination, and in some situations this can generate an error. To work around the problem, do an erase-then-copy backup rather than a Smart Update (one time).

  5. Finally, there's some kind of issue with utilities that mount volumes outside of the /Volumes folder (again, a very rare case): we're trying to descend into that mount, which will often generate an error. If this is happening to you, you can ignore the mount point/folder with a copy script by following the steps in the User's Guide.

That's about it! We'll continue feeding Xcode some Zwiebacks to get these few teething problems taken care of and get another update out as soon as we're done.

Silence is golden, but it’s time to talk Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The worst part about OS updates is that we can't talk about them.

I know other companies will sometimes discuss Apple's next version of OS X, and how they do or don't work with it, but we try to keep our mouth shut until it's actually out there and we're released from our non-disclosure.

That day is tomorrow, as I write this, and today, as I post it.

So let's talk about Mountain Lion and SuperDuper!

SuperDuper! is already Mountain Lion compatible

The version of SuperDuper! that was released last year, v2.6.4, was already compatible with Mountain Lion, with three exceptions:

  1. SuperDuper! v2.6.4 is not signed, so it will get flagged as a scary-bad application with the default Gatekeeper settings. It's not, of course, and already installed copies of SuperDuper! should work fine.

  2. Automatic mounting of ejected local volumes for scheduled copies does not work.

  3. Most of you can ignore this, but for the technically inclined: while SuperDuper sandboxes work, sandboxing of Mountain Lion (for future Mountain Lion updates) doesn't copy the applications Apple added to Mountain Lion (e.g. Messages, Notes, etc).

SuperDuper! v2.7 is more compatible with Mountain Lion. Plus it's even better.

I'd love to say that we've been sitting around sipping Corpse Reviver #2s and relaxing full time since the last update. That would be pretty awesome, but, well, no.

Instead, we've been working to make SuperDuper! better in a bunch of significant ways, which include:

  • Faster file copies That's right, your backups will finish faster than before.

  • Better information during copying We now update the status window while large files are being copied, so you can get a better idea of what's going with your backup while you sit back, relax, and have a tasty beverage of your own.

  • Gatekeeper compatibility SuperDuper! is now signed, and will not generate Gatekeeper errors when installed with Apple's default settings.

  • Much faster startup SuperDuper! starts even faster, even when you have unresponsive network volumes attached.

  • Better copying of active files Applications that rapidly create and delete files during a backup no longer cause intermittent "vanishing file" failures.

  • Better handling of Time Machine As much as we wanted to copy the local snapshot (the .MobileBackups folder), it was in an uncopyable state too often. It's now ignored, which results in fewer backup failures.

  • Improved diagnostics We've worked around problems in Lion's (and Mountain Lion's) file copy APIs, and more accurately return errors when drives can't be read or written.

  • Support for Growl's latest version & Notification Center We now support the version of Growl in the Mac App Store, which means we also support its latest features, including Notification Center.

  • Still supports Intel and Power PCs; OS X 10.4.11, 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7 As crazy as it seems (and as much as a pain it's been), we still support versions of OS X released in 2005, and Macintoshes that that should have been made into fish tanks years ago.

    In other words: we, clearly, are not smart, and those of you with older systems benefit!

  • Various other miscellaneous improvements Because we can't help ourselves.

Wait a second. You said "more compatible", not "fully compatible"!

You spotted a weasel word! Well done! Nothing gets past you, clearly.

Automatic mounting of local volumes is the one thing we couldn't get to work in time for Mountain Lion's release. (Backup on connect still works just fine.)

Basically, Apple is tracking where an application launches from, and seems to be preventing processes that launch from "cron" (one of the system schedulers), even indirectly, from mounting local disk volumes, even when that application is signed.

We found this late in testing, and tried valiantly to try to work around it, but were unable to in time. And given that it's undocumented (but really cool) behavior, I just couldn't justify holding up the release of v2.7 based on this one problem.

Don't lose hope, though: we're think we know how to fix it—initial testing looks good—so we'll release another version of SuperDuper! as soon as we get the fix fully implemented and tested.

How do I get the new version?

Start SuperDuper! and it will prompt to update itself (unless you've turned that off), or install it manually from the download at the SuperDuper! page at Shirt Pocket.

Yeah, but how much does the new version cost?

That's always the way, right? Show me the money, etc.

Well, we've never charged for updates, not since SuperDuper!'s release in 2004. Not once. And we're not raising our prices.

The update is free. A SuperDuper! registration still costs $27.95.

And the unregistered version still never expires, will make full, bootable backups, and comes with support.

We know it's not the most profitable way of handling things. But as long as you—our users—continue to run, love and recommend SuperDuper!, we'll continue to do our damnedest to do right by you.

So there you go: thanks for reading this and for using SuperDuper. Enjoy the new version!

SuperDuper! v2.6.2 now available! Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's been in test for quite a while, and we're happy to say that SuperDuper! v2.6.2 has been released!

I understated the speed improvements we've measured in the press release and collateral, but we really are seeing 3x improvements in-house, which is pretty great. We'll see how it works for you.

Anyway: I hope you enjoy the new version as much as we enjoy being able to provide it to you.

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