The One Thing We Need in OS X El Capitan (And Didn't Get)

Have OS X users become overwhelmed by terabytes of data? Are they bored or over burdened by the idea of backing up? Is iCloud a simplistic, lame answer to a much more complex question? OS X El Capitan does nothing to address this emerging issue.


We have reached an impasse. Everything with Apple must be easy and comfortable. Yet the very idea of backing up hundreds of gigabytes (or terabytes) of data is out of sync with the capabilities of HFS+ and the software technologies provided. As a result, it's easier to brush this issue under the rug than it is to deal with it for the average Mac user.

One answer from Apple, apparently, is to shift the burden from standard technologies to faux-modern methods that appear to ease the experience. For example.

  1. Don't back up photos. Store and sync them all in iCloud.
  2. Don't buy music. Stream it on demand.
  3. Don't collect movies in digital form. Rent them on Apple TV and let Apple retain a record of purchased movies for later viewing.
  4. Don't bother with an awesome mail application for archiving correspondence. Let Twitter bear the burden of archiving our communications.

This works for many new and casual users, but it increasingly annoys more experienced and professional users who appreciate OS X. It also brushes under the rug certain critical storage issues with the the Pollyanna notion that all will be well.

Until it isn't.

Unsuccessful Success

In a sense, Apple is a victim of its own success. Apple earned billions of dollars selling us stuff (music, movies, TV shows), and now the burden of maintaining all that stuff has become too much to deal with for many users because their OS and backup tools are too primitive.

Of course, if Apple had continued to develop an earlier technology, its Xserve RAID, into an awesome modern day, affordable Apple branded storage box to be used with, say, a (mythical) version 5 of Time Machine, our problems would have been easily solved along the way.

Instead, we have a stagnant Time Machine service that hasn't kept pace with our needs. On page two here, Joe Kissell experiences what many other users have—an unrecoverable Time Machine backup error. This still happens in 2015 because Apple hasn't invested the time and engineering resources over the years to ruthlessly and relentlessly update Time Machine until it is highly flexible, transparent and bulletproof.

Today, one must consider the possibility that, by default and neglect, customers are just plain tired of playing nursemaid to a terabyte of music and videos. And when Apple doesn't make it simple, easy and foolproof to keep all that data backed up, customers are going to seek the easy way out. They fall into the four methods I listed above.

Apple cheerfully indulges the customer's naiveté.

By abandoning Time Machine's technical development and promoting iCloud as the easy answer to everything, Apple is, in essence, betraying the user base. The company is telling us to be a lightweight, happy user and don't take our data too seriously because there isn't very much of it. But for serious, long time users, professionals and businesses, Apple leaves the hard work to others.

In essence, Apple has turned a blind-eye to its previous success and neglected the needs of legacy customers. But the problem isn't going away, and so one would hope that in OS X 10.12 Apple turns its attention to fast, superb backup technologies, hardware and software, that always just work.

That's not too much to ask of Apple. 

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of June 8. Joe Kissell's Time Machine disaster.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of June 8


In a charming, art-filled article at The Oatmeal, the author describes "8 things I learned from wearing an Apple Watch for a couple of weeks." The writing is irreverent and light-hearted. It's also spot on and reflects my own experiences. You'll like it.

The next article is good because it reflects on how we operate the iPhone. One thought, for instance, is that we'll spend more time in certain display modes rather than fussing about how to manage home screens. Some food for thought here, though I must admit that my own reaction was that Apple needs to put more effort into home screen housekeeping tools. "Apple Is Going to Kill the Home Screen."

One thing Apple got a black eye for was the memory space required for an over-the-air upgrade to iOS 8 in 2014. If you're not aware of it, Apple announced at WWDC this week that it has substantially reduced the free memory space required from 4.6 down to 1.8 GB. For those users who had a 16 GB iPhone, fairly maxed out, the former requirement was a problem unless they knew to connect the iPhone to a Mac or PC and iTunes to do the upgrade. Amazingly, many users didn't know about that option. For a nice summary of the situation, see "Apple puts iOS 9 upgrade on diet plan to avoid repeating '14 fiasco."

Do you use Apple's Time Machine exclusively for your backups? Many authors, including me, suggest that you don't rely only on Time Machine. Joe Kissell tells the story about an unexplainable failure, which isn't as rare as it should be.

When my backups become suddenly inaccessible for unknown reasons and I’m offered no solution but starting over, that sort of diminishes my faith in the software.

Joe Kissell, an expert on such matters, writes: "Why I Don’t Rely on Time Machine." And I concur heartily. Apple: where is the new, vastly more capable and reliable Time Machine 2.0 backup service for OS X El Capitan?

One of the things our own Dave Hamilton reported from his visit to WWDC was that Apple has placed strong new emphasis on the power of OS 9 on an iPad. That's part of Apple's plan to breathe new life into what had become a stagnating marriage of the OS and hardware. Here's further elaboration and punctuation at The Verge. "iOS 9 is turning the iPad into what it always wanted to be: the new-age PC."

We tend to think of Apple as primarily a Cupertino, California company with financial centers in Austin, Texas and Cork, Ireland. Plus regional sales offices and notable data centers. But, it turns out, this giant corporation is doing much more in terms of research in many more places than we might have guessed. Check this: "Here's everything that Apple is doing in Europe."

Finally, what's the best laptop (notebook) computer? Again, I'm back to The Verge with this nice analysis. "The Best Laptop You Can Buy." The answer? Of course, it's a 2015 MacBook Air. (And I agree.) Though, I love my 2015 MacBook, I concur that for most customers, a MacBook Air is the best choice and shouldn't be overlooked amidst all the fuss for the hyper-modern MacBook.


Hard disk teaser image via Shutterstock

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.