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Ars Technica interviews Mike Bombich about CarbonCopyCloner

Ars Technica's Clint Ecker sat down with Mike Bombich this past Wednesday to talk about his company, Bombich Software. We also talked about his most well-known software, CarbonCopyCloner, as well as how development life is treating him. Click the play button above to watch the entire interview. HangZhou Night Net

Update (6/27/2007): Transcript has been added! Read the transcript after the jump.

VO: One Wednesday during WWDC, Clint Ecker sat down with Mike Bombich of Bombich software to talk about CarbonCopyCloner.

CE: So you make CarbonCopyCloner.

MB: That's right.

CE: What was the impetus for you making that? Did you make that out of something of your own need or something that you heard people [needed]?

MB: I really created CarbonCopyCloner for myself. Back when Mac OS X was initially introduced, there really wasn't anything that could do that. Even Retrospect didn't quite have the capacity for it. I was working for Bowling Green State University, doing just basic tech support and I needed a tool that would clone OS X. And I developed the core functionality of it probably in October 2001. I wrote up some articles; that's when I first kicked off my own website. And in December of '01, Apple introduced AppleScript Studio. And I had tinkered with AppleScript before and I thought it was great. And suddenly I could create a GUI application that was based on AppleScript and it was great.

So I had this great application for myself and for using it at work. And then somebody suggested to me that I could share it with other people because they might find it useful. So I did and I remember the day that I posted it to VersionTracker. I was sitting there with my wife on my lunch break and I had the page crafted up on VersionTracker, and I was ready to click Submit. And I was just nervous. There was that feeling that surely somebody would have developed this tool and they were going to submit it at the same time and just completely blow me out of the water and I'd fall into obscurity. But I was just completely blown away when there were like 5,000 downloads the first day. It was just stunning. But that's kind of the origin of CCC.

CE: So for people who aren't really familiar with all of your products, you make another product called NetRestore. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what purpose that serves compared to Carbon Copy Cloner?

MB: So when I first created CarbonCopyCloner, my role in tech support was deployment. And the only tool we had for deployment at the time was to use a FireWire hard drive attached to a machine, boot that machine into target disk mode, and use CarbonCopyCloner to clone that hard drive. Well as it turns out, it's not a very scalable deployment model. So in 10.2 I think, Apple released a command-line version of Apple Software Restore which is the tool that I used in Mac OS 9. It's a great utility and now it was available as a command-line tool. So command-line tool plus AppleScript Studio equals another GUI application, now for scalable mass deployment. That's where NetRestore comes in. NetRestore–the name implies that you do it over the network, and you certainly can. It also does basic volume to volume cloning, pretty much anything Apple Software Restore can do.

So probably about three years I made a transition from CCC to NetRestore for doing mass deployment. And a lot of people didn't really follow. There's always been a little bit of confusion about which tool people should use for mass deployments. And for the longest time, I've been saying to use NetRestore. That's really the tool that was designed for mass deployment. And really, the methodology that's used within NetRestore is far superior to that of CarbonCopyCloner. That said, the version 3 of CarbonCopyCloner that I've developed is now built partially upon Apple Software Restore. It's still not a tool for mass deployment. I just want to make that clear.

CE: Go on a little bit more into CarbonCopyCloner 3. What's there that's new for people who are more familiar with CarbonCopyCloner 2? I know it's out as a beta and people can try it, but what's the big, bullet points there?

MB: So, there's huge differences. I actually completely rewrote CarbonCopyCloner. It's now 100 percent Objective-C; not that there's anything wrong with AppleScriptStudio, it's just not quite as scalable. So for starters, CCC 3 is quite a bit more robust. I added some new features. The volume cloning is based on Apple Software Restore, which means that under certain conditions we can actually get a block-level output, so we can get some really blazing speed. That was never really possible in version 2.3.

The other thing that I added is the ability to use r-sync to backup to a network volume. So if you've got another machine on your network running 10.4.8 or later, you can use CarbonCopyCloner to back up to that volume. And a lot of people asked for that, and I thought "Network backups, that's never going to happen." So here it is. Now we have a robust tool built into Mac OS X, r-sync. I actually made some tweaks to it for myself, but fundamentally under the hood, CCC is using r-sync. And that gives me a lot of additional functionality.

The other thing, the third point I guess, is much more robust volume synchronization. It was kind of an add-on to version 2.3, and it was kind of an ugly hack. But now volume synchronization is pretty much the core. It's how CCC works.

CE: Out last question: you make an application that some people depend on in a critical way to copy over information that's near and dear to them. Whereas a lot of applications and app developers, they may corrupt a preference file and it's no big deal. Do you find that that makes developing CCC and your other applications a little bit more strenuous? Do you spend a lot of time making sure?

MB: Yeah, the worst e-mails that I get are "I backed up my hard drive and found out that there was nothing there and my other hard drive crashed." Every one of those I pay very close attention to, and I feel terrible that I could have potentially caused something like that. But at the same time, that's why I do this work. My files are very important to me. They're very important to my wife as well. And I think of the thousands of people that I've probably helped out in the opposite way. They've had that backup and tragedy struck and it bailed them out.

So it definitely adds stress to the development cycle. I have to think really hard about security in particular, about where you're writing. Hard drive selection alone is actually kind of complex. In CCC 2.3 I just get a list of devices that are in selectable volumes, which is a horribly counter-robust way to get a list of disks. So now in version 3, I access the disk arbitration framework directly. I ask for a list, and I get a list of disks and whenever I make references to volumes, I make a reference to either the UUID or that actual BSD Device ID.

So things like that you really have to pay very close attention to, so that you don't accidentally screw up and wipe out the wrong disk. So yeah that definitely adds a level of stress to it.

CE: Okay, well thanks for talking to us today.

Ah, summer. Time to sit around the campfire, making s'mores and talking about everyone's favorite new codec, ProRes 422, which was introduced with Final Cut Studio 2. Now that folks have had some time to bang on it a bit, we're getting a clearer picture of what this puppy can and can't do. Tim Wilson over at Creative Cow has taken the time to sift through their forums and collect the general consensus. He wants to clear up a lot of misconceptions about Apple's new trophy codec that compresses HD content down to SD bitrates with a negligible loss in visual quality. HangZhou Night Net

Wilson is quick to point out (several times in fact) that many are failing to take in the context of the term "lightweight." Relative to uncompressed HD, ProRes 422 is certainly a big improvement, but uncompressed HD is a feat that requires specialized hardware for even the beefiest of machines. Even 10-bit uncompressed SD (to which ProRes is supposed to be comparable in terms of bitrate) is a challenge for pre-Intel machines, so if you want to make use of ProRes at HD resolutions, you still need the biggest, baddest Mac you can get your hands on. Another important note is the fact that you'll have to have FCP 6 installed to use it, which is unlikely to be a problem for most but seems like a silly limitation.

Don't let me give you the impression that it's all doom and gloom. Overall, the general consensus seems to be that ProRes 422 is going to be an excellent addition to the HD toolbox, and Wilson is positively glowing about the ability to use the "medium quality" feature to squeak out four times the performance with almost no loss in visual quality. If you work with 1080i/60 in FCP (or plan to in the near future), it's definitely worth your time to check out the article.

Now where did I put my pointy stick and marshmallows?

Verizon has begun to use URL redirection services in some markets to "help" users when they mistype URLs. The service, called "Advanced Web Search," and first noticed by a reader at Broadband Reports, will provide a listing of links that may be relevant to what the user was trying to get to if they accidentally typed things like arstechnica.cmo or verzion.com into the address bar. Verizon claims that this new service is "designed to reduce the amount of dead-end, 'no file exists' or similar error messages you see." HangZhou Night Net

Of course, Verizon's Advanced Web Search is just another version of OpenDNS-type services—when a user mistypes something in the address bar or tries to go to a nonexistent web site, it not only displays search results but also ads. The attempt to "profit" off of users' typos bring back fond memories of the VeriSign Site Finder debacle, wherein VeriSign implemented a similar service for mistyped top-level domains but was then barred by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from doing so. VeriSign sued ICANN for violation of antitrust laws by preventing VeriSign from adding "features" to top-level domains. Eventually, VeriSign eventually settled the suit with ICANN; the settlement barred VeriSign from relaunching Site Finder in exchange for maintaining control of .com and .net domains.

Verizon acknowledges, however, that the Advanced Web Search may cause problems for some users. For example, the service may break applications that rely on NXDOMAIN messages and, in some cases, could override other search results pages. Users have the opportunity to opt out of the service, though, although some have reported that the opt-out instructions did not work for them.

Verizon's trial of the service has been constrained so far to the midwestern US, primarily in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

When I saw Spore for myself at last year's E3 I knew we were in for something special. Unfortunately the game has suffered delay after delay, and then this month's Game Informer hit and told us the game was "delayed indefinitely." I always thought that meant the game was canceled? Kotaku contacted EA, who stated the game had "slipped out of fiscal 08 and into fiscal 09." This is not good news for gamers hoping to get their Spore fix in the near future. Or even within a year. So what's going on? We hazard three guesses. HangZhou Night Net

The game will ship on every platform

This is EA, and Spore could be the next Sims if it takes off. Hell, there is an entire group at EA that is dedicated to the business of the Sims; EA knows how maximize a popular franchise. So it's possible they're holding off on releasing the game until they have the 360, PS3, DS, PSP, PS2, Zune, mobile phone, and iPod versions of the game ready to go. And that would certainly take time.

Things aren't working, and it will take a very long time to fix them

When you see a live demo, it's pretty much the same demo everyone sees. It may look like the whole thing is off the cuff, but in reality you're seeing a carefully scripted show. It's possible giant chunks of the game are missing, and the illusion of the title being near completion is mostly smoke and mirrors. With a game this open-ended, it's possible the development team is running into a slew of unforeseen problems.

EA has something big planned for distribution

EA has already updated EA Link once, but it doesn't have the juice of more popular distribution services like Steam or even Xbox Live. It's possible that EA is sitting on the game in order to roll it out with something big in fiscal 2009. EA has a lot of large titles, but nothing approaching the pull that Spore has among both console and PC gamers. It's a huge game from a huge name, and if EA is hoping to piggy-back a big announcement using the buzz of the game's release, it could be a good business decision to let the game sit for a while.

Of course, this is all speculation, and it all feels pretty far-fetched to me. Still, there has to be some reason, and these guesses are as good as anything else. What do you guys think?

As we reported yesterday, Microsoft's "capitulation" to Google's antitrust complaint isn't as much a capitulation as the mainstream media was reporting. We inspected Microsoft's joint filing and found that Microsoft is not going to allow a complete override of the default search service in all Explorer windows, and that the company also rejects Google's concerns about performance. HangZhou Night Net

In response, Google said yesterday that the remedies don't go far enough. Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a statement, "We are pleased that as a result of Google's request that the consent decree be enforced, the Department of Justice and state attorneys general have required Microsoft to make changes to Vista."

Nevertheless, Drummond said that "Microsoft's current approach to Vista desktop search clearly violates the consent decree and limits consumer choice," and the proposed remedies "are a step in the right direction, but they should be improved further to give consumers greater access to alternate desktop search providers."

Google did not elaborate on its expectations, although they are not difficult to piece together. Google had argued that it should be possible to disable Vista's search entirely, and Microsoft has not accommodated this demand. Search still runs, and OEMs and third-party software companies have not been given a way to schedule or disable it.

Furthermore, Microsoft did not make it possible to change the search defaults in a universal way, instead keeping its search system as the default throughout most of Windows Explorer. In short, Vista's search boxes will by and large return Vista's own search results if you type text into them and hit return. Microsoft's changes appear to mostly involve links to the "default" third party program, not a drop-in replacement.

Google's disappointment was only partly echoed by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who called the remedy a step in the right direction. "This agreement—while not perfect—is a positive step towards greater competition in the software industry. It will enhance the ability of consumers to select the desktop search tool of their choice," he said.

At this stage, it's unclear what recourse either Brown or Google has to change Microsoft's plan. Thomas O. Barnett, assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, said in a statement that the agreement reached between Microsoft and the DOJ "resolve[d] any issues about desktop search under the final judgments."

The DOJ and all 17 state attorneys general agreed with Microsoft's proposal. "Plaintiffs are collectively satisfied that this agreement will resolve any issues the complaint may raise under the Final Judgments, provided that Microsoft implements it as promised," according to the joint filing.

The ongoing saga of Manhunt 2 has now come stateside, as the ESRB has announced that the gruesome game will be given the prestigious and rarely-used Adults Only rating (AO); a rating reserved for pornographic and immeasurably violent games. Only three mass-market retail games have ever been branded with the mark: the PlayStation's needlessly gory fighter Thrill Kill (which was never officially released), the mature and haunting epic Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director's Cut and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which released at the "M" rating but was later recalled and rerated after the Hot Coffee debacle. HangZhou Night Net

The repercussions to an AO rating are immense. Certain retailers will not carry the title, and those that do will be taking extreme precautions not to sell the game to children. This will, of course, lead to a huge decrease in potential sales and naturally Take-Two has been quick to question the merit of the rating:

The ESRB has issued an initial rating of AO (Adults Only) for Manhunt 2. We believe the process of rating videogames is to help people make informed entertainment choices and not to limit them. Manhunt 2 was created for mature audiences and we strongly believe it should receive an M (Mature) rating, aligning it with similar content created in other forms of media. We are exploring our options with regard to the rating of Manhunt 2.

Manhunt 2 has been banned in the UK and has now been given a crippling rating in the US. As GamePolitics speculates, Take-Two will likely take a big financial hit as a result of the trouble surrounding this title, leaving the future of the game uncertain. Take-Two may opt to release the title as is, try to clean up the game and have it rerated, or simply cancel it all together.

We'll be keeping our eye on the situation.

One of the ongoing mysteries of HIV is why it is so infectious against humans when it doesn't do very well against most other primates. One potential contributor to this difference is the protein TRIM5α, which is part of the innate immune system. In most primates, TRIM5α blocks HIV infection as the virus starts to enter the cell; in humans, it is completely ineffective. Research that will appear in today's issue of Science provides a possible reason: in humans, TRIM5α has evolved to protect against a virus that no longer exists. HangZhou Night Net

The researchers noted that the gene for TRIM5α in humans shows signs of positive selection, meaning that it has adapted to a specific function compared to its ancestral form. They speculated that this adaptation might have been in response to a different viral threat, one that might have jumped among primate species. So, they searched the genomes of our closest relatives, and found the remains of a virus that is present in most primates, but not humans. The virus, called PtERV1, is no longer active, but mutated forms of it are present in chimps and gorillas.

Piecing together the sequences from a number of copies, the researchers recreated a protein that once helped PtERV1 infect cells. Placing it on another virus, they tested it against cells expressing human TRIM5α. In contrast to HIV, human TRIM5α blocked infections of PtERV1. In fact, as they tested TRIM5α from various primates, they found that it was only good against one or the other virus: PtERV1, or HIV.

Based on the sequences of PtERV1 left in various primate genomes, researchers have estimated that it was active about 4-5 million years ago, after humans split off from chimps. They propose that human TRIM5α evolved to protect against its infection, and largely succeeded in keeping it out of the human genome. Although a great success by that measure, the changes involved have left humans with one fewer defense against HIV.

The public beta for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars should begin any day now, if it hasn't already by the time this post goes live. There will be 60,000 slots for the public beta, with half of them going to FilePlanet subscribers and the other half going to anyone with a free FilePlanet subscription. The keys will be doled out across a few days after an initial batch goes out. HangZhou Night Net

Neil Postlethwaite, one of the producers of Quake Wars, mentioned a new aspect of the game we have to look forward to: ads. He claims that with features like persistent stats, a community site, and updates, a game like Quake Wars has high ongoing costs; the ads will keep the consumer insulated from those. I'm a little skeptical of that claim myself, but we'll see. The good news is that the ads sound like they won't be a distraction.

The ads aren't intrusive and you won't have to interact with them; they'll just be part of the normal environment. In fact, there are some places it's quite odd not to have an advertisement – the sides of container trucks, for example. Great care is being taken to ensure that all our ads are appropriate for the game world and we have absolute approval rights in this area. If it's not appropriate or it's distracting, it won't go in.

The company providing the ad system does not and will not store any personal information or data that otherwise can be used to identify you. All they track is if and how long you look at the advertisements.

For those of you participating in the upcoming beta, you will get a chance to see them for yourself very soon. And of course we will be releasing a demo prior to the retail launch of the game so everyone can check them out first.

I'm not overjoyed, but I'm not upset about this development. Yet. I think we should wait and see via the beta and the demo just how intrusive the ads actually are and whether or not they make sense in the game world. If I'm going to put up with ads, I also want to see support for the game that goes over and above what we expect from a standard game. If we simply get the expected patches and updates, we'll know where the money went.

The Internet has much to answer for, but one of its chiefest sins is its relentless stupifidication of the English language. And no, I did not just make up the word "stupifidication."1 HangZhou Night Net

UK pollsters YouGov have just completed a survey on the web's most-hated words, the abominations that threaten to turn English into a long series of "plzkthxbye" utterances. At the top of the list (and rightly so) is the word "folksonomy." It's followed by:

Blogosphere Blog Netiquette Blook (don't ask) Webinar Vlog Social Networking Cookie Wiki

Now, any survey of this type isn't designed to get at some sort of mythical objective truth about the Internet's effects on English; it's designed to come up with a handy top-ten list that journalists can use to pad out slow news days. As such, it's just a measure of people's pet peeves, so this seems as good a time as any to share a few of my own that didn't make the official list.

AJAXify. As in, "I'm just going to AJAXify the web site and then we'll be all Web 2.0 and stuff." "To AJAX" is not an English verb. Please don't use it as one. Web 3.0.Web 2.0 wasn't bad enough, huh?Shove a finger into that soft spot at the back base of your ear and you'll know how I feel about this one.Podcast. Our own Peter Bright has a well-known man crush on Steve Jobs but can't abide the term "podcast" when used to describe any recorded audio placed online in any format. He has… strong feelings about this. Crowdsourcing. Typing tags on other people's photos? I want in. Wait. No I don't. Flash mobs. Hipsters show up in public parks at the same time using only text messages and web sites; NO PAPER SIGNS NEEDED. This is not, it has to be said, a huge breakthrough.

So there you have it: my non-objective collection of irritants. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go blog about a webinar.

1Okay, I did. Score another blow for the Internet-based assault on English!

While iPhone madness is reaching crescendo, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard anticipation is at an all-time low. Justified or not? Have a look at the image gallery of the beta handed out to developers at WWDC last week over at Think Secret. Hurry over; Apple's lawyers are probably drafting a cease and desist letter claiming copyright over Leopard's looks as we speak. HangZhou Night Net

The first picture shows exactly how bad the new translucent menu bar looks. Come on, Apple, if the menu bar is so unsightly, why not make it auto-hide, like the dock? I'm reserving judgment on the new sidebar stolen borrowed from iTunes; with the collapsing triangles, it looks useful, and I just might get used to the look. About looks: is it just me or is Apple in love with cold, subdued colors these days? The iTunes icon would look so much better in red than it does in blue.

The nature section in the included desktop pictures shows no less than four new backgrounds over the ones in Tiger, so clearly, Apple is putting the extra time it has given itself to work on Leopard to good use. I wonder if the new zebra background is indicative of a new product naming convention.

The screen saver can now display the time and count down from three before locking the screen. There seems to be some actual innovation in the Spaces space, though. For instance, applications can be tied to a specific Space. It looks like two displays are treated as a single Space, however. I would have loved moving stuff from one display to the other easily using Spaces.

.Mac now has a Back To My Mac pane, which makes it possible to easily share screens or files on remote Macs or even Windows machines. When Steve Jobs demoed this in his keynote last week, I immediately wondered about the security implications. Could we have another IPv6 firewalling publicity debacle on our hands? I'm not that impressed with BTMM, as it basically looks like just a nice, $99-a-year wrapper around the Wide Area Bonjour service that already leads a hidden and not-so-easy-to-configure life in Tiger. I wonder if registering shares using dynamic DNS rather than paying for .Mac will provide the same functionality in Leopard.

The new network preference pane looks nice, and in the accounts pane, it's now possible to create admin, standard, parental control-managed, and sharing-only users. Astonishingly, the Windows drivers for Boot Camp are now included on the Leopard DVD itself and don't have to be burned to CD anymore.

Good thing Steve kept a lid on these secret features for a year; if Microsoft had copied any of it, Apple would have been in deep trouble.