Time Machine Backup to a Windows Share — Do it More Reliably

You can find plenty of instructions on the interwebs for setting up time machine to a network share, even a Windows share.

What you can't easily find is, how to do it reliably.

I have some recommendations.

1. Use cron scripts to just-in-time mount and dismount the time machine share

This is my first and biggest point. Dismounting the backup drive after each backup removes most of the reliability problem of network backup. Before doing this, I rarely got through 3 months without some kind of “the network share got dismounted uncleanly and now it won't mount until I run Disk First Aid on it”.

2. When it comes to data security, if you don't have 3 copies you aren't being serious.

This is a lesson you can take from cloud computing. Both Microsoft and Amazon clouds treat 'at least 3 copies' as the basic level for storing data. That means you want at least 2 independent backup systems for anything on your own machine.

If you combine this thought with the standard “don't put all your eggs in one physical location” motto of backup, you realise that you need a cloud or offsite backup as well as your time machine backup. The simplest free solution for your third copy, if 5GB is enough, is to use iDrive or OneDrive.

3. Buy a copy of Alsoft Disk Warrior

This is optional, and certainly less important than the first two points but, running Disk First Aid or fsck doesn't always work. Sad but true. I typically got a “fsck can't repair it properly” incident about once a year. I had a growing stack of hard disks with a year's worth of backup each, all only mountable readonly.
DiskWarrior has so far been reliable in restoring broken volumes back to fully working state. NB as of 2021 DiskWarrior can't yet repair APFS volumes so stay with HFS+ volumes for your time machines.

Help with cron scripts and multiple backups

Cron Scripts

Here are my script and cron table for mounting a TM drive from the network, requesting a backup, and dismounting the TM drive. It uses wakeonlan to wake the server from sleep, and ping to confirm it's up before trying to mount. It uses osascript to mount the volume because that deals with saving the network password in your keychain.

#! /usr/bin/env sh
#
smbServer=NameOfYourServer.local
smbServerMacAddress='00:00:00:00:00:00' # fill in server mac address to be able to wake it from sleep
smbVolumeUrl="smb://$(whoami)@$smbServer/D"
smbMaybeMountedAtPath1="/Volumes/$smbServer/Backups"
smbMaybeMountedAtPath2="/Volumes/D/Backups"
smbMaybeMountedAtMore(){
    dirname $(find /Volumes -iname $tmDiskImageName -maxdepth 3 2>/dev/null | head -n 1) 2>/dev/null
}
tmDiskImageName='TM3.21.sparsebundle'
tmVolumeMountedAtPath='/Volumes/TM3.21'

# wakeonlan
# I got mine from https://github.com/jpoliv/wakeonlan/blob/master/wakeonlan
# otherwise try https://ddg.gg/bash%20script%20wakeonlan
#

#cron jobs get a very truncated path and can't find ping, diskutil, hdiutil, tmutil ...
PATH="$PATH:/sbin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin"

echo '#-------------------------------------------------------'
date

echo "$0 [email protected]"
if [[ -z "$1" && -x $(which tmux) ]]
then
    echo "tmuxing ..."
    tmux new-session $0 tmuxed
    exit
elif [[ "$1" == *unmount* ]] ; then
    tmutil status
    if [[ ! -d "$tmVolumeMountedAtPath" ]] ; then 
        echo "$tmVolumeMountedAtPath is already unmounted"
    elif [[ $(tmutil status | grep 'Running = 0') ]] ; then 
        echo "unmounting ..."
        /usr/sbin/diskutil unmount $tmVolumeMountedAtPath
    else
        echo "not unmounting $tmVolumeMountedAtPath because tm status says still running."
    fi
    exit
fi

#-------------------------------------------------------
if [[ -x $(which wakeonlan) ]] ; then   wakeonlan $smbServerMacAddress ; fi
for tried in {1..50} ; do ping -c 1 -t 5 $smbServer 2>&1 && break ; done
if (( $tried == 50 )) ; then
    echo "failed to ping $smbServer. Exiting."
    exit
fi
sleep 10
if (( $tried > 2 )) ; then 
    echo "waiting in case it was a cold-ish start..."
    sleep 20
fi
echo 'mounting ...'
osascript -e 'mount volume "'$smbVolumeUrl'"'
echo 'attaching ...'
hdiutil attach $smbMaybeMountedAtPath1/$tmDiskImageName \
    || hdiutil attach $smbMaybeMountedAtPath2/$tmDiskImageName \
    || hdiutil attach $(smbMaybeMountedAtMore)/$tmDiskImageName \
    || echo \
       "Didn't find $tmDiskImageName at $smbMaybeMountedAtPath1 or $smbMaybeMountedAtPath2 or $(smbMaybeMountedAtMore)"
[ $? -eq 0 ] && echo "attached OK"
echo 'requesting backup.'
  tmutil startbackup --auto
  echo 'Done.'

And the crontab lines:

5  10-23/4 * * * /Users/chris/Applications/tmbackupnow.sh >> /Users/chris/Applications/Logs/tmbackupnow.log 2>&1
20,35 10-23/4 * * * /Users/chris/Applications/tmbackupnow.sh -unmount >> /Users/chris/Applications/Logs/tmbackupnow.log 2>&1

This schedule does 3 or 4 backups per working day on top of the local snapshots that time machine does anyway. Possibly this is overkill if you are squeezed for disk space. It tries to mount the TM machine and kick off a backup at 5 minutes past 10am,2pm,6pm,10pm and then tries to dismount the backup disk 15 minutes later and again another 15 minutes later. Adjust the timing to the size & speed of your backup.

At least 3 copies

My third copy, on top of time machine, is syncthing “continuous file synchronization”, which is great. It's like being able to set up a load of open source CloudDrives but using your local network too.

My fourth copy is either github or bitbucket for code; and iDrive or OneDrive for documents and graphics.

My fifth copy will be scripted backups to Azure storage, which seems like the cheapest way to do cloud backups. Meanwhile I'm paying Apple or Microsoft each month for big enough cloud storage.

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Backup

… is a necessary rule of thumb for computer-based knowledge & design workers. But add the lesson of cloud computing:

Backups: If you don't have 3 copies, you aren't serious.

The standard redundancy for cheap cloud storage options is 3 copies. Anything less is reduced redundancy, sold at discount. You should have at least 2 backups, for instance both a home backup disk and a cloud drive or repo.

A big win, when you plan for multiple copies, is that you no longer need any of them to be highly reliable. What matters more is, how fast can you make another copy if one copy goes down?

.Net and Asp.Net on MacOs & Mono instead of Windows (using Visual Studio or JetBrains Rider)

Mono goes a long way in running code written for .Net on Windows. It is all very much easier if you either start with cross-platform in mind, or if you move to .Net Core; but even for existing .Net Framework projects mono can run runs most things including Asp.Net.

Here's my checklist from a couple of years of opening .Net Framework solution files on a Mac and finding they don't build first time.

Most of these require you to edit the .csproj file to make it cross-platform, so a basic grasp of msbuild is very helpful.

  1. For AspNet: inside the PropertyGroup section near the top of the csproj file, add an element:

    <WebProjectOutputDir Condition="$(WebProjectOutputDir) == '' AND $(OS) == 'Unix' ">bin/</WebProjectOutputDir>

    Use this if you get a 'The “KillProcess” task was not given a value for the required parameter “ImagePath” (MSB4044)' error message; or if the build output shows you are trying to create files in an top-level absolute /bin/ path.

  2. For AspNet: Add Condition="'$OS'!='Unix'" to the reference to Microsoft.Web.Infrastructure.dll AND delete the file from the website bin directory.

    <Reference Condition="'$OS'!='Unix'" Include="Microsoft.Web.Infrastructure, Version=1.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35, processorArchitecture=MSIL">
    <Private>True</Private>
    <HintPath>..\packages\Microsoft.Web.Infrastructure.1.0.0.0\lib\net40\Microsoft.Web.Infrastructure.dll</HintPath>
    </Reference>
  3. For all project types—but, only if you need to use the netCore dotnet build tooling to build an NetFramework project on unix. mono's msbuild does not need this. Add this section somewhere in the csproj file (I put it right at the bottom), to resolve NetFramework4 reference paths:

    <PropertyGroup Condition="$(TargetFramework.StartsWith('net4')) and '$(OS)' == 'Unix'">
    <!-- When compiling .NET SDK 2.0 projects targeting .NET 4.x on Mono using 'dotnet build' you -->
    <!-- have to teach MSBuild where the Mono copy of the reference asssemblies is -->
    <!-- Look in the standard install locations -->
    <BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' == '' AND EXISTS('/Library/Frameworks/Mono.framework/Versions/Current/lib/mono')">/Library/Frameworks/Mono.framework/Versions/Current/lib/mono</BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono>
    <BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' == '' AND EXISTS('/usr/lib/mono')">/usr/lib/mono</BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono>
    <BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' == '' AND EXISTS('/usr/local/lib/mono')">/usr/local/lib/mono</BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono>
    <!-- If we found Mono reference assemblies, then use them -->
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net40'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.0-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net45'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.5-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net451'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.5.1-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net452'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.5.2-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net46'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.6-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net461'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.6.1-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net462'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.6.2-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net47'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.7-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net471'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.7.1-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <FrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != '' AND '$(TargetFramework)' == 'net472'">$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)/4.7.2-api</FrameworkPathOverride>
    <EnableFrameworkPathOverride Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != ''">true</EnableFrameworkPathOverride>
    <!-- Add the Facades directory.  Not sure how else to do this. Necessary at least for .NET 4.5 -->
    <AssemblySearchPaths Condition="'$(BaseFrameworkPathOverrideForMono)' != ''">$(FrameworkPathOverride)/Facades;$(AssemblySearchPaths)</AssemblySearchPaths>
    </PropertyGroup>
  4. For projects that have lived through C# evolution from C# 5 to C# 7: You may need to remove duplicate references to e.g. System.ValueTuple. Add Condition="'$(OS)' != 'Unix'" to the reference. This applies to Types that MS put on NuGet.org during the evolution. idk why msbuild builds without complain on Windows but not on Unices.
    Example:

    <Reference Condition="'$(OS)' != 'Unix'" Include="System.ValueTuple, Version=4.0.1.1, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=cc7b13ffcd2ddd51, processorArchitecture=MSIL">
    <HintPath>..\packages\System.ValueTuple.4.3.1\lib\netstandard1.0\System.ValueTuple.dll</HintPath>
    </Reference>
  5. For References to Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestTools.UnitTesting: Add a nuget reference to MSTEST V2 from nuget.org and make it conditional on the OS

    <ItemGroup Condition="'$(OS)' == 'Unix'">
    <Reference Include="MSTest.TestFramework" Version="2.1.1">
    <HintPath>..\packages\MSTest.TestFramework.2.1.2\lib\net45\Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestPlatform.TestFramework.dll</HintPath>
    </Reference>
    <Reference Include="coverlet.collector" Version="1.3.0" >
    <HintPath>..\packages\coverlet.collector.1.3.0\build\netstandard1.0\coverlet.collector.dll</HintPath>
    </Reference>
    </ItemGroup>

    Note this will only get you to a successful build. To run the tests on unix you then have to download and build https://github.com/microsoft/vstest and run it with e.g.
    mono ~/Source/Repos/vstest/artifacts/Debug/net451/ubuntu.18.04-x64/vstest.console.exe --TestAdapterPath:~/Source/Repos/vstest/test/Microsoft.TestPlatform.Common.UnitTests/bin/Debug/net451/ MyTestUnitTestProjectName.dll.

  6. Case Sensitivity & mis-cased references
    Windows programmers are used to a case-insensitive filesystem. So if code or config contains references to files, you may need to correct mismatched casing. Usually a 'FileNotFoundException' will tell you if you have this problem.

  7. The Registry, and other Permissions
    See this post for more: https://www.cafe-encounter.net/p1510/asp-net-mvc4-net-framework-version-4-5-c-razor-template-for-mono-on-mac-and-linux

Using the command line

It is helpful to be somewhat familiar with microsoft docs on MSBuild Concepts since msbuild will be issuing most of your build errors. If you have installed mono then you can run msbuild from the command line with extra diagnostics e.g.

msbuild -v:d >> build.log

you can also run web applications from the command just by running

xsp

from the project directory.

Original Text from 2011

For reasons best not examined too closely I switch between between Mac and PC which, since I earn my crust largely with .Net development, means switching between Visual Studio and MS.Net and MonoDevelop with Mono.

Mono is very impressive, it is not at all a half hearted effort, and it does some stuff that MS haven't done. But when switching environments, there's always the occasional gotcha. Here are some that have got me, and some solutions.

  • Gotcha: Linq Expressions don't work on Mono?
    Solution: Add a reference to System.Core to your project.
  • Question: What version of NUnit is built in to mono?As of Feb 2011, it's nunit 2.4.8.

fish shell quickstart for converting bash scripts

After some years of bash and PowerShell, and some hours of using fish, I've realised that expansion & predictive typeahead are good features in a shell, whereas “be a great programming language” is less important than I thought: because there is no need to write scripts in the language of your shell.

Fish has slicker typeahead and expansions than bash or even PowerShell. But to switch to a fish shell, you do still have to convert your profile & start-up scripts. So here's my quick-start guide for converting bash to fish.

  • Do this first: at the fish prompt type help. Behold! the fish documentation in your browser is much easier to search than man pages are.
  • Calmly accept that fish uses set var value instead of var=value. Roll your eyes if it helps.
  • Use end everywhere that bash has fi, done, esac, braces {} etc. e.g. function definition is done with function ... end. The keywords do and then are redundant everywhere, just remove them. else has a semicolon after it. case requires a leading switch(expr).
  • There is no [[ condition ]] but [ ... ] or test ... work. Type help test to see all the file and numeric tests you expect, such as if [ -f filename ] etc. string and regex conditionals are done with the string match command (see below). You can replace [[ -f this && -z that || -z other ]] with [ -f this -a -z that -o -z other ] but see below for how fish can also replace || and && constructions with or and and statements.
  • But first! type help string to see the marvels of proper built-in string commands.
  • Replace function parameters $*, $1, $2 etc with $argv, $argv[1], $argv[2] etc. If that makes you scowl, then type help argparse. See! That's much better than kludging about in bash.
  • Remove the $ from $(subcommand) leaving just (subcommand). Inside quotes, take the subcommand outside the quote: "Today is $(date)" becomes "Today is "(date). (Recall that quotes in bash & fish don't work at all like quotes in most programming languages. Quote marks are not token delimiters and a"bc"d is a valid single token and is parsed identically to each of abcd , "abcd", abc'd').
  • Replace heredocs with multi-line literal strings and standard piping syntax. However, note that if you pipe or read to a variable, the default multiline behaviour is to split on newline and generate an array. Defeat this by piping through string split0 – see https://fishshell.com/docs/current/index.html#command-substitution

Search-and-replace Script Snippets

Here is my hit-list of things to search and replace to convert a bash shell to fish. These resolved almost all of my issues in converting a few hundred lines of bash script to fish.

FromToNotes
var=valueset var value
export var=valueset -x var value
export -f functionnameredundant.Just remove it
alias abbr='commandstring'(no change)alias syntax is accepted as an abbreviation for a function definition since fish 3
command $(subshell commmand)
command `subshell commmand`
command (subshell command)
OR
command (subshell commmand | string split0)
Just remove the $ but keep the ()

See below for when you want to add string split0
command "$(subshell commmand)"command (subshell command)Remove both the $ and the quotes ""to make this work
if [[ condition ]] ; then this ; else that ; fiif [ condition ] ; this ; else ; that ; endSee below for more on Fish's multine and and or syntax.
if [[ number != number ]] ; then this ; else that ; fiif [ number -ne number ] ; this ; else ; that ; endSee below for more on Fish's multine and and or syntax.
while condition ; do something ; donewhile condition ; something ; end
$*$argv
$1, $2$argv[1], $argv[2]But see help argparse
if [[ testthis =~ substring ]] if string match -q '*substring*' testthisstring match without -r does glob style testing
if [[ testthis =~ regexpattern ]] if string match -rq regexpattern testthisstring match with -r does regex testing
[ guardcondition ] && command
[ guardcondition ] || command
works as isBut see or and and below for when it's more complex
var=${this:-$that}if set -q this ; set var $this ; else ; set var $that ; end
cat > outfile <<< "heredoc"
cat > outfile <<< "multiline … heredoc"
echo "multiline … heredoc" | cat > outfile no heredocs, but multiline strings are fine
NB printf is better than echo for anything complicated, in any shell.
if [[ -z $this && $that=~$pattern ]]if [ -z $this ] ; and string match -rq $pattern $that ;
content=$(curl $url)set content (curl $url | string split0)without the pipe to string split0, content will be split on newlines to an array of lines.

Fish's multine and and or syntax

Fish has a multiline and and or syntax that may be clearer than && and || in both conditionals and guarded commands. It is less terse.

[ condition ]
and do this
or do that

That said, && and || are still valid in commands :

[ condition ] && do this || do that

Other gotchas

  • You may have to read up on how fish does parameter expansion, and especially handling spaces, differently to bash.
  • Pipe & subcommand output to multiline strings or arrays: set x (cat myfile.txt) will set x to an array of the lines of myfile.txt. To keep x as a single multine string, use string split0 : set x (cat myfile.txt | string split0)

Official tips for new fishers:

See the FAQ at https://fishshell.com/docs/3.0/faq.html