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.

.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.

HowTo: Linux, Nginx, Mono, Asp.Net Mvc

These are notes I made for getting an application written for Asp.Net Mvc (It was probably Mvc 3-ish) to run on a Centos server.

Note that some of the issues/solutions may vary across Linux variants. The interface Nginx-Mono is FastCGI, which they both support. The Mono webserver is xsp4.

Of course, running cross platform is all much easier these days if you use .Net Core and Kestrel 🙂 And een for Net Framework running on Mono, the work done since Microsoft bought Xamarin has been really helpful for e.g. Mvc compatibility.

The Reading List

The Checklist

Ensure nginx has read execute permissions on your application directory and all parent directories

nginx conf section for webapp

With the Asp.Net website listening on port 9001

#
server {
listen 8080;
server_name your-public-facing-nginx-server-name.com;

# use /smoketest/ to confirm that nginx is reading this config 
# and has read/execute access to the 
# /usr/share/nginx directories and files:

location /smoketest/ {
root /usr/share/nginx/smoketestredir;
index index.html;
}

# pass XSP to FastCGI server listening on 127.0.0.1:9001
# use a different port for each ASP.NET site you create
# (port 9000 is often taken by PHP on default webserver setups)

location / {

# replace fastcgi with this to confirm nginx read address
# to files in root /usr/share/nginx/mywebapplication;
fastcgi_pass  127.0.0.1:9001;
fastcgi_index index.html;

include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
fastcgi_param  PATH_INFO          "";
fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME    $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;

fastcgi_buffers 16 16k;
fastcgi_buffer_size 32k;
}
}

Systemd Startup Script

vim /etc/systemd/system/fastcgi-mono-hdmbreas.service

[Unit]
Description=FastCgi-mono-server4 for Application
After=syslog.target

[Service]
Type=simple
ExecStart=/bin/fastcgi-mono-server4 --applications /:/usr/share/nginx/hdmbreas/hdm-fe-web --socket=tcp:127.0.0.1:9001
Restart=always

systemctl daemon-reload
systemctl start fastcgi-mono-app.service
systemctl status fastcgi-mono-app.service
systemctl status fastcgi-mono-app.service

Error: [error] 7216#0: *119 upstream sent too big header while reading response header

  • Considering setting the buffer size
  • Considering setting the busy buffer size
  • e.g. nginx config: fastcgi_buffers 16 16k; fastcgi_buffer_size 32k;

Watching Errors

Watch errors with tail -F /var/log/nginx/error.log

Adding your Outlook.com account to MacOs as an Exchange account.

Is simple when you know how. Possibly harder if, like me, your outlook login is not an outlook.com email address, but your own domain.

System Preferences -> Add Internet Account -> Choose the Big Exchange Button

MacOs System Preferences with “Internet Accounts” Highlighted
MacOs System Preferences with “Internet Accounts” Highlighted

First, get an app-password from your outlook.com account
Then note the Exchange server URL: https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.asmx
Then, try to add your account just by typing in your email address and the app-password you got.
If that doesn't work, and you get the “Unable to verify account name or password” paste the Exchange server URL into the two boxes for Internal URL and External URL:

MacOs Mojave Add an Outlook.com account
MacOs Mojave Add an Outlook.com account

And that works for me™ on MacOs Mojave in 2019.