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X.5 Time Warp Nuisance of the Day

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Time Machine Icon Despite liking the idea itself and seeing a lot of promise in the technology, Time Machine and me were off for a bad start. Down low on a technical level, that is, because it crashed my machine. Those crashes are not a big issue anymore (whether that’s because the issues were fixed or the bugs have been squashed will be hard to answer as Apple don’t provide feedback of that type on bug reports and I am not willing to stress test the system all the time just to see whether I can crash it…). So at some stage I’ll be able to head on and review Time Machine itself. How it works, how its user interface sucks, the usual spiel…

But before doing that let me just mention the newest nuisance they introduced with Mac OS X.5.2: A menu bar icon for Time Machine. That in itself is a good idea as it means you have the option of kicking out the space wasting Time Machine icon from the Dock. – And replace it by a space wasting one in the menu bar, that is. (Note that, as far as I can tell, there is no way to fully use Time Machine without one of these space wasting gadgets.)

But the icon itself is friggin’ silly. Not only does it rotate and distract you whenever the magic Time Machine does its wonders (thus ruining the whole beauty of Time Machine’s transparent operation), but the damn thing rotates the wrong way round! It rewinds the clock, thus giving the impression that, well, it’s rewinding your data to some previous state, i.e. erasing your recent work. Obviously I wouldn’t even expect Apple to be negligent enough to let such a bug slip through, but my first impression when seeing this was a shock of horror because the damn machine was deleting my data. I was about to shut down / kill / unplug things before I calmed down.

I’m afraid I remain a believer in boring design. No such excitement for me, please.

February 13, 2008, 0:31

Tagged as X.5.

Comments

Comment by Dave2: User icon

Ummm… I kind of have to disagree with you here. As a visual representation of “BACKING UP” I’d have to say it’s pretty good! The movement doesn’t bother me much… between the battery indicator and the clock and the WiFi signal thingys doing their stuff, I pretty much ignore everything up there until I need it anyway.

February 13, 2008, 1:57

Comment by ssp: User icon

Oh, I totally see what they presumably thought when doing this, but it doesn’t work for me at all. The clock going backwards is like rewinding time to me. It’s what Time Machine does (in a way) when restoring things from a backup. This can explain the application icon.

But having the clock hands in the menu bar item go backwards while the backup is created is just wrong. Sure, they wanted to rotate along the direction of the arrow in their icon, but it’s just the wrong way round for the backing up process.

And has be added non-benefit of being visually more distracting. Why not just try a pulsing do in the middle of the icon as they have for Spotlight? Not only would that be less visible movement, it’d also look like the standard ‘recording’ icon which would be quite appropriate for the situation.

Haha, next Time Machine version with a tacky Tape Deck GUI rather than a tacky Star Trek one…

February 13, 2008, 22:26

Comment by latourfl: User icon

Note that, as far as I can tell, there is no way to fully use Time Machine without one of these space wasting gadgets.

Well if you want to use the Time Machine browser for the Finder, you might just click the Time Machine icon from there, but true, if you want to activate it for other apps like Mail and iPhoto, you need the icon either in the Dock or the menu bar. Though I see the new menu bar icon as an improvement since it doesn’t take as much space. Going back to 10.5.1 made me realize how silly it is that I need to add the Time Machine icon to the dock before I can ask it to backup now.

February 16, 2008, 21:41

Comment by Jordy/Jediknil: User icon

I too found this incorrect, but preferred it to the alternative of not knowing when the backup was occuring. Call me OCD but I like to know this almost totally useless information. (More useful is the display of “Last Backup at…” in the menu.)

Anyway, it’s possible to avoid using both of these by opening Time Machine via some other launcher (such as Quicksilver), or downloading the Time Machine widget which basically just…launches Time Machine (but lives on the Dashboard instead). Or you could even just put an alias to Time Machine inside your user scripts folder, assuming you already use the scripts menu extra.

iPhoto, BTW, also has a “Browse Backups” menu option now. AFAICT, Address Book and Mail, however, do not.

February 17, 2008, 9:06

Comment by ssp: User icon

jj: I agree that having the last backup time easily accessible can be helpful (at least as long as Time Machine is so shaky that you you can’t trust it).

And sure you can use additional tools or scripts you wrote yourself, but that’s not exactly the ‘Just Works’™ thing I expect.

I think that the solution iPhoto currently provides is the way to go. I am sure many people won’t even realise that the ability to restore things within applications even exists unless such commands advertise it. Having such commands consistently everywhere would also let me simply dump the Time Machine menu item. Which means its graphics would still be going the wrong way round but at least I wouldn’t see them. Everybody would be happy…

February 17, 2008, 16:49

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