Time Machine – Useless for most of us
Time Machine makes incremental backups of your files and puts a fancy user interface on top of it. It works well but it has one big con: it requires an external disk. How useful is that if you are say one of those 1.1 million MacBook (Pro) users (mentioned in the 2007 Q4 financial results) and you need to recover a file you just deleted while you are on the road? Well doh, not at all.
That alone makes Time Machine completely useless for many many MANY people. Interesting fact is that Apple sold about twice as many portable Macs than desktop Macs. I’m not sure who designed Time Machine at Apple, but there sure is a big disconnect here between that solution and what kind of Macs people use.
On the other hand, Time Machine would have been GREAT if Apple had build it on top of Sun’s ZFS filesystem. ZFS can do these snapshots/backups real-time on a life filesystem without requiring an extra disk. You can simply say: ok, here is my Documents folder, and I would like to make a ‘snapshot’ every hour or every time a file changes. That will result in super efficient copies of that folder, containing only the changes. With the ability to go back in time and browse through changes and restore those.
ZFS Snapshots are no replacement for real backups of course. You still want to do that too and ZFS has great support for that. Read what James Gosling (of Java fame) wrote about that on his blog.
Again ZFS magic: when he is on the road he can work on his laptop disk as usual, but then when he is back home the external USB disk is automatically sychronized to contain a hot backup of complete laptop disk. Including the above mentioned snapshots! Awesome.
Unfortunately we are stuck with a half-baked solution that only works for desktop Macs. Missed opportunity Apple. Very Lame.