Vagrant, Time Machine, and waiting forever for a backup

For some reason, moving to the new MacBook Air hasn’t been very successful. My Alfred spotlight is broken, Apple Mail slows to a crawl for no good reason even though everything is in the cloud, and I have a \<50% success rate of backing up my Time Machine during my workday. Basically if it doesn’t complete before lunch, it isn’t going to finish at all.

That last one seems to be well within the realm of what’s feasible. I mean why is it backing up 15GB of new files each day and why is it when I really get working the last 2GB never seems to complete? Not to mention that this 5TB drive I purchased four years ago to back up what is only a 500GB SSD (was smaller in years back) is now starting to appear full.

Well I think I figured it out. I’ve been using Vagrant for the last 5 years to build out virtual machines for development and each of them is a single (very large) virtualbox file that needs to be re-imaged every time and is constantly changing if the machine is up during the backup process.

After some research here are some suggestions on what to exclude from your time machine backups

Working scratch folders:

Things like ~/.Trash and ~/Library/Caches should automatically be excluded by Time Machine in general, but for me, I use ~/Downloads as scratch space for stuff that I don’t care if I lose. If it’s important, I usually drag that to desktop, so I added that. You can add something similar

Cloud files

I added ~/Dropbox because that stuff will be built from Dropbox, and Time Machine or migration restores will just confuse the backup system. If I used Google Drive, I’d probably add that too.

Virtual machines and other dev related environments

For me that’s ~/.vagrant.d and ~/VirtualBox VMs where vagrant downloads the boxes and where, by default, it puts the VirtualBox VMs. The actual boxes that I might image to do Windows/IE development are manually created and imaged in ~/Documents so there is no need to exclude those. If you want to keep your plugins then save ~/.vagrant.d/boxes only.

I also added ~/Library/Containers/com.docker.docker because sometimes I did Docker development and that’s where those instances are.

Also if you have a standard place where you put Python virtual environments with virtualenv you should probably add that too. I don’t develop on localhost anymore so that isn’t the case for me.

Local software caches

I added ~/.gem for Ruby and ~/.npm for NodeJS. I’d probably look into what I can torch from rbenv and rvm but I no longer do local Ruby development, but if you do, add those to your checklist.


I don’t have this on my work computer, but on my home one, I added ~/Library/Application Support Steam/steamapps because those are big files that are downloaded from the internet anyway. When I get home, I’ll have to make sure that sort of thing wasn’t moved into /Users/Shared.

Unknown unknowns

I probably should figure out where Ulysses puts its files because every time I do Migration Assistant I have unresolved conflicts which take forever to clean up. It’s not a big deal though since almost all copies are actually the same file.

Know of any other things I need to add?

NaNoWriMo 2016

Ever since Marie wanted to learn to program in 2009, I’ve wanted to write a book to help her. But I never could get started.

The National Novel Writing Month is November every year for just this purpose: to motivate people to put 50,000 words on paper (about the size of the novel, Slaughterhouse-Five), editor be damned.

I first heard about it in 2007, when I started using Scrivener, but dismissed it because the requirement that a novel be fiction. I only just found about NaNo Rebels, which allows you to customize the “50,000 words” into nearly any other creative exercise, including non-fiction. So yesterday, this was born:

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant Badge

Nowadays, I use Ulysses. I simply created a group in the software and set a 50,000 word goal and started typing away!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 2

Goal setting on my iPad.

I don’t know if I can finish since it’s about a good sized blog article each and every day. We’ll see how it goes. So far it’s been a bit strange writing a book. For instance, I can’t use my WordPress shortcode macros lest I ruin the word count.

Periodically, I’ll dump the output to my blog, which you can track here. Wish me luck!

If you want to buddy up, I’m “tychay” there.

A little about WaterField

Gary Waterfield:

Subject: Thanks for finding us!

Congratulations on being part of an exclusive group of people who own a San Francisco-made WaterField product. You might see another one— at an airport, a café in Florence, or a business meeting in Austin.  The best cases in the world attract some of the best and most diverse people in the world and we are glad to have you be part of our community. 

All our bags and cases are made by the most skilled sewing team in San Francisco. Please keep in touch and let us know what else we can do for you.

BTW, how did you bump into us? 

Thanks again,
Gary Waterfield

Continue reading about Waterfield bags after the jump

Not every Apple product is for you

(An article I started in May of 2015)

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
— Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

In 1992, one of my first postings on Usenet was an article on comp.sys.mac.* titled “Zen and the Art of Buying a Macintosh.” As someone whose first computer was an Apple ][+ in 1979, used Macs since they came out in 1984, and owned them since the “Fat Mac” in 1985, I was the very definition of an Apple-lover. In writing that post, I wanted to express the confusion and helplessness I felt when recommending a Macintosh to anyone. There were PowerBooks, Performas, LCs, Centrises, and Quadras, some of which were the same exact computer with different names. If a Mac fanboy like me couldn’t make heads-or-tails of it, something was seriously wrong for the Macintosh. It was clear to me that Apple had lost the very quality that attracted people like me to it in the first place. That post became popular enough that a number of Mac user group newsletters asked to republish it.

That Apple, the one that made infomercials, is no more. Steve Jobs retook the helm in 1997 and radically simplified its line into a quadrant based on two questions: Do you want a laptop or desktop computer? Are you a professional or consumer?

Those days are gone, but I can’t help but feel that Steve Jobs embedded in the DNA of Apple something to ensure they’d never again lose the very quality of “Apple” that would take it in a wrong direction. Apple became a company that stopped making something just because some business analyst said that they need to because it was “disruptive” or ” would protect their market share,” but rather a company that would only introduce a product when they had an idea who that product would be for.

Now to you kids, I want to tell you this: not every Apple product is for you.

Continue reading to have your bubble burst after the jump


The new version of Ulysses is out for Mac and iPad. (The Mac version is a free upgrade from Ulysses III; the iPad app is new).

Screenshot showing Ulysses for Mac with a three-paned window  editing notes from _Practice Perfect_.
A screenshot of the updated Ulysses for Mac. The theme is “Tomorrow” and the font is Inconsolata.

It’s really hard to explain what this app is. In fact, I’ve been purchasing (and not using) this application for years before I realized that it strikes the right balance for a certain set of work.

Continue reading about Ulysses after the jump

Learning to smile

Learning to smile

I’ve been a manager for 2.5 years and I’ve been too long away from programming. There is something just so wonderful about being able to work again in a world where there is a right and a wrong.1

I decided to start to finally2 teach myself iOS development today for: first, because I’ve never done it before and second, because it’s an opportunity to learn a new language and re-learn an old one3 I haven’t done for over a decade.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m not optimistic.

  1. …and getting the feedback to know which is which! 
  2. This does not count. 
  3. If you call writing a median-based BPM counter for Mac OS X, “learning.” I think the jury is still out since Xcode, memory management, and the user-interface are so different now. 

The new MagSafe

In nearly every review of the new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina, a big list on the minus column has been the new [MagSafe][] 2 connector.

Mostly because this necessitates the purchase of a $10 part for all ones other’s adapters that is (admittedly) easy to lose.

But overall, I feel this deserves a big plus. Since I’ve had my MacBook Air, I have not once put my USB cable into my MagSafe outlet. This was an almost daily occurrence, so much so that I noticed I unconsciously nurtured a habit of using the right USB port first.

Now if they can only bring back the low profile connector and license MagSafe to third parties. Well that, and create a FindMyMagSafe2Adapter app. Because I seemed to have lost one of mine already.

[MagSafe]: “MagSafe—Wikipedia”

Scrivener Ninja

I recommend [Scrivener][] as **the** application for doing long-form writing. But since I’m no longer in academia and I don’t write creatively, I don’t often use the program—unless my blog articles run away from me. (Besides, my [vim][macvim] keybinding addiction is enabled by [QuickCursor][]). Even when I do, it is pretty much limited to its [MultiMarkdown][] export to HTML for notetaking.

The other day, I noticed they added a tutorial document to the application itself. I decided to go through it.

Scrivener Tutorial

This screenshot shows both normal and “smart” collections, split screens with audio dictation handling, custom templates with custom icons, and that I love my boo 🙂

Very cool. I learned a lot that I didn’t get (not) slogging through the complete(ly boring) user manual.

Now if only if I can figure out some reason to actually use the program… 😀

[Scrivener]: “Scrivener—Literature and Latte”
[QuickCursor]: “QuickCursor: Your Text Editor Anywhere for Mac—Hog Bay Software”
[MultiMarkdown]: “MultiMarkdown”
[macvim]: “macvim: vim for the Mac”

The Thunderscan story

I’m surprised I never got around to mentioned this, when [I promised I would][nans second story]. Since it’s been years, go back and read it, and come back. I’ll wait.

In high school, I owned a [Thunderscan][Thunderscan]. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, this was a device that would digitize photos by replacing the ink cartridge of your ImageWriter, [a dot-matrix printer][dot-matrix printer], popular with Macintosh computers of the era.

(For those of you too young to remember what a dot-matrix printer is: in the old days, our printers were slow enough that you could watch an episode of *[Cheers][Cheers]* waiting for it to print out an article or “graphics” —the latter of which was whatever came out of [Print Shop][theprintshop]. And they were so loud, that a popular accessory was huge muffled box to place the printer in, in order to contain what can only be described as the primal periodical scream of the then nascent personal computer, “Why the f*&k do I have to be tasked for the next half our printing up a sinfully ugly banner for [your terrible P.T.A Yard Sale][review the print shop]?”)

Now imagine something that did the reverse (put print into the computer) by scanning it line by line. And realize that a typical “line” of text back then was actually 24 “lines” to this scanner.

This was a Thunderscan.

Continue reading The Thunderscan story after the jump