17 August 2006 in Apple, Windows | Comments enabled

Recently Apple unveiled some of the features expected in the next update to OS X. Some of them were pretty cool but I couldn’t help but feel this time Apple was copying more things from Microsoft than many people may realise. Let me start by stating that I’m interested in buying a MacBook – they seem pretty cool and the fact I could run Windows on it is the real killer feature in my eyes. This post is just to discuss one feature of OS X.

In the next version of OS X there is a feature to fly back in time and view previous versions of files. Sounds good and is certainly useful. In typical Apple style there is a funky app for ”flying” back in time to view versions. The only thing is that I can’t help but feel that while it does look cool, it’s the sort of thing you’re going to find a total pain in the ass  to have to go flying every time you want to see previous editions.

What some people don’t realise is that this feature is available today in Windows 2003 and XP. It’s called Windows Shadow Copy. I’ve worked on several client sites where this feature is enabled and it works easily (file properties show all previous versions of the file). Windows Vista will enable it by default as well as beefing up the tools to find previous versions so no surprises that OS X will include it. What gets me a wee bit is when Apple fans think Apple invents everything.

On top of this, from what I’ve read so far the technology behind the Apple version of undelete is horribly inefficient.

In Windows there is a driver which uses 15% of the drive space to keep the block differences in files for restoration. If you only change 2 blocks worth of data in a 10MB document you’re only using 2 blocks to have the revision.

In OS X you need a separate drive. You can’t use it if you only have one disk. On top of this, it does a complete file copy so if you add a full stop to that 10MB document you just lost 10MB of space for a backup copy. That seems like a pretty bad implementation. Having a separate drive does offer that physical redundancy but the fact is this solution is not designed for drive backups but revision backups so you’re not going to have all your data anyway (unless you’ve edited ALL of it).

I trust future versions of OS X will fix some of this up but explain to me again how OS X is Vista 2.0?

 - JD

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13 comments. Add your own comment.

Johnny-johnny says 18 August 2006 @ 09:28

“What gets me a wee bit is when Apple fans think Apple invents everything.”

Some proof please…

traskjd says 18 August 2006 @ 09:37

John, you’re not the person I’m talking about :-D I don’t like naming names but it’s fair to say it’s almost an industry wide view that Apple innovates and others copy :)

– JD

Johnny-johnny says 18 August 2006 @ 09:48

You’ve got to be kidding me JD. You make a sweeping generalisation about Apple fans and when asked to be specific and/or point to proof… you use another generalisation to back it up.

If it’s an “industry wide view that Apple innovates and others copy”, and “Apple fans think Apple invents everything” it should be easy to back it up with proof and/or examples, shouldn’t it?

Johnny-johnny says 18 August 2006 @ 09:50

And let me be a bit more specific; fans that think Apple, by releasing Time Machine, have invented version control…or a backup application…

traskjd says 18 August 2006 @ 09:53

You’re taking this quite personally aren’t you :)


– 338 million examples.

But seriously, you can’t argue that there is continual discussion about Microsoft copying the GUI (people conviently forget Apple didn’t invent it either), Vista’s UI copies OS X… we could go on for a while. Suggesting that nobody argues that Microsoft copies Apple is just silly because it comes up all the time.

– JD

traskjd says 18 August 2006 @ 09:56

I was just talking about in general and thought I’d raise a post about a great example where Microsoft do have the lead up on Apple :) Time Machine is new enough not to have generated too much comment yet.

– JD

Jonesie says 18 August 2006 @ 10:27

I remember when I first saw this feature in Windows 2003 and I thought – “Hmmm, this is sort of like the multiple file version thing that VMS has”. I was using VMS a bit at the time. It turns out that the architect of VMS was Dave Cutler – who joined MS in ’98 to work on NT & 2000. Draw your own conclusions!


Allan says 18 August 2006 @ 15:38

Interesting. I was just looking into getting a Mac as well. Mac mini to be precise. I’ve used MS DOS and then Windows for nearly 20 years and have never had a Mac. The main purpose would be a media centre (yes I know about the Windows one) but also as a really nice eye candy web toy :)

marksy says 11 October 2006 @ 20:29


“What some people don’t realise is that this feature is available today in Windows 2003 and XP.”

But Apple is saying for the first time… on OS X. Not like they’re inventing it across all operating systems.

Okay Windows Server 2003 has it.. but how easy is it to use for the average non-tech person. One click solution? I can’t find it on XP – didn’t even know it existed… thats helpful.

Also, notice how when Jobs presents he usually states “available for the first time, for OS X”

or “the fastest computer ever, we have brought out”

but windows fans only here the first part..

also… i had to laugh at this;
“In OS X you need a separate drive. You can’t use it if you only have one disk.”

haha, exactly.. wtf is the point of having a backup on your drive that crashes?

traskjd says 15 October 2006 @ 12:51

Hi Marksy,

On XP/2003 it is there but off by default (do a scout around for “shadow copies”) but is there if you want it. Vista is the first version of Windows with it enabled by default.

We could argue until the cows come home about what is being said so I’ll just say one thing on the matter – there is a reason they refer to Steve Jobs having a ‘reality distortion field’*.

To restore a document you would bring up the properties of the file and there is a “versions” tab with a list of all known previous versions.

From what I have read so far, and I hope they fix this, Apple has somewhat over done the “fly through” to get a previous version, it doesn’t make it quick to restore a file and focuses a bit too much on fancy graphics(perhaps this is them trying to make sure MS don’t out-do them on fancy graphics in the future?). For windows users the file properties are an understandable place to have this information although I also think having a link to the history on the context menu would be a good idea as well.

Marksy, this solution is not intended as your backup. What if your primary disk dies? The secondary doesn’t hold the current version anyway so if you made major changes you’re screwed. This is simply a basic version history tool, not a comprehensive backup plan. You going to have an easy time wacking a second hard disk into your laptop are you?

Thanks for the comment,

– JD

* As a side note I actually quite like a lot of apple applications so I don’t really feel compelled to argue on this point.

marksy says 15 October 2006 @ 23:02

touché – it would have to be my third disk as my secondary external is maxx at 160gb


irrelevant says 19 September 2007 @ 01:39


You want proof – just look at digg.com full of whiney fanboys.

And before you ask, I’m a Mac user but I’m sick of the idiot zealot mentality that gives people like me a bad name.

Johnny-johnny says 19 September 2007 @ 09:31

“You want proof – just look at digg.com full of whiney fanboys.”

That’s proof!?

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