Improving Apple’s Time Capsule, plus some Sparkle Stuff

It’s kind of rude to speak about improving something before it’s even available, but I’m shopping for a new router now, so Apple’s Time Capsule caught my eye yesterday. I’ve been using Time Machine on my Leopard-powered laptop, but I find that I don’t remember to plug in the USB drive often enough for it to be rock-solid backup — so the idea of a wireless backup while I sleep sounds good. [Maybe I should just move my backup drive into my bedroom … hmmm!]

Synced Apple Software Update
Here’s the killer feature I want: Apple Software Update should use your Time Capsule as a proxy and storage device; all patches you download should be saved on your Time Capsule [for a period of time you specify] and other computers on your network should pull the updates off your Time Capsule instead of from the internet [after checking for newer versions, of course.] This will speed up installs and reinstalls in general [reinstall OSX from CD, hit Software Update, pull all the previously-downloaded updates down from your Time Capsule.]

I’ve wanted this sort of feature ever since I had two Macs on my desk at the same time, but didn’t think it would be easily possible within small networks without a lot of hackery — this seems like the perfect opportunity for Apple to make what seems like a good product even better. Further, this could be used for sysadmins to restrict access to updates until they’ve verified that they don’t cause issues with specific computers or third party software.

Backup to Time Capsule, Reinstall, Migrate
When I told Eleanor about this idea, she immediately thought of a further version: modify the OSX installer to detect Time Capsules, and offer an opportunity to backup/install/migrate in one fell swoop. Configure the options as you want, then walk away for a few hours and come back to your reinstalled OS with all your settings. Maybe it could even look at the Synced Apple Software Updates on your Time Capsule and install them too, if you want…

Sparkle Stuff
Sparkle is an application updating mechanism that is embedded inside many OSX apps — Adium, Cyberduck, and SubEthaEdit, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if the same Synced Update functionality worked for these apps, too? And if there was some global updating application you could fire up that would detect all your Sparkle-using apps and check them for updates all at once, then leave those updates on your Time Capsule so you could quickly grab them on your other computers afterwards? I’d love it.


  1. Just set up ours today, and very disappointed to find out I couldn’t set a proxy server required by my upstream ISP…. I really don’t want to include proxies in my own laptop as most places I go to would not require one and I could just leave one Network setting without changing.

  2. That’s an interesting point … I actually got a Time Capsule last week, and haven’t had time to review it yet. Proxy server support of that nature isn’t something I need, but I can see how that would be a bummer for you.

    There’s a piece of OSX software — I can’t remember the name off the top of my head — that can detect what networks you’re connected to and automatically change your profiles and other system settings based on that. Perhaps it’s worth looking into? I can’t remember how the heck I found it, though.

  3. Here’s a link to MarcoPolo, which also includes some comparisons of how it stacks up to other similar apps. It looks like MarcoPolo would handle what you need, and more.

  4. Dear Adam
    I have a MacBook Air and access internet by TimeCapsule.
    You see, I’d like to access a proxy server (from my University).
    But it doesn’t work. When I setup firefox or safari it can’t find the proxy server.
    TimeCapsule blocks it?
    Any clue to configuration?
    Antonio Peregrino – from Brazil.

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