Ferreting out a (Backblaze) bug

Today’s bug will affect you only if you use the Backblaze online backup software. However, the troubleshooting technique used to get to the solution can be helpful in a variety of similar situations. It involves Thomas Tempelmann’s $4 Find Any File, an excellent utility that is far superior to Spotlight for searches that may require diving into the various Library folders, invisible directories, and application packages on your drive.

The specific symptom is this: You select to enable the menu bar item for Backblaze but it doesn’t work. Specifically: You go to System Preferences -> Backblaze -> Settings and enable the checkbox for “Show Backblaze Icon in the Menu Bar.” You next click OK but no menu bar item appears. Consistent with this, if you return to the Settings sheet, the item you just enabled is mysteriously unchecked again.

Apparently, this symptom first cropped up on Macs running recent versions of Snow Leopard. My first thought was that the source of the bug would turn out to be a corrupt preferences (.plist) file in the Library/Preferences folder of my home directory. I could delete the file—a common troubleshooting technique—and hope that the menu bar option would now work (with minimal unwanted side-effects). Unfortunately, there was no backblaze .plist file—either in ~/Library/Preferences or at the root level /Library/Preferences.

I assumed there must be some file that gets modified when I make a change to the Backblaze System Preferences pane. My goal now was to find it, so I tried a couple of things:

1. I returned to the Backblaze Backup Settings sheet and selected to enable the menu bar item again. Any minor change here would work as well.

2. I launched Find Any File and selected to search for all files whose “Modification Date is Within the Past 1 Minute.” From the results that appeared, I scanned for an item related to Backblaze, which would presumably reflect the modification I had just made.

Bingo! I found a file called bzinfo.xml (I guessed correctly that bz stood for Backblaze). I opened the file in a text editor and confirmed that it was a Backblaze preferences file of sorts. But, as I was not familiar with this file, I decided it was too risky to delete it. I hoped for a simpler and safer solution.

Using the location of the bzinfo.xml file as a starting point, I navigated up the hierarchy of the enclosing bzdata folder to a Backblaze folder in /Library. (Yes, in this case, I could have found the Backblaze folder just by scanning the /Library directory. But things won’t often be that simple.) Here I found an application named bzbmenu. This sounded promising. I double-clicked it and… success. The Backblaze menu bar item appeared! Further, when I returned to the Backblaze System Preferences pane, the menu bar item was now appropriately enabled.

Would this success remain after a restart of the Mac? Yes! Why? Because one of my actions had added bzbmenu to the Login Items list for my account.

I subsequently did a Google search, looking for confirmations of this fix. I found one webpage that offered the same solution. It additionally indicated (based on information it had received from Backblaze customer support) that modifying the permissions setting for the bzdata folder might also be required. This modification was not required for me.

Finally, I contacted Backblaze regarding this symptom. They offered yet another fix that would likely work: “Restart your Mac and reinstall Backblaze. You do not need to uninstall, just install again from www.backblaze.com.” They added: “This is a purely cosmetic problem. It does not affect the backup process at all.”

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