Macintosh rsync: Inconsistent Behaviour: Hints Appreciated

Bob McKay urilabob at
Thu Feb 12 00:59:33 GMT 2009

I have a problem with rsync on macintosh copying files that have not been
updated. Despite careful reading of the archives, I can't find an
explanation (or a fix), but I strongly suspect I'm just missing something
that an expert will recognise instantly... Your assistance would be greatly

I'm running a nightly backup of my photo/home video directory from a
partition BIGPIX on a firewire drive on one machine (G3 running OSX 10.3,
imaginatively named g3) to another (Pix) on a firewire drive on my laptop
(G4 running 10.4, even more imaginatively bobsmac). I'll include the script
below. All are HFS+ partitions.

The problem is, that every night, something like 3/4 of the whole directory
gets updated. This doesn't reflect reality - in fact, I only add stuff to
the directory once a week or so. If the whole of the directory was getting
updated, I'd understand that I just had the options wrong, but it's
completely inconsistent - some files get re-synched night after night, while
others are just synched once and then rsync does what I expected and leaves
them alone. I can't see any consistency in this. There is some correlation
with age (the older directories are much more likely to be re-synched than
newer ones). But this correlation is not reliable. I'll use an example of a
particular directory from May 2008. Of five files in the directory, two
(creation dates Jan 7 2008) are synched every night. The other three are
omitted. One has creation date Nov. 15 2007, the other two April 14 2008.
Other than age, I can't see any difference between the files, either from
unix shell (see below) or from finder info (I'd include this if I could
figure a way to cut and paste, but please accept that it is completely
consistent with the shell results). The rsync options I'm using are
'-vpcrutxzE --ignore-existing'; I've read the man pages carefully, and I
can't understand why they would produce this behaviour.

If you can see any way I can further diagnose this, any hints would be
appreciated - I'm completely stuck. Of course, if you know why it's
happening - or know a fix - that would be even better!

     Thanks and Best Wishes

*********************** directory listings of example source and target
directories  ********************

G3:/Volumes/BIGPIX/PIXREADONLY/200805-FriendsMisc080502 rim$ ls -l
total 12472
-rwxr-xr-x   1 root  admin  1827015 Apr 14  2008 HannahP1060453.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 root  admin  2219607 Apr 14  2008 HannahP1060578.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 root  admin   192966 Jan  7  2008 VikyP1030042.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 root  admin   206962 Jan  7  2008 VivP1030020.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 root  admin  1900455 Nov 15  2007 WOOK-DSCN3830.jpg

bobsmac:/Volumes/Pix/PIXBACKUP/PIXREADONLY/200805-FriendsMisc080502 rim$ ls
total 12472
-rwxr-xr-x   1 rim  rim  1827015 Apr 14  2008 HannahP1060453.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 rim  rim  2219607 Apr 14  2008 HannahP1060578.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 rim  rim   192966 Jan  7  2008 VikyP1030042.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 rim  rim   206962 Jan  7  2008 VivP1030020.jpg
-rwxr-xr-x   1 rim  rim  1900455 Nov 15  2007 WOOK-DSCN3830.jpg

(Viky and Viv get synched repeatedly, the rest do not)

*********************** abbreviated transcript showing relevant stages of
copying  ********************

Copying g3.local:/Volumes/BIGPIX/PIXREADONLY /Volumes/Pix/PIXBACKUP
receiving file list ... done
PIXREADONLY/200202-China/Wuhan Early Pics/._PIC_6250.JPG

sent 59156 bytes  received 115825818 bytes  48599.28 bytes/sec
total size is 22910676123  speedup is 197.70

*********************** shell script  ********************


echo "Copying "$SRCDIR" "$DESTDIR
rsync -vpcrutxzE --ignore-existing\
        --rsync-path="/usr/bin/rsync" root@$SRCDIR $DESTDIR
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