[Mercede Computer Associates -- PC's for a Warped World!]
Seagate CTT8000 &
BackAgain/2 Professional v4.0d
- by Donovan Long

Those seeking a simple but capable backup solution take note; from Indelible Blue comes a bundle of a Seagate CTT 8000 Travan 4 tape drive, BackAgain/2 Professional v4.0d, and a 4GB (8GB compressed) tape cartridge. As reviewed, the tape drive was an internal IDE unit (external and SCSI units are available).

Installation

Setting up the package to test it reinforced a valuable lesson for me: RTFM, it saves you time. While it was not the most technically complicated installation in the world, the casual user might have a hard time of it.

Using the "skim the manual approach," I wasted a lot of time trying to install the tape drive. For starters, the pin 1 position is not marked on the tape drive itself. On page 7, the manual states that, "the interface cable is keyed to prohibit incorrect installation. Make sure that the blocked pin in the interface connector coincides with the missing pin on the interface card connection." In skimming this, I assumed they were taking about connecting the cable to the optional interface card AND tape drive. Unfortunately, the interface cable does not have any blocked pins, so I was at a loss as to how to proceed. Had I read the manual step by step, I would have arrived at page 10 where a diagram indicates that pin 1 is beside the power connection. D'oh! Hey, someone should idiot-proof this stuff. <grin>

This agonizing may not be necessary for all users though. As an IDE based tape drive, you could just plug the Seagate CTT8000 onto your regular IDE connector. However, Seagate advises you to not share the IDE cable with a hard drive, so if you have more than 2 IDE hard drives, or have an older machine with only one IDE cable, you'll want to use the small IDE adaptor card that comes with this package.

Selecting an unconflicting IRQ and address is also a bit of a pain, and may be beyond the realm of understanding for most people. Needless to say, it took me a while to get a proper setting. My first selection of IRQ & address interfered with one of my BBS' modems (however, I did not notice this until the day after I installed it). Later I noticed that my second IRQ/address choice was conflicting with the second IDE adaptor on my motherboard.

Make sure you get someone knowledgeable with OS/2, IRQs and the like to install this card for you if you aren't up to it!

During the software installation, BackAgain/2 Pro asked me for the IRQ and address of the tape drive, however, it failed to update the IBM1S506.ADD driver in my config.sys to enable the tape drive's IDE adaptor card. Eventually I came to page 12 of the BackAgain/2 Pro manual which tells you how to get OS/2 to recognize the additional IDE adaptor.

Wanting to give BackAgain/2 Pro a second chance, I deleted it from my system and removed all traces of it from my ini files and proceeded to reinstall. At this point I was still trying to find the perfect IRQ/address combination. The best I was able to achieve was to use the drive and loose access to my third hard disk. I changed the jumper settings and installed BackAgain/2 Pro telling it the new settings.

This time it did add an additional IBM1S506.ADD statement, pointing to the IDE adapter card. This TRAP'd beautifully on boot up. Thinking it was the chosen IRQ/address I had selected, I tried others to the same effect. Eventually I concluded that either the additional IBM1S506.ADD statement needed to be higher up in the config.sys (it was at the bottom) or there should only be the one statement, so I just added the parameters to recognize the IDE adapter card onto the end of my original IBM1S506.ADD statement, and it worked without a hitch. This is something that should hopefully be more idiot-proof in a future version.

Perhaps due to the tape drive's bland exterior (with absolutely no markings on it whatsoever) I initially installed the drive upside down. Whilst reading the manual I found that the drive can be installed upside down or on its side. Perhaps that is why there are no exterior markings. Actually, the drive I reviewed was in 5 1/4" adaptor with a blank face plate, but if you were to install the drive in a 3 1/2" bay, the slot for the cartridge would consume the entire space, so I guess it is a moot point.

Another small irritation for me was that you have to supply your own mounting screws -- Seagate recommends M3.0 metric screws. I know we all have these labelled, right? Nonetheless, I found a screw to hold the drive in place.

The BackAgain/2 Professional Software itself installed perfectly except for the aforementioned failure to update IBM1S506.ADD.

Drive Operation

With the installation hassles out of the way, it was time to see how well this duo performed. One thing I do not like about my present tape unit, a CMS Jumbo 250 (a dinosaur compared to this unit), is that it has a rather annoying whine while it operates. In contrast, the Seagate reviewed here is amazingly quiet; the only notable noise besides a quiet hum is the occasional direction change.

The drive does tend to do a lot of seeking before actually getting down to business, but once it starts writing data to tape, it achieves an impressive 27-30MB/minute transfer rate with compression!

Normally if I was to backup every file on my system, it would take 4 hours (without verify) and four 125MB tapes, which I would have to change every hour. The Seagate accomplished the same task in only 31 minutes, with a single 4GB tape (8GB with compression)! In fact, after my backup I still had room for another four and a half full backups! Needless to say, I was impressed.

With my current tape drive I only back up about 75MB of what I consider to be critical files; with this drive I could back up my entire OS/2 system in less than half the time it takes me to back up the 75MB with my current setup. With speed this fast, it is a lot easier (not to mention less painful) to do regular, full backups.

BackAgain/2 Professional v4.0d

BA/2 Pro was easy to use, with all the usual options available, with a long list of supported backup devices.

Novices will appreciate a Quick Start dialogue (GIF, 6.4k) that allows for easy backing up of one or more drives without selecting files or having to understand the various options. For file selection you can select "Advanced" or disable the quick start option altogether if you'd like.

The advanced selection dialogue (GIF, 18.7k) allows you to set up include and exclude lists for backups. With these, you can simply drag and drop a backup template and from the selection dialogue select which files you do and do not wish to be included in this particular backup set.

For example, you may wish to always back up everything on your hard disk except a couple files here and there. Rather than select the files each time you perform a backup, with BackAgain/2 you would just create a backup set which INCLUDES *, but EXCLUDES those few you don't want. Now, whenever you want to back up, a double click backs up the desired files using the compression settings, etc. that you assigned. Very handy.

Naturally, networks are supported, so you can backup networked drives on remote machines.

Business or special needs customers will find the ability to launch REXX scripts both before and after a backup handy, perhaps, for example, to warn network users. As well, a command line version of the program allows you to do backups without the GUI, perhaps this version might be more appropriate for automated scripts, as it allows you to specify all your options on the command line. Or you can just tell it to use a specific backup set. This is yet another powerful and flexible option.

Drag and drop integration means you can back up a drive, folder, or file by simply dropping the object on the "backup device" icon. To test this feature, I selected some pictures that were on the desktop (dragged from Netscape) and dropped them onto the device object, but it complained (after seeking the tape) that no files had been selected. However, dragging a directory from the Drives tree worked perfectly. I suspect the drag-n-drop as programmed only accepts single objects: single drives, directories, or files.

There is a Scheduler Folder provided with BA/2, which allows the objects in it (not necessarily backup sets) to be executed at specified times. This is a very useful and flexible feature which should prevent most users from ever having to resort to the command line version of the backup software.

A stand-alone restore utility is included in the package in case your OS/2 partition is scrambled and you really need that backup. Just run the program to update your OS/2 utility disks, and if you have a backup of your OS/2 system files, you can restore it without reinstalling OS/2 and all your Desktop settings manually!

All in all, great stuff.

The Downside

On the downside, BA/2 Pro does tend to take over the CPU at times, most notably when asking it for the contents of a directory when selecting files. If there are not a lot of files in a directory, you are looking at only a two to five second freeze up. But when I tried going into my BBS' message base directory, with 4,385 files (62MB compressed), there was a delay of about 15 seconds. To see this CPU hogging in action, pick a large directory, ask BA/2 Pro to display it and then click on the OS/2 window option on the Warp Center. The window opens, but the prompt does not appear until BA/2 Pro has finished loading the directory. This is something that could be worked on for v4.1.

Also, the read.me file says a new feature of v4.0 is that you can uninstall all or part of the software, but in practice this utility was extremely difficult to locate. There was no icon in the Desktop folder, nor any directions in the .INF, read.me or manual. An inspection of the BA/2 directory revealed an uninstl.exe file which obviously is the file in question but it could certainly be easier to find. After you do find the uninstall utility, it does not work as smoothly as it could.

Closing Comments

This is a great package, and while noting the cost, I would recommend it to any OS/2 user who needs a solid, fast backup solution. This bundle just can't be beat!
System Requirements:
OS/2 v2.1 or later*
A mouse or other pointing device
4MB of disk space
3.5" floppy disk drive (to install software)

* OS/2 Warp v3.0 or higher suggested, otherwise:
- no WPS backup device objects (no drag-n-drop functionality)
- utility to create crash recovery diskettes may not find all files
- an updated IBM1S506.ADD driver may be required for ATAPI/IDE tape drives


 * BackAgain/2 Pro v4
by Computer Data Strategies (CDS)

 * Seagate CTT8000
by Seagate

MSRP:US$399.00 (package of drive and software; IDE, internal)


Donovan Long is an avid Team OS/2 member in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has run versions of OS/2 dating back to v2.0.

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