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BackMaster Ultra 1.1a- by David Wei

BackMaster Ultra 1.1a, by MSR Development is a interesting product. When it first arrives, it shows up in a BackMaster 3.0 box with a manual and an insert explaining that this is actually the "Ultra 1.0", but the operation is similar and the manual is being worked on. No problems, I thought. Little did I know I was in for a BIG surprise.


My system is hooked to a Fujitsu 640MB Magneto Optical (MO) drive. To those who have not heard of or don't know of MO technology, it is a technology that uses a laser to "melt" a spot to be written, and a magnetic write head to then "reshape" the alignment of the compound in the molten spot; when it solidifies, it will refract the light according to the 0 and 1 data that's been written on the disk. This technology is slower than newer HDD cartridge drives such as Jaz, SyJet and Orb, but the media is literally invulnerable to most things in our environment. The only few things I know of that can damage MO disks are fires that burn or melt the disk, acid that etch or dissolve the disk and physical forces that crush the disk to bits.

My Fujitsu MO drive is obviously my backup machine of choice.

The installation program for BackMaster is the classical standard OS/2 installation routine. At the end of the installation it asks which kind of tape driver (.GIF, 5.4K) you would like to install; since I did not have any tape devices installed on my computer I deselected all of them.

First Impressions

The first feel of this program is that the interface is very well designed and very easy to use. In fact, I didn't need to read much beyond the first couple pages of the printed manual. Everything is laid out in places you'd expect it to be. The configuration is easy: just tell BackMaster what kind of media you use and select the proper configuration for the device location (SCSI ID, logical drive location, etc.). It seemed as if this was going to be another glowing review of an OS/2 program. But, to my dismay, several unpleasant surprises were to come.

Somehow BackMaster Ultra (.GIF, 35.9K) was preventing the EJECT.EXE function of NewDASD to flush the HPFS cache, therefore making the MO disk ejection impossible when BackMaster Ultra was running. To work around this, I had to make sure all the files I wanted to back up would fit on one MO disk, using the directory-select window (.GIF, 30.7K).

My next surprise was when I tried to recover from a backup that I had just made. The recovery disk (.GIF, 9.7K) that BackMaster Ultra created failed to copy several vital DLLs that were required for a successful restore. In the case of someone in a hurry, this could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Last, but not least in the chain of surprises came after I had finally managed to make BackMaster back up the drive (.GIF, 6.1K) and restore it to another computer. As it turned out, BackMaster either failed to save or restore the Extended Attributes (EAs) for the files and directories that it backed up. Since these are essential to the operation of the Workplace Shell, you can imagine that this is a serious problem. If you are using BackMaster yourself, try backing up the "DESKTOP" directory, and restore it to a different drive or computer. If the Desktop icon changes from a desk to a regular folder, that means the EA was wiped out or damaged in transit.

Final Thoughts

My rating for this program? Clearly not ready for prime time. Everything worked very nicely except several critical functions. However, if these were polished up, I do feel it would be one heck of a backup solution. But until then, I will not recommend this software for users with Magneto Optical drives. Admittedly, I didn't have the hardware to test the tape backup, so I will not speculate if the EA backup and other function will work on those systems or not. As with all things, you mileage may vary.

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BackMaster Ultra 1.1a

by MSR Development
MSRP: US$149

David Wei is a first time contributor to OS/2 e-Zine!. He takes his backups very seriously.


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