Sacrifice Day

I spread a meme called "sacrifice day," which is a day in which, despite your best efforts, you can get no practical work done. I used to resist sacrifice days, and then I realized that to resist is to prolong; to accept is to work with the flow. By accepting one or more sacrifice days a week, I have become more productive. Odd, but it works for me. My sacrifice days are when I run errands, pay bills, answer email, write blog entries, etc.

You can see what I'm building up to.

My officemate Jeff asked for my help in backing up 65 Gb of video material he has on a hard drive that's on the way out and he needs to return for warranty work. The company wants 15 to 30 days for repair; whatever. That's totally unrealistic about how people use massive storage. So we figure, okay, it's a FireWire drive, but all our tape backup drives are SCSI hooked up through SCSI interfaces on PC and Linux.

We're running Retrospect on the PC, but we don't have any spare machines that A. can read Mac disks and B. have FireWire. We could put a FireWire card into the PC, but then we'd still have to read the HFS+ format. Oy.

I bring in my newish iBook with FireWire so we can dedicate it to this task. I put it and the PC on a small 10/100 Mbps switch for maximum network transfer. I boot the iBook and the hard drive mounts, but I realize that Dantz hasn't yet released a version of its client software for backup that works with OS X as a client and Windows as a backup server. (They're still in beta on the OS X client + OS 9 server, even.)

We upgrade the iBook to OS 9.2.1, but it's glitchy. The hard drive won't mount now for unknown reasons when it boots into 9, but it still works into X. I try to get the Windows box to recognize the OS 9 client, but I have to buy the Server version of the backup software to get the ability to not just scan for clients (which scans one subnet) but to actually enter client IP addresses. I figure it's worth it for backups, as I've had the same problem backing up my main OS X machine at work, too!

I've now spent more on Retrospect over the years than on operating systems by a large margin. It seems to have been worthwhile.

This whole melange of equipment finally works: I have OS X running with an OS 9 client for Retrospect that Windows XP running Retrospect Server Backup can communicate with. We pop a blank 20/40Gb tape into the DDS/4 DAT drive and I walk away. A while later I check, and there's a problem with the DAT drive. I try ejecting. No go. I try power cycling and holding down the eject button, no go. Lots of different attempts, and I finally realize the drive is hosed. Needs repair. Is ot of warranty.

Meanwhile, some RAM arrives for the PC and one of the Linux boxes. PC133 512 Mb SDRAM cards at about $60 each including shipping. I decide to put the memory in the PC. It doesn't like it. Maybe the other memory is PC100. I reboot it. I power down the Linux box, which runs our primary DNS and mail service, as well as all of our in-house Web sites, plop in the RAM, and - it's dead. Dead dead dead. Power supply failure? Short? Who knows.

I'm slightly panicked. I realize, fortunately, that I've got an empty machine that I transitioned the content from to a new box. The old server that was running isbn.nu is a powerful dual-processor machine. Okay. So I pull the boot drive out of the now-dead Linux box, unplug and remove some of the drives from the retired isbn.nu, and boot. Some funkiness. Fix, reboot, fix, reboot. Damn, I forgot to edit the fstab to remove a drive that I haven't put in place yet! Fix, reboot, it comes up.

Meanwhile, I've managed to get the backup of the 65 Gb of data going onto a DLT drive that I have. DLT (digital linear tape) is just as good as DAT (digital audio tape), but I only have 10/20 Gb (that's uncompressed and max. compressed capacity) tapes for it. So we'll swap a few tapes. I also have an AIT drive that's on the isbn.nu box for doing 25/50 Gb backups

This is the kind of thing that makes one old.