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Article #13 (74 is last):
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Flashback! / utility / commercial
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Date: Sat Dec 28 22:39:35 1991


Reprinted from Atari Explorer, Summer 1991
Copyright 1991 by Atari Corp.  Reprinted by permission.
 
 
Flashback!
----------
ICD's sophisticated backup package makes using 8-bit RAMdisks and hard-
drives easier and more secure!
 
By John Quinn
 
Over the past several years, substantial numbers of Atari 8-bit users 
have discovered the speed and convenience of advanced mass-storage 
alternatives.  RAMdisk use has increased manyfold since the introduction 
of the 130XE, whose 128K of RAM makes possible the installation of a 
fairly large RAMdisk; while hard-drive use has grown, largely through 
the efforts of companies such as ICD, Inc., who market a full line of 
easy-to-use hard-disk interfaces and support software for 8-bit 
machines, including the popular "DOS alternative," SpartaDOS.
     While RAMdisks and hard-drives can vastly increase productivity, 
there is one "downside" to their use: increased vulnerability to 
equipment failure.  The contents of a RAMdisk, accumulated at the cost 
of considerable effort during a work-session, can disappear forever if 
the system crashes, unexpectedly.  Failure of a hard-drive unit or 
accidental corruption of control software can cause the loss of 
megabytes of precious data.
     RAMdisks and hard-drives are also vulnerable to simple human error.  
Switching off the CPU will kill the contents of a RAMdisk as surely 
(indeed, more surely) than any system crash.  And though saving a 
picture file under the same name as your July books won't render your 
hard-drive inoperable, it sure will scramble your accounting system!
     For these reasons, RAMdisk and hard-drive users must be careful to 
back up their storage systems regularly to floppy disk--the former at 
least once, preferably several times during the course of each work 
session; the latter, on a weekly or more frequent basis, depending on 
the sensitivity and value of the data involved.  Backing up the system, 
of course, takes time and effort; considerable effort in the case of a 
hard drive, where the sheer size of the storage medium means backing up 
to a succession of floppy disks, via a laborious series of manual copy 
operations.  Because backing up is such a bother, hard-drive users are 
especially prone to neglecting this important chore, leaving them 
vulnerable to disaster, when it strikes.
 
Enter Flashback!
     As a major supplier of RAMdisks software and hard-drive systems for 
the Atari8-bit line, ICD, Inc., of Rockford, IL, knew there was a need 
for software that would facilitate the backup process, encouraging users 
of high-volume mass storage to back up their systems more frequently.  
In typical ICD fashion, the company has created one system of low-priced 
utilities that answer to any and all backup needs, speeding the backup 
of both RAMdisks and hard-drives through one, consistent user-interface.  
The system, called Flashback!, runs only under SpartaDOS.  However, 
since many 8-bit hard-drive users are already employing SpartaDOS, this 
is less of a limitation than it might seem, at first glance.
     Flashback! comes on one 5-1/4" floppy disk.  The disk contains two 
files: FLASHBK.COM and RESTORE.COM.  FLASHBK.COM is the program that 
backs up your RAM or hard-drive to floppy disks (or to another hard 
drive), while RESTORE.COM, as its name implies, restores the backed-up 
files to their original state on the medium in question.
     Both programs are quite user-friendly, and completely menu-driven.  
To load FLASHBK.COM, all you need to do is type FLASHBK at the SpartaDOS 
command prompt (X FLASHBK if using SpartaDOS X).  Once the program 
loads, it displays the menu shown in Figure 1, and tells you to "Press 
START to begin."
 
+---------------- Figure 1 --------------------------------------------+
|                                                                      |
|  [S]OURCE: D1:                                                       |
|  [D]EST.: D2:                                                        |
|  [C]ATALOG DIRS AND FILES:NO                                         |
|  [E]XTEND FILE ACROSS DISKS:YES                                      |
|  [F]ORMAT DESTINATION DISKS:NO                                       |
|  [B]ACKUP FILES SINCE DATE:00/00/00                                  |
|  [A]RCHIVAL BACKUP ONLY:NO                                           |
|  [Q]UIT FLASHBACK! AND RETURN TO DOS                                 |
|                                                                      |
+----------------------------------------------------------------------+
Figure 1.  FLASHBK.COM's main menu, showing the numerous backup options 
available.
 
     When performing a standard backup, the first thing you must do is 
decide on source and destination drive and pathnames.  The source drive 
and path define where the data you wish to back up is presently located; 
the destination defines the location where the backup files will reside.  
Source and destination are completely open-ended--you can back up a 
RAMdisk to a hard-drive subdirectory, a collection of subdirectories to 
floppy disk, or practically any other combination.  The only limitation, 
naturally, is that you're not allowed to back up a drive to itself, 
though Flashback! will backup one hard-disk subdirectory to another on 
the same disk.
     Next, you can press "C" to select or de-select the "Catalog" 
option.  When active, this option causes Flashback! to create a 
subdirectory on the destination path, containing a printable text file 
of backup information.  The catalog file includes filenames and 
extenders for all backed-up files, byte counts, time and date-stamps, 
volume numbers of both source and destination disks, and the source 
pathname.  While many users may elect not to employ the catalog option, 
it provides vital information for those seeking to keep track of 
multiple backups of important data.
     The [E]xtend option is also a yes/no toggle.  Choosing "yes" will 
cause Flashback! to split files across floppy disks as necessary, during 
multi-file backups, insuring that every byte of available floppy disk 
space is used.  Selecting "no" will force Flashback! to save only as 
many files on each destination floppy as will fit in their entirety.  
Most users will elect to employ the "Extend" option, speeding the backup 
process and employing floppy disk space most efficiently.  When using 
RESTORE.COM, the process of restoring split files is handled 
transparently.  However, it should also be noted that files backed-up 
under Flashback! can be restored individually, using SpartaDOS' COPY 
command; and even split files can be restored manually, via the Append 
option.  Thus, the only reason one might select not to employ Extend is 
if one anticipates having to restore on a system that does not employ 
SpartaDOS, a situation that would render impossible the restoration of 
files split across disk boundaries.
     One of the most time-consuming aspects of a manual backup is the 
need to format destination floppy disks.  Flashback! can automate this 
process, automatically formatting target floppies as they are inserted, 
then backing up files on them in one, smooth, uninterrupted motion.  
Flashback! will initialize disks in single, double, and dual (1050) 
density, in both single- and double-sided formats, so you're free to 
exploit all the features of your available target drives.  If you have a 
high-speed drive, such as the Atari XF551 or Indus GT, Flashback! will 
even format in high-speed mode (under SpartaDOS X).  However, when 
performing backups to a series of floppy disks, Flashback! will not 
allow you to change format parameters during the process.  Moreover, 
there are certain obscure drives that Flashback! doesn't know how to 
format.  Users of 3-1/2" drives, for example (yes, they exist for the 
Atari 8-bit line!), will have to format a sufficient number of floppies, 
manually, before starting a backup procedure.
     SpartaDOS actively updates a file's date-time stamp when the file 
is created or altered.  Flashback! can thus offer the option of only 
backing up those files that have been "touched" since a particular date.  
Use of this option can vastly increase the speed required to perform 
regular backups, since only brand-new, or newly-altered, files are 
actually saved.  To help manage this type of backup procedure, 
Flashback! even remembers when you last backed-up the selected source 
disk, rendering a separate tally of backup dates redundant (though still 
necessary, where complete security is desired).  It should also be noted 
that effective use of this option is only possible when file dates are 
reliably maintained, systemwide.  This, in turn, means paying close 
attention to clock-setting, clock-card battery changes, and other 
details of clock management.  It may also mean limiting, or at least 
closely managing, the use of application software that doesn't handle 
file date-stamps in the same way as SpartaDOS.  Such files may sometimes 
be rendered compatible with SpartaDOS by using SpartaDOS' "set file date 
and time" option.
     The [A]rchival Backup option is only available to users of 
SpartaDOS X, which supports a single-bit "arc" flag in the header of 
each file, denoting if the file has been backup up or not.  When this 
option is selected, Flashback! will only back up those files whose "arc" 
bits are not set, and will then set the bits, preventing later redundant 
backups of the same material.  Like the "backup since date" option, the 
Archival Backup option reduces the number of files that actually get 
copied, speeding the backup process.  However, only files created or 
maintained under SpartaDOS X may be reliably backed-up with this option.
 
Backing Up and Restoring
     Once all option have been set, the backup process is initiated by 
pressing the START key.  Now all you have to do is watch it work, 
inserting floppy disks when the system requests them.  The actual time 
required for backup may vary widely, depending on the volume of files 
being copied, as well as the speed and capacity of source and 
destination drives.  Flashback! attempts to use RAM to best advantage in 
managing copy operations, so backups are always performed as efficiently 
as possible, given the constraints of the system.
     Restoring files is equally easy.  Just type RESTORE (or X RESTORE, 
when using SpartaDOS X).  The menu shown in Figure 2 will appear.  Here, 
the options are simpler--you just have to specify the source and 
destination paths (here, the "source" is the drive from which you are 
restoring, the "destination," the drive to which you are restoring), and 
determine whether or not you wish to be prompted before each file is 
restored.  This latter option is helpful is you wish to restore only 
selected files from a comprehensive backup.
 
+------------- Figure 2 -----------------------------------------------+
|                                                                      |
|  [S]OURCE: D2:                                                       |
|  [D]EST.: D1:                                                        |
|  [P]ROMPT TO RESTORE EACH FILE:NO                                    |
|  [Q]UIT RESTORE AND RETURN TO DOS                                    |
|                                                                      |
+----------------------------------------------------------------------|
Figure 2.  RESTORE.COM's simple and easy-to-understand menu makes 
restoring files a breeze!
 
     Pressing START commences the restore procedure.  All you have to do 
is hand floppy disks to the system, as requested.  As noted above, it is 
also possible to restore backups on a file-by-file basis using 
SpartaDOS' own COPY command (with or without the Append option, as 
necessary, to conjoin files split across disk boundaries).
 
Conclusions
     Overall, I would rate this package as excellent.  Before backing up 
your drive, Flashback! tells you all about the work it is performing 
(i.e., number of files and directories involved in the backup, etc.), 
and offers similar information prior to file restoration.  I have used 
this package many times, and I am quite satisfied with it.  I would 
suggest, however, that one option be added to both FLASHBK.COM and 
RESTORE.COM: that of printing out a backup or restore catalog, 
automatically.  The automatic generation of hard-copy would eliminate 
one stage in managing the backup of complex systems.
     This single complaint, however, is hardly worth mentioning.  I 
would call Flashback! a must-but, especially for hard-drive users, and 
users of hardware-based RAMdisks.
 
SYSTEM: Atari 8-bit
 
REQUIREMENTS: RAMdisk, MIO, and/or hard drive; SpartaDOS; 5-1/4" floppy 
drive.
 
SUMMARY: Excellent hard-drive/RAMdisk backup system for the Atari 8-bit 
computer.
 
PRICE: $20.96
 
MANUFACTURER:
  ICD, Inc.
  Rockford, IL 61101
  (815) 968-2228
-- 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
      BITNET: currentm%carleton.edu@interbit / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700





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