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Article #72 (74 is last):
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
Subject: FATBACK, ALFBACK, FlashBack!, HD Pro Backup / utilities / PD, comm.
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Date: Tue Dec  1 11:45:41 1992

Reprinted from Current Notes, Vol. 12, No. 6, July/August 1992


Backing Up Your 8-Bit Hard Drive
--------------------------------
Picking Up Where the Pussycat Left Off

by John H. Sandgren (GEnie: J.SANDGREN)

     John Barnes (the Junkyard Pussycat) has recently completed a series of
articles that provided some pretty useful ideas about data security and
backing up our hard drive files.  [Editor's Note: See CN Jan/Feb, Mar, Apr,
and May 92 issues. -RR]  What John left out, however, is a product review of
backup programs for the Atari 8-bit.  Yes, I suspect the number of 8-bitters
who have hard drives is somewhat limited, but for those of us who have 
upgraded our systems to include hard drives, the issue of backing up our
important files is just as important as it is to the 16-bitters.  So I've
taken on the task of competing the Pussycat's set of articles and providing
a review of what's available i the 8-bit world to back up our hard drives.

What's Our There?
     My search for appropriate programs to test and review initially uncovered
five programs.  Three of them are public fomain, available on GEnie and
CompuServe (CIS).  Tow of them are commercial products available directly 
from the retailer/developer.  But when I started using the programs, one
program, HDBACKUP, dropped out immediately--I couldn't get it to work.  At
least, I couldn't get it to work in my limited testing environment.  Rather
than explore why the program wouldn't work for me, I devoted my energies to
exploraatin of the capabilities and features of the remaining four programs.

Testing Environment
     There was no way I was going to sacrifice my hard drive and my files just
for the sake of this article, but somehow I had to run each program through
its paces.  The route I chose was to use my 3.5 inch converted XF551 drive to
fill in for a small hard drive.  I figured if I could operate the programs
using this pseudo-HD, then the programs would work on a real hard drive.  For
a Disk Operating System (DOS), I used my all time favorite, SpartaDOS X
Cartridge.  I've used MyDOS on occasin, and at least one of the programs
claims to work with MyDOS, but since I know and trust SpartaDOS X, and all my
files are in SpartaDOS format, that's the DOS I used.  If MyDOS is your DOS 
of choice, I suggest you experiment with these programs in a similar manner
before committing your important files to a questinable fate.

What's Important?
     So, what do I think is important in a backup program?  Is it time 
consuming to use?  Does it let met take advantage of the double-side 
capabilities of my floppy drives, and will it let me use the 80-track 
capability of my 3.5 inch drive?  Are there any special features that make the
program more user friendly?  And, or course, how much does it cost?
     As our illustrious 8-bit editor will tell you, the amount of time 
available to backup files is inversely proportinal to the importance of the
files needing backup.  Rick Reaser has spent hours and hours trying to recover
files that he could hae (should have?) backed up.  [Editor's Note: I resemble
that remark!! --RR]  Oh well!  Maybe Rick will find the answer to his needs in
the paragraphs that folow.  Each of the tested programs consists of a backup
program and a companin program to restore the backed up files to the source
disk.

FATBACK
     The first program I looked at was a public domain program called
FATBACK (and FATREST).  It can be fond on GEnie and CIS.  [Editor's Note: I 
couldn't find it on CIS, so I uploaded a copy myself.  --RR]  The price is
right--free.  At least I couldn't find any caveat for shareware in the DOC 
file.
     This program operates under the assumption that if something is going to
screw up on the hard drive, it will be the directories.  FATBACK reads the
boot sector, then creates a backup file containing only the directories/
subdirectories and the bit sector map.  The latest version 1.1 gives you a
speedier option to only beckup the directories, but since the companion
restore program gives you the optin of selectively restoring only the
directories, or even selectively restoring files directory by directory, it
only makes sense to do the full backup.  The time saved may not be worth it.
Restoratin of the bit sector map is not recommended by the author of the
program, however.
     When I tested this program, I restored the directories to a freshly
formatted, blank disk.  The restored disk was a duplicate of the original,
missing only the files themselves.  I was impressed!
     This is the program I plan to run after every session on my computer, just
before shutdown.  It's quick, it's easy, and why not take advantage of the
protectin it provides.  If more than a screwed up directory is causing me to
lose access to a file, very little time would be wasted, and the chance that
a directory rebuild will solve the program makes this a program of choice.
But note that it only works with SpartaDOS.

ALFBACK
     The second program I looked at is also public domain softwae available
on GEnie, called ALFBACK (and ALFREST).  Unlike FATBACK, this is a full 
backup program, saving both directories and files to the backup disks.  This
program formats the receiving disks, but only allows single-side choices,
and you can't pre-format disks to take advantae of any double-side capabilities
your hardware might provide.  That's the major disadvantage of this program.
     On the other side of the coin, the program has plenty of features that
make it a best buy for the money!  It splits files across disks, so you don't
waste space on the backup disks; allows you to selectively backup a 
subdirectory, or the entire disks of files; and allows you to selectively
restore a specific directory, even if you backed up the entire drive.  The 
files it saves to the backup disk are complete, and fully recoverable on a
file-by-file basis.  This is a distinct advantage then you need access to a 
single file, and could replace any need to maintain duplicate copies of 
favorite files, since the backup file acts as a complete duplicate of your
hard drive contents.
     When I tested this program I restored the compete disk of files to a
blank, formatted disk.  The restored disk was a compte duplicate of the
original--files, directories, subdirectories and all!  If this program had
more optins for formatting the backup disk, or allowed you to pre-format the
backup disk, it would be my choice for a no-cost backup program to use at 
least once a month, whether I needed to or not.  Note that this program, too,
only works with SpartaDOS!

FlashBack! by ICD
     Now we get into the commercial offerings.  FLASHBK (and RESTORE) is the 
backup program offered by ICD to support their MIO customers.  It's easy to
use, has a very good menu, is chock full of options, and is reasonably 
priced at $14.95.  This program will format the backup disks, but unlike
ALFBACK, it allows you to use pre-formatted disks if the selections don't
meet your needs.
     When I say it's chock full of options, I mean it.  This program provides
a menu with no fewer than three save optins: you can back up files according
to whether the archive bit indicates it was changed or modified since last
save; you can backup files according to whether they were created or changed
since a certain date; or you can do a complete back up of all files/
directories.
     Using the archive bit option or the file date option does have its
limitations, though; when you back up the source drive using one of these 
shortcut optins, you always add to the backup file.  In the event you ever
have to restore the drive contents, you are liable to restore even those files
that you previously deleted from the hard drive.  A selective file restore
capability helps you bypass unwanted files during the restoration activity,
but the restore then takes more time, and operator input is necessary to
indicate whether each file should be restored or not.
     A second limitation of using the archive or file date options is that if
the additional saved files overflow onto an additional backup disk, that disk
must be available already formatted--you can't use the program's format
capability in conjunction with these options.  FlashBack! will split files
across disks, and the files it saves are complete and separately copyable from
the backup disk file-by-file.
     When I tested this program, I restored a duplicate of the original to a 
blank formatted disk.  Like ALFBACK, the restored disk was a complete image
of the original.  This is a proven program from a first rate company.  Note:
works with SpartaDOS only!

Hard Drive (HD) Pro Backup by CSS
     The final program I tested is HD Pro Backup (BACKUP and RESTORE).  This 
copy-rotected program is a new offering from CSS to support their new Black
Box, and is truly the Cadillac of backup programs for the Atari 8-bit 
computer.  Completely menu driven, HD Pro Backup offers no fewer than four
types of backup, a complete choice of source and destination drives, a 
selection of paths to back up, a data compression optin (with and without
screen blanking for faster processing), and several options for printing out
a catalog for files processed.  However, all this glamour has its price.  For
instance, the user's manual clearly annonces, "You must use good diskettes. 
The backup files are not stored as DOS files, and the backup/restore programs
will not tolerate bad sectors on the floppy disks."  And in the discussion of
the compression option the manual warns you, "Use of data compression will
result in a space savings of approximately 30%, but will add substantially to
the program execution time."
     For me, the fact that individual files are not accessible from the backup
disk, as they ae with with ALFBACK and FLASHBACK, is a significant drawback to
this otherwise exceptional program, and as John Barnes discussed in one of his
fine articles, the low cost of floppies just doesn't make data compression,
and further lack of unaided access, worthwhile.  Also, the copy protection 
requires you be particularly careful not to accidently overwrite the disk like
I did during my testing.  But on an up key, this is one program that fully
supports MyDOS users!

Conclusions and Recommendations
     The accompanying table summarizes the most omportant features of the 
programs I have reviewed.  Having lost access to my hard drive while in the
middle of this project, I can personally attest to the value of accessing
individual files from the backup disks.  Until my hard drive comes back from
the repair shop, those backup disks are my primary source to selectively
rebuild a boot disk for what remains of my computer system.
     All four of the programs work as intended.  All four are easy to use,
although the programs that let you pre-format backup disks prove best for my
circumstances.  And the freeware status of FATBACK and ALFBACK certainly make
them attractive to frugal enthusiasts like me.
     All in all, I think a combinatin of FATBACK, and either ALFBACK or
FlashBack! is the bet approach for SpartaDOS users.  Back up your directories
at the end of every ession using FATBACK; then do a full backup with ALFBACK
or a full, archive, or file date backup with FlashBack! once a week, or once
a month, whichever is best for you.  For you MyDOS users, HD Pro Backup is
surely the only way to go.
     [Editor's Note: HDBACKUP is on both GEnie (File #3303) and CompuServe
(HDREST.COM and HDBACK.COM).  If someone out there has gotten this program to
work, please contact John Sandgren or me.  Maybe we're just dense or 
something.  BTW, our copy was downloaded from GEnie. --RR]

Table 1: A Comparison of Program Features

Features               FB   AB   FB   HD
SpartaDOS Compatible    Y    Y    Y    Y
MyDOS Compatible        N    N    N    Y
Formats disks           N    Y    Y    Y
Copy directories        Y    Y    Y    Y
Copy subdirectories     Y    Y    Y    Y
Copy files              N    Y    Y    Y
Split files           N/A    Y    Y    Y
Use archive bit       N/A    N    Y    Y
Use file date         N/A    N    Y    Y
Compress files        N/A    N    N    Y
Menu driven             N    N    Y    Y
Author rating           B    B    A    A
Price                  $0   $0  $15  $55
Source(s):
FB = FATBACK: GEnie, #3299; CIS, FATBACK.ARC; public domain.
AB = ALFBACK: GEnie, #3270; CIS, ALFBACK.ARC; public domain.
FB = FlashBack!: ICD, Inc., 1220 Rock Street, Rockford, IL 61101-1437.  Phone:
                 (815) 968-2228.  $14.95.
HD = HD Pro Backup: Computer Software Services (CSS), P.O. Box 17660, 
                    Rochester, NY 14617.  Phone: (716) 429-5639.
                    $49.95 + $5 s/h.
-- 
         Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp
Carleton College, Northfield, MN, USA / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700





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