Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tapeware update hassles

A friend of mine uses Tapeware to backup his server to tapes. The software was bundled with the tape drive (Certance/Seagate 40GB IDE) and because it looked quite ok we went ahead and installed it. For some months now it has been running more or less smoothly, however once in a while it told me about a corrupted tape/file database (where it stores where which version of each file is placed on the tapes). If that happens, you have two choices: restore the last backup of the database from tape or take the backup service down and have it repaired via a somewhat lenghty process.

Three days ago it complained about a broken database again. I do not know what happens to corrupt it, because ususally the server just sits there, handing out files and database connections and backing up during the night when there are no clients. When I tried to restore the last backup of the database from tape it did not even let me open the restore menu (because of the corrupted database(!)), so I had to go through the repair process. This involves taking the service down, editing a config file, starting the client program on the server, wait, wait, wait, restart the service, and go over all the settings just to make sure.

While waiting on the repair process I surfed the net, looking for possible causes of the corruptions. I found a service pack release (7D) of TapeWare. The release notes contained something about resolved bugs that would cause database corruption, so I thought it would be worth a try and downloaded the installer.

It installed right away, no error messages or warnings at all, and when it was finished the About-dialog proudly presented the new version number. Everything seemed just fine, so I left with a feeling of success...

...until the next morning when I logged in from remote and had a look at the logfile. There it told me that the backup had failed, because "Tapeware could not get exclusive access to the device". Looking more closely I found a yellow exclamation mark on the streamer device's icon that definitely had not been there the night before. Every attempt I made to get it away was unsuccessful. I stopped and started the service, tried the database repair and finally even rebooted the machine, all to no avail. All entries in Yosemite-Tech's knowledge base just suggested to remove the streamer from the Windows device manager and have it re-detected, but I could not even see it there, just in the Tapeware GUIs devices section. Maybe that's be different for SCSI devices... However, in the end I decided to reinstall the damn thing. I made copies of the database subfolder and the Tapeware.Ini file (that contains the serial number) and started the uninstaller. Of course, to my great pleasure, this required another reboot... Finally I ran the service pack installer, without installing from the CD before. When it was finished (oh, no reboot here!) the streamer was working again. I just had to move back the saved database subfolder and my scheduled backup jobs reappeared, too. Now I will cross my fingers and wait until tomorrow to see if the backup job completes ok.

In the end I just feel my reservations against Windows as a server confirmed again. There are just too many things that you can neither understand, nor are there the appropriate tools to diagnose problems. But of course this is just what you have to cope with when you depend on specialized applications that are not available for Linux.

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