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Christophers Napkin Sketch by Al Gleichman

In the Trenches with LAROKE

Konsultant's Log, Cyberdate 06.07.1997 (a "Breach-birth" tape drive installation)

    Situation Report
    Take Charge And Move Out
    United States of America
    Mission Report
Previous Nemesis Articles:

Cyberdate 03.29.1997 A Windows 95 Installation Adventure

Later Nemesis Articles:

Cyberdate 03.17.1998 Murphy is my co-pilot

Other Sources:

Backups and Disaster Recovery Describes the importance of backups including how to do them, how to set up a backup program, and what to do in the event of a disaster. This page is from "The PC Guide."


Iomega Corporation Ditto tape drives

Microsoft Corporation Windows 95

Quarterdeck Corporation Cleansweep


SITREP: My client, whose system we upgraded in Installment #4, Cyberdate 03.29.1997 (A Windows 95 Installation Adventure), was ready to get a tape drive for backups. His sporadic data backups on floppy disks were getting tedious, or maybe he was tired of hearing me pontificate about LAROKE's cardinal rule. Whatever the reason, he was ready to take the next step in backup technology.

When I visit a client's home or business and "major surgery" is indicated for their PC, I do a complete backup of their hard drive first for safety's sake. I keep a "traveling" tape drive in my toolbox "just for such occasions" as Foghorn Leghorn might remark. I had recently upgraded this tape drive from an Iomega Ditto Easy 800 to a Ditto 2 GB model. Although the Easy 800 was still "low-mileage", the upgrade made sense due to the greater capacity requirements I am beginning to encounter at client sites. Since this client's hard drive was a little over 500 MB, the Easy 800 would be a good starter drive for him.

This drive still had a lot of life in it, but it would just gather dust in my possession, until the march of technology outdistanced it so much that only a hard-bitten hobbyist would want it anymore (say another six months!). I offered to sell it to my client at a nominal cost, and he agreed. We setup the installation for the following Sunday.

TACAMO: Saturday arrived, and my client called my office to inquire about my whereabouts. I was thinking Sunday, and he was thinking Saturday. This sort of mixup used to happen when I worked for him as an architect. Architects are like that with each other. If someone were to ask me the names of the two greatest living architects, I wouldn't be able to recall that other joker's name.

At any rate, there was no harm done. I loaded up "Renegade", my jeep, and headed for his location. I thought this visit would take about a hour. Wrong again!

When I arrived, I started the installation "by the numbers". This sequence would lead to problems. The Iomega Ditto Easy 800 external drive is a brick-shaped, brick-colored object with a tape slot on the front and a power connector and male and female parallel ports on the back. You disconnect your printer cable (if you have one) from your PC's LPT1 port and connect it to the back of the Ditto "brick". Next, you connect the Iomega supplied parallel port cable to the Ditto drive and the just vacated LPT1 port. finally, you connect the power cable to the Ditto drive and plug the transformer at the other end of the power cable into a wall outlet or (preferably) a surge protector. If the power is live (switched-on), the drive will make annoying sounds for a few seconds. This is normal, unfortunately, and a characteristic of all QIC technology tape drives.

When Windows 95 was installed on this machine, we performed a complete backup prior to the installation using my new Ditto 2 GB drive. After the installation, the Ditto backup software (DOS version) was removed from the PC. A month later I went back to this location, Installed the Windows 95 version of the Ditto 2 GB drive software, and performed a complete backup again. After the backup, I discovered that the Ditto backup software did not have an uninstallation option, so I had to leave it on my client's PC.

I had tossed Quarterdeck's CleanSweep uninstallation software into my toolbox this time to uninstall the Ditto 2 GB drive software before installing the Ditto Easy 800 software. Having connected the Ditto "brick", the PC was started, and the CleanSweep CD placed in the CD-ROM drive.

The Windows 95 "Run" command could not find the CleanSweep Setup program (or any other files on the CD, for that matter). Trying to access the CD-ROM drive with "Windows Explorer" did little, except to cause the CD-ROM drive to produce unpleasant noises we had not heard from it before. My client told me the drive had worked normally just the day before.

OK. That's a good place to start troubleshooting. We replaced the Cleansweep CD with the CD that was in the drive the previous day, Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia, and tried to activate the program. It didn't work which ruled out a bad CD as the culprit.

Next, I went to the Windows 95 device manager. I expected to find a disabled CD-ROM drive, and was surprised instead to find it completely MISSING! In addition, there was the tape drive which I hadn't expected to see because Windows 95 had not displayed any new hardware messages during bootup. "Wot the heck?" My client is sitting beside me with a completely baffled look. I too am baffled, but as the "expert", cannot afford to luxury of displaying my "bafflement".

It seemed that everything had been working before I connected the Ditto drive, so I shut the machine down, disconnected the power cable from the back of the Ditto and restarted the PC. This did not effect any improvement. The PC was shut down again, and this time the parallel cable between the tape drive and the LPT1 port was removed from the Ditto drive. Restarting the computer gave no joy. I turned off the computer again. The parallel cable that I had disconnected from the tape drive was still attached to the PC's LPT1 port. At a complete loss for anything better to try, I removed the "parallel cable to nowhere" from the LPT1 port and rebooted the PC. The CD-ROM drive was back!

I was befuddled, but happy, a step up from baffled and panicky. Determined to lose no more time at this point, CleanSweep was installed and the Ditto 2 GB drive software uninstalled in short order. A sneaking suspicion was beginning to dawn on me that the problems might disappear right along with the 2 GB backup program. CleanSweep was uninstalled and the computer shut down again.

We reconnected all the Ditto drive's cables and restarted the PC with our fingers crossed. As Windows 95 loaded, it discovered the "New Tape Drive" hardware and installed generic QIC (Quarter Inch Cartridge) drivers for it. The CD-ROM drive was still OK! The next step was to install the older Ditto Easy 800 software.

The Ditto software installation is quick and simple. For a Windows 95 installation, you place the first of two diskettes in drive A: and choose the "Run" command from the "Start" menu. Type "A:\SETUP" in the Run command and click the "OK" button. Put diskette two in drive A: when prompted, and in a couple of minutes you're done. Iomega went to great pains to make the Ditto software user-friendly, and in the majority of the installations, it works wonderfully. In the other installations, the "great pains" are yours. We had just experienced the "painful" variety. After performing a small sample backup to make sure everything was performing properly, we were finished.

MISREP: My "gut feeling" is that the Ditto 2 GB software was just intelligent enough to plunge us into deep trouble. I can't get a better feeling for the problem because Iomega ships the Ditto drives and software with minimal documentation. There are no manuals. If it works the first time, great. If it doesn't, you're out in the open during a hailstorm. If I had loaded CleanSweep first and uninstalled the Ditto 2 GB software, this afternoon's headbanger would never have happened. This kind of incompatibility dilemma is not likely to turn up on a "single-user" machine, but it indicates (at least in this example) that once installed, the Ditto software only wants to see one type of device connected to the parallel port. This is unacceptable for a "portable" device. I will have to be careful in the future to always carry CleanSweep with the Ditto drive when I visit client sites. Leaving the Ditto software on their machines between visits could cause untold problems. This seems one more unnecessary complication in a world filled with small spirit-killers like three-prong plugs and parking meters that won't take pennies.

Enough ranting (you didn't hear me say I would stop using the Ditto, or recommending it to clients now, did you). I feel better now. Next installment I'll khronicle the Karnage inflicted on the office network when the storm front that flattened Jarrell, Texas passed over South Florida later that night.


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Issued Saturday, June 7, 1997

Updated Monday March 30, 1998

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