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derekryan

Any VXA users on Mac OS X?

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I am currently using Retrospect on OS X with DAT DDS-4 making archives to tapes and erasing data from the server. I am looking for something newer and better as lately I had some issues with tapes being not recognized by different drive. I have to backup on one drive and be able to retrieve older files on another drive (because I am doing archives in the same time as someone needs to retrieve something). I learned that, this is due to head to tape aligment issues. What's worst DDS, AIT and DLT are built on the same (linear tracks) technology and I found that VXA drives are designed to use packets instead of linear tracks and don'r have misaligned heads to tape problems. Since I used DDS for years (11 years) and I am not familiar with VXA drives my question is - how many of you guys use VXA drives with OS X and Retrospect? Do you have any problems with it? Do you like it?

 

 

Derek Lambert

Litho-Art Inc.

Prepress Manager

212-242-7650 x.116

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I use a VXA-1 Packet Tape Drive with FireWire to back up quite a number of machines where I work. I first bought one about three or four years ago and, unfortunately, it developed a fault, but it was replaced without any problem and I've been using this one now ever since. I've never replaced the tapes I originally bought and they still seem to be performing well. The drive itself is built like a tank and apart from putting a cleaning tape through it, that's it. The 33GB tapes that this model uses, for me anyway, don't have enough capacity now. Up to 66GB compressed is quoted for these, but I only ever get the native capacity of about 33GB.

 

The biggest problem I've had is with OS X and the FireWire connection. The G3 iMac that I use only intermittently was able to see the VXA drive and I couldn't track down what the problem was. From what I read it seemed to be more of a problem with Apple's FireWire than the VXA drive or Retrospect. I've only been able to solve the problem by connecting the VXA through a LaCie external hard drive which is acting like a FireWire hub. It now works fine, but I really have no idea what the cause of the problem was.

 

I can only really say, now that everything has settled down, that it's proved to be reliable and you'll know yourself, using Retrospect, that it's pretty straightforward to use.

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Hi Thermo,

 

To follow up your statement I would agree that the firewire problems were probably caused by the ports on the mac. Not the VXA drive.

 

Thanks

Nate

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I use a VXA-1 firewire with a Dual 1 GHz MDD G4, for the last two years. Most of the time the drive works great. I have had a few problems, mostly with the drive losing communication with Retrospect in unusual circumstances. Applying the most recent firmware update, V11101, solved this. Exabyte's support has been terrific.

 

According to the firmware history, my problem was fixed in the firmware in V11100, 4/14/04. I have experienced this problem twice in two years--the first occurrence was in Feb 2004.

 

Sample backup speeds with hardware compression on a recent backup with a newly recycled tape, as reported in the Retrospect log:

 

/Library: 34155 files, 825.9 MB, 123.1 MB/minute (128.0 copy, 118.5 compare)

 

/Applications: 77246 files, 3.4 GB, 154.6 MB/minute (154.8 copy, 154.3 compare)

 

/Users: 28087 files, 3.6 GB , 138.4 MB/minute (143.7 copy, 133.4 compare)

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Forgive me if this has already been asked and answered, but how do you find the device name for a VXA-2 (Firewire) backup device? I need to upgrade its firmware using the VXA tool from Exabyte, and the tool requires the device name. I looked in /dev, but there's nothing obvious there.

 

Is the name available somewhere within Retrospect? (Using version 6 on an XServe 10.3, latest software & drivers)

 

Thanks

 

Matt

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If there is only one VXA on your system, the "device name" for vxatool is "Tape1". Try

 

"vxaTool -help"

for more information, and examples.

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It's not case sensitive. Make sure you have the latest vxaTool from Exabyte, that might make a difference. Also if the VXA firewire has been shut off since the last reboot of the Mac, you need to turn it on, wait for it to show the "ready" light, then disconnect and reconnect the firewire cable. This allows the Mac to recognize the tape drive on the firewire bus.

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On the whole I liked using VXA-1 tape drives, but did have some issues. I sometimes have problems getting the VXA unit recognised, but a reboot with the device turned on always works. I did have some hardware issues with the VXA drive over the years, but Ecrix were very responsive about getting the unit repaired. I do recommend staying away from SCSI -- it can be hard to find a supported SCSI card that plays well with your operating system, computer, and tape unit.

 

(Currently most of my backups are to external firewire drives. The VXA-1 unit is seldom used, too small now!)

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We just started using an Exabyte VXA-2 PacketLoader 1x10 1U (SCSI with network interface) on our new Xserve G5 running Mac OS X 10.4.2. Works fine, very fast, but I will say that the Retrospect installation was anything but turnkey, and required lots of script editing, etc., that shouldn't have been needed on such a vanilla installation as ours, to get the mail notifications working and service shutdowns and then startup after copies were made of the server while the services were quiet. But that's unrelated to VXA. Only oddity is that, every time the server is rebooted (because we are still going through the usual new server installation stuff), Retrospect forgets that the tape drive and autoloader are attached, and you have to manually rescan the devices to get them to reappear so that subsequent scheduled backups won't fail. Can't even script this with Retrospect because Retrospect device rescans aren't scriptable. But that's the only strangeness that we have seen (other than the usual Retrospect crashes that have been fixed by appropriate selectors and by the new driver update).

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To get a firewire VXA-1 recognized without rebooting:

 

1. Power up the VXA

2. After the blue led comes on, disconnect and reconnect the firewire cable for the VXA.

3. Start Retrospect.

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Simply a follow-up for completeness: when we ordered our Xserve G5 it had the standard BTO Apple dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI option (LSI Logic 22320 SCSI card that is an option on the AppleStore Xserve order site). We replaced that card with an ATTO UL4D dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI card, and all of the SCSI problems disappeared. So the need to manually rescan devices after a reboot wasn't a Retrospect problem after all. Just to correct the record.

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