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Don Lee

New Windows user wants advice

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ProFromGrover has made this reply to my OP in the "Product Suggestions—Windows" thread.  I would have preferred that he had made that post in this thread, since IMHO his reply has more to do with the "Windows Console" app's desirability than feasibility.  However I can see arguments both ways as to in which Forum he should have posted his reply, so I have replied to his reply there.

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I get a summary feed of topics posted, and when I clicked the link it took me to this thread, so I replied to your post in the forum where it was originally posted. I'm puzzled that you think I should have replied to your post in a different forum.

 

Be that as it may, good luck on trying to persuade Retrospect to resurrect an admin tool they've already abandoned, and one that puts them at a competitive disadvantage. If you sell software, you will be aware that browser based or tablet based interfaces are demanded my most SMB outfits these days, to the point that I've been involved in demoing software that was immediately dismissed from contention because it did not have a browser interface.

 

Programming resources are precious and expensive, and when I watched the VM admin video it was immediately clear to me that this was well designed and that Retrospect had done an excellent job of transferring the administration tools to a browser. They may not decide to make this the single admin tool that it could be. I'm not privy to their decision making process.

 

But I would much rather see a move to that interface than a retread of a program developed in 2006.

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ProFromGrover, IMHO which of the two proposed interfaces a Retrospect Windows administrator will want to move to depends on the nature of his/her installation.

 

For you folks who haven't had a chance to read the Feature Request thread I started, I'll briefly recap it for you.  My post #1 was an expansion of what I stated in the first and second paragraphs of post #25 in this thread.  ProFromGrover countered in post #2 of that thread with a presentation of Retrospect Virtual, centered around this YouTube video—which is linked to from this page of the Retrospect.com website..  I pointed out in post #3 of that thread that the Virtual Host Server for Retrospect Virtual, which is essentially an adaption of the Retrospect.exe "backup server" app (although the video refers to it as a "client"), must be run within a virtual machine manager—a fact clearly stated within the first minute of the YouTube video linked-to in the sentence preceding this one within this paragraph.  It is also stated within the first minute of the video that the Virtual Management Console for Retrospect Virtual, which is IMHO a fancy re-implementation of the Retrospect Mac Console described in the third paragraph of post #18 in this thread, can run on either on a physical machine or virtual machine—which doesn't have to be run by the same virtual machine manager the Virtual Host Server is installed in.

 

What makes the Virtual Management Console for Retrospect Virtual fancy is that it has a Web browser interface, as pointed out by ProFromGrover in post #27 of this thread.  What makes it feasible on Windows, as I also point out in the first paragraph of post #3 in the Feature Request thread, is that it does an "end run" around the security features added to Windows Vista—because they apparently don't apply to communications between a process running in a virtual machine manager and a process running on another (or the same) Windows machine (virtual or hardware).  OTOH the separate user-space GUI app similar to the Console app in Retrospect Mac—which I proposed in post #1 of the Features Request thread—could undoubtedly also be given a Web browser interface, and it wouldn't require that Retrospect.exe be run in a virtual machine manager—only that the Console and Retrospect.exe be run on separate machines.

 

So you long-suffering Retrospect Windows administrators are faced with three choices: [1] Live with Retrospect Windows as is, with the kludges described in posts #1 through #15 of this thread.  [2]  Go with Retrospect Virtual, and install your Virtual Host Server(s) within virtual machine managers.  [3]  Go with the Retrospect Windows Console I proposed in post #1 of the Feature Request thread—assuming it is developed, and accept that the Retrospect Windows Console must be run on a machine separate from the machine(s) your Retrospect.exe "backup server" app(s) is/are running on.

 

Over to you, Retrospect Windows administrators, for discussion.  One caution, though: Please, please—for the sake of this thread's existence—do not discuss any other characteristics of Retrospect Virtual here.  As I pointed out in the third paragraph of post #3 in the Feature Request thread, almost 3 months ago I had a single-post thread deleted from both the "Windows Products—Retrospect -> Professional" and the "Retrospect 9 or higher for Macintosh" forum.  The e-mail accompanying the deletion, from support@retrospect.com, said "Posting anything about Retrospect Virtual is totally off topic from the topic in the Retrospect forum."  (I think that was Support's excuse for deleting the thread; I think the real reason was that I had used a strong but non-obscene verb describing what the User's Guide committee had done.)  I will only note here that as of nearly 3 months since documentation for Retrospect Virtual appeared on this website: [a] no announcement of Retrospect Virtual has appeared in the Latest News forum; the YouTube video linked-to in the second paragraph of this post was narrated by someone other than Mayoff—the video-creating expert at Retrospect Inc.; [c] the Retrospect Virtual documentation posted on this website seems very preliminary IMHO; [d] (most important IMHO) no Retrospect Virtual discussion Forum has been established.  My nose, tuned by 40 years of experience working for a number of large and small organizations, says there's some high-level political sensitivity within Retrospect Inc.—probably related to marketing questions—about Retrospect Virtual.  Let's keep discussion in this thread confined to whether or not you would use Retrospect Virtual in your installation.

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FYI, here is another YouTube video—entitled "R... V...: Technical Training"—that showed up (along with other YouTube videos) on the right-hand of my YouTube Web page when I viewed the video linked-to in the second paragraph of post #28 in this thread.  I have only viewed the first few minutes of this video, for reasons explained in the paragraph below.

 

Warning: fortify yourself with copious amounts of caffeine before viewing the "R... V...: Technical Training" video.  It is a bit over an hour long, and appears to be a screen video with accompanying audio of a presentation made by a R... Support engineer to other R... I.... people (and possibly allied outsiders)—probably technical salespeople.  If you can stay awake, it's probably even more informative than the linked-to "Demo" video.

 

A certain organization may not be too happy about the "Technical Training" video being viewed by ordinary administrators.  However I do not have the "seekrit spy" edition of Firefox or Safari; this video just showed up as available to view when I viewed the "Demo" video with my ordinary edition of Firefox.  I'm only posting a link to it because IMHO the "Demo" video does not provide administrators enough info to properly evaluate choice [2] in the fourth paragraph of post #28 in this thread.

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The Mac console code may be "common" and might compile and run on Windows, or it may be very Mac-specific and be a ton of work to port. I certainly don't know.

 

If the former, it might be pretty easy to get the Windows "console" going. I think that would be a significant feature/improvement.

 

If the latter, it may be not worth the substantial trouble.

 

It is interesting, though, that the engine on BOTH platforms runs the same "communications" machinery, even though on Windows it is almost completely unused. Odd, but interesting….

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In response to my Support Case for the Feature Request, I received a couple of replies from Jeff—probably Jeff McIntire the Lead Support Engineer.

 

Here follows the reply I can fully share with you, a response to my discussion of iCompute's original problem:

 

>... If he had chosen not to enable the Launcher, but to just run Retrospect Windows _continuously_ in his user account, he could have continued to do things as he does with Retrospect Mac—where the Engine normally runs continuously.

 

"The issue doesn't necessarily have to do with the launcher service being on or off, its really more based on whether or not the UI is left open or not.

If Retrospect is left opened and minimized, there is no need to auto-launch since it is already launched. We usually suggest locking the desktop in these scenarios, instead of logging off as logging off will kill the Retrospect.exe process.

If Retrospect is set to autolaunch, and the UI is not opened when a scheduled script needs to run we will launch in the background. Even if the user is logged in, and Retrospect is set to launch as that user, the UI is hidden. After a job finishes, Retrospect will remain running in the background if there is another script scheduled to run within the 'look ahead' time, which by default is 12 hours. There is a bug where the Dashboard application is not popping up automatically in the case that a user tries to launch Retrospect when it is in the background. Instead a message that says something to the effect of 'Retrospect is already running as another user, click OK to relaunch'. This dialog box currently broken, and its only displayed due to a bug ( one we have had for years sadly), but will be fixed in our next update.

The new behavior, following the upcoming update, will include the Dashboard app automatically launching any time Retrospect is running in the background. I've also requested that there be a short explanation available to the user to explain what is going on, and how to use the dashboard, we'll see if it makes it in." 

 

>The other thing Retrospect Inc. should do ASAP is to put the above info into the Retrospect Windows User's Guide. A Knowledge Base article would be nice, but IMHO not sufficient.

 

"We have a TON of things that need to go into the User's guide. This probably will be less urgent when we fix the Dashboard bug. (So the dashboard pops up automatically when Retro is running in the background). As you can imagine, the support team would be thrilled to get a real User's guide update. When we do update the guide, it will be a large update comprising of many changes, new screenshots, removal of components that are no longer a part of Retrospect, etc..."

 

Here follows the reply I am not quite fully sharing with you (because I think it unwise for certain information to be displayed to Retrospect Inc.'s competitors), a response to iCompute's discovery and my Feature Request:

 

"At the time the new Mac console was being released, it was designed to communicate with the Windows engine. I was doing QA work back then, and spent good amount of time testing it. There were problems (there always are) but for the most part it worked just fine.


Yes, there are mechanisms for interprocess communication in the Windows engine. Unfortunately the current UI is tied to the engine in a way that is very difficult to disconnect (A gross oversimplification, forgive me). Doing so would be nearly as much work as re-writing the entire UI. So we are doing that instead.
 

We have a UI overhaul in the works for both the Windows and Mac platforms, currently scheduled for .... The new UI will leverage the IPC scaffolding we already have in the engine today and should solve a lot of the autolaunch issues that some customers encounter on the Windows platform."

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By now you have probably all received an e-mail from Retrospect Inc. that says "Also available is our new product: R... V..., designed for managed service providers (MSPs) to protect VMware and Hyper-V environments."  I think that explains the "high-level political sensitivity within Retrospect Inc.—probably related to marketing questions" I mentioned in the last paragraph of post #28 in this thread.  So Retrospect Inc. doesn't think R... V... is fit for discussion by us non-MSP administrators, but I don't see how they expect to handle problems with it without a user-to-user Forum.

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What I find rather disheartening, under the first bolded heading in post #31 in this thread, is Jeff's admission in his third and fourth paragraphs.  He says "There is a bug where the Dashboard application is not popping up automatically in the case that a user tries to launch Retrospect when it is in the background. Instead a message that says something to the effect of 'Retrospect is already running as another user, click OK to relaunch'."  He then admits that this is a bug in Retrospect Windows that has existed for years.

 

Jeff is not exaggerating, folks.  I did an Advanced Search in Retrospect Products—Windows for the phrase "Retrospect is already running in" ("Retrospect is already running as" didn't return any results, and "Retrospect is already running" returned too many results).  I found a thread started in October 2013, in which this January 2014 post and the succeeding ones are of particular interest.  The "totally useless little monitor window" that dzeleznik is talking about in that post is obviously the message that Jeff was talking about in the preceding paragraph of this post.  The same Advanced Search also turned up this post by Mayoff in a November 2012 thread.  

 

To be fair, even the later of those two threads thread is talking about Retrospect Windows 8.5, and the Dashboard (second bulleted item in this section of the old Wikipedia article)—as stand-alone app (last sentence in the second bulleted item) or as part of Retrospect.exe—was not introduced until Retrospect Windows 9.  However, I'd hope that someone at Retrospect Inc. would have done enough testing in 2013-2014 to make sure the "totally useless little monitor window" had really been eliminated in Retrospect Windows 9.

 

The moral of this story, IMHO, is that we should all keep "banging Retrospect Inc. over the head" with Support Cases.  Don't rely on Mayoff to spot a Retrospect bug in your Forums post and pass it on to the engineers, especially since Mayoff seems to no longer have time to read the Forums at all.  If you report a "bug" that turns out not to be one, let someone at Retrospect Support exercise his/her fingers by writing an e-mail that says "This is expected behavior."  Sometimes it won't be expected behavior, and a bug that might otherwise stick around for years has a chance of being fixed promptly.

 

P.S.:  Moved the first sentence of the third paragraph to the end of the second paragraph, and changed the new first sentence of the third paragraph to say that both of the linked-to threads were talking about versions prior to Retrospect Windows 9.

 

P.P.S.: Note that, in the earlier post linked to in the last sentence of the second paragraph, Mayoff says "Engine and console separation is still planned."

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Changed link in first sentence of third prgf. to old version of WP article

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David,

 

I agree that there are some annoyances in the Windows Retrospect version, and I'm now on 12.1.  The Dashboard could be improved for sure.

 

The "Retrospect is already in use" message has a fairly direct workaround.  Simply run services.msc as an administrator, and stop the Retrospect Launcher service.  Then run Retrospect to make desired changes, exit the program and start the service again.

 

All this message really means is that the service is running, and the program is working and is prepared to launch the next backup.

 

I'm sure there's a way to run this all from the command line too.

 

I prefer to use the Dashboard | Relaunch sequence of commands because I don't want to accidentally interrupt a backup. Stopping the service will kill running jobs.  Using Relaunch will kill running jobs, but at least I'll see on the Dashboard that a job is running.

 

No, I don't like being forced to do this and I would like to see it get fixed, but in the grand scheme of things I can deal with it.

 

Mark

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You should be sitting down before you read this.

 

In response to my Support Case for the Feature Request, I received a couple of replies from Jeff—probably Jeff McIntire the Lead Support Engineer.

 

Here follows the reply I can fully share with you, a response to my discussion of iCompute's original problem:

 

....

 

....

....

If Retrospect is set to autolaunch, and the UI is not opened when a scheduled script needs to run we will launch in the background. Even if the user is logged in, and Retrospect is set to launch as that user, the UI is hidden. After a job finishes, Retrospect will remain running in the background if there is another script scheduled to run within the 'look ahead' time, which by default is 12 hours. There is a bug [my emphasis] where the Dashboard application is not popping up automatically in the case that a user tries to launch Retrospect when it is in the background. Instead a message that says something to the effect of 'Retrospect is already running as another user, click OK to relaunch'. This dialog box currently broken, and its only displayed due to a bug ( one we have had for years sadly) [my emphasis], but will be fixed in our next update.

The new behavior, following the upcoming update, will include the Dashboard app automatically launching any time Retrospect is running in the background. I've also requested that there be a short explanation available to the user to explain what is going on, and how to use the dashboard, we'll see if it makes it in." 

 

....

 

The Release Notes for Retrospect Windows 12.5 include the following items:

  • Improved  Retrospect Dashboard has a new icon to differentiate it from the Retrospect application
  • Improved  Retrospect Dashboard launches when Retrospect is already running in Session 0 and includes explanatory message
  • Improved  Retrospect Dashboard's "Relaunch Retrospect" button displays an alert message when there is an execution running
  • Improved  Retrospect Dashboard includes improved media request text

Once you have recovered from your probable dead faint, you may rise from your chair and resume your regular occupation.

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