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DavidHertzberg

Create a separate user-space GUI app similar to the Console app in Retrospect Mac

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This suggestion is an offshoot of this thread in "Windows Products—Retrospect->Professional", which I shall henceforth refer to as the "New Windows user" thread.  It is motivated by iCompute's astounding revelation in post #21 (posts beginning with #21 are on page 2 of the "New Windows user" thread) : "I have a Mac laptop, with a copy of the Mac Retro 'console' on it. Just 'cuz, I fired up the console, and lo and behold, it *works* on the WINDOWS Retro server. As far as I can tell, I get the full function of the Mac engine/console via the Mac console when operating/controlling the Windows Retro server."  

 

In the fourth paragraph of post #22 in the "New Windows user" thread, I belatedly realized that we shouldn't consider iCompute's revelation quite so astounding, because what is now known as the Retrospect for iOS app has been working—connected to a Retrospect Windows "backup server" as well as a Retrospect Mac "backup server"—since 2010.  This means that the "engine side" of Retrospect.exe retains the capability of exchanging messages with another app—even if that app is not the Retrospect Launcher.  In post #23, after doing some inferences based on an 18 January 2007 article in The Register by Ashlee Vance, I concluded "My guess is that the Retrospect engineers simply left the code for interprocess communication in Retrospect Windows 7.5 and following, where it has remained ever since—ready for iCompute to activate its inter-machine capability with a Retrospect Mac Console."  So creating a separate Windows user-space GUI app similar to the Console app in Retrospect Mac seems feasible, so long as the GUI app is run on a different Windows machine from the "backup server" Engine—as is allowed for Server editions of Retrospect Mac.

 

What makes this suggested app desirable is the discussion on page 1 of the "New Windows user" thread.  iCompute, an experienced Retrospect Mac administrator faced with his first Retrospect Windows installation, was especially flummoxed by the fact that the Retrospect.exe app stops any running scripts cold if he logs off—unlike the Retrospect Mac Engine app if you quit the Console app.  Guided by ProFromGrover, he discovered that the Retrospect Dashboard.exe app is a way to work around this problem, which I had explained in post #2 is a consequence—along with the need for the Retrospect Launcher Windows service—of security features added to Windows Vista and beyond.

 

What makes this suggested app seem practicable with a reasonable amount of Retrospect Inc. engineering effort is a further inference from the Ashlee Vance article, stemming from the fourth paragraph of post #23 in the "New Windows user" thread.  It is that by December 2006 the EMC Insignia engineers had made significant progress in developing a Windows, as well as a Mac, version of the separate Console app.  If this inference is correct, and the source code for that Windows Console was saved, it should be possible to update that source code with the fixes that were made to the Retrospect Mac Console in later point releases of Retrospect Mac 8 and later versions of Retrospect Mac.  There is a caveat: the resulting Retrospect Windows Console app would, barring extensive modifications, use the Retrospect Mac Console GUI—although it would be fairly easy to change the terminology within the GUI back to the terminology of Retrospect Windows.

 

What makes this suggested app seem more desirable is that, based on what other administrators have posted on page 1 of the "New Windows user" thread, the combination of the old Retrospect GUI and the limitations imposed with Windows Vista makes using Retrospect Windows a kludge-filled mess compared to using Retrospect Mac.  That's clearly why iCompute wrote at the end of post #21 "Way back when I posted this thread, I had no idea this would work. Turns out that it does. I hope it's supported. ;->"  I think that, after reading 1.3 screen pages in the third bulleted item in this section of the old Wikipedia article, administrators running a Server edition of Retrospect Windows will use the proposed Retrospect Windows Console app—and bless Retrospect Inc. engineers for developing it.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Wikipedia article has been significantly re-edited, but old version was saved

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David,

 

Although this may be or may have been a fine UI, I think the chances of Retrospect resurrecting it is none out of a possible million. I'll bet just about anything that this is the Retrospect admin tool of the future for all platforms.

 

https://youtu.be/Q3lLRQjnbl8

 

I expect this interface to be the only admin tool in coming versions, replacing everything we have now.

 

Mark

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What ProFromGrover fails to appreciate, IMHO, is that the admin tool he talks about in post #2 only works if you're running the Retrospect Virtual equivalent of the Retrospect.exe "backup server"—called the Retrospect Virtual Host Server—in some variety of virtual machine manager.  Doing it that way does an "end run" around the problem briefly described in the second sentence of the second paragraph (the one directly below the bulleted items) of this section of the old Wikipedia article, because the security features added to Windows Vista apparently don't apply to communications between a process running in a virtual machine manager and a process running on another Windows machine (virtual or hardware)—namely the Retrospect Virtual Management Console.

 

How about all the Retrospect Windows administrators who can't afford either the expense or the time to execute this "end run"?  If Retrospect Inc. chooses to say to such administrators "Sorry, but you're not part of the future—so we won't do anything to ease the kludginess described in the 'New Windows user' thread", then so be it.  But I don't think that will help the reputation of the Retrospect software.  And how about Retrospect Mac administrators, whose installations I think typically don't run all their apps in virtual machines?  As described in the fourth paragraph of post #18 in the "New Windows user" thread, Retrospect Mac administrators don't have the kludginess faced by Retrospect Windows administrators—so why should they want to get their installations to switch to the "Retrospect admin tool of the future for all platforms"?

 

BTW, both ProFromGrover and I may be skating on thin ice by referring to Retrospect Virtual in any way.  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 the real problem Retrospect Support had with my single-post thread was that—in its main topic of discussing something done to the Retrospect Mac 14 and Retrospect Windows 12 User's Guides (my reference to Retrospect Virtual was just a passing speculation on where the UG committee had been spending its time)—my post used a verb derived from the name of the East Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in 455 C.E., but we'd better be careful.  Therefore I will simply refer readers to this Retrospect Inc. website page, which links to documentation—as well as (higher in the web page) to the YouTube video linked to in post #2—that seems very preliminary IMHO.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Wikipedia article has been significantly re-edited, but old version was saved

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As stated in this post in the "New Windows user" thread, I have now received a reply from Retrospect Support to the Support Case I created for my product suggestion from post #1 in this thread.

 

Under the first bolded one-sentence heading in that "New Windows user" post, I quote what the Support person Jeff says about the problems iCompute reported in posts #1 through #15 in the "New Windows user" thread.  [a] Jeff explains the real nature of the issue iCompute was having, and how it is compounded by a long-standing bug that is supposed to be fixed in the next Retrospect Windows release.   Jeff says that the issue is further compounded by inadequacies in the Retrospect Windows User's Guide, and that he hopes for a simple short-term insertion in and a more-comprehensive long-term rewrite of the UG.

 

Under the second bolded one-sentence heading in that "New Windows user" post, I largely quote what Jeff reveals about plans that are in the works for a UI overhaul for both the Retrospect Windows and Retrospect Mac platforms.  He says "The new UI will leverage the IPC scaffolding we already have in the engine today", in the process explaining that iCompute's discovery that the Retrospect Mac Console can be used to almost entirely control the Retrospect Windows Retrospect.exe merely reveals inter-process communications capabilities that were carefully designed and tested by Retrospect engineers in 2008-9.  

 

IMHO "IPC scaffolding" means that there will be two separate processes; one an Engine-equivalent and the other a Console-equivalent (to understand that, see the third and fourth paragraphs of post #18 in the "New Windows user" thread)—whether the Console-equivalent GUI looks like the current Retrospect Mac Console or looks like the Retrospect Virtual Management Console.  What's not clear to me is how, without running into the same Windows Vista-and-after limitations mentioned in the fifth paragraph of post #23 in the "New Windows user" thread, the Retrospect engineers can make this overhauled UI work for Retrospect Windows unless the Engine-equivalent and the Console-equivalent are run on two different machines.  I therefore stand by the essentials of what I said in the first two paragraphs of post #3 in this thread.

 

Of course it later occurred to me that the overhauled UI Console-equivalent could be made to work in the same Retrospect Windows machine process as the Engine-equivalent, by converting the inter-process messaging into inter-thread messaging (a subject about  which I have essentially no expertise) within the same process.  However IMHO that solution would essentially bring back the same kludginess with which iCompute struggles in posts #1 through #15 of the "New Windows user" thread—a kludginess which Jeff recaps under the first bolded one-sentence heading in post #31 (the post linked to in the first paragraph of this post).  To avoid that, I think that on the same Windows machine the Engine-equivalent process would have to run in a virtual machine manager, as I said in the first paragraph of post #3 in this thread.

 

P.S.: Expanded the fourth paragraph in order to clarify it; if you read that paragraph in the first 1.75 hours this post was up, before this P.S. was added, you'd better read it again.

 

P.P.S: Added fifth paragraph; also clarified the fourth paragraph a bit more.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Un-bolded whole paragraphs the new Forums software had bolded

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In helping DovidBenAvraham research a proposed "Enterprise Backup features" Wikipedia article to supplement the cut-down "Retrospect (software)" article, the other day I looked at the documentation for Archiware P5.1 Backup—which is the other competitive application besides Time Machine summarized in the "Competitive Analysis - Retrospect for Mac" Knowledge Base article. It turns out that Archiware P5.1 Backup does indeed have a Console that seems to have most of the fully-interactive capabilities of the Retrospect Mac Console.  That Console runs in a Web browser, so adding Web server capabilities to the Retrospect Engine seems to be an alternate way—even for Retrospect Windows—of solving the problem I noted in the fourth paragraph of this post in the thread.

I therefore apologize to mbennett, evidently formerly known as ProFromGrover, for what I said in the first paragraph of this post in the thread.  I don't know whether adding Web server capabilities to Retrospect Windows in 2009-2010 was then technically too difficult, or whether the EMC developers simply didn't have enough time to do it.  I've asked that question of Jeff, the Lead Support Engineer at Retrospect Inc., but have not yet received an answer or even a confirmation of the Support Case in which I asked the question.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Added missing quotation mark

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On 7 November I posted this, whose third paragraph reports a reply I got from Retrospect T.S. to a Support Case I filed.  The full implications of two sentences in that reply for this thread have now occurred to me, so I'll quote them:

"Retrospect Virtual is a totally different product from Retrospect. it doesn't use any of the same code [my emphasis] and doesn't use any of the same backup methods or technology."

The underlined part of the reply casts doubt on mbennett's speculation, in the second post in this thread, that  "I expect this [Retrospect Virtual] interface to be the only admin tool in coming versions, replacing everything we have now." 

 

 

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