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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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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.




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



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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; bolded second use of "bolded" and iCompute's "handle"
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  • 2 weeks later...

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; bolded Jeff's "handle"
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  • 4 weeks later...

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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  • 3 months later...

Well, the preview release of the Retrospect Web Console will be out in May 2018.  The leftmost screen shot in that link doesn't look like the R. V. (the head of Retrospect Tech Support has in the past objected—third paragraph of that post—to my mentioning that product on these forums, so I now have to use its initials) Virtual Management Console.  In fact what it looks like is the Dashboard, sexed-up with a couple of extra display-only panels reporting the new capabilities of Retrospect Mac 15/Windows 15.

However the secret sauce is probably in the three blue icons at the upper right below the menu bar.  Those icons, once they become functional, look as if they will connect the administrator to the GUI screens that actually let him/her control the Retrospect Engine—which for Windows administrators will translate to Retrospect.exe without the existing GUI.  Those GUI screens may turn out to look like the R.V. Virtual Management Console, or they may turn out to look like the Retrospect Mac Console—but with different terminology for Retrospect Windows administrators.  Those blue icons definitely won't be functional in the preview release, which is IMHO meant to beta-test that the display-only interface between the Engine and the Web Console works OK on both Windows—especially for Retrospect.exe started by the Retrospect Launcher—and Mac.

Sometime soon I'll have to spend 30 minutes to an hour looking at the YouTube videos for R.V., in order to find out if the three blue icons also appear in the Virtual Management Console.  If anybody has the time to do that immediately, please do that and post what you discover about the icons' meaning.  However see the P.P.P.S. below, because I've now done it myself.

P.S.: Heavens to Betsy, Retrospect Inc. has skipped two major version numbers for Retrospect Windows; the new release is Retrospect 15.0 for Windows as well as for Mac!

P.P.S.: Revised last sentence of 2nd paragraph; Werner of Retrospect Sales confirmed by phone that the control capabilities of the Retrospect Web Console are definitely not going to be available in the May 2018 preview.

P.P.P.S: I spent 36 minutes, plus some halts and re-viewings, looking at the R. V. YouTube video.  The three blue icons In Retrospect Web Console seem to be further generalizations of about 6 icons in the R. V. Virtual Host Server GUI (start looking at about minute:second = 13:20).  IMHO the leftmost blue icon creates Backups and Restores, including creating Backup Sets (V. H. S. uses the Retrospect Windows terminology) as well as Scripts; the center blue icon is for Settings; the rightmost blue icon is for Reports.  The preceding sentence is entirely my educated guesswork, so don't sue me if in September 2018 or March 2019 it turns out to be wrong :(—or if the blue icons are by then revised by Retrospect Inc..

Edited by DavidHertzberg
Added a third sentence to 3rd prgrf., referring to my guess in the P.P.P.S.—which now says when to start looking—about blue icons' meaning; in last sentence of 2nd prgf., beta test especially for auto-launched Retrospect.exe
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  • 2 months later...

As related here, for the past three days I have been using a version of Retrospect Mac 15.0 tarted up with additional debugging code.  So I've had a chance to use the preview release of the Retrospect Web Console, although just as an improved Dashboard but not over the Web—as I write this the Web version is either not released or not available to us lowly Desktop Edition licensees.

It turns out I only guessed correctly about one of the three blue icons at the upper right below the menu bar.  Looked at closely and with the benefit of mouse-over, they are as follows:  The leftmost icon is for Restart Server, which would be a new interface controlling the Engine; I tried clicking it once, with questionable results.  The center icon is for Retrospect Support, which would test communications with a Web browser; I tried it once, and it works.  The rightmost icon is for Print (I guessed that one correctly in the P.P.P.S. of the post directly above); it works.

So my prediction in the last sentence of the second paragraph of the post immediately above was almost correct.  There is one icon that can immediately be used to test a new control interface with the Engine.  One of these months a fully-functional Web Console will be available, but that month is not May 2018.  Therefore you Retrospect Windows administrators must continue to suffer for at least a few more months.  Sorry about that.

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  • 9 months later...

mbennett and anybody else,

"I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see".  That's because Retrospect Inc. engineers put some of their new or revised Knowledge Base articles onto the website on 4 March, even though those KB articles are "last updated March 5, 2019". :)   Anyway this KB article describes Shared Scripts, which appears to be the Retrospect Windows 16.0 approach to two-way communication between the Management Console and a Retrospect Engine—with one-way communication having already been revealed in the15.5 Preview version of the Console.

The "Under The Hood" section of the KB article says "Retrospect Backup engines contact the Retrospect Management Console every 60 seconds to provide real-time status updates and fetch any management instructions. The Retrospect Management Console does not initiate or maintain an active connection to the engines."  My somewhat-optimistic interpretation is that you could use the Shared Scripts facility to update an existing script on an Retrospect.exe engine, as well as add a new one, assuming the engine has the capability of recognizing that a Shared Script that has just been Saved in the Console should replace an existing script with the same name.

However the "Feature Set" section of the KB article says "Note that as of March 5, 2019, deployment options are limited to ProactiveAI scripts with standard source containers ('All sources', 'All local', 'All clients', 'All network', 'All email') to cloud destinations with simple scheduling options. Support for local sources, local destinations including disk, scheduled scripts, and more extensive scheduling options will be available soon."  Therefore many of you will have to wait until at least Retrospect Windows 16.1 to get the Management Console facility you need.  IMHO the delay is partly a result of the fact that the Retrospect Inc. engineers cannot simply copy the code that is in the Retrospect Mac Console, because the GUIs in the two variants are so different.

Nevertheless the general approach is along the lines of what I predicted in this post up-thread.  The mandatory Windows security settings starting with Windows Vista/Server 2008 subsequently forbade UI interaction with an application auto-launched by a task, meaning that having the Engine contact the Retrospect Management Console every 60 seconds is the necessary Web-client workaround for Retrospect Windows.  FYI the Retrospect Mac Console does not AFAIK have to have the same workaround, because macOS does not have the same mandatory security settings as Windows.

P.S.: I neglected to mention last night that Shared Scripts requires the Management Console Add-On, a fact alluded to in marketing material but not mentioned in the KB article.  I phoned Ian of Retrospect Sales this morning, and he says that Add-On is US$49 for Desktop Edition and other less-lowly Editions—but goes up to around US$450 for really-exalted Editions. :o  (As one would expect in the rush to get version 16.0 out the door, the Product Configurator for either variant has not been updated to include that Add-On as of 2:15 p.m. New York time—which is well after Retrospect Inc. opening time in Walnut Creek CA—on 5 March. :rolleyes:)  So two-way interaction between the Management Console and Retrospect.exe will have a price in Retrospect Windows (the non-Web Console supplied as part of Retrospect Mac has two-way interaction built-in), which you can blame on Messrs. Gates and/or Ballmer having had a religious conversion about Windows security. :angry:  The e-mail I received a few minutes ago says "Retrospect Management Console is free for basic monitoring with a paid version for complete monitoring and management", which confirms what I've said in this P.S..

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  • 2 months later...

It being the evening of 14 May—close to my expected date for the release of Retrospect 16.1, ""I dipped into the future" again.  The Knowledge Base articles haven't been updated yet—with the exception of "How to Set Up the Management Console", but the 16.1 downloads are on the website.  As for updated "What's New" chapters in User's Guides, I don't want to laugh so soon after dinner. ;)

The question applicable to this thread is "What improvements have they made in the Web-based Management Console?"  As shown by the 16.1 version of the cumulative Retrospect Windows Release Notes, the answer appears to be "not too many, but promising".  For the Engine they are:

  • New Retrospect Management Console: Pause/Unpause/Stop support
  • New Retrospect Management Console: Versions, Editions, Platforms listed
  • Improved Retrospect Management Console: Disable deployment for an existing shared script
  • Improved Email Notifications: stopped scripts now generate email with title "Execution stopped by operator - Retrospect"

For both Engine and Windows Client there is also—and this will make a lot of administrators happy :) :

  • New Windows 10 May 2019 Update certification

The first and third Engine improvements actually IMHO sound like a real step forward in 2-way capability. :)  However as of this evening it's evidently not enough to persuade Retrospect Product Management to actually insert the Management Console Add-On into the Product Configurator, so that ordinary non-Partner administrators can add 2-way Console capability (for US$49 or more) to their installation of Retrospect without saying "pretty please with cherries on top" ;) to a salesperson on the other end of a phone line.  How the dickens do they expect the Management Console's 2-way capability to be adequately beta-tested without the help of ordinary administrators? :rolleyes: (And testing, for the few of you who don't already know, has been Retrospect's product weak spot for the past 30 years. :()

OTOH there appears to be no progress towards the "Management Console - How to Use Shared Scripts" KB article promise that "Support for local sources, local destinations including disk, scheduled scripts, and more extensive scheduling options will be available soon". :(  I have a jaundiced vision of running battles in the halls of Walnut Creek between developers shouting "Make the GUI look like Retrospect Windows!" and other developers shouting "Make the GUI look like Retrospect Mac!"  I hope there isn't blood spilled. B)  However a more developer-realistic vision is that the engineers just didn't have time to make releasable progress on that front, because they were fixing 9 bugs—of which 4 for Retrospect Mac (only 2 of which affected Retrospect Windows) involved Storage Groups.

P.S.: There is progress as of late October 2019 on Web-based "Support for local sources, local destinations including disk, scheduled scripts, and more extensive scheduling options".  See this post in a more-recent thread, and the Granular Remote Management webinar it links to in the third paragraph.

P.P.S.: Per this post in another thread, Retrospect Windows 16.6.0 contains a "Desktop" Retrospect Console Preview that I have been told—see its third paragraph—is intended as a beta-test of the first version of a new Retrospect Windows .exe GUI.  Per the second paragraph of that post, that GUI will only run directly on a "backup server" machine to monitor and (eventually) control the Retrospect Windows Engine running on that machine.  If you want to control that Engine from another machine, evidently you'll have to pay for the Management Console Add-On—although monitoring that Engine from another machine will apparently be free if you sign up for the Web-based Management Console.  My guess is that the "Desktop" and Web-based GUIs will be similar.

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