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Drop the Dashboard


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Dashboard actually got me excited-  a more friendly user interface! But it is dog-slow (okay - I LOVE dogs, but this thing is a Basset Hound in Greyhound race.) It often hangs, gobbles resources, hangs again when trying to simply scroll, and ultimately gives little useful information. It's everything short of what we've come to expect from Retrospect - a lean, efficient, business-like and functional application. When Retrospect is invoked by a scheduled script, dashboard is the only option that comes up when you want to monitor the program itself - and the fact that there is no escape from dashboard only adds to the frustration. I get that it is well-intended - but it was executed poorly and ends up detracting from the program. I'm in the trial period (Windows 16.5) and likely will invest in Retrospect based on the last ten years of functionality and reliability with 7.7. The dashboard is the single biggest negative in my pluses and minuses column as I decide on making the purchase.

Just my opinion here, but instead of the dashboard, might I suggest this approach:

  1. Develop a user interface that finally leaves the '90's behind. It would probably meet dashboard's intent with more digital elegance.
  2. Add a tray monitor - something we can mouse over and see the basics, or open and get more detail. Perhaps that goes to knowing your customers. Face it - this is a techie's software that requires a greater learning curve than the prettier faces like Cloudberry. I could be mistaken, but I suspect most Retrospect users (certainly me) would appreciate a backup solution that provides ease of both interface and access - and a tray monitor would be a simple, performance-oriented way to do just that.
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kidziti and everyone else,

I had a telephone chat with the head of North America Sales for Retrospect "Inc."  this morning (his time), in which I suggested just that.  My suggestion, which he seems to like, is to simply actively market the Web-based Management Console in its no-extra-cost view-only form.  You can get a brief view of the Retrospect 16.1 version of this facility in the first of these four interconnected videos.  You can skip the second video (unless you want to learn how to sign up for the Management Console), and view the third video to see how to integrate the Management Console with a running Engine. 

The fourth video, which is designed for "Partners" (consulting organizations) shows additional two-way features available with the Add-On—which is US$49 for the Desktop Edition.  The Retrospect 16.5 Add-On version of the Management Console moves the list of "backup servers" to a column on the left-hand side of the Dashboard window.  Its Granular Remote Management also adds Activities and Sources and Backup Sets panels that the administrator can drill down to, as well as Scripts Management displays and the ability—for individual "backup servers"—to create and edit scripts and create destinations. 

Here's a 43-minute webinar that demonstrates the Retrospect Windows 16.5 version of Granular Remote Management—with a GUI resembling Retrospect Mac.  At minute 27 the head of Retrospect Tech Support recommends leaving Retrospect running all the time—using the Management Console.  At minute 29 he says they're moving towards having Retrospect run as a service with an HTML-based GUI.  Is Server column also in the non-Add-On Web Dashboard?

As the first of the four interconnected videos linked atop this post once stated, the Dashboard in the Management Console is basically an enhanced version of the non-Web-based Dashboard that kidziti and other Retrospect Windows administrators simultaneously love and hate.  That non-Web-based Dashboard is a poorly-implemented feature of Retrospect Windows.  It was implemented in Retrospect Windows 8 because a Retrospect-Mac-like Console proved to be impossible, but had glaring bugs that weren't supposedly fixed until 4 years later in Retrospect Windows 12.5.  See this 2017 Forums post by me, which quotes the applicable Release Notes but also quotes a reply from Retrospect Tech Support.  Also read the remainder of that 2017 post's thread.


Edited by DavidHertzberg
Insert new 3rd paragraph with link to Granular Remote Mgmt. webinar and mention of presenter's relevant comments; fix wording in that paragraph's last sentence
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  • 4 weeks later...

kidziti and everyone else,

I had another telephone chat with the head of North America Sales for Retrospect "Inc."  this morning (his time), in which I asked about the Retrospect Console Preview which was released yesterday as part of Retrospect 16.6.0.  He had just come back from an all-hands meeting on the subject, and he agreed with me that this new Knowledge Base article is uninformative—verging on misleading regarding the article's Web (versus top-of-the-article) title. 

"Desktop" in the title doesn't mean that this Console only runs on the Desktop Edition; it is apparently meant to contrast it with the Web-based Management Console.  What it does mean is that it runs only on the particular "backup server" machine it is monitoring, with the currently very-limited-beyond-monitoring capability of creating Proactive scripts on that particular "backup server".  The Retrospect Console Preview does not use Heroku or any other Web server, and requires no Add-On.  IMHO the engineers have contrived a way to attach a new GUI parasite to the Engine using the existing internal mechanisms for the Retrospect Windows integrated Dashboard plus—for Proactive script creation—some additional existing or new-in-16.6 GUI internal mechanisms, except now without some of the interfering properties of the existing integrated Dashboard you Retrospect Windows administrators have long complained about. 

For those Retrospect Windows administrators who have physical access to their "backup server" machine, the Retrospect Console Preview may enable them to avoid using the existing integrated Dashboard—and even to leave their Retrospect Engine running constantly without using Auto Launching.  The Sales guy says that the reason the engineers released the Retrospect Console Preview at this time is to get people to beta-test the first version of a future Retrospect Windows GUI.  My cynical guess is that another reason for them releasing now it was to check off one or more boxes on their managers' lists. 

P.S.: Upon taking a second—careful—look at the KB article linked to in the first paragraph, I realized that this version of the Retrospect Console Preview will not easily enable Retrospect Windows administrators who have physical access to their "backup server" machine to avoid using the existing integrated Dashboard.  I phoned the head of North America Sales for Retrospect "Inc." again this afternoon, and it turns out he still hasn't tried using it.  The way I would describe this version is a "funhouse hall of mirrors", similar to the one in the first few minutes of the movie "Us".  Once you start using it, it appears you can't get to its Dashboard substitute without first setting up a new Proactive script that starts to run immediately.  I think J. G. Heithcock, and possibly also his boss at StorCentric, ought to be embarrassed for thus trying to force Retrospect administrators to run a beta test of the script interface.😦  IMHO a less-sneaky way of getting beta testers for essentially a superset of the same interface (even if the Heroku Web-based code is JavaScript, not C++) would be to put the Management Console Add-On into the Configurator, especially if it were priced at no more than US$49 even for fancier-than-Desktop Editions.

P.P.S.: Upon thinking still further, I realized that this version of the Retrospect Console Preview  has only one primary purpose—as a Sales demo for administrators either considering buying Retrospect Windows or considering switching to a competing Windows backup application because they are sick and tired of its current GUI.  For the rest of us, IMHO the key sentence in the KB article is  "We plan to steadily build Retrospect Console into a replacement for the current user interface for Windows and Mac."  But I'm happy with the Retrospect Mac GUI, even though its Console can at most be used over a LAN.

Edited by DavidHertzberg
P.S.: _this_version_ of the Retrospect Console Preview will _not_easily_ enable Retrospect Windows administrators who have physical access to their "backup server" machine to avoid using the existing integrated Dashboard. P.P.S.: It's mainly a Sales demo.
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