The Tale of the Tape
I woke up in the middle of the night. Something was wrong.
Groggy, nervous, my senses reached out and searched for the source of danger. There it was! A high-pitched, cycling whine, menacingly repeating and repeating, warning me to respond.
A Black Ninja ultra-wicked assault pod!
I stealthily unwound my powerful limbs from the arms of the innocently dreaming exotic Oriental woman in my bed, and coiled them for action. I was prepared for anything.
My office - they were in my office! My super triple-edged Double-Dai Katana materialized in my hand, and I whipped the door open. Eh? Nobody? In a millisecond my eyes scanned the room, including the ceiling and the dark space beneath my desk.
Nothing. Just my too many Van Lustbader B-novels-stoked imagination.
"Paul-chaaan! Naaani? Ashita hayaku okinakereba desho. Baka janai...."
Whoops. There went my wife destroying my fantasy. But wait! Not quite nothing.... My Colorado tape drive was plaintively wailing, seeking my attention. There on the screen was the source of my troubles:
"Error. Unable to read file."
"Error. Unable to read file."
"Error. Unable to read file...."
Before going to bed, I'd plugged a cartridge into the tape drive, and clicked on the "full backup" macro button. It had tried to back up my hard disk, and had apparently gone into endless loops of "comparing" files. It must have faithfully done this for hours, as it was 3:00 a.m.
This was the second tape that had "died" on me. The first time, I'd assumed it was the tape, but two dead tapes in a month had me worried. The next evening after work I reformatted the tape, but the subsequent backup also choked on "Error. Unable to read file" messages in the compare stage.
Time to read the manual? Yep.
Ahem. "Cleaning the Read/Write Head... When to clean... After every 8 hours of tape operation, approximately 20 backups or restores."
Ouch. I hadn't cleaned the head since I'd bought the computer, over a year ago. And in that time I must have run over 100 backups. A full backup once or twice a week on three rotating tapes (to maintain three full backups), plus another tape for occasional "daily" backups when I'd done a lot of work on a particular day.
Time to pull out the compressed air and head cleaner. It was getting late, but I wanted to see if this simple remedy was going to work. Sure enough, a good cleaning had the Colorado and all the tapes running fine. No more errors.
Moral: Read the manual!
Yeah, I know, I should have caught on faster. When my ancient cassette tapes start sounding lousy (really lousy as opposed to normal lousy), I pull out the Q- tips and cleaner, but somehow I'd never made the connection that computer backup tape drives are, er, tape drives.
Clean your head people, if you have a tape backup unit. It could save you some sleep.
The exotic Oriental woman had given up on me, and had retired to her tatami chamber. I crept into the room and slipped into the futon. She lazily turned toward me, and her eyes fluttered open. "Mmm. You're back," she murmured.
"Yes, and I saved the data," I breathed with pride.
"Oh, darling! You protected the data?" A fire began to glow in her eyes. Her yukata fell open, and she moaned as my keyboard-callused fingertips....
Ashita? Well, ashita could wait.
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