Backing up my data

by Jonathan Gennick

A month ago, in my
June 24 blog entry
, I finalized my thinking on a backup and recovery strategy
for my home office. Because of deadlines, travel, and project commitments I
put off implementing any of what I thought up. That's typical isn't it? The
pressure to put bread on the table often keeps us from protecting the very means
by which we earn the money to buy that bread in the first place.

I take my first step

Yesterday, July 24, one month to the very day since my June 24 blog entry,
I took the first step towards securing my livelihood (or at least my data).
To reward myself for finishing the draft for the second edition of my Oracle
SQL*Plus Pocket Reference
, I allocated my evening to the task of installing
the Plextor
PlexWriter 40/12/40A E-IDE (ATAPI) CD-RW
drive that I picked up at Best
while attending MacHack
last month. With it, I can now make backups of archival data (e.g.: old book
projects) and infrequently changing data (e.g.: website files). I can also make
backups of current projects to store offsite.

Is my new drive supported under Windows XP?

Worry set in right from the beginning as I read over the quick-install sheet
provided for the PlexWriter without seeing any mention at all that the drive
and software were supported under Windows XP. I felt a bit better when I saw
Windows XP mentioned in the drive's manual. Even so, I encountered problems
in that, while the hardware worked fine under XP, none of the software did.
I installed Roxio's
Easy CD Creator
(Plextor distributes a "Basic" version with various
nonfunctional buttons that take you to a page on Roxio's site from which you
can buy the "Platinum" version), and immediately had go to Roxio's
site to download
an upgrade to version 5.3
in order to get Windows XP support. That wasn't
so bad, but in order to download the upgrade I had to create an account with
Roxio. Ugh! Yet another username/password to keep track of. As if I didn't have
enough such accounts already. I need another like I need a hole in my head.

Master? Slave? Didn't the Civil War end all that?

On the hardware installation front, Plextor's manual described four common
scenarios for how my PC's IDE devices might already be configured. Would you
believe it? None of those applied to my Dell, which had the hard drive as the
master (I think) on one IDE channel and the CD-ROM drive as master on the
other IDE channel. I assume my hard drive is on the primary IDE channel, but
nothing was labeled, so I'm not certain of that. Frankly, I'm not positive about
that master/slave thing either. An IDE cable has two connectors. I'm guessing
that the farthest one from the end is the master. If that's not true, then my
configuration was exactly backwards from what I just described (and is now backwards
from what I think). After puzzling for awhile over the four scenarios and how
to configure my now three IDE devices, I consulted PC
Hardware In A Nutshell
. That book's advice was to make my existing CD-ROM
drive the slave on the same channel as my hard drive, and to plug my CD-RW drive
in as the master on the other channel. That way, I could copy from both hard
drive and CD-ROM to CD-RW. Being loath to place a CD-ROM on the same channel
as a hard-drive (will that hurt hard disk performance?), I ended up putting
both CD drives on the same channel, with the CD-RW as the master.

The only other hardware installation issue that I encountered is that Plextor
doesn't supply an audio cable to go from the drive to a sound card. That's unfortunate.
I swiped the cable from my older CD-ROM drive, but now that drive is without
such a cable until I can figure out where to buy a new one. My sound card, by
the way, appears to have connectors for three such cables, but I keep an open
mind on that point, because I could be misinterpreting what I saw.

PIO? Oh no!

After rebooting, twice for reasons that neither I nor the Plextor support person
I contacted understands, I checked to be sure that DMA was being used for the
new drive. It was, and for my older CD-ROM drive as well. To my great chagrin
though, I discovered that PIO is being used for my hard drive. PIO is a baaaad
thing, or so I'm told. My hard-drive is very new, but I still can't change it
to use DMA. Why not? I don't know. I'm a bit frustrated about that at the moment.
I seek enlightenment.

I burn my very first CD ever

In spite of all I've just said, the installation of my new PlexWriter and its
Roxio software was close to painless. Once I decided on an IDE configuration,
I plugged the drive in, Windows recognized it, I installed the software, and
the upgrade to the software, and everything just worked. I bought the PlexWriter
because Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson recommend Plextor
very highly in their book (PC Hardware In A Nutshell), and on their website: I think they're
right to be so complimentary towards Plextor. I'm very pleased with the results.
The first CD I burned was a complete success. No coasters here. I work on an
older, slower PC. During the burn I was doing other work, and none of the resulting
disk access cause any problems with the CD burn.

What's next? More procrastination, that's what

So now I've got my web sites backed up, and
Sunday, when I get back from an impending trip for which I'm leaving in just
a few minutes, I'll make archival copies of older projects and offsite backups
of my other data. There's that delay again! This time because of travel. I hope
nothing bad happens between now and Sunday.

What should I tackle next? The IDE RAID? Periodic backups from my XP box to my Linux box? Hourly backups of critical files to my website? Something else?