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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Please write a review

To everyone who downloaded a copy of any of my Data Protector books last week when I put them on special -- thank you! It was a very nice birthday surprise to take out #3, #4 and #5 positions simultaneously in Amazon's Business Software books.

If you found any of those books helpful, don't forget to leave a review: even just leaving a number-of-stars rating helps me work out what to focus on.

And if you missed out, you can buy them (they aren't very expensive even when they aren't on special) at http://www.ifost.org.au/books

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Data Protector media agent licenses

There are two licensing models:

  • Classic licensing (which is far more common)
  • Capacity-based licensing
If you are using the newer capacity-based licensing, then you can use any HPE Data Protector functionality that you want. If you are using Classic licensing (which is what almost every customer has), then you pay individually for different components.
For example, you pay a license for each tape drive you want to have concurrently writing. When you buy the cell manager license, you get the right to run one tape drive; if you want more you need to buy additional media agent licenses.
Otherwise, you will get error messages like this:
[61:17102] Not enough licenses "Direct attached tape drive for Windows / NetWare / Linux".

Or like this:

[61:17102]  Not enough licenses "Tape drive for SAN / all platforms". Session is waiting for some of devices to get free.

If you are encountering this, you can get a super-quick quote on licensing at this online store.

Greg Baker is an independent consultant who happens to do a lot of work on HP DataProtector. He is the author of the only published books on HP Data Protector (http://www.ifost.org.au/books/#dp). He works with HP and HP partner companies to solve the hardest big-data problems (especially around backup). See more at IFOST's DataProtector pages at http://www.ifost.org.au/dataprotector, or visit the online store for Data Protector products, licenses and renewals athttp://store.data-protector.net/ 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Happy Birthday to me

I wanted to spread some birthday cheer before the Christmas cheer kicks in. That's the trouble with a birthday the week before Christmas. So I've fiddled around on Amazon so that it is running a special price on When Medusa went on Chatroulette today.

Use the opportunity to read something funny and uplifting, or buy it as a last-minute present for that special geek in your life.

I'll donate todays earnings to whatever charity gets talked about in the comments.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Data Protector licenses available for purchase online

In what I think is a first for HPE -- certainly in Australia! -- you don't need to go through a traditional sales channel to buy additional Data Protector licenses any more.

All prices are in AUD -- convert them into your currency to see how cost effective buying through http://store.data-protector.net/ is.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Where to find the next evil mastermind

Today's silly poem was the result of watching James Bond and reading about startups too close together.

http://www.ifost.org.au/~gregb/poetry/valley.html

I write nerd-geek poetry, poems that are completely unsuitable for anyone with a liberal arts major, but also guaranteed to bring a smile (or a laugh) to anyone who is into sci-tech. Most of my poetry has been published in a recently-released (and very affordable) book: When Medusa Went on Chatroulette. They are also available at http://www.ifost.org.au/~gregb/poetry

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Celebratory 100th blog post - what people have actually been reading, and what freebies and junkets are on offer

This is the 100th blog post, and the counter of page views is about to tick over 50,000. Thank you for your readership!

According to Google's infallible stats counters, here's what most people have been reading on this blog:

POEMS At the end of a day of being a computer nerd, you need something that will make you laugh (or at least smile) and also make you look cultured among your friends. Nobody else writes poetry about nuclear physics or time travel, so if you want to get that "I'm so hip" feel, you really should buy a copy of When Medusa went on Chatroulette for $3 (more or less, depending on your country of origin).

NAVIGATOR - If you run Data Protector then you will definitely get some value out of the cloud-hosted Navigator trial. You can get reports like "what virtual machines are not getting backed up?" and "how big will my backups be next year?" -- stuff that makes you look like the storage genius guru (which you probably are anyway, but this just makes it easier to prove it).

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE - If you are tracking your work in Atlassian's fabulous JIRA task tracking system, then try out my free plug-in (x.ifost.org.au/aeed) which can predict how long tasks will take to complete. And if you are not using JIRA, then convince everyone to throw out whatever you are using and switch to JIRA because it's an order of magnitude cheaper, and also easier to support.

TRAINING COURSES - You can now buy training online from store.data-protector.net -- and it appears that it's 10-20% cheaper than buying from HPE directly in most countries. There are options for instructor-led, self-paced, over-the-internet and e-learning modules.

SUPPORT CONTRACTS -  Just email your support contract before its renewal to [email protected] and I'll look at it and figure out a way to make it cheaper for you.

BOOKS - If you are just learning Data Protector, then buy one of my books on Data Protector (available in Kindle, PDF and hardback). They are all under $10; you can hide them in an expense report and no-one will ever know.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Stumped by a customer question today: when to replace a cleaning tape

It was an innocent enough question: "when will I need to replace this cleaning tape?"


And I realised that not only did I not know the answer, that in fact, I'd never replaced a cleaning tape in 20+ years of backup work. Sure, I've put one in when I've been deploying a system, but I tend to forget about it after that.

Estimates from drive manufacturers suggest that a tape should be cleaned every month. Looking at backup logs, it looks like tape drives request cleaning about every 6 months.

But that data is mostly from tape drives that are inside a tape library, so the amount of dust getting in and out will be less than for a standalone tape drive.

The spec sheet on HPE's universal LTO ultrium cleaning kit suggests that it should be good for between 15 and 50 cleans.

Put together, that means that a cleaning tape should be replaced somewhere between once every year or so and every quarter century, which is not very helpful!

I believe the data from the tape drives themselves reporting "I'm dirty" rather than the vendor suggestions, so even taking the low end of the HPE spec sheet, a cleaning tape in a tape library should be good for 7 years. Since that's enough for at least two generations of tape technology to come and go, it's probably safe to assume that you will have bought a new tape library in that time.

But if you have multiple tape drives, and it has been a couple of years since you last replaced the cleaning tape, errm, maybe it's worth buying one. I'm not selling tapes at store.data-protector.net yet, so my best suggestion is this vendor on Amazon: LTO ultrium cleaning kit.

Incidentally, if you do have a tape library and you are running HPE Data Protector, then you will almost definitely want to sign up for the free cloud-hosted Backup Navigator trial here: Free Backup Navigator Trial at HPE so that you can see which are your most unreliable tape drives -- perhaps they need cleaning!

Greg Baker is an independent consultant who happens to do a lot of work on HP DataProtector. He is the author of the only published books on HP Data Protector (http://www.ifost.org.au/books/#dp). He works with HP and HP partner companies to solve the hardest big-data problems (especially around backup). See more at IFOST's DataProtector pages at http://www.ifost.org.au/dataprotector, or visit the online store for Data Protector products, licenses and renewals athttp://store.data-protector.net/ 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Data Protector reporting - the free hosted trial - sessions by session status

What proportion of your backups are completing successfully?
Report-of-the-day from Backup Navigator: what percentage of your backups are completing successfully?

HPE are running a free offer at the moment that you really, really want to take up. If you are running Data Protector, and you would like to get some insight into your backup environment, then Backup Navigator is the product that you want to buy.

Navigator generates reports -- beautiful reports -- that tell you everything from the basic and simple, through to the utterly awesome.

Backup Navigator is designed to run either in your own data centre (where it will use the Data Protector protocols to talk to your cell manager) or it can be hosted elsewhere (and you install a small agent that talks to the Navigator server via HTTPS).

To show customers how amazing it is, HPE are offering a three month trial. HPE already have the Navigator server in place. You just need to install the Navigator agent on a Windows or Linux box in your cell somewhere.  (It doesn't even have to be the cell manager, so you probably don't even need to raise a change control for it.)

No credit card or purchase order or commitment. HPE appear to be pretty confident that you'll like what you get! Sign up for it here: http://engage.hpe.com/Reg_NavTrial_Blog

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

My part in the making of WiFi



Between 1994 and 1996 I was working at CSIRO Radiophysics (which turned into Telecommunications and Industrial Physics). Terry Percival was my boss' boss, and Diet Ostry and I shared an office. This story happened just a little bit before Terry, Diet and the two Johns had starting applying the radio signal unsmearing algorithms that CSIRO ended up with patents for which formed part of the WiFi standard.

One day Dr Percival set me (fresh-faced, obnoxious, know-it-all graduate) the challenge of solving the hardest problem in radio communications at the time: how can A and B communicate reliably, if A can't detect C's signal, and C can interfere with B?

My thoughts on the matter was that everyone was mis-stating the problem. It's only going to be a serious problem if you want to broadcast at 2.4 GhZ. If you drop the frequency of the signal down to something so low that even an iron ore mountain is transparent to it, it would be a very strange environment where A & C couldn't communicate.

So therefore, the real problem was that we were trying to do high speed networking. On the contrary, what we should be researching is extremely low-speed networking. How could we have useful and reliable communication at only a few bits per second?

Latency, jitter, high-speed CPUs to perform processing -- all these hard problems go away when you are only dealing in bits per second.

There were three other very good reasons why I thought low-speed networking was the right thing to look at, too: Linux, mining and submarines.

At the time, Linux was just making inroads into our thinking. The business world was dominated by IBM mainframes and (even in 1996) Windows 3.11 crashing was a daily experience for most people's workday.

The prevailing opinion that the team in the signal processing wing of CSIRO Radiophysics developed was that source-available (free-to-modify) software was unstoppable, and in a short time would conquer everything else, particularly Microsoft. After all, if the source was available, the program could never truly become unavailable or die, like proprietary software would. Software distribution bloat was about to go away, because we would all be getting our software in source form and compiling it. The days of elegant software that did exactly what it was supposed to without cruft were just around the corner because of the massive growth in volunteer developers who would tidy up anything and everything.

Which led me to the conclusion that we wouldn't really need high speed networks. The future was going to be everyone having these extremely reliable, high performance desktops (32-bit Linux never crashed; and the difference in this and also in performance was night and day compared to 16-bit Windows 3.11). All the software we would ever want would already be on our local harddisks -- all of it free -- and that there simply wouldn't be enough "stuff" to send over a network to even justify upgrading existing 9.6k modems. (I used to dial in on a 2.4k modem most of the time, myself).

I had been working on a related geophysics project as well. It was deployed on Linux (tying into the future-of-operating-systems theme) and deployed radio transmitters and receivers down boreholes in order to draw conclusions about the kinds of rocks in a region. It seemed like geophysical technologies were going to be a significant part of Australia's research future (at least I got something right!), and the need to deliver communications down into mines (where very low bandwidth would be inevitable) seemed like a worthwhile research direction.

The issues with the Collins class submarines at the time (including: how do we communicate with a submarine deep underwater?) made it seem to me like all the arrows were pointing at low-speed rather than high-speed communication.

I was so convinced that Terry and Diet (and John Deane, who was just down the corridor; and John O'Sullivan whom I think I interacted with a couple of times) were on the wrong track that I ended up quitting CSIRO and joining a private consultancy. This probably diverted me away from academia altogether which is where I otherwise would have gone. With the funding cuts that have hammered Australian research in the last few years, I'm kind of glad about this.

And it was fortunate for everyone else that I quit; I suspect I would have been a pain to work with if I'd stayed, and I'm sure I would have tried (probably unsuccessfully) to push the research in all the wrong directions. I suspect that I might have done such a bad job on the team that they might well have never made any progress to what we now call 802.11b Wi-Fi. On this basis, can I claim that I played a role in the creation of WiFi? By leaving and letting the team hire someone who actually had a clue what they were doing?

I'd like to say that I learn from my mistakes.

Before I got the private consultancy job, I applied for a quant-like role at County Natwest which in the end I turned down (again another lucky save given their history later). I was asked how I thought that County Natwest could make use of the Internet. My answer was that since no-one in their right mind would transfer money over the internet, that all it could be was an information portal.

A decade later (in 2007) I left Google because I was fairly convinced that it was going to fall apart in a few years as Wikipedia became ever more trustworthy that it would become everyone's first point of call for search. It's 2015 now as I search using Google over my home WiFi connection from a proprietary operating system: I have to admit that Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt and Terry Percival were right, and I was wrong.

Based on this, feel free to ignore anything in this blog that you disagree with, since it's almost definitely wrong. But I still think I'm right when I say that my my book of nerd-geek poetry has the best poems about nuclear physics you'll ever see. (And some fun stuff with robots, AI, first contact, and all sorts of other topics. There's even a vampire-at-the-blood-bank.) You really should go and buy it for yourself or your nearest and dearest nerd-geek friends. Here's the Amazon link: When Medusa went on Chatroulette.