VOGONS


First post, by audiocrush

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Hi,

as most of these systems I'm currently working on and playing with come from a time where I didn't even know what a computer is, I'm pretty lost when it comes to maintaining them.
I currently have 6 active systems of different time-periods and I'm struggling to find a good method of making backups to save all the hard work that went into them.

How do you tackle this topic?
I guess there is no one size fits all solution but is there maybe a smart as-good-as-it-gets solution?

Systems to include:
8086 System running MS-DOS 3.3 on IDE-XT HDD
286 System running MS-DOS 6.2 on IBM proprietary Disk IBM PS/2 Model 30
386 System running MS-DOS 6.2 WfW3.11 on IBM proprietary Disk IBM PS/2 Model 70 with IBM Etherlink III MCA
486 System running MS-DOS 6.2 WfW3.11 on IDE Disk IBM PS/1000 with Novell NE2000 Ethernet
486 System running Windows 95 on SCSI Disk with Novell NE2000 Ethernet
PII System running Windows 98se on SCSI Disk with IBM Etherlink III

I have a seperate vlan in my home network where I could grant my machines access to a SMBv1 share but I'm not sure but I think the only machine of which i could pull from and restore image backups to is the PII
I have shared the C drive on all machines running WfW3.11 and later to just copy all the files and folders on a backup path on my server.
But then again if something fails, I have to reinstall everything all over again to get to the point where I can restore files over network. Also two of them have no network cards in them.
Pulling Images with an IDE USB adapter is also not possible in most cases because only one of my machines runs on normal IDE HDDs.

So yea... how do you people handle the topic of backing up your systems?
How was it done back then when these systems used to be used productively in use in companys?
Is there maybe a tools that can push backups over serial connections with which one could build a double density size boot floppy?

I'm very excited to hear about that 😀

https://www.nerdsh.org/ - my blog, a bit neglected though, taking a creative pause - It is about me and a couple of guys finding an old minicomputer/mainframe style machine

Reply 1 of 59, by charliegolf

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I've been thinking about this too. I plan to network to a modern server and back up drivers etc and to get cf cards in as many machines as possible to just dump hard drive images on to so I can potentially have images for different hardware combos and load them quickly from a modern machine. I also thought about maybe using an imaging tool like Norton ghost to reset machines to different configs as required.

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Reply 2 of 59, by RandomStranger

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I'm transfering onto more modern drives since it's increasingly difficult to find hard drives.

For small drives, up to 8GB, I generally use compact flash cards and image them on my modern PC with UDisks.
For bigger drives I'm planning to go for SSDs and either use the same method or RescueZilla.

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Reply 3 of 59, by KT7AGuy

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Ghost is what I use for creating system images. Versions 6, 7, and 8 are still useful depending on your system and needs, but v11.5.1 is the final version and you won't go wrong with using that.

I don't store data on old computers. They're just for running old programs or games. All important data is stored on and backed up via Win10 or Linux systems.

I share data with my older systems via my network. Sneakernet and a FAT32 flash drive also works.

(Yes, I'm aware that SMB 1.0 is a security risk. It's just me here though and I'm not going to hack/exploit my own LAN.)

Reply 4 of 59, by davidrg

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I image all floppy disks with WinImage. Contents of hard disks are backed up to my LAN with just a simple file copy - I've not bothered imaging hard disks (though there are DOS tools for doing that If I wanted to). For my one machine that runs on CF cards I've imaged a few cards for it using, IIRC, Win32DiskImager.

I've got a NetWare server running in a KVM VM (and, soon, an Raspberry Pi emulating a NetWare server with Mars NWE) and the NetWare client happily runs on everything from an 8086 running DOS 3.0 up to Windows XP (plus OS/2 and classic Mac). On a 386 or better the 32bit NetWare DOS/Win3x client uses no conventional memory at all so I just start it from autoexec.bat and have it always present, on anything older I start it when required. The client pretty easily fits alongside DOS on a bootable floppy disk (even a 360k 5.25" one) so nothing needs to be installed on the hard disk to get a machine onto the network. I'd like to track down some more NICs with boot ROMs though so I could skip the floppy disk entirely (and perhaps even just not bother with a local disk on some machines - 10Mbps ethernet is probably faster). I guess this is probably how a lot of companies would have done it back in the late 80s-mid 90s as Novell NetWare was the most popular PC network back then. The NetWare client (from around 1995 I guess) does have some sort of optional backup agent (the Target Service Agent) but IIRC it requires a tape drive on the server to backup to.

Security-wise the Server software hasn't been maintained in over 20 years so it is probably not much better than SMBv1 in that regard. But, its all speaking IPX/SPX rather than TCP/IP so I figure it would be relatively hard to attack from a machine that doesn't have an IPX stack. Certainly no bots/worms that work on my Windows 10 PC are going to be able to talk to the NetWare or Mars NWE server unless they're able to send raw ethernet frames and have their own built-in IPX stack. So I've not bothered putting it all on a separate VLAN yet (though I may someday - it wouldn't be particularly hard to do).

Last edited by davidrg on 2022-02-16, 20:46. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 5 of 59, by AirIntake

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I remove the hard drives and use an IDE to USB adaptor to connect them to a Windows 10 PC. I then use WinImage option "Creating Virtual Hard Disk image from a physical drive..." to create a .vmdk image which can be opened in 7-zip or loaded in VirtualBox. If the hard drive is too old to work in the IDE to USB adaptor I connect it to an older Windows XP computer via IDE and use WinImage there.

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Reply 6 of 59, by Horun

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audiocrush wrote on 2022-02-16, 15:01:
Hi, […]
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Hi,

Systems to include:
8086 System running MS-DOS 3.3
286 System running MS-DOS 6.2
386 System running MS-DOS 6.2 WfW3.11

How was it done back then when these systems used to be used productively in use in companys?
Is there maybe a tools that can push backups over serial connections with which one could build a double density size boot floppy?

I'm very excited to hear about that 😀

Back then they did not Image HD's but backed up data, drivers, etc to floppy or a second HD. If you think about it: a 20MB RLL or early 40MB IDE would only need a few HD floppies to back up the important stuff 😀
When I started in early '95 we still had to work on late model 386 and early 486 and remember backing up data to floppies many times 🤣
Lately I back up most IDE drives as others described above to Thumb Drive or CDR or to an Image on a diff HD. With 8088, 286, 386 have not seen any need to actually back them up. I have no proprietary machines except the XP luggable the rest are very "IBM compatible" and easy to restore with little effort. I do like the bootable media CD you can create from Acronis (have versions going back to about 2006) to save a HD image to second HD, works great for Win9x thru Win 10.

Hate posting a reply and then have to edit it because it made no sense 😁 First computer was an IBM 3270 workstation with CGA monitor.

Reply 7 of 59, by BitWrangler

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Strangely convoluted methods...

Uuencode or convert to Base64 and fax it to yourself.

Get a VCR backup system.

Try transferring it to your cellphone via the Timex datalink blinking lines method and camera. (Li-fi in the 90s, gasp)

Experiment with write only memory, like the last of the functioning Zip drives and remaining writeable cartridges.

Fit an IRDA transceiver and back it up to your PalmPilot/WinCE handheld.... or use the serial cradle.... that might actually be vaguely practical with a WinCE device or ancient MP3 player even that a) takes SDCARD or CompactFlash and b) can use a serial or parallel cradle...

But in truth, the method I've actually used so far is to use a "tweener" windows 98 laptop that has a USB port that can take flash drives (Or external HDD) and also has a parallel port to use with a parallel laplink cable and LL5, LapLink5. Which also seems strangely convoluted to some, but seems to suit me fine, can suck bits out of anything with a parallel port.

edit: I guess that's when I can't be bothered pulling one or two machines apart and snarfing it direct off the hard drive if it's IDE or SCSI. I have enough adapters for that too, PCMCIA to IDE, USB to IDE... Even think I have a parallel port backpack interface somewhere I never got round to screwing with, maybe I should stick a CDRW in that so I've got another option to ignore and use LL5.

editII: Something I used to do before many other options existed, was kinda have a chain of "twinned" systems, but only with essential unique files, no installable software, so the from slowest to fastest (and not coincidentally the next closest in technology) one was backed up to the next in zip files and vice versa, so if one flaked out it could have it's stuff restored from it's buddy.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 8 of 59, by Pierre32

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I've got NICs in everything these days, and a Pi based NAS (RetroNAS has recently made all this a lot smoother to set up). The NAS has dual NICs so I can comfortably connect all my retro gear to one network, and manage it from Win10 on the other network.

For DOS machines, I only bother backing up custom configs (autoexec, config.sys and any custom batch files). So that's just a drag and drop, or the Norton Commander version of it. 9x or XP machines, I don't bother at all. The key for me is having a very neatly organised software & driver library on the NAS, so if I am setting up a new machine from scratch, everything is just a quick grab from the server.

Reply 9 of 59, by audiocrush

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Hmm
So maybe going for an isa CF Slot Adapter could be my best bet of unifying the backup process (except for the PS/2 machine which could go over ethernet)
But it is still a hassle of opening them and putting the card into one computer after the other...
My dream would be to have the machines backup in a way that I have a copy of the disk that I can also run in PCem with the exact same hardware emulated 😁
I guess the least intrusive way would be serial as Bitwrangler suggested, since all of the machines have serial.
I just don't know any software of that era

https://www.nerdsh.org/ - my blog, a bit neglected though, taking a creative pause - It is about me and a couple of guys finding an old minicomputer/mainframe style machine

Reply 10 of 59, by BitWrangler

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Did I mention Laplink5? ... also can use serial null modem cable ... crams on a 360kB floppy ... has a "remote install" feature i.e. procedure to bootstrap an install so it installs itself over the link cable. Serial speeds are a bit tedious with 8250 UARTs and slow CPUs though, like 19,200 if you're lucky.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 11 of 59, by davidrg

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There is this tool for dumping hard disks over a serial cable from DOS: https://github.com/NCommander/serial_dumper
And this one for dumping hard disks to an image file on another drive (such as a mapped network drive): https://github.com/NCommander/dos_disk_dumper

I've not used either yet but NCommander demonstrated the disk dumper in this video

Given all but two of your machines currently have ethernet it seems to me the easiest option would be to track down a pair of 8bit ISA NICs for the two oldest machines and use the network for all backups. The Microsoft SMB client for DOS will still talk to modern versions of Samba if you turn off enough security (though perhaps not for much longer) but it uses an absurd amount of conventional memory so you won't want to load it from autoexec.bat. If you've got a spare Raspberry Pi you could give MARS_NWE (Like Samba but emulates NetWare instead of SMB) a go - the client for that is much more light-weight and easier to setup.

Both options will give you a network drive that you could use diskdumper, msbackup or xcopy to copy data to.

There is also EtherDFS which will give you a network drive. Server needs linux and I hear a FAT32 formatted volume to store data on. Performance is going to be worse than the Microsoft or NetWare options but it will use probably use less conventional memory than all but the 32bit NetWare DOS client.

Reply 12 of 59, by BitWrangler

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If serial really is the only option. Due to integrated peripheral pizzabox machines, weird expansion slots (I'm looking at you PS/2s), standard but limited slots (like do you take the video card or the i/o card out to install a NIC?? ) or pre-PCMCIA laptops with no expansion options available... then this is the fastest serial transfer program I've found...

http://cd.textfiles.com/230/EMULATOR/DOSTOOLS/TWIN/

I know about it because I have Amigas, because it does Amiga to Amiga, PC to Amiga, AND PC to PC... it's a bit more "command liney" rather than the Commander/Dosshell type interface of LL5 or equivalents. But, in general I found it will establish a PC to PC connection at twice the speed possible with other programs. This is attributed to low overhead so the CPU can pay 95% of it's attention to the serial port, but also seems to involve better error correction as I seem to be able to use "flaky" cables on it at speeds comparable to "perfect" cables with other utils.

edit: reskimming the text/docs I notice it says limited... I don't remember this being a problem... maybe I just zipped/LHAed everything I was transferring. I thought maybe I had a later version, but not finding one. This is the full package with the Amiga files in too if needed http://aminet.net/package/comm/misc/twin_express

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 13 of 59, by konc

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Pierre32 wrote on 2022-02-17, 05:12:

I've got NICs in everything these days, and a Pi based NAS (RetroNAS has recently made all this a lot smoother to set up). The NAS has dual NICs so I can comfortably connect all my retro gear to one network, and manage it from Win10 on the other network.

For DOS machines, I only bother backing up custom configs (autoexec, config.sys and any custom batch files). So that's just a drag and drop, or the Norton Commander version of it. 9x or XP machines, I don't bother at all. The key for me is having a very neatly organised software & driver library on the NAS, so if I am setting up a new machine from scratch, everything is just a quick grab from the server.

Exactly this, one of the very times I'm missing a "like" button.

For dos/win 3x computers there is no need to take images, just sys.com and copy files.

For windows do a new installation and have a folder with the correct drivers and basic apps ready

Reply 14 of 59, by davidrg

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konc wrote on 2022-02-18, 21:47:

Exactly this, one of the very times I'm missing a "like" button.

For dos/win 3x computers there is no need to take images, just sys.com and copy files.

For windows do a new installation and have a folder with the correct drivers and basic apps ready

Yeah, I tend not to backup DOS machines a whole lot these days. Where possible I store stuff on network drives so I don't really need to worry about loosing anything should an antique hard disk fail. Reinstalling Windows 3.x and other software form the LAN is fast on the rare occasion I need to do it. I've got the install programs for most windows stuff loaded into the NetWare Application Launcher so when I login for the first time to a fresh install of Windows 3.11 a window pops up with icons for installing anything else I might want (or launching programs that are installed to the server).

The missing step so far is getting DOS 6.22 installed from the network using only a single bootable floppy with the network client on it. I guess I could just format /S then xcopy the DOS folder and network client installer over but it would be nice if I could make it work with the normal MS-DOS installer. Bonus points if I could get it to install a modified autoexec.bat that, on first boot, would automatically start windows setup.

I've also played a little bit with network booting the entire machine - no hard disk (or floppy drive) required. Seems to work OK but finding NICs with suitable Boot ROMs is hard.

Reply 15 of 59, by NyLan

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Using Ghost 2003 to create a gho file, then I burn it on a CD made bootable to create a recovery cd.
I also save the iso on my NAS. Just in case.

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Reply 16 of 59, by BitWrangler

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davidrg wrote on 2022-02-18, 22:44:

Seems to work OK but finding NICs with suitable Boot ROMs is hard.

Burning your own ROMs for any NICs with a socket is an option though.

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 17 of 59, by BitWrangler

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If you do get a network solution set up though and just have "that one lonely NICless machine" then getting a parallel laplink cable can have it join in the fun with PLIP packet driver and then you can FTP or SMB with the rest of them.... requires a connected machine with a parallel port to bridge the connection though... it's not super fast but it's not serial slow, possibly comparable to "just about stays connected" edge of range 802.11b connection or one of the lower tier 8 bit NICs on a slow XT (Where it will do 1Mbit north to south, but south to north only 700kbit because it's fighting the geomagnetic field 🤣 )

Unicorn herding operations are proceeding, but all the totes of hens teeth and barrels of rocking horse poop give them plenty of hiding spots.

Reply 18 of 59, by davidrg

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BitWrangler wrote on 2022-02-18, 23:20:

Burning your own ROMs for any NICs with a socket is an option though.

Yeah, thats probably what I'll have to do - trouble is finding a copy of the ROM to burn to a chip. I was looking around on ebay a week back to see if I could spot any cards I recognize with a ROM installed - then I could just image the ROM and burn some copies. ISA NICs seem to be surprisingly expensive these days though!

I noticed today that Realtek provides a boot ROM image for the RTL8019 - I'm sure I've got a pile of those somewhere so I'll probably give that a go next time I see my big box of ISA NICs.