Friday, March 03, 2006

Can I Have My Data Back?

A marvellous anecdote in "The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison" worth (IMHO) buying the book for...

Back in the days of the VAX - where the early Oracle service for the construction of the LEP machine was run - we were forever restoring data from backup tapes.

Unfortunately, the tape handling of the VMS BACKUP utility was far from perfect and often led to the wrong tape being mounted. Worse still, current practice at that time was to reinitialise (label) tapes before each use, meaning that you could just lose last night's backup...

On one such occasion, temperatures were running high. (Important data had been lost / corrupted and we needed to get it back - trouble is, the backup tape had been relabelled and was now 'empty'.)

Luckily, I had just been working on some new tape handling software (bits of which were later used by some of the LEP experiments online - also at FNAL and SLAC - but that's another story...)

Putting a bold face on it, I casually walked into the machine room and mounted the offending tape. Casually skipped past the offending tape mark and copied the data over.

BACKUP successfully restored the file - complaining mildly about wrong block count in the trailer label.

My reputation as a VAX guru and wizard had been made.

Pity we no longer use 'em.