Brain dump, April 2022

Recovered data for a client from a Sony AIT3 tape (model SDX3-100C, 30GB). This was done using a Sony SDX 700C SCSI drive, under Linux using the usual mt and dd commands, although I had to specify a 64KB block size (dd -bs 64k) to read it correctly. The annoying thing was the format of the backup, which took a little time to reverse-engineer, but probably came from an old version of Retrofit, from a Mac workstation. This is now integrated into my swiss-army-knife backup decoding repository.

Another client needed to convert an obscure video codec into a modern format. The codec turned out to be Media 100, which is still in existence (?) but is completely unsupported in modern video players, including ffmpeg and mplayer. Fortunately the Media 100 software itself is still downloadable and can be installed on older versions of macOS. Once installed it’s possible to create a blank project and import the video clips into it, and then export them as a more common format. It also looks like QuickTime version 7 (still available for download and installable on older macOSes) can play Media 100 videos.

I received a couple of Iomega Ditto tape drives from a generous donor (a “2GB” drive and an “Easy 800” drive). Unfortunately both of these drives were suffering from the “melting rubber wheel” issue, which is when the rubber roller which drives the tape turns to sticky goo. When using this type of drive for the first time, make sure to inspect the rubber wheel and verify that it’s nice and firm. If touching the wheel makes an indentation, or if the rubber comes off on your finger, replace it and do not try reading any tapes with it!

The solution that worked for me to resolve this issue was PlastiDip, which I learned about from this webpage and this video. First make sure to remove any of the old rubber, and then perform successive “dips” of the capstan, which will accumulate more and more layers of rubber, until it matches the desired thickness.

When the drives were fixed, I was able to use them successfully to read some Ditto 2GB tapes, as well as some older QIC-80 tapes, using the Ditto Tools software (which looks like just a rebranded Colorado Backup) running in Windows 98, on an old ThinkPad laptop, communicating with the tape drive over the parallel port.

Finally moved away from using Dropbox entirely, and switched to using Syncthing. The breaking point was when Dropbox started to litter my removable USB drives with configuration files, because apparently that’s the only way for Dropbox to know that I don’t want my removable drives backed up.

Of course the drawback is that Syncthing doesn’t back up to the cloud; it only syncs across one or more devices that I own, which are currently online. For now, though, this will probably work just fine, since I usually have at least two devices powered on at any given time, including my desktop workstation, my laptop, and my phone.