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Published in TidBITS 97.
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DiskFit Pro

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Dantz recently sent me the press release announcing DiskFit Pro, and the press release came wrapped around a copy of the program. That's the way I like it because it's much easier to write a decent article about something when you've had a chance to try it out. For those of you who haven't heard the history, Dantz originally developed a backup program, DiskFit, for SuperMac many years ago. It shipped with all Dataframe hard drives from SuperMac, but when SuperMac decided to concentrate on the graphics business, it sold the rights to DiskFit back to Dantz. Dantz cleaned it up a bit, made sure it was System 7-compatible, and recently released it as DiskFit Pro.

DiskFit Pro is a perfect example of a focussed program. It defines its purpose clearly and narrowly, and it performs that task admirably. DiskFit Pro tries to be a fast, easy backup program for people who have better things to worry about than backing up. DiskFit Pro isn't in the same class as Dantz's high-end backup and archiving program, Retrospect, but it doesn't try to be. The main things that Dantz added to DiskFit Pro include a DiskFit Pro Reminder Control Panel that can remind you when to back up and some interesting features to that help deal with the proliferation of aliases in System 7. Dantz also removed support for DC2000 tape drives because they recommend Retrospect for use with all tape drives.

Using DiskFit Pro is indeed simplicity itself. After launching the program, you select a volume from the list (following the prompts at the top of the DiskFit window), then click Backup, Duplicate, or Restore. If you click Backup and wish to use floppies, you can then insert the first floppy and click Proceed. Your backup is underway. There are few options, but they should suffice in most instances. You can limit your backup to Only Documents, Only Applications, Only System Folder, or to a Single File. You can select individual folders to back up and exclude files based on type/creator. Nothing like Retrospect, but easy as all get out. Using the Backup creates what Dantz calls a SmartSet, and a SmartSet can be comprised of any combination of media.

If you have a SyQuest drive or another hard drive to use as a destination disk, you can choose to Duplicate the source disk if it will fit entirely on the destination disk. There are no Duplicate options; it simply makes an exact copy of the source disk on the destination disk. What you can do (and what I do now) is duplicate two 20 MB source disks onto a single 40 MB SyQuest cartridge using Subvolumes, which are really folders you ask DiskFit to look at as volumes. This is one of DiskFit's few weak points because it defies the standard Macintosh interface. To define a Subvolume, you select a volume in your main window and then click the Subvolume window. You can then select any folder on that volume by way of a Standard File Dialog box. Herein lies the problem. DiskFit will not let you select a folder on any disk other than the one you originally selected and the SFDialog jumps back to the selected volume when you pick another disk in the SFDialog box. A utility like Super Boomerang confuses the issue even more because it will try to move you to the last accessed folder automatically, even if that folder is not on the volume you selected in DiskFit. It does work fine, but you have be careful or you'll get a bit frustrated. I gather Dantz set it up this way to be consistent with the rest of the program's interface.

If you wish to Restore an entire disk, it's equally as easy - just start up the Mac with a floppy, run DiskFit Pro, select the volume to restore, select the backup disk, and you're off. In the slim 53 page manual Dantz includes a handy table of all the possibilities involved in restoring files and disks. One of the coolest features is the way you can restore a single file with the SmartSet Alias. If that option is selected, DiskFit Pro will create a folder on your desktop with an alias to every file in the backup. You can find the alias to the file you wish to restore, Get Info... on the alias, and then click Find Original. The Finder will then prompt you for the correct backup disk. If you didn't opt to create that SmartSet Alias, you can always look in the DiskFit Report to see which backup disk holds your file.

One of the reasons all of this is so easy is that DiskFit stores all the files in normal Finder format. So in my case, where I have two partitions backed up to the same SyQuest, I could actually work off that SyQuest if I had to. It's an exact duplicate. DiskFit even goes so far as to copy my hard disk icons onto the top level of the folders that it is using as Subvolumes, but I suspect that I could even boot that SyQuest (one of the partitions is my boot partition) if I had to.

The problem with storing files in Finder format is that they take up more space than if they were compressed, as Retrospect can do. DiskFit minimizes this problem by packing files onto a disk tightly - Dantz is awfully good about figuring out the best way to arrange the files so that each disk is as full as possible. What I like the most, however, is that DiskFit will replace outdated files and folders with the new ones, thus making sure that the backup set cannot grow much larger than the source volume. Retrospect doesn't do this in favor of always keeping a copy since it is a true archiving program, but let's face it, I want to back up my 9 MB TidBITS Archive file each week, but I have no interest in keeping the previous week's file around. Retrospect duplicated that information each week, which was a pain. Now I use DiskFit Pro for two partitions and Retrospect for the third because that one requires more individual file selection.

I found some other items of interest. DiskFit Pro includes the features of the old Network DiskFit, and it can preserve access privileges and the like. DiskFit can automatically format unformatted disks, shut down after finishing, split and join files that are too large for a single floppy, and exclude folders with square brackets around the name (I'd rather see Dantz use System 7's labels for this so you could label a folder to be excluded rather than mucking with the name). Finally, DiskFit knows about backing up aliases and their original files, sort of. DiskFit can warn you if it backs up an alias but not the original file (which is good), and it can even optionally back up that original file automatically (which is good too). However, DiskFit cannot back up the original file if it is on a different volume than the alias, which is the case with almost all of mine. I tend to keep aliases in the Startup Items folder and the Apple Menu Items folder and on the desktop of my boot partition, but I keep almost all of the originals on my applications volume. It's not a big deal as long as I'm warned that the original has not been backed up. Dantz also tells me that they're working on this problem.

I highly recommend DiskFit Pro based on what I've seen and used of it. It's fast, easy to use, and gets the job done. It definitely doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but if you want that sort of noise, buy Retrospect, which has options galore. As far as the low-end backup programs go, DiskFit Pro is one of the best.

Dantz Development
1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1
Berkeley CA 94709
510/849-0293
72477.1322@compuserve.com
DANTZ@applelink.apple.com
Penguin Rating: 9 penguins out of a possible 10

Information from:
Dantz propaganda
Larry Zulch, Dantz President

 

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