I think we’ve finally figured out how tech support for Performas will work when the System file becomes corrupted. Apple’s John Cook told us, "Every Performa comes with a bootable Utilities disk. It contains the Apple Restore program and HD Setup." That solves the immediate problem, since the user can always boot from that floppy, restore the clean System Folder they backed up first thing and start working again.
As you can see from the comments below, there are a variety of potential problems with the strategy behind Apple’s backup system.
Mark H Anbinder writes:
I verified that in fact the Performas do not include a set of system disks. They include a single "Utilities" disk with a startup System Folder, HD Setup, Disk First Aid, CloseView, and the Backup and Restore utilities. That should theoretically be all that anyone would need.
Since the Apple Backup software that comes with the machine can make a backup of the System Folder onto high density floppies, the user should be able to restore just the System Folder onto the hard drive, replacing a theoretically damaged one. That might pose problems for users who have heavily customized after backing up, but we’re not talking about power users here.
In any case, users could always make a copy of the System file itself and keep that as a backup. They’ll have to do this on their own, because the Backup and Restore utilities don’t handle individual files or do incremental backups. A good alternative might be the just-released $49.95 DiskFit Direct from Dantz Development, an even simpler version of their popular DiskFit Pro backup utility.
Replacing a corrupted System file with the one from the Utilities disk might work, but would leave the user with a stripped-down operating system.
Sandro Menzel adds:
It appears as though we may be overlooking one thing. It’s hard enough to get today’s users to backup. The Performas are supposed to be marketed at the computer illiterate. Can we expect them to be any better?
I’m still undecided as to the support issues these machine will raise. Too much rests on who will actually buy the darned things. There will be a bracket of ignorant users whom dealers will never see and group of sophisticated users who will care for themselves. The middle group will no doubt pester the heck out of dealers.
Jonathan Schultz chimes in:
While waiting for Sears Automotive to change my tires, I went to check out the new Apple Backup program (YABP – yet another backup program). It is as simple as can be, and modal (which makes sense since these machines are for beginners). The user is given the choice of backing up just the system folder or the entire hard drive. The software only supports HIGH DENSITY disks. The first screen warns the user to use only HD disks and demonstrates the difference.
Although I understand that Apple is trying to make computer life easier for new users, I think they should have done more research. The idea is to make the user backup often. What beginner is going to like backing up the whole drive when only a small percentage has changed? An 80 MB disk would require over 50 HD disks. Apple should have at least offered a third option – to backup the document folder they force on users. [Another good reason for Performa users to consider DiskFit Direct instead of the included software. -MHA]
I strongly object to Apple not including system software. How many people are going to make a backup of the system folder first thing after setting up the computer? How many of those will lock the disks and keep them in a safe place?
Take a user who did a backup of the original System Folder, and does a backup at the end of each day (yes, I’m dreaming). The user is having problems with a program, and the tech support person says to reinstall the system. Which System Folder should the user restore? The last one with all the preferences and customization that may be corrupted, or the original "good" one without all those saved preferences?
[With a partial restore capability, users could restore only the System file, leaving most of their preferences and other customizations intact. If the machine in question is a Performa 600 running System 7.1, which keeps the user’s fonts outside the System file itself, the System file should now contain little more than operating system resources. -MHA]
Dantz Development — 510/849-0293 — 510/849-1708 (fax)