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%% Video BackUp System                                 by John Collier %%
%%                                       John_M_Collier@cup.portal.com %%
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Price: $99.00 (last I saw)

Available from:  MANTA     1-800-477-7706


                Review by Eric Heller


   I used to back up the two hard drives (85 and 130 mb) on my 1200 with
Quarterback and double-density floppies.  Sitting in front of my machine for
two hours swapping 60 floppy disks during a backup wasn't my idea of a good
time, but it was all I had to work with (I was too cheap to buy a SCSI
controller and a tape drive).  Then one day last spring I visited the World
of Commodore Show in Manhattan and happened across Manta's booth where they
were demonstrating the Video Backup System.  What?!!!

Use a VCR as a tape backup?  Yeah right!  They were selling it at the show
for a $10 discount at a price of $89.99.  I was VERY skeptical, but being
the kind of person that can't leave a computer show without buying
SOMETHING, (and I didn't need a new mousepad), I figured what the heck.  So
I brought it home and tried it.  And it worked!

VBS comes with backup software that is as easy to use as my old version
of Quarterback, a male-to-male RCA type cable, and an RCA
male-to-serial-interface.  The manual is clear and well-written.  VBS backs
up data from any AmigaDOS volume (hard disk, floppy, whatever) by sending
the data as a video signal through the composite video output to the VCR's
video input jack (an adaptor is available for Amiga's that don't have a
composite video output, like the 4000).  VBS restores and verifies data from
tape by pulling the video output from the VCR in through the serial port
using the included interface.

When VBS starts a backup, the first thing it records on tape is a video
"label" that shows the name and date of the backup, which can make it easier
for you to find the beginning of the backup on the tape (but VHS tapes are
so cheap anyway, I only put one backup per tape so they always start at the
beginning anyway).  After the "label", VBS records a directory tree that
contains a listing of all the directories and files on the backup.  Then it
proceeds to back up all the files that were previously selected for backup.

To restore files from tape, the VBS software tells you to press "PLAY" on
your VCR at a position on the tape before the backup.  After reading the
directory tree from the backup, which just takes a few seconds, VBS
instructs you to press "PAUSE" on the VCR.  You now can take your time
selecting the files you wish to restore from the backup.  After you've
selected what you want,
VBS tells you to press "PLAY" again, and now you just sit back and relax
while VBS restores your files to the volume you selected.

A "Verify" function is included, which you can use directly after backing
up.  This feature compares the contents of the backup to the contents of
your hard disk (or whatever volume you backed up) and reports any files that
have errors.  I've used it after every backup because I'm a paranoid
schizophrenic but so far every backup has been perfect.  And more
importantly, I've restored files!  Successfully!  I've done complete
restores, partial restores, no problem!  But because VBS doesn't control the
VCR (you do) in the way that a program like Amiback directly controls a tape
drive, there are some small disadvantages when you compare it to a "real"
tape backup unit.

If you want to do a "partial" restore, in other words, restore only
certain files from a backup, VBS can't simply fast-forward the tape to the
positions of those files.  After selecting which files you wish to restore,
you simply press "PLAY", and when the VCR get to those files, it gets to
them.

If you're lucky, those files might be at the very beginning of the backup,
and it won't take long.  However, if they're at the end of an hour-long
backup, it will take an hour.  This doesn't bother me, actually, since I
rarely do partial restores.  If I ever accidentally delete a file from my
hard disks, I can more often than not undelete it with Amiback Tools.

Now, you're probably wondering about how much stuff you can actually fit
on a video tape, right?  Sorry, I forgot to mention it earlier.  The manual
says that you can back up 175 megabytes onto a four-hour tape.  What's a
four-hour tape?  I guess they're talking about a T-120 running at LP speed.
I run my backups at SP (2 hours on a T-120) 'cause I figured the video image
would be better, but I guess if they say you can run at 4-hour speed, you
probably can.  87.5 megabytes on a two-hour tape is fine for me though,
since my partitions are smaller than that.  They do recommend you use
high-grade video tapes.  I picked up some Maxell HGX-Gold T-120's at a drug
store for $4.99, so it's no big expense (MUCH cheaper than tapes for tape
backup units).

One more note:  In order for the VCR (at least in the U.S.) to accept
VBS's output, the computer MUST be in NTSC graphics mode with mode promotion
disabled.  I normally keep my Workbench in DoubleNTSC mode with mode
promotion on, so I just reboot my 1200 into ECS mode (which defaults to
NTSC) before I run VBS, which I find easier than changing my Prefs.  You
probably won't have to worry about this if you don't have an AGA machine,
though.

I HIGHLY recommend this easy-to-use, reliable product to ANY
Amiga owner who's disgusted backing up to floppies and has a VCR readily
available.  I've only seen VBS advertised by Manta (they have ads in
AmigaWorld pretty often).  Their phone number is listed at the top of this
review.  And by the way, I know you've heard this crap before, but I am in
no way affiliated with Manta or with Lyppens Software, and take no
responsibility for anything I say, do, or think.  After all, I'm an 
American.

John Collier ** FAT AGNUS BBS 914-429-7765