Friday, May 28, 2010

System Backup

This a Ubuntu Post, Ignore it you do not use a UNIX like OS.

I know this is not exactly HAM Radio, but it does support my interest in the Hobby, both for Homebrew Project Creation and Radio Operations.

I have worked with the UNIX OS for about 30+ years, and have used many "Backup Utilities", everything from system level simple "tar", "cpio" to full DataBase supported systems. All of these methods are lacking, and NONE of them have what I would call the "Right Stuff". Over the years, I have written many custom backup systems for myself and customers, to support the following.

A Backup System should be; "easy to set up", "easy use", and "easy to RESTORE". The Backup System should be able to be used by the System Administrator for full system backup, and/or by a normal "user" for personal files.

The Backup System should provide;
  • local storage, to same disk and/or to another partition
  • local storage, to another disk
  • remote storage to another system's storage
  • remote (out of house) system storage
  • easy access to that associationally needed file restore, directly from online
  • delta backups should be supported and automatic
  • multiple revisions with date stamps
  • it should be fast as the path allows
I believe "tape storage" is worthless, nobody has the time to wait for multiple 100's of G Bytes for tape to RESTORE (remember, for me, time to RESTORE is a measure of the worth of a Backup System, disk are cheap, use them!).

I believe; "An untested backup and the resulting RESTORE, is no backup at all".

Up until now, for my personal use,  I have preferred my own "Backup Utilities" , they have had all of the above qualities.

But, Today I found, what I think, is the ideal UNIX Backup Utility - "backintime" from "".

It does everything I needed of a Backup System, and it is simple to use!  - Thanks Guys!

BackInTime provides a very nice, easy to use GUI. Under the hood, "backintime" uses "rsync" with all of its capabilities and speed.

If you want to use it with your Linux system, check for it in your "software repositories" first to see if it is available, that way it will be updated with normal system updates, otherwise download from the above site.

I recommend, to always plan for a second local disk and/or another system for the "Backup Storage Target". If your single local disk with the only backup (on the same disk) fails, you-are-hosed! Avoid the problem - have multiple disk or systems. Remember, it is not a matter of IF the disk or system fails, but only a matter of  WHEN.

Note: For remote backup storage access, "sshfs" is your friend (which should also be available in your software repository).

From now on, my Shack/Hanger/Shop (plus boathouse) will now be Backed Up with "BackInTime"!


Well "backintime" got is almost right, or at least as high as 98%.  A backup to a remote mounted files systems does not appear to utilize hard links for each successive backup - and therefore each requires the same amount of space as the original.  I my have this wrong (I hope so), but so far I have not be able to confirm or deny this with online documentation.  I am still checking for more information.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Camera Received

I received the Camera for the Microscope the other day, it is supported via a Windows program and drivers - just as the description suggested.  I was hoping that my Shop Ubuntu System would see it as just another camera device. But NO luck.

The only one MS Windows system in my Shop is not readily accessible and therefore I have not had time to move things around to make use of the camera.

My immediate goal is to document my results and use of my Toner-Transfer Method to make very small PCB's.  The current project is another 10m Crystal Marker on a 1/2 inch square board with 0603 parts. Viewing this board via the Microscope shows that my previously thought pristine DIY fabrication efforts has always had many holes/pits in the pads and miss-shaped traces. I am finding out that you don't want to look very close. That is, if you have very critical eye. It is a good thing that electrons do not care where they flow (at least at this frequency)!

I want to see how "wiped solder plating" changes the results.

When I etched this latest board, it seemed to take a inordinate long time to etch. Now looking at it via the Microscope it is obvious, I used a scrap piece of 2oz copper PCB material. I normally use 1/2oz copper for my circuits. When viewed at a angle, the 2oz traces and pads makes for a interesting photo.

One part of the Amateur Radio Hobby is building HomeBrew projects,  for my part of that,  I enjoy shrinking normal circuits with very small parts, and building on extremely small PCB's. I strive to continually make things smaller.

Soon, I should have photos to share.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Reply to Mark

This is a reply to Mark's "post" regarding his blogging efforts.

Don't change a thing!

Mark, I would NOT like to see you change anything on your blog. I see your "Brainwagon" - is just that, a place to carry your thoughts and interests. We share many similar interests even though mine may not be active.

I was inspired by your "Brainwagon" blog and Bill's "Soldersmoke" blog/podcasts, enough to do something similar and started my own "Ham Radio Blog". I am not a great writer, but I use my blog to capture thoughts, links, and to blog about things that interests me. Some readers find my blog interesting enough to return, and I enjoy seeing the hit count stats, but that is not my goal. I have met many people via my blog, and I count them among my friends.

I see links to your blog on many pages that I read, I am sure many reader enjoy your content.

The ONLY thing that I would suggest; is for you to be more engaging, reply to comments.

Eldon - WA0UWH


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Computer Updates

For the last few days I have not done much HAM Shack or Homebrew work. My computers have taken most of my spare time, updating the Operating Systems to newer releases.

My "Direct Laser Print to PCB" project is temporary on hold, awaiting a new strategy or idea.

As a Computer Consultant I have several (more than I should need) Home/Office/Shop computers that I use:
  • A Production File and Print Server - Big and slow
  • My Workstation - A High Speed Machine
  • My Laptop
  • A Backup Server - Multi Tera Bytes of Storage
  • A Local Web Server
  • A Shop PlasmaCAM (CNC) Computer - an MS OS, darn.
  • A HAM Radio Computer - QRSS and PCB Design
  • A Remote Web Server - 30m QRSS Grabber, WSPR Radio Server
  • A Boathouse Server - Network and File Server
Except the Shop CNC Computer, all of the systems have always had some form of Linux installed, Red Hat, Fedora, or Ubuntu, etc.

During the last few years I have been slowly moving to Ubuntu on each of them. But due to many factors, even the same revision of Ubuntu has NOT been installed on each.  I am now trying to fix this with the new release of Ubuntu 10.04.

Over the last 30 years while working with the UNIX OS as a profession and with this many Home/Office/Shop systems, I have learned many things that help avoid system-admin-madness.

Here are a few strategies that I use:
  • Avoid customizing the Operating System directly. Use appending files with your modifications.
  • Install additional Data Disks for most of your "user storage" space. The OS disk should contain only the OS stuff.
  • For performance, use a local "DNS Caching Service", use a program called "dnsmasq
  • Each day, backup most user data into a locally created "/Attic" directory, on a separate disk, mounted on the local machine, allowing for multiple date stamped copies - disks are cheap.
  • Backup all important data to another system, devise a way to have multiple date stamped copies on-line (i.e., my backup server). I do not use tape, again, disks are cheap.
  • Create a special local area that is NOT backed up for on-line copies of CD's (I call it: /Depot/@CDs/), CD's and/or most downloads should not need to be backed up. In my backup scheme, any directory name starting with an "@" are purposely NOT backed up.
  • Use "ssh" to work on other systems from a central workstation.
  • Customize the command prompt to include the "system name", this helps avoid executing a command on the wrong computer.
  • Ubuntu supports an easy to implement "apt-cache-ng" server for local copies of system updates, so that each system is not required to obtain same from across the Internet from a remote Internet resource. To implement, it is only a one line statement in the "/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/01proxy" file.
  • Use "rsync -a" to backup directories, locally or onto a remote system.
  • And, etc,  etc .  .  .
Many years of experience has created a much longer list, but you get the idea, for now this will do.

More work is to be done before each of my systems are brought up-to-date - but, I am still working on it!

Tess is not liking this effort, I have not taken time to play with her, she keeps bringing me her ball for me to throw down the stairs from the loft. She loves to chase and return it. Very seldom does she get more than about 30 feet from my side. She is a great joy!


    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Trying Direct Laser Print to PCB

    I have been investigating Direct Laser Printing to PCB as an etch resist, see previous post.

    So far I have not found better results than I obtain with Toner Transfer using Pulsar Transfer Paper, my goal is better-faster-cheaper laser etch resist.

    For my tests, I have NOT modified the "HP LaserJet 1300" other than removing the "Fuser" and I have left it plugged in, setting behind the printer. I have been using very thin PCB material so that it will past through the printer with out modifying the paper path (by cutting out plastic).

    Without the "Fuser" installed, the resulting prints are very fragile, and as expected the toner can be just dusted or wiped off.
    • Printing on paper provides the best very high resolution images,
    • Printing onto a Thin PCB Patch mounted on paper with tape - lacks resolution, normal test page solid letters are only outlined
    • Printing on a full sheet of a thin Aluminium Carrier (hardware store rain flashing) looks good, but holes are revealed under a Microscope.
    • Printing on a Teflon Patch provides very high resolution, similar to paper.
    The image on Teflon can be transfer to PCB material via a laminater, but handling the fragile image is problematic, the toner tends to move (fly) around when the PCB material is placed in contact or near the image. I have tried pre-fixing the Teflon image in a toaster oven, which helps. But the need to prefix is as complex as using the standard Toner Transfer method - no gain in effort.

    So back to the, . .  Drawing Board


    Friday, May 14, 2010

    OK I am Hooked

    OK, I am hooked on the idea of laser printing directly to PCB material (see previous post) for my HB projects.

    Because of what I have learned by disassembling the HP LaserJet 1300 and looking at the possibility, I decided to return to REPC to pickup two other junked printers of (about) the same type. These two will be used to "experiment on", to make trial cuts for path modification. These are not the exactly the same as the target machine, but the print engines are about the same. These are HP LaserJet 1100's (I think).

    I recently took one of the LaserJet 1100 apart to confirm the same print engine and found the "good part" that will be use to repair the 1300.

    With time, I will start the process of cutting the "Fuser" baffles to help straighten the "out-bound paper path" through the back of the printer. Also, some cutting or modification of the in-bound paper path may be necessary.

    Of course I do not know if this printer will even print on PCB material, once the paper path modifications are made. But I am hopeful.

    Some of the attributes that I was looking for in a potential printer for this modification task, was:
    • Straight Paper Path (as much as possible)
    • PostScript Language
    • 1200 DPI
    • USB, LAN or WIFI
    • there may be others, that I have not learned of yet?
    Mark is showing good progress with his efforts., he is the inspiration for my attempt at a similar "Laser Print to PCB" effort. Thanks Mark.

    Now,  .  .  .  .  on to the cutting!


    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Went to REPC in Seattle

    Today, Larry - KB7KMO, and I went to REPC (a pc recycle center in Seattle). I have mentioned this place before on a previous blog. This place is a great place to pick-up computer parts for their internal parts. Many things are quite cheap if you do not mind looking in the bins on the floor, and junk boxes on the tables.

    What I find valuable are the DC wall-warts for my QRP projects and components salvaged form junk PC boards.  Old modems seem to provide the most varied components for a very low price, audio transformers, high value caps, heat sinks, and many others.

    Today, I had a specific purchase in mind - I wanted an old (working or not) Laser Printer.  My goal is to re-purpose it for "Direct PCB Etch Resist Printing", see previous post regarding Mark's adventure while exploring this new frontier. Mark's write-up describes the modifications needed to a Lexmark E260 printer.  As luck would have it, REPC did not have a salvaged Lexmark printer for me to try, But .  .  .

    There was several Old HP LaserJet 1300, with one which was marked down to $30 - and its test page appeared in order. So it came home with me.

    The HP LaserJet 1300 appears to have an USB, with 1200 DPI, and PostScript installed.  Also, the paper path through the printer appears to be some what straight, of course some modification will be needed to pass a stiff PCB material through the printer.

    Maybe the HP LaserJet 1300 can be modified, or NOT, but it will provide a challenge to see what I can do with it to produce "Direct Laser Printer to PCB" results.

    At home, Larry and I wanted to "get started" dismantling the printer to check out the paper path and deciding what modification would be necessary.   We started off on the wrong foot, as we forgot to get a USB cable and a power cord for the printers initial test (I had neither on my boat where we were doing the work), but we did learn how the take the printer apart,  figured out how it works, and how to put it back together successfully.

    We also found the reason this printer was cheaper than the others on the same table at REPC - this printer has a broken plastic post inside on the lock lever that holds the toner cartage in place - and therefore would probably not print reliably.  For my purpose, this should not be a problem, it can be fixed.

    Later, if all goes well with this modification, I will share the results via photos and a short write up, - or, . . . .  If NOT, what the heck, I will also share the failure.

    While at REPC, I also found a "Compact Memory" card reader for my laptop for $1.00, with it, I will now be able to read my photos (from my old camera) for this blog directly into the laptop, maybe? Unlike this post, personally I enjoy blogs with descriptive photos.

    BTW, Larry - KB7KMO is my friend that lives on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, while, as he says, "eating his way around the world".  He is here in Seattle for a few weeks while is daughter is providing him with another Grand Child!    Congrats - Larry, .  .  .  .  Oh yes, the same for, Mom, Dad and Grandma!


    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    SM-3T Microscope Received

    My ordered SM-3T Microscope has been received, it will be a great addition to my Shop and will be very helpful for Homebrew PCB and SMT projects.

    Later with the addition of a mounted camera I will post close-up photos of some of my projects. So far, it has been fun just looking at different things!

    Also, I am sure the Microscope will provide many hours of fun with my Grand Kids - I am sure we will look at a lot of Bugs, Rocks, Sticks, and Leaves!

    Of recent, I have not posted many photos to this blog because my computer with a "compact memory slot" is still packed waiting for my office to be set up.  But, soon photos of my Shop and Projects will return to my blog posts.