tape creation

AMIX install tape creation Image

So you want to make an install tape? This is a slightly risky proposition, due to the likely age of your tape drive as well as the tapes you will be using. I'll present the method that worked for me here.

Original boxed Amix packages are rarely seen on eBay and other sites. Sometimes old sets and tapes surface, but chances of finding a working tape are even lower. The tape pictured right was included in a boxset with almost mint insides, but still the tape contained read errors and wouldn't finish installation.

Part of the magic with vintage UNIX machines is using real tape streamers.

Step 1: Verify that you have the proper hardware

This method has been tested using an existing Amiga UNIX install (maybe installed using the HD hack) and a Commodore A3070 tape drive. It is hoped you have these things. In particular the installation is very sensitive to the tape drive used, so you may be wasting your time without an A3070. If you do not have these things, you can attempt to create the tape using a QIC 150 tape drive of any type using DC6150 tapes. You may find the following information from the Amiga-Hardware page about the A3070 helpful:

The A3070 is the same tape drive as the "Caliper CP150 SCSI QIC" and "Archive Viper 150MB Tape Streamer" (some are rebadged as Connors) but case design may vary as the Commodore A3070 was designed with an A3000 theme.

One tried drive is a Wangtek 5150ES, which was succesfully used to create and verify the tape as described on this page. On a related note, a slightly newer QIC-1000 drive (in this case, a Tandberg TDC4120) didn't work at all, even mt rewind etc. didn't work. See this thread on EAB Forums.

You won't be able to get the drive to work reliably without the proper termination, so get yourself a DB25 SCSI terminator if necessary. If you need tapes, you can either find somewhere online to buy them new, or you can hit eBay. Used tapes are a dime a dozen on eBay, try this search link and this search link for starters. Used A3070 drives are rare, and seldom cheaply available.

I'm assuming you have what you need, or have given up with a heavy heart. Either way, let's proceed!

Step 2: Prepare the drive and media

Since your drive has likely not been used in a long time, and possibly never cleaned (ever!), you should take care of this. Buy a cleaning tape, they aren't that expensive compared to the cost of replacing your rather rare A3070 due to neglect. To use it, follow the instructions supplied with the tape. The drive will automatically run when the tape is inserted. The cleaning tape may come away quite filthy as mine did — you can feel proud of yourself if this is the case. If it doesn't, consider yourself lucky to have a well cleaned drive. Other possibility is to open the drive and manually clean the head and capstan with proper methods (do this only if you are comfortable on working with tape mechanics and know what you are doing!).

Next, unless you are using brand new tape, you should retension and zero out the tape. In AMIX issue the following commands, in some other OS you will possibly specify the device name differently.

Retensioning the tape: mt retension

Retensioning the tape fast-forwards and rewinds the tape in an effort to eliminate slack in the tape. It takes just a few moments.

Zeroing out the tape will depend on what version of AMIX you are installing. For 2.1 (recommended), you need to use the high density device name which will handle 150MB tapes. For anything else, you need to use the low density device name which can only handle 120MB. In both cases make sure the tape is rewound before issuing the command. If you just finished retensioning the tape you're ready to go.

Zeroing out the tape for 2.1 installation: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/rmt/4hn bs=32k

Zeroing out the tape for other versions: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/rmt/4n bs=32k

Zeroing the tape will take about 25 minutes (on a DC-6150 tape).

The reason for doing this step is simply that the tape will be more reliable this way than if it had some data leftover on it. Once the tape is full (dd will report no more space on the device) it should automatically rewind. If it doesn't or you're not sure, just issue mt rewind.

Step 3: Prepare the files for tape transfer

If you haven't already, download the tape media files you need from this file gallery. Also make sure you grab this file which contains the scripts needed to create the install tape. Don't forget the install floppies for your version of AMIX! Do not use the "hd hack" floppies for tape installation!!!

You need to make the tape files accessible on the machine you are writing the tape from, assumably an AMIX box. How you do this is up to you, and depends on what resources you have available. I use an NFS mount. If you have no network card, you might consider using kermit and your serial port. I've done it before...maybe I'll document it later, but there's plenty of docs on the web for it. If you've never dialed into a BBS before you may have trouble figuring this out. Your box needs to have access to the following:

  • tape media extracted from the tar.bz2 files
  • tape creation script (dtdist.sh)

If your tape media does not have a seglist file (the 2.1 image on this site does, so no worries there) you'll have to figure out the order of the files on the tape. If they are numbered sequentially already, just do ls > seglist but make sure that only tape installation files are in there, and not other things like the dtdist.sh script. If seglist is missing and the files aren't numbered, you need to figure out the order...list the cpio files you have until you encounter one with just two files in it: Version and List. cat the List file. The file containing Version and List needs to be the first onto the tape; everything else goes afterward, in the order specified in the List file. How you figure this out is up to you. The seglist just contains filenames in the order to go onto the tape.

If and only if you are making a 2.1 tape you need to modify dtdist.sh before continuing. Change this line:

dd if=$name of=/dev/rmt/4n bs=32k

To this:

dd if=$name of=/dev/rmt/4hn bs=32k

If you're making any other version leave it alone. Now put that file where you will remember it (/tmp maybe) and make it executable (chmod a+x dtdist.sh). Now you should have your tape files somewhere you can get to them, whether an NFS mount or local directory, and you have the dtdist.sh ready.

Step 4: Tape creation

Enter the directory with your tape files including the seglist, and run the dtdist.sh script. If all is set up properly files will begin copying to the tape drive. This will take about half an hour, so relax a while. Issue mt rewind when it's completed.

Step 5: Make another one!

Ok so this step is optional, but particularly if you are using old tapes, make another copy. Hell, make two. Go through the whole process except for cleaning the drive. Yeah I know it takes a while, but it beats blowing away your AMIX install only to have the tape fail halfway through. You will have to start the install over in this event, but at least you'll have another tape to try.

Step 6: Verify your tape

This step is also optional, but might save you some time in the long run. Take a look at the cpdist.sh script included with the tape creation script. Modify the device name to be 4hn if you have a 2.1 tape and run it in an empty directory, copying the seglist file into it before you run the script. If you get any errors, you can either try that tape again (retension, zero out, write tape) or try a new tape. No errors? You're ready to install, but it's wise to have a backup tape anyway!
Contributors to this page: MindWalker , nyetwork and failure .
Page last modified on Tuesday 15 of March, 2016 15:09:32 EDT by MindWalker. (Version 16)