Interviewer: "Can you destroy the Earth?"
Tick: "Egad! I hope not! That's where I keep all my stuff!"
"The Tick" show
ST NEWS SOFTWARE REVIEWS: "DIAMOND BACK" 3 AND "DIAMOND EDGE"
(AT THE CUTTING EDGE OF TECHNOLOGY)
by Richard Karsmakers
Silly Intro in a vaguely "Once Upon a Time..." style
Somewhere in the United States of America there's a state called
Oregon. And somewhere in that state is a town called Tigard. And
somewhere in that town is an office where works a man by the
name of Robert D. Luneski, more commonly known as Bob. He is the
main man behind Oregon Research Associates, which in this case
doesn't mean he's just the guy that gets most of the cash from
the sale of programs written by the sweat of others, but that
he's also the man responsible for the actual concept and
programming of two of their (and, probably, the world's) best
utility programs on the Atari market today. And it is these
programs, "Diamond Back" and "Diamond Edge", that I intend to
devote this article to.
If you've got a hard disk, you have to realise that you have a
lot of information present on a fairly small cubic space. A few
years ago I was pretty stunned by the fact that 20 Mb fitted on
my SH204 hard disk, but at the moment I've got a 2.5" IDE hard
disk sitting in my Falcon that can handle a massive 340 Mb.
Considering the fact that many of the program files are packed
and that all files I don't use often are kept in ZIP archives,
that even increases that amount significantly. Millions of bytes
cramped on a bit of space the size of a non-king-size pack of
cigarettes, that's really a thing you don't have to think about a
lot or it will drive you - or at least me - straight nuts.
The thing to do to make sure you can sleep safely and that you
don't have to worry incessantly about data loss and that kind of
thing is to keep a backup of your hard disk. Ideally you could
just sortof suck a copy of all your hard disk files onto an SCSI
tape drive (a "tape streamer") and that's that. Most of us don't
have one of those, so you have to do a bit more disk faffing and
slam the whole thing onto whatever amount of disks are needed.
The good thing is that the "Diamond Back" hard disk backup
program supports both kinds - i.e. both tape streamers and floppy
disks - and the latter kind even supports both Double Density and
High Density disks. It can even backup to another hard disk
partition (though I'd personally use "Kobold" 2.5 for that, I
I checked, by the way, to see how many floppies I'd be needing
if ever I got it into my head to backup all the stuff I have on
my equivalent of a cigarette pack. As it turned out, there were
1066 folders containing 7765 files, and I'd need 270 DD disks or
134 HD ones.
I.e. there's not a hair on my baldy-patched head that thought of
ever undertaking such a venture.
"Diamond Back" is completely configurable, though. When you
double-click on any of the drives it has found upon starting up
it will read in all files and folders (their specs, anyway) and
display them in a really handy "PC/ST Tools" kindof window that
shows all the folders. Double clicking on a folder will display
that which lies within, and that way you can add/remove any file
or folder from the list of files you need to have backed up.
There is, however, quite a bit more that can be configured.
There are a certain amount of parameters that govern the entire
backup process as such, where we have "File Compression" (on/off;
"on" saves you about 30-50% of storage space), "Split Files"
(yes/no; "no" activates a special algorithm that tries to fill up
all the small storage holes on disks by putting smaller files in
them, quite an efficient option; "yes" simply continues a partly
written file on the next disk), "Format/Overwrite Floppies"
("format" allows you to define 720 Kb, 800 Kb (maxi-formatted
DD), 1.44 Mb or 1.62 Mb (maxi-formatted HD)), "Source=Destination
action" (selectable here are "prompt for action", "skip current
file" or "overwrite current file") and "validation" (which either
does or does not write a checksum for each file into the log
file). On top of that there are advanced options that allow, for
example, for all stuff to be encrypted while being backed up. A
password can be specified to be used during the encryption
There are four kinds of backups possible. First, of course,
there's the "full backup". This will simply copy all folder and
files, folder by folder and file by file, and slam them onto the
floppy disks. Second there's the "incremental" backup mode; this
adds only the files that have been changed since last a backup
was made by means of use of the archive bit in a file's status
bits (only works on TOS 1.04 and up though). "GEM Image" is the
third mode. This backs up all used sectors on a disk, which is
fast but means that you can only use the data once it's restored
back with "Diamond Back" (unlike the uncompressed previous backup
modes). These GEM images, incidentally, can be restored back to a
hard disk partition with a different size. Last, there's the "Raw
Image" mode. This backs up every single sector on a hard disk,
including the ones that have nothing on them.
The actual backup process takes place with a progress window on
display. Whatever destination device you have has an icon that is
sortof "running full" as whatever operation you're doing is
filling it. That way you always have an idea of what's still left
to be done. A large bar across the screen gives a graphical
presentation, in percentages, of the total amount of the backup
job that is already done. Other parts of the screen indicate the
amount of files/folder/bytes that still need to be copied.
Everything looks, I know this sounds a bit silly perhaps,
trustworthy. One would imagine Bob had a team of marketing
specialists employed just to check which graphics, which colours
and which screen layouts would work best and would instill
Worth mentioning before going down to a kind of wrap-up
conclusion is the fact that specific file extentions can be
configured to be excluded from compression (on top of some common
archive and compressed picture types that are excluded by
default). For each partition you can also specify nine file masks
to be included or excluded, and you can define whether it should
only copy files older/newer than a certain date.
Last, but most certainly not least, you can also verify a
A few remarks in the benchmark department: One disk worth of
full backup (included High Density 1.62 Mb maxi-formatting, file
compression and validation checksums switched on) takes about 3
minutes and 30 seconds to create (of which slightly less than
half the time was needed for the actual formatting). Running with
"Geneva" it's, logically, a bit slower. About 15%, to be more
precise, at least in my case.
"Diamond Back" is a solid program with a really smooth-looking
GEM interface that is, and I know this may sound a bit corny, a
joy to work with. It would be getting a bit far to say that I'd
gladly backup my entire hard disk every day just to be able to
have the joy of working with "Diamond Back" at my fingertips, but
it's close enough. It's very userfriendly, anyway, and all
options are accessible from the rather zarjaz-looking GEM dialogs
as well as pull-down menus.
The manual is extremely well-written and well-designed with
plenty of illustrative bits of screendump and also includes -
what remarkable insight into the human psyche! - a "quick backup"
and "quick restore" segment for those among us that'd rather get
down to things right away.
Of course, "Diamond Back" is an almost - what do I say,
certainly! - indispensable tool to promote any hard disk owner's
peace of mind. However, this man in Tigard by the name of Bob
obviously did not think that was enough. So he made a utility
that I personally think is even more indispensable - if there is
any means of comparing these things anyway. I myself use it
rather far more frequently than "Diamond Back", anyway; at least
a few times per week.
Let me start, however, by one of those excursions into the past
that I so enjoy taking you on. It's an excursion to now long
forgotten places and a name like Michtron's "Tune Up", this being
a hard disk optimization program, a program to speed up
read/write access of your hard disk. Actually, now I come to
think of it, I have no first hand experience with it at all. But
I do know that the guy who wrote the review of Michtron's "Tune
Up" - somewhere in ST NEWS Volume 2, in 1987 - had trashed his
hard disk because the program turned out to need more hard disk
space free than the size of the biggest file and, obviously, they
had neglected to inform the user of that fact. On top of that, it
was notoriously slow. The optimization process literally took
hours, and that is no exaggeration of poetic liberty on my side.
Somewhere in 1989 or 1990 I did actually use one of such
programs myself for the first time. It was a program by STRIKE-a-
LIGHT and, dubiously, I was using Stefan's copy of the package. I
forgot its name. It was quite solid and trustworthy but,
Suddenly, with an eerie sound like "wham!" the name pops into
...was scarsely faster than "Tune Up", if at all. I remember
spending something like two hours just optimising the contents of
the Megafile 30 that had replaced my SH204 some months before. It
took the joy out of optimizing your hard disk, and actually made
me prefer to rather wait a second or so longer during the loading
of each file.
I think it's time here - creating a decent structure in reviews
of technical programs never was my forte - to explain what disk
optimization programs are and what they do.
When a file is written to disk it takes up several sectors
("yeah," I said, "let's generalise a bit here). Now suppose you
delete it and write back another file that's bigger. The file
would first take up those sectors taken up by the file you've
just deleted and then look for more space on the disk to store
itself on. I hope you have the grande picture now, because I am
now going to say, "if this happens a lot with a lot of different
files than you get a load of files that are spread in bits all
over the disk, all intermingled, i.e. fragmented."
Well, what a disk optimization program does is that it makes
sure all these files become contiguous again, i.e. that they are
written on sectors that come directly after each other. This
makes it easier - and quicker - for your hard disk to read the
files because it doesn't need to move the read/write head all
across the hard disk all the time to gather up the bits of files.
The classic optimization programs used to do that by reading all
files and storing them on a buffer space on the hard disk
somewhere, then writing them back again (or at least I think they
did). "Diamond Edge" does something like it, only it's much
quicker. As a matter of fact, let's get this stunning fact out in
the open right away, "Diamond Edge" can do this in a matter of
minutes. Including disk analysis, to see if there might be
potential problems during the shuffling of files and sectors, it
usually takes only a minute or two to optimize a 40 Mb partition.
And the nice thing is that you can optimize a hard disk partition
in two ways: For writing (all files currently present are written
to the end, so all empty space is at the front) or for reading
(all the current files are located at the beginning, easily and
quickly accessible, with the empty space at the end). You can
also just have "Diamond Edge" get rid of empty space between
files, without de-fragmentising files. This is quicker to
perform, but doesn't speed up things afterwards, at least not as
fast as a full optimization would.
To give you a rather more in-depth idea of the time needed, I
optimized, "prioritize writing", my 42 Mb work partition that I
always do all ST NEWS and "Ultimate Virus Killer" programming, as
well as what other shareware/freeware things I tend to do now and
again. It took 40 seconds to do a disk analysis, 13 seconds to
produce a prior disk fragmentation map and another 1 minute and 3
seconds to do the actual optimization. We're talking full
optimization of 20 Mb (1655 files in 224 folders) here, and the
whole lot just took 1'58", including all the nuts and bolts
needed by the program to check if it was safe and everything.
However, there is a lot more than "Diamond Edge" can do.
Although disk optimization is a really strong suit of the
program, it has quite a few incredibly efficient and powerful
options up its metaphorical sleeve.
Just now I already hinted at "disk analysis". "Diamond Edge" can
analyse a drive partition (hard disk, but floppy disk too) and
scan it for anomalies such as double file names, lost clusters,
ill-matching FATS, illegal file names or bad clusters. There are
various reasons why these errors might pop up, and the extensive
manual covers all of those I could come up with (and then some)
so I won't. The great thing is that "Diamond Edge" can attempt to
repair these. This can really minimize the actual damage
resulting from various errors occurring. Things can especially go
wrong if a program crashes (or if you stupidly reset your
computer) while a program is writing a file to the hard disk. The
lost clusters resulting from this are quickly fixed using this.
All that data on your hard disk is just sitting there, waiting
to be destroyed or otherwise malignantly mistreated, so it seems
only logical to have a doctor (in this case a "disk medic") close
Which brings me, hopefully in a somewhat smooth way, to the
"Diamond Mirror" section of the program. "Diamond Mirror" is
actually a separate module that can be run from "Diamond Edge"
or, as a stand-alone program, from your "AUTO" folder. It can be
configured to "mirror" your hard disk partitions during every
bootup, every day or every week. It can also be told which
partitions to "mirror" and which not to, as well as where it
should put the files that are a result of each "mirror".
Now what is this "mirror" stuff? Well, it will not surprise you,
probably, to know it has nothing to do with apples, princes and
A "mirror" operation copies all really important information of
a hard disk partition - root sector and boot sector contents, FAT
tables and all directory information - into a file somewhere
safe. In my case these files are between 32 and 34 Kb in size
for each individual partition. Whenever something really goes
wrong with your hard disk, usually the only things that get
mucked up direly are the FAT and directory structures. Using the
"mirror undelete" option of "Diamond Edge" you can use your
"mirror" files to reconstruct everything. Although there'll still
be a bit of damage left, I think, you will at least be spared the
knowledge of it being certain that every single file on your
crashed hard disk partition (or, heaven forbid, all of them)
should be considered lost.
There are, however, incredible though it may seem, even more
things "Diamond Edge" can do for you. It can, for example, create
so-called validation files for each partition. This means it will
look at each file, create a checksum of it, and store that
somewhere in a safe space. Using these validation files it's easy
to see whether files have suddenly gotten damaged or, hell's
bells, infected by a link virus. But it can also undelete deleted
files - though this is usually a bit hard with actual programs
and is really only worth your while with text files. It can
archive your disk information (SCSI drive information), partition
your hard disk (making Atar's "HDX" instantly redundant insofar
as it wasn't already) and copy files or images across your hard
disk (though, like I remarked with "Diamond Back" earlier, this
would be something I'd rather leave up to "Kobold" 2.5 to do).
"Diamond Edge" is close to a true miracle. I don't know how it
does it, but it's so quick it defies belief. Like "Diamond Back",
it looks healthy and clean-cut and comes with an extensive and
well-written manual that also has a big section on disk drive
anatomy and stuff that will please the somewhat more layish men
among you (I know this probably isn't English, but it sounded
nice so I thought, "what the heck, neologise a bit"; complaints
are welcome at any address but the correspondence one). Again,
we're talking "userfriendly" with a capital "U" (i.e.
"Userfriendly"): An easy point-and-click user interface and
keyboard shortcuts where these might conceivably be deemed
necessary. If you don't want to get to the stage where you have
to resort to the produce of "Diamond Back", "Diamond Edge" is a
really good choice. Regularly optimizing your hard disk (I
usually "prioritize reading" the ones that have lots of programs
on them, and "prioritize writing" the work partitions) really
does result in a somewhat faster mode of operation, especially in
comparison with, say, an intensely used work partition that
hadn't been optimized in a year or so. To make everything
somewhat safer for the novice user (after all, the more powerful
the software the more potentially dangerous it can be with people
at the helm who really don't have a clue), there is even a
special "warn mode" that can be switched on. It'll tell you
whenever something might go wrong. Smart indeed.
Price and Availability
"Diamond Back" 3.51 retails at US$ 69.95; updates from version 2
are US$ 29.95; and updates from earlier versions 3.xx are US$ 10
(US$ 5 extra if you want the new manual, too).
"Diamond Edge" 2 retails at US$ 69.95; updates from version 1
are US$ 29.95 (that includes a re-written and expanded manual).
These prices are excluding postage & packaging, so you'd better
contact Oregon Research for further details. Oregon Research
products are sold in the UK by Douglas Communications.
16200 SW Pacific Highway, Suite 162
Tigard, Oregon 97224
Tel: (593) 620-4919
Fax: (503) 624-2940
Stop the Press Please
In the mean time, Oregon Research have released "Diamond Edge"
2, a package which now also include the low-level "Diamond
Advanced Disk Editor" ("DADE"). More about that in the next issue
of ST NEWS.
Thanks to Bob Luneski of Oregon Research Associates for sending
the review material and keeping me posted on now developments!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.