There are four DAT tapes altogether. These are the newest media in the box and appear to date from 1993 (going by the labels). Two are DDS-2 PDP-120 and one is an older DDS-1, DDS-60. The last is unlabelled, and may well be blank.

It's possible that these DAT tapes contain a backup of the old stuff, but not as likely as the old tapes. Of course, they have a lot more capacity, so it's always possible there's an old backup, tar or zip chucked on there somewhere.

The tape drive is from an old Sun machine and is an HP model, C5683 - 00625. This is a DDS-4 drive, so in theory it should be able to read DDS-2 and DDS-1. It's also SCSI. Hunting around, I found an Advansys ABP-940UW SCSI card. I'm sure I had some Adaptecs somewhere, but the Advansys models were meant to be compatible. I also have the drive cable.

So, in theory, it should work with Windows XP. Turns out Windows XP was the best Windows for tape drives. It supported them well and even came with the ntbackup program. Later Microsoft took tape support out of Windows; at least the non-pro editions.

Plugging everything in, I find the Advansys SCSI card comes up in the BIOS and is recognised by windows. Without even updating the driver, and Windows reports a working HP C5683A tape drive. Wow!

But does it work?

Short answer; No. Annoyingly, it appears, although it is working in Windows, there is no way to read tapes directly without using the infamous ntbackup program. Of course, these backups are not Windows ntbackup format.

How about this; dd if=\\.\TAPE0 of=moo count=1000. Nice try. Apparently, there is a TAPE0 device, but it doesn't work without a tape loaded. Ha!

Load a tape?

Doesn't work. I put in a tape. The machine whirs, then the tape is spat out, even before any commands are issued. Very odd. I'm wondering if this is because these tapes are not in any Windows recognisable format, so it ejects them. But if that's the case, how would you write over an old tape?

I think something is wrong, but i don't know what. The tapes looks fine and no error light appear on the drive.

Load Linux instead?

What a fab idea! You know the Debian that worked so well last time. I'm not going to reformat the hard disk, so we'll try some live distros. I tried Slax, since that was lying around. Didn't see the drive.

So I download and burn Debian Live 8.

First problem is the idiots make logging in a problem; root/toor. nope. root/blank no. root/admin no. root/root... Turns out you can't login as root on the live distro! I'm starting to get annoyed again by Debian. After some Googling, I find you have to login as user/live. WTF? But you can't su. sudo works though. But worse than that, there's no /dev/st0 Well done Debian, for another total waste of time!

I've run out of time for the while. The Windows attempt almost worked, and any fresh attempt might be better with that.


Turns out the PDP-120 tapes are DAT Audio tapes. The firmware in the drive probably notices this and rejects the tape. How they got used for data, I'm not sure. Perhaps bogus firmware? Furthermore the DDS-60 tape might not be readable by this drive. Consulting the manual, it claims it can read DDS-1 but it lists DDS-90 and not DDS-60. Perhaps the 60 is just too small or old. Not sure. But I think the DAT Audio factor explains my problem.

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