Whenever we develop training materials with labs, we have to be sure everything can be reproduced in the classroom. This means that not only must the steps of the labs be verified, but also that the lab systems themselves have to be in the same initial configuration for each class. For the instructor, this means that one of his/her first jobs before starting a new class is to re-image the lab systems back to that initial configuration.
And for the individuals who are developing those courses, we have to create those images in the first place.
Well, I’m in the midst of creating some demonstrations for a new class, one that will be presented on the web. Although the students don’t get lab systems, I do, and I need to be sure the system I’m using is “back to square one” before each class. So I’m responsible for creating, and testing, the lab system image.
We use Ghost from Symantec for this. It is very reliable and relatively easy to use. Because it uses “multicast” network addressing, we can restore ten machines in about the same time as it takes to restore one (minus equipment hook-up which is predictably longer with more machines).
Creating the ghost-copy of the lab system was a snap. The 4+ Gigabyte image took a few minutes to pull off the lab system disk drive, move it across my office LAN, and deposit it in a folder on my Windows machine.
“Shoot,” I thought, “I’ll be done in no time.”
Well, that erroneous thought was hours ago.
What’s holding up the works is the DVD burn.
Indeed, my trash can currently has no less than eight DVDs where something either failed during the burn or was picked up during the verification.
I don’t know if the DVDs are at fault, the connection to the PC, the DVD burner itself, the phase of the moon or what.
The DVD burner is a good brand name and the DVDs are from the same manufacturer. Ought’a be compatible, you’d think.
The burner is an add-on, a USB plug-in, so maybe there’s something going on there. I moved from the USB connector on the monitor that was plugged into the USB connector on the back which is internally connected to the USB connector on the side, to the USB connector on the side. And I’ve disconnected the two network connections just in case something was “banging in” with a lot of overhead at an inopportune moment. And I’m steeling myself to just sit-and-watch instead of pushing buttons and trying to get other work done because, with so many failures, maybe it’s somehow due to the other programs I’ve been running. (Windows is not real good at multi-tasking. I know because that’s the business we’re in. We know real-time, they don’t.)
But each of my trial-and-error attempts to burn another DVD “burns” 20-30 minutes. And you can calculate that eight bad DVDs in my trashcan means there’s about four hours of work sitting at the bottom of my trash.
Oh, I suppose I could try and be positive by saying that’s “four hours for things I won’t have to try again” but, regardless, there are other things on the plate for today that are less and less likely to get finished.
Four hours gone is four hours gone.
And … Wait, what’s this. No errors?
Eureka! My first good burn-and-verify! Hooray!
Oh, quick, what did I change? What did I do that made this one work?
Aha, I rebooted before trying this burn, and left the machine off the network, and disconnected the other USB devices, and didn’t touch the keyboard, and didn’t wiggle the mouse, and didn’t even look at the screen. (Not sure what the phase of the moon is now but I’m sure it hasn’t changed much in four hours.)
Can I do another one? As flakey as this process has been I sure would like to have several (3?) copies that *might* be goood.
[12 minutes pass]
So far, so good. (I snuck a peek.)
[5 more minutes pass]
Hooray, that’s two!
Go for three?
[18 minutes pass]
Yes, halleluyah, I’ve got three, count them three questionably good and reportedly verified copies!
(I think I’ll keep the copy on the hard drive for a while.)
Now, what was I *supposed* to get done today?