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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Looking for a DVD robot

I'm interested in adding a DVD robot to my collection of hardware, not because I want a jukebox but because I'd like to be able to have my automated backup process extend to the actual writing of DVDs. Here's a summary of I've discovered so far.

Firstly, the point of offline (as opposed to offsite and/or merely off-spindle) backups for me is protection from:
  • Bugs in software (OS or application) causing data damage which goes undetected for months.
  • Damage to data by malware.
  • Damage to data by an intruder.
  • To some extent, damage to data through error by an administrator (me!).
The fourth point is ultimately rather difficult to overcome (if I go mad, wipe all of my primary media and make a bonfire of all of my backup media, well, then the data's probably gone), but the proceeding three can all be addressed in a completely reliable fashion through the use of a duplicator robot that cannot reload disks once it has written to and ejected them. Granted, a robot which can retrieve disks once written is an unlikely victim for all but the rather unlikely case of the very determined intruder, but it would be nice to have. Futher, this could readily be combined with a requirement for unattended offsite backups by deploying the robot with a supply of DVDs, perhaps 20. Allowing 2-3 disks per month, such a device could be left alone for months on end.

So, such devices are readily available, the MicroBoards GX-1 for example, but they're a little pricey (£1,637.95 at the time of writing). An interesting additional feature of that sort of device is that, as they're intended for duplication, they often include a printer. This is hardly essential in my application, but if I were to return to the device after leaving it alone for months and it had 10-20 unlabelled disks in its output hopper, then I'd have some manual fiddling (labelling and confirming) to do; a printer is an appealing feature.

A considerably cheaper device (no printer and, by the look of it, an output hopper which the robot would be able to retrieve from) appears to be known variously as:

  • MF Digital's Baxter (£571.58 from, the response to the question about Linux support was terse: "Raz - Baxter is a windows based device - it doesn't work with Linux."

  • Disc Makers' Pico (US$699.00), I've not asked them about Linux support.

  • Ripfactory's MT1 (emailled response to my enquiry: £449 plus VAT and the shipping to mainland UK is £13 plus VAT), their rather helpful response on Linux support was:

    "The SDK is available for an additional fee of £99 and comes as standard as a windows SDK plus Driver but has Linux drivers available - the SDK is a C and C++ workspace and is simple to integrate.

    In use, the actual drive is read as an external USB device and can be written to as such with the robotics section taking the only work for integration."

I suspect that the robot is being OEM'd, would love to get closer to its source (and corresponding price) and can't help wondering whether the robot will respond to normal SCSI "change media" commands (meaning that the SDK is not required). In any event, it outside my immediate budget, so I'll leave it for the time being.