Backup MLS to the D drive!

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
russellhltn
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Backup MLS to the D drive!

Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:32 am

Just wanted to pass on my experience with Desktop 5.5 and it's built-in backup/restore function.

Desktop 5.5 adds a menu between the machine's BIOS screen and the Windows start-up logo. It's a blue screen with two options displayed in the upper left corner and a church logo in the upper right. If no keys are pressed within about 3 seconds, it will continue with the default to start Windows.

If you intervene (down arrow), you'll discover a series of menus that allow you to do a backup and restore of the C drive. Unfortunately, no where have I seen any information about this setup and just what it does or any advice on the best way to use it.

Because they were having problems with their computer, one ward invoked the restore function. It restored alright - all the way back to Mid-Aug 2007. The restore is an image. Everything on the C drive rolled back. The MLS data and MLS itself. Oh, and the backups stored on the C drive? Gone.

The documents stored in "My Documents" were preserved, because Desktop 5.5 changes the default location to the D drive. Had the MLS backups been saved to the D drive, they would have also survived. The current version of MLS will remember the last location used and default to that for the next.

Of course, one should always make some external backups in case the entire physical drive dies. But by saving to the D drive, you can avoid loss if someone invokes the Desktop restore. (No password required!)

I my case, the reason the restore went back to mid-Aug is that's when I did a backup after installing MLS 2.6. I've been told that had I not done that, it would have rolled back to a fresh Desktop 5.5 install - no MLS at all.

If you do invoke the restore, expect to call SLC and ask them to reset the security so you can do a Send/Receive.

Desktop 5.5 should be installed on most, if not all, of the ward/stake administrative computers. Exceptions were granted for Dell 740 computers as they require an external USB CD drive to install the Desktop.

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:39 am

RussellHltn wrote:If you do invoke the restore, expect to call SLC and ask them to reset the security so you can do a Send/Receive.


This is great information, Russell -- thanks for posting it.

But I do have to take exception to your claim that MLS transmission security would have to be reset if you do a Restore. In this case, you are simply restoring the contents of the hard drive, so the security system won't detect any difference. The security system may have to be reset only if you install MLS on a different system altogether and restore data from the original system.

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:51 am

Alan_Brown wrote:In this case, you are simply restoring the contents of the hard drive, so the security system won't detect any difference.


That's not my understanding of how it works. Every time the computer connects, a new "password" is negotiated. If on the next send/receive the computer has the wrong password, the connection will fail. Restoring the drive will restore an old password. This has been the case from the FIS days. It's a function of the Afaria software. It prevents spoofing.

As far as I know, there's only three way to dodge that issue:
  • No send/receive was done between the backup and restore
  • SLC has temporarily turned off the security (perhaps to aid in the roll out of a new disk image) This seems to have been done during the early days of the Desktop 5.5 roll-out.
  • You've figured out the magic files to copy from the old image to the new one. :D

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:08 pm

RussellHltn wrote:That's not my understanding of how it works. Every time the computer connects, a new "password" is negotiated. If on the next send/receive the computer has the wrong password, the connection will fail. Restoring the drive will restore an old password. This has been the case from the FIS days. It's a function of the Afaria software. It prevents spoofing.

As far as I know, there's only three way to dodge that issue:
  • No send/receive was done between the backup and restore
  • SLC has temporarily turned off the security (perhaps to aid in the roll out of a new disk image) This seems to have been done during the early days of the Desktop 5.5 roll-out.
  • You've figured out the magic files to copy from the old image to the new one. :D



Interesting and logical, but it doesn't match my actual experience. I have recently replaced hard drives completely, reimaged with Desktop 5.5, installed MLS, restored MLS backups (that precede the last send/receive), and done a successful send/receive. Never have I had to reset the security. So I really don't think the transmission security system is anywhere near as unforgiving as you suggest.

Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt for people doing restores to be aware that they might have to ask SLC to reset the transmission security, so it was good for you to mention it.

And if people follow proper procedures of backups on external media, they should never lose any financial data, and rarely lose any other MLS data. Even though I keep preaching proper backup procedures, it amazes me how many people think that backing up MLS data to the C drive or even the D drive is an acceptable substitute for external media.

On a typical administrative computer, the D drive is simply a partition on the same physical drive that contains the C drive, so there are plenty of hard drive problems that will destroy the D drive at the same time the C drive becomes unusable. So although backing up to the D drive gives you a small additional measure of safety against a certain set of problems, it is no substitute for external media backups.

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:32 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:I have recently replaced hard drives completely, reimaged with Desktop 5.5, installed MLS, restored MLS backups (that precede the last send/receive), and done a successful send/receive. Never have I had to reset the security.


And I've Installed Desktop 5.5 on the same computer, copied a MLS backup made just before the change and gotten nailed. Yet the same procedure done when it was originally requested didn't encounter a problem.

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Postby Mikerowaved » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:59 pm

RussellHltn wrote:Just wanted to pass on my experience with Desktop 5.5 and it's built-in backup/restore function.

Thanks for sharing this. I kind of wondered if it was similar to the factory restore feature many name brand machines have using a hidden partition.

RussellHltn wrote:I my case, the reason the restore went back to mid-Aug is that's when I did a backup after installing MLS 2.6. I've been told that had I not done that, it would have rolled back to a fresh Desktop 5.5 install - no MLS at all.

Not knowing what you are going to get during a complete restore would be kind of frightening. Perhaps instructions on replacing the restore image every so often would be prudent for STS personnel.
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russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:10 pm

Mikerowaved wrote:Not knowing what you are going to get during a complete restore would be kind of frightening. Perhaps instructions on replacing the restore image every so often would be prudent for STS personnel.


Yes, it would be a good idea to back up a "known good" setup. I my case, I know I did the backup right after installing Desktop 5.5 and adding MLS and various customizations and updates. I figured if ever there was a good time to do the backup, that was it. :)

Since the machine was already a bit of a mess, I stepped though the restore and found that it told me exactly what date it was going to roll me back to. (But that's because I made a backup, so it knew the date.) So it shouldn't come as a total surprise. I'm not sure how many backups it can hold. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember hearing "two". But I don't know how it handles it when you try to do one backup too many. Does it automatically purge or do you have to manually delete something?

Overall, I think this is a great feature. I just wish it had been a little better documented for us.

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Postby danpass » Thu Mar 20, 2008 4:56 pm

Alan_Brown wrote:Interesting and logical, but it doesn't match my actual experience. I have recently replaced hard drives completely, reimaged with Desktop 5.5, installed MLS, restored MLS backups (that precede the last send/receive), and done a successful send/receive. Never have I had to reset the security. So I really don't think the transmission security system is anywhere near as unforgiving as you suggest.



Russell is correct in that a new password does get stored on the local computer for use the next time the connection is made. However it is not stored as part of the MLS backup.

Recall that the Desktop 5.5 instructions told you to copy the Dialer.properties file located in C:\Program Files\LDS Church\MLS and restore it after the installation. This file is important for this reason. As long as you have the most recent version of this file in that location on drive C, you shouldn't have to call for a security reset, unless the file has somehow gotten corrupted.

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Postby russellhltn » Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:23 pm

danpass wrote:Recall that the Desktop 5.5 instructions told you to copy the Dialer.properties file located in C:\Program Files\LDS Church\MLS and restore it after the installation. This file is important for this reason.


I've moved that file and still gotten hit by the security issue. I believe moving the dialer file is just to avoid re-entering the phone numbers.

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Postby danpass » Sun Mar 23, 2008 4:18 pm

RussellHltn wrote:
danpass wrote:Recall that the Desktop 5.5 instructions told you to copy the Dialer.properties file located in C:\Program Files\LDS Church\MLS and restore it after the installation. This file is important for this reason.

I've moved that file and still gotten hit by the security issue. I believe moving the dialer file is just to avoid re-entering the phone numbers.


There may be other issues that could cause the same symptom. But I'm fairly certain that the password to be used for the next connection gets stored in the above mentioned file. If you look at the contents of the dialer log file in that same directory, you'll see that for each send/receive connection, a password exchange is recorded along with the time (down to the second) it occurred. Go to the bottom of the log file to see the most recent one. Then look at the file properties of the Dialer.properties file you'll see that the file was modified at the exact same time that the last password exchange occurred.


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