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Amanda::Device - interact with Amanda data-storage devices


  use Amanda::Device qw( :constants );
  my $dev = Amanda::Device->new($device_name);
  if ($dev->read_label() == $DEVICE_STATUS_SUCCESS) {
      print "Label on $device_name is '$dev->volume_label'\n";


A volume is a container for data which can be "loaded" into a particular device. For tape devices, a volume is a tape, but most other devices do not deal with such physical objects. Each volume has a volume header giving, among other things, the label of the volume and the timestamp on which it was written. The header may also indicate that the volume is not an Amanda volume. Aside from the header, a volume contains a sequence of files, numbered starting at 1. While writing, devices number files sequentially, but devices that support partial volume recycling may have "holes" in the sequence of file numbers where files have been deleted. The seek_file method, below, describes how the API represents this situation. Each file has a header, too, which contains lots of information about the file. See Amanda::Header for the full list. After the header, a file is just a sequence of bytes.

Reads and writes to devices take place in blocks. Unlike a typical operating-system file, in which any block boundaries are lost after the file is written, devices must be read back with the block sizes that were used to read. See amanda-devices(7) for more in block sizes, and the read_block and write_block sections, below, for more information.


The Device API is object-oriented, so the first task in using the API is to make a Device object:

    $dev = Amanda::Device->new("tape:/dev/nst0");

This function takes a device name (possibly a device alias) and returns a device object. This function always returns a Device, although it may be a Null device with an error condition. Any new call should be followed by a check of the device's status:

    $dev = Amanda::Device->new($device_name);
    if ($dev->status() != $Amanda::Device::DEVICE_STATUS_SUCCESS) {
      die "Could not open '$device_name': " . $dev->error();

This function does not access the underlying hardware or any other external systems in any way: that doesn't happen until read_label or start. An Amanda configuration must be loaded when this function is called, as it searches the configuation for device definitions. The member variable device_name is set when this function has returned.

It is unusual for higher-level code to call Amanda::Device->new. Intead, use Amanda::Changer to load a volume and reserve access to it; the resulting reservation will contain an already-created Device object.

While Amanda proivdes multiple implementations of the Device class, they are not distinguishable via the usual Perl methods (ref or $dev->isa).

Device users generally call device methods in the following order for reading:

    read_label (optional)
    seek_file (optional)
    read_block (repeated)

or, when writing or appending:

    read_label (optional)
    write_block (repeated)

Alternate Constructor

To create a new RAIT device from a collection of device objects, call Amanda::Device->new_rait_from_children($child1, $child2, ..). If one of the child objects is undef, the resulting RAIT device will operate in degraded mode.

Error Handling

Device methods return a particular value to signal the presence of an error condition. In many cases, this is simply false (exceptions are listed below).

When a device signals an error, $dev->status and $dev->error contain details of what went wrong. Status is a bitfield where each bit that is set indicates a possible problem. Unfortunately, some devices are unable to distinguish states due to limitations of an external system. For example, the tape device often cannot distinguish an empty drive ($DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_MISSING) from a hard device error ($DEVICE_STATUS_DEVICE_ERROR), leading to the status $DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_MISSING|$DEVICE_STATUS_DEVICE_ERROR. To be clear: as few as one of the status bits may represent a actual problem. If $DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_UNLABELED is set along with other bits, it is not safe to assume that an unlabeled volume is available. However, if the bit is not set, then it is safe to assume there is no unlabeled volume present.


All OK (no bits set)


The device is in an unresolvable error state, and further retries are unlikely to change the status


The device is in use, and should be retried later


The device itself is OK, but has no media loaded. This may change if media is loaded by the user or a changer


The device is OK and media is laoded, but there is no Amanda header or an invalid header on the media.


The device is OK, but there was an unresolvable error loading the header from the media, so subsequent reads or writes will probably fail.

At the risk of being repetitive, never test a device's status with ==, unless it is to $DEVICE_STATUS_SUCCESS. Furthermore, never try to parse the device error messages -- they are only for user consumption, and may differ from device to device.

In addition to the status bitfield, a Device also provides a user-comprehensible error message, available from the methods error (returning the error message), status_error (returning the string form of the status), or status_or_error (returning the error message if one is set, otherwise the string form of the status). None of these functions will ever return undef.


Device properties provide a bidirectional means of communication between devices and their users. A device provides values for some properties, which other parts of Amanda can use to adjust their behavior to suit the device. For example, Amanda will only attempt to append to a volume if the device's properties indicate that it supports this activity. Some devices have additional properties that can be set to control its activity. For example, the S3 Device requires that the users' keys be given via properties.

See amanda-devices(7) for more information on device properties and their meanings.

The methods property_get and property_set are used to get and set properties, respectively. If the indicated property simply does not exist, these functions return an error indication (FALSE), but the device's status remains $DEVICE_STATUS_SUCCESS. If a more serious error occurs, then the device's status is set appropriately.

Device properties are easy to handle, as the Perl-to-C glue takes care of all necessary type conversions:

    $success = $device->property_set("BLOCK_SIZE", $blocksize);
    $blocksize = $device->property_get("BLOCK_SIZE");

If property_get is called in an array context, it returns the property value, its surety, and its source, in that order. If there is an error fetching the property, property_get returns undef.

The property_list() method returns a list of all properties:

  my @props = $device->property_list();

its return is an array of hashes:

  ( { 'access' => $access_flags,
      'name' => $property_name,
      'description' => $property_description },

Surety and Source

All properties have a source - where the value came from - and surety - a level of confidence in the value. This can be used to decide which of two potentially contradictory properties to believe. For example, the RAIT device examines the source and surety of child devices' block sizes, prefering properties set by the user ($PROPERTY_SOURCE_USER) over others.

Set a property's source and surety with property_set_ex: $dev->property_set_ex("my_prop", 13, $PROPERTY_SURETY_BAD, $PROPERTY_SOURCE_DEFAULT); The surety and source are returned after the property value in list context: my ($val, $sur, $sou) = $dev->property_get("my_prop");

The available sureties are:


and the sources are:



Some devices can perform more than one operation simultaneously, while others are more limited. For example, a tape device is exclusive to a single process while it is in use, while a VFS device can support concurrent reads and writes on the same volume.

As of this writing, device locking is not correctly implemented in many devices; consult the source code and check with the Amanda developers before depending on concurrent operation of devices.


When writing to a volume, an EOM (end-of-media) condition occurs when no more space is available on the volume. Some devices (currently only those supporting DirectTCP) distinguish a logical EOM (LEOM) from a physical EOM (PEOM). The logical EOM comes some distance before the physical EOM, with enough space left to finish a data block and write any additional bookkeeping data before PEOM.

In such devices, the is_eom attribute is set once LEOM is detected. Such detection can happen in any method that writes to the volume, including start, start_file, finish_file, and finish. API users that understand LEOM should take this as a signal to complete writing to the device and move on before hitting PEOM.

Devices which do not support LEOM simply return a VOLUME_ERROR when the volume is full. If this occurs during a write_block operation, then the volume may or may not contain the block - the situation is indeterminate.

Devices indicate their support for LEOM with the LEOM property.

Device Resources

Some device types have a "locking" mechanism that prevents other parts of the system from accessing the underlying resource while an operation is in progress. For example, a typical UNIX tape driver cannot be opened by two processes at once.

Amanda Devices will lock the underlying resource when start or read_label is called, and unlock the resource either when the Device object is garbage-collected or in the finish method. Thus in a calling sequence such as


the underlying resource remains locked for the entire sequence, even between read_label and finish.

It is unwise to rely on Perl's garbage-collection to automatically release resources. Instead, always explicitly release resources with a finish call. The Changer API is careful to do this in its release method.

Member Variables

All member variables are implemented using accessor methods, rather than the more common hashref technique. Use

  print $dev->device_name, "\n";

instead of

  print $dev->{'device_name'}, "\n";

The member variables are:


the current file number, if any


the current block number, if any


true if the device is in the middle of reading or writing a file


the name with which the device was constructed; note that this is not set until after open_device is finished -- it is an error to access this variable in an open_device implementation


the current access mode ($ACCESS_NULL, or that supplied to start)


true if an EOF occurred while reading; also used by write_from_connection


true if a write operation reached the end of the volume (end-of-medium)


the label of the current volume, set by start and read_label


the timestamp of the current volume, set by start and read_label


the header of the current volume, set by read_label


the device's error status (bit flags) as an integer


the device's error status (bit flags) as a string


the device's error message


the device's error message, if set, otherwise the same as status_error -- use this to display error messages from devices


the device's currently configured block size. This is also available via the BLOCK_SIZE property. Writers should use block_size-byte blocks, and readers should initially use block_size, and expand buffers as directed by read_block.


minimum allowed block size for this device


maximum allowed block size for this device

Object Methods



Once you have a new device, you should configure it. This sets properties on the device based on the user's configuation. If $use_global_config is true, then any global device_property parameters are processed, along with tapetype and other relevant parameters. Otherwise, only parameters from the device definition (if the device was opened via an alias) are processed.

This method is deprecated. All access to Devices should be via the Changer API (see Amanda::Changer), which implements its own, more advanced method of configuring devices. The configure method may be removed in a future release.


    $status = $dev->read_label();

This function reads the tape header of the current volume, returning the Device's status (see "Error Handling", above). Since this is often the first function to accses the underlying hardware, its error status is the one most often reported to the user. In fact, amdevcheck(8) is little more than a wrapper around read_label.

The method sets the following member variables:


if any header data was read from the volume, it is represented here. The header's type may be F_WEIRD if the header was not recognized by Amanda.


if read_label read the header successfully, then volume_label contains the label


smililarly, if read_label read the header successfully, then volume_time contains the timestamp from the header


    $succss = $dev->start($ACCESS_WRITE, $label, $timestamp);

Start starts the device and prepares it for the use described by its second parameter. This function can be called regardless of whether read_label has already been called.

If the access mode is $ACCESS_WRITE, then the label and timestamp must be supplied (although leaving the timestamp undef will use the current time), and they will be used to write a new volume header. Otherwise, these parameters should be undef.

On completion, start leaves the device's access_mode, volume_label and volume_time member variables set, by reading the tape header if necessary. Note that in mode $ACCESS_APPEND, the file member variable is not set until after start_file has been called.


 $success = $dev->start_file($header);

This method prepares the device to write data into a file, beginning by writing the supplied header to the volume. On successful completion, the device's file is set to the current file number, block is zero, and in_file is true. If the volume is out of space, the is_eom member is set to true and the method returns false with status DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_ERROR.


 # (not available from Perl)
 success = device_write_block(dev, blocksize, buf);

This method writes a single block of data to the volume. It is only available from C -- Perl code should not be handling raw data, as it is far too slow. Use the transfer architecture (Amanda::Xfer) for that purpose.

The blocksize must be the device's block size, unless this is a short write. A short write must be the last block of a file. Some devices will zero-pad a short write to a full blocksize. This method returns false on error. If the volume is out of space, is_eom is set and the method returns false with status DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_ERROR. Note that not all devices can differentiate an EOM condition from other errors; these devices will set is_eom whenever the situation is ambiguous.

This function ensures that block is correct on exit. Even in an error condition, it does not finish the current file for the caller.


 $success = $dev->finish_file();

Once an entire file has been written, finish_file performs any cleanup required on the volume, such as writing filemarks. On exit, in_file is false. If the device runs out of space while finishing (e.g., the filemark does not fit), then this method returns false with status DEVICE_STATUS_VOLUME_ERROR and is_eom is set.

This function should not be used while reading -- instead, just seek to the next file.


 $header = $dev->seek_file($fileno);

In $ACCESS_READ, seek_file sets up the device to read from file $fileno. This function is not available in $ACCESS_WRITE and $ACCESS_APPEND. It returns the header from the requested file on success, or undef on error.

If the requested file doesn't exist, as might happen when a volume has had files recycled, then seek_file will seek to the next file that does exist. The file this function selected is indicated by the file member variable on exit. If the requested file number is exactly one more than the last valid file, this function returns a $F_TAPEEND header.

As an example, on a volume with only files 1 and 3:

 $dev->seek_file(1) returns header for file 1, $dev->file == 1
 $dev->seek_file(2) returns header for file 3, $dev->file == 3
 $dev->seek_file(3) returns header for file 3, $dev->file == 3
 $dev->seek_file(4) returns a tapend header, $dev->file == 4
 $dev->seek_file(5) returns NULL/undef

On exit, is_eof is false, in_file is true unless no file was found (tapeend or NULL), file is the discovered file, and block is zero.


 $success = $dev->seek_block($block);

After seeking to a file, the caller can optionally seek to a particular block in the file. This function will set block appropriately. Note that it may not be possible to detect EOF, so this function may fail to set is_eof even though a subsequent read_block will return no data.


 # (not available from Perl)
 bytes_read = device_read_block(dev, buffer, *blocksize);

This method is the complement of write_block, and reads the next block from the device, or returns -1 on error. Pass a buffer and its size. If the buffer is not big enough, no read is performed, the parameter blocksize is set to the required blocksize, and the method returns 0. As a special case, passing a NULL buffer and *blocksize == 0 is treated as a request for the required block size. It is not an error to pass a buffer that is too large (and, in fact, this is precisely the effect of setting the read_block_size configuration parameter).

On EOF, this method returns -1, but sets is_eof and leaves the device's status set to $DEVICE_STATUS_SUCCESS. Some devices may be able to detect EOF while reading the last block, and will set is_eof at that time. Others must wait for the next read to fail. It is never an error to call read_block after an EOF, so there is no need to check is_eof except when read_block returns -1.


 $success = $dev->finish();

This undoes the effects of start, returning the device to a neutral state ($ACCESS_NULL). It will also release any resources acquired by read_label, even if start was not called. After finish, it is not an error to call start again, even with a different mode.


 $success = $dev->recycle_file(fileno);

On devices that support it, this removes the indicated file from the volume, presumably freeing its space to be used for other files. File numbers of existing files will not change, so this operation may leave "holes" in the sequence of file numbers. See seek_file to see how this is handled.

This method cannot be called while in a file, nor while in $ACCESS_READ mode.


 $success = $dev->erase(fileno);

On devices that support it, this erases all data from the volume, presumably freeing the space. This method must be called before start and after finish -- that is, while the device is in a neutral state ($ACCESS_NULL). You can detect whether or not this operation is supported using the full_deletion property.


 $success = $dev->eject();

On devices that support it, this eject the volume. This method can be called before start and after finish.


  $supp = $dev->directtcp_supported();

This method returns TRUE if the DirectTCP-related methods (listen, accept, write_from_connection, and read_to_connection) are implemented by this device.


  $addrs = $dev->listen($for_writing);

The listen method starts the device listening for an incoming DirectTCP connection. The method returns a set of IP:PORT pairs to which a TCP connection can be made. The boolean for_writing is TRUE if this connection will be used to write to the device.

This method can be called at any time, but between the time listen is called and when accept returns, no other methods of the device should be called.

The return value might look like:

  $addrs = [ [ "", 9382 ] ]

In C, the memory for these addresses remains the responsibility of the device, and will remain unchanged until accept returns.


  $conn = $dev->accept();

This method accepts a connection to one of the addresses returned by listen, returning an established DirectTCPConnection object (see below). It returns undef on failure. Note that this method may block indefinitely if no connection ever occurs. The C implementation returns an already-referenced connection object, so the caller should call g_object_unref when the connection is no longer needed.


  $conn = $dev->connect($for_writing, $addrs);

This method initiates a connection to one of the addresses in $addrs, returning an established DirectTCPConnection object (see below). The $for_writing parameter is TRUE if the connection will be used to write to the device. It returns undef on failure. Note that this method may block indefinitely if no connection ever occurs. The C implementation returns an already-referenced connection object, so the caller should call g_object_unref when the connection is no longer needed.


  my $ok = $dev->use_connection($conn);

Call this method to use a DirectTCPConnection object created with another device. The method must be called before the device is started (so access_mode is $ACCESS_NULL), as some devices cannot support switching connections without rewinding. Any subsequent read_to_connection or write_from_connection calls will use this connection.


  ($ok, $actual_size) = $dev->write_from_connection($size);

This method reads data from the DirectTCPConnection specified with use_connection or returned from accept or connect and writes it to the volume. It writes at most $size bytes, and returns the number of bytes written in $actual_size. If $size is zero, it will write until EOF, EOM, or a device error. On error, $ok is false.

When an EOF is received over the connection, signalling the end of the data stream, then this method returns without error ($ok is true), with $actual_size indicating the number of bytes written to the device (which may be zero). In this case, the is_eof attribute is true on return.

Similarly, when the device encounters logical EOM in this method, it returns the total bytes transferred in $actual_size, with $ok true, and the is_eom attribute true. No data is lost. If writes continue until physical EOM, data may be lost.


  ($ok, $actual_size) = $dev->read_to_connection($size);

This method is similar to write_from_connection but the data flows in the opposite direction. It reads at most $size bytes, and returns the total number of bytes read in $actual_size.

When the method encounters an EOF, it stops early and returns successfully with the number of bytes actually read (which may be zero).


Get a property value, where the property is specified by name. See "Properties", above.


Set a simple property value. See "Properties", above.


Set a property value with surety and source. See "Properties", above.


This module defines a large number of constant scalars. These constants are available from the package namespace (e.g., $Amanda::Device::ACCESS_WRITE), or imported with the :constant import tag.

DirectTCPConnection objects

The accept and connect methods return an object to represent the ongoing DirectTCP connection. This object is mostly useful as a "token" to be passed to write_from_connection and read_to_connection. In particular, a connection created by one device can be used with another device; this is how DirectTCP dumps are spanned over multiple volumes.

The class does have one critical method, though:


This method closes the connection, releasing all resources allocated to it. It can be called at any time, whether the remote side has closed the connection already or not.


This page was automatically generated Tue Feb 21 19:14:01 2012 from the Amanda source tree, and documents the most recent development version of Amanda. For documentation specific to the version of Amanda on your system, use the 'perldoc' command.