October 16, 2006

An update on my misery

So, TekServe was not able to retrieve any data from my fried hard drive. They've sent it to a specialty place in California that will actually open the fucker up in a clean room, but I'm not hopeful. And if they can get anything off it, it will cost more than my new computer. If you ever need to tell your young children a cautionary tale about not backing up, send them here (as long as they don't mind words like "fucker").

All this is going to put a crimp in my blogging for a little while as I set up the new computer and reconstruct whatever I can of my research. However I do plan to have the anti-caption contest up and running next week in a new improved format, so don't give up on me completely.

More on this story as it develops.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I'm sure the TekServe wizards qualified this recommendation as much as was prudent, but have you ever seen the results of bit-by-bit data recovery? If you didn't defrag your drive regularly (given it's age, and your backup regimen, it's fair to guess that it wasn't great), you may end up with hundreds or thousands of text fragments/files (and they may be named arbitrary things, and your folder structure is likely history).

Given the $2K bill that's coming, if the most valuable thing on it is the research, it might be worth a hard afternoon of calculating the value of your time, since even if this works, you may have to spend a lot of time editing junk characters out of files, or trying to reconstruct content that has been shuffled because of where it was written to disk. Last time I saw data recovery file, they were ugly things -- particularly if you have images in word files (they will get converted to hex info and dumped in the file). So there will be pages of meaningless text until you get to the real stuff, and then formatting is off, characters are converted (rich text gets unwound into mysterious ASCII), etc.

And how much was PDF-based? I don't know squat about data recovery of PDF's, so it's worth the research. But I do know when a PostScript file gets hosed in Distiller, it's junk forever. At least with Word or other text based files, you can get data out of it with a hammer. But I don't think you can with a PDF.

It's ugly, I know, but if you are (or have to) recreate from memory, I'd think hard about that investment. Spend the money on a bland hotel room in a place where you can get away and focus. Might get you to the same point in less time and cost, and at the very least, it is active work -- you will be thinking and researching (again, sure), not staring at hundreds of pages of ASCII junk. After which you may still need to go and do all that research.

I was promised "usable files" or nothing, so I don't think I'll be paying for junk. Unfortunately, the most important thing that I need are the hundreds (thousands?) of photos I took on my trips -- i.e., not stuff that can be found or reconstructed.

So, so sorry. I had my thesis on a disk that went sour and wasn't able to recover it. I had to scan my last printed copy into a rudimentary image-to-text program and then spend days revising the jumbled copy and restoring the lost content. What happened to you is orders of magnitude worse.

I'd have broken down completely if I lost everything so late in the game. Good luck with the specialty shop.

Frankly, it could have been worse. I haven't actually written much, all my notes are pen on paper, and I sent out all my interviews to be transcribed, so I can get those back again. It's really "just" photos (which I was counting on for descriptions as well as records of, say, wacky t-shirts) and bookmarks of articles etc. that I wanted to cite.

Still, not what you were hoping for, huh?

Praying for you. Btw, the word "fucker" is mother's milk to my young children.

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