not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake

machine de la tristesse

I own five computers, counting to the two at work.

  1. a P4 1.9Ghz Dell machine, just bought. "duckstab". at work.
  2. an Athlon 950Mhz I built from scratch. "howler". at work.
  3. a P3-700 Dell laptop. "soulcatcher". my primary home machine.
  4. a P2-400 HP machine. "limper". The machine on which I do audio work and and watch DVDs.
  5. a P90 which I haven't turned on in several years.

It is time to give Limper a new name: The Machine de la Tristesse

A month or three ago, Limper started one bit of flakiness: it would no longer power down on shutdown. The shutdown would happen, the video would go blank, and the machine would sit there. The (soft) power switch had no effect (not even holding down for four seconds). I had to physically unplug it to turn it off; I didn't think this was too big a deal, though, since it had apparently gotten through the shutdown and just was failing to do its power control thing. But I might have been wrong.

Recently I had some reason to unplug my special sound card (supports S/PDIF and 20-bit A/D) I use for music. When I next hooked it up, it started being kind of flaky--if I clicked the 'monitor' button in Sound Forge, which let me see the audio levels, then when I tried to record, it would claim the device was already in use, and then hang on exitting SF. If I didn't click the monitor button, I could record all I wanted.

Today it got even flakier--after recording once, it wouldn't record a second time. I had to reboot every time I wanted to record. Well, that was unacceptable, so it was time to try random things to fix it.

My CD-R burner in The Machine de la Tristesse had been flaky for a while (not that machine's fault, though, as it had been in Howler before that became a work machine), so I popped it out, and brought in the one from the new Dell machine. The old one was SCSI, so I popped out the SCSI card, dropped in the IDE CD-RW burner, booted. Turns out that I can't burn with it without some software I don't have, but oh well. Not the main issue.

I moved TMdlT's video card (PCI) up a slot since it gets hot and it was next to the sound card, so I thought maybe that might have been it. After 20 or so reboots trying to get that card working and failing mysteriously, I moved it back and swapped the sound card up above it, hoping that perhaps it would behave better in that slot.

It didn't behave any better. I got the one sound file recorded that had motivated this whole process in the first place, rebooted, had things flake out a little, ran scan disk on drive #2, a 40G drive that I don't boot off of but that had all the audio files. It found a file that had gone bad, so I recovered that and rebooted again, then started playing with audio compression on the file.

I've noticed that if I burn my music to CD-R and play it with other CDs, it's much quieter, despite the fact that I've maxed the volume without clipping. Audio compression is a technique that makes quieter parts of music louder. For example, stuff that's at 100% stays the same; stuff at 80% max becomes 90%; stuff at 50% becomes 75%. Supposedly lots of (all?) commercial music is compressed to some extent, and so you kind of have to do it or else your disc will sound quieter.

So I cd'd to my directory with the 650megs of WAV files of the above thing, made a new directory, and started copying the files into a new directory, where I was going to play with compressing them.

Partway through the copy, I got an error, one of the files I was trying to copy couldn't be read. Weird. I tried copying the next file in the list; it broke too. I could still look around in the directory fine.

I ran scandisk, and it complained about the, I dunno, the initial media sector being bad, and tried to repair things, and in the process revealed a seemingly completely destroyed root structure--presumably it was already that way, not scandisk making it worse.

As I saw how bad it was, I aborted scandisk and rebooted, just in case it was flaking. After reboot, scandisk would no longer even considering repairing the drive.

I downloaded demos of a few commercial recovery tools. One of them ($129 if I were to get it) reported finding about 6G of data--I know the drive had about 30G, since I had been looking at the free space after one of the successful scandisks. I'm currently running a freeware app which is taking around 80 minutes to scan (where the commercial one took 8 minutes), and I suspect it's going to find all the files/directories. Apparently, however, there's no valid FAT, or else this program is incapable of finding it, and I noticed buried away in the FAQ a very confusing comment about not recovering certain file types. It would appear to basically really be saying "files that are fragmented are not recoverd", but what it actually says is:

Q: Corrupted files... Drive Rescue can not rescue some of RealPlayer music files ( .rm format) and some pictures (bitmap, .jpg format)...There is a message "Invalid file format". Does Drive Rescue rescue every kind of file format or just some?

A: Drive Rescue can recover all files but they have to be stored as one large coherent block on the drive. Otherwise the recoverd file is garbage.

So apparently it's really saying "any big file may fail", and the specific file type thing is just a total misdirection.

I'm not sure when I'd last defragged the drive, which I believe avoids this. But it looks like I'm likely to be fairly screwed.

Why hadn't I backed up? Well, note the CD-R problems. Sigh. Howler's main drives are a mirrored RAID so that any physical drive problems won't lose the data (although if the OS goes crazy and overwrites the data--or if a virus does it--it'll happily mirror the bad thing and toast it anyway).

What was in the 30GB? I'm not exactly sure. There were several gigs of audio files, all of which came from my external hard drive recorder, so I can always mix down the files again to recreate them.

There were backup copies of stuff from the other hard drives (soulcatcher and limper's C) from when I moved across the country--the 40G drive was in Howler at the time. There were around 10G of other media files. Which probably leaves another 10G that I don't really know what was there.

I'll probably just turn this freeware program loose on the drive and let it recover what it can and cut my losses, since I don't think there was anything particularly critical on it. Sadly, I think it may have had the only copy of the ~10000 yet-to-be-processed photos I've taken with my digital camera.
Tags: books
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