How to make a grown man cry; or, comparing file recovery tools

I’m here to tell you that my brain should have been screaming at me earlier when I wrote the following passage:

…this morning I bit the bullet and deleted the remaining 32 GB of files.

Because, of course, when I deleted the contents of my Music folder, I also blew away the special iTunes folder. Which, of course, iTunes wants to have in the Music folder rather than in the Library like everything else that matters about your account. And which, of course, contains the iTunes Library and iTunes Music Library.xml files, which contain pointers to all the songs (trivial to recreate), all my playlist definitions (not trivial to recreate), and all the playcounts.


Last time I lost the playcounts in the library it took me almost eight months to listen to every track again. One eMusic subscription and 200+ CDs of The Project later, that’s looking more like a year and a half. Not to mention recreating all the playlists.

So, I thought desperately, what to do? I know: in the olden days, I would have run Norton Utilities and undeleted the files. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, with HFS+ or Mac OS X or something, file recovery is a lot more difficult, as I discovered when I auditioned two recovery packages (and when I say “auditioned,” I mean bought, as that’s really the only way to test them out.

First up: FileSalvage, which has some really nice features, including a list that gets dynamically updated as new files are discovered, in-application preview (or at least text listing) of discovered files and … well, that’s it. Here‘s the trouble with file recovery in the Brave New World: there are no residual directory entries left to show what the file names once were. Somehow the type data is identifiable, but you don’t know the names. FileSalvage resolves this problem by presenting a list sorted by file type (good), where all the files of a single type have the same name (bad). If you are trying to find a single JPEG out of a list of 20000 items marked “file.jpg”, you’re really going to need that in-application preview.

Unfortunately there was a worse problem: it didn’t find either my binary iTunes Library or the XML based iTunes Music Library.xml. And of course at this point I discovered that not only did I not have the out of date backup I thought I had, I actually had no backup, thanks to a series of misadventures with Apple’s .Mac Backup software and the old 250 MB limit on iDisks.


So I turned again to Google and found a recommendation for another backup program, DataRescue from ProSoft Engineering. Another chunk of change and another disk scan later, I had progress—in the form of 89 little fragments of either the XML file or the main binary database. And of course, all of them are incomplete and all of them have corrupting interpolations in them somewhere. So while I may be able to rescue the data from the XML file, I will be hand-editing a bunch of them to try to pull back as much as I can.

So ripping CDs is temporarily on hold, as is syncing the iPod, or doing just about anything else fun. I think this is going to take a while.

Oh: Definitely today DataRescue gets the big thumbs up for actually finding the damned files, even if they were in a zillion pieces.

The Supreme Court: Anyone can play!

put your friend on the court

Democracy for America : America Needs a Friend on the Supreme Court. Why Not Yours?. If you saw Bush’s nomination of his pal Harriet Miers and said, “Huh. So the only qualification she has is that she’s his friend? I bet my friend could do better”—well, now’s your chance to put your nomination where your mouth is, Binky! I nominated my good friend Greg Greene, because he makes a killer gumbo. Though as an actual, you know, lawyer, he might be overqualified.

I’m sure that there are equally snobby qualifications that you could put forward for your friends. Enter early and often. Recommended nominee types:

  1. Your mom.
  2. The neighbor—you know, the one with the really annoying cough.
  3. Bono.
  4. Anthony Kiedis: because all of his friends are so depressed.
  5. Larry Lessig. God knows he needs something to do to take up all his free time.
  6. The Tin Man: because then he’d have to blog about something else.

It’s fun! Anyone can be a Supreme! Play along!

Making a happy Mac

As I alluded in the previous post, my Mac is a little unhappy right now. It’s been much unhappier on the software side—launch times of some applications are measured in minutes, the SBOD appears when doing even trivial actions in iTunes—and I’m going to try to find some measures today to fix the problem.

My first step was to bite the bullet and free some disk space. Since my iTunes library and all my music now reside on an external FireWire disk, I could theoretically have removed all the music files from the TiBook some months ago. I was reluctant, for no reason other than it meant I would have no access to music without the external drive (or my iPod). Realistically, though, I wouldn’t want to play music files in another location and mess up playcounts and library paths, so this morning I bit the bullet and deleted the remaining 32 GB of files. My disk free space is now up to 39 GB.

We’ll see how much difference that makes. My next step is to take a step back and do a clean Mac OS X install, archiving the previous installation, and see if there was something dragged along from an older system that was slowing things down. After that, I need to find an argument to spend the money to upgrade to 1GB of RAM, which I suspect will make the real difference. Since sadly both RAM slots are currently occupied on this machine, I can’t get away for less than $100. Around here, that constitutes Approval by Change Advisory Board required. We’ll see.

Update: the archive and install didn’t fix the problem.

Chore day

Happy Columbus Day—or Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, if you swing that way. My company observes the October holiday (and the fact that it is the only reasonable holiday candidate in October is probably why), so I have a day off for house chores.

Which is more exciting than it sounds, because there is nothing more depressing (in both the colloquial and literal senses) than a bunch of half finished projects around the house. So my goal today is to have a bunch of three-quarters finished projects when I’m done. To wit:

  • Figure out a way to use the large-diameter hole saw whose shaft too big for all my drills, so I can…
  • Drill a hole in a closet door to replace the handle hardware, for which I need to …
  • Buy non-locking door hardware, which will also allow me to…
  • Replace the closet door handle that stopped working entirely yesterday morning. After that, I can …
  • Move the pegboard from my old shop area to the new one in the garage, for which I will need either to mount some firring strips with the big concrete anchors I have or else purchase some smaller ones. After that, I can…
  • Move one of the shelf units cluttering my library into the place where the pegboard sat, and then move the other out to the garage.

But first, and most important, I need to reserve a place at the Genius Bar. This PowerBook has a bad hinge, and I need to find out if it will cost as much as I think it will to fix it.