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Thread: Recommended computer software

  1. #1
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    Default Recommended computer software

    This thread, not directly related to Harbeth speakers, concerns computer software that may be relevant to Harbeth (and other) vistors based on personal recommendation.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  2. #2
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    Default Disaster recovery software

    This sub-thread relates to software used in situations where serious system problems have occurred.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  3. #3
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    Default Undeleting software

    Yesterday, as part of my tidying-up, I was accessing our XP based Atom, ultra low-powered, running 24/7 'micro-server' (it draws about 20W, very environmentally friendly) over our peer-to-peer network workgroup. In a dedicated disk partition it holds all Harbeth engineering files accumulated over many years.

    Remotely accessing the server from another PC at home I spent the afternoon tidying up and rearranging (again) files in this partition, a networked drive letter - but being momentarily distracted, accidentally deleted the entire Compact > C7ES3 development history directory tree: a total of 2.54GB, 3240 files, 232 (directories) folders. I realised almost immediately that I had done this so I resisted any further writing to that disk partition.

    Recycle bin on networked drive:

    As I've now discovered, due to a limitation of Windows, if you delete a file or folder from a networked drive (i.e. a drive that is not physically on your local pc but on another one, somewhere on your workgroup network ) those deleted files or folders ARE NOT SAVED TO THE NETWORKED PCs RECYCLE BIN NOR ARE THEY SAVED TO YOUR LOCAL RECYCLE BIN: when you hit 'delete' they disappear from Windows on both PCs. Each PC thinks that the other has taken care of recording the deletion - in fact, neither has. You can read what I belatedly found here and here.

    The solution was to quickly search for and install an Undeleting program - and I have a tip for you based on bitter experience I hope it saves you the same fright!

    First, there are many of these file recovery or undeleting programs available. They usually let you download the trial version just to see if the program can truly sniff-out those files that have been marked as deleted by Windows and are just hidden on your hard disk. Then, assuming that the program can find the files, it will assess, file by file, what the chances of complete and perfect recovery is from excellent to poor. I downloaded three different programs and tried them. All three could locate my 3240 files and all three gave the chance of recovery as good or excellent - that's because I resisted making any further changes to the Engineering partition once I discovered my mistake, so the deleted files were fresh. To actually undelete the files, to recover them and make them visible to Windows again, you have to pay for the programs, which is what I did: that's when the problems start.

    Because you can't actually undelete anything until you've paid-up, you can't fully test the recovery process until you hand over money. What I found with programs one and two was that whilst they did indeed recover the 3240 files, they recovered them to one folder (directory) of my choice - that is, the file contents of my 232 carefully nurtured folders dumped into just one folder containing 3240 files, all jumbled together. It would have been an impossible task to manually sort these engineering files back into folders, because the file names are somewhat cryptic, the folder names are obscure and the individual file names make sense only in the context of their original folder name. More searching - and amazingly, not one of the undelete software vendors made specific mention of this folder (tree) restore - but luckily on the third paid attempt I found a program that identified the deleted files, and rebuilt the entire directory tree (on an external USB drive), exactly as it was. Even so, it was not until I'd paid that I was completely sure that the 'rebuild tree' function actually worked. That program is Advance File Recovery. But as you'll see from their website, they really don't make it clear that there is this essential feature to restore the file tree.

    If you share a networked computer - perhaps for documents or as a home media server BEWARE of the risk of one logged-on network user accidentally (or deliberately) deleting files, folders or even the entire disk structure. Windows does not itself provide you with any means of recovering this data. You need to buy specialist software to do that.

    Attached is a picture of the Save Directory Structure function in the Advanced File Recovery software mentioned above.

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    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Re: Undeleting software

    Regular backups, every week or month, depending on how often the data is changed might alleviate potential pain. Just name the backup folder with the date it was done, so theres a date trace. important documents and files could be kept on a pocket hdd so if there is an emergency eg. fire etc. it can be grabbed and tucked into a pocket, knowing precious photos etc. would likely be saved.

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    Default Re: Undeleting software

    Sensible advice, but unfortunately a) runs counter to human nature b) the backup didn't help me.

    As I mentioned, I had spent a long time (many days, off and on) tidying-up the system, restructuring, removing duplicates, merging directories etc.etc.. The backups - about two weeks old - were taken before I embarked on this major reorganisation and I was damned if I was going to revert to them. Hence this thread. If the backup had been of use, I'd have used it!
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  6. #6
    honmanm Guest

    Default Undeleting software

    Hi Alan

    It might be worth having a look into boxbackup (or similar) - i.e. a network-backup-to-server-disk solution. We use it to keep our servers backed up - with the backups being compressed, encrypted, and multi-versioned. And a further neat thing is that it works across any IP network - so the backup server can be off-site.

    In fact there are some people who provide a commercial service (which you can trust because only you have the encryption keys to your data). The caveats are that the Windows client is not yet stable (though a greatly improved client is in the pipeline), and I don't know how painful a bulk restore would be.

    Certainly it has been useful for recovery of deleted files, and files whose owner had second thoughts about the modifications they had saved the previous day (the retention of old file versions is a super feature). Although our boxbackup config does its backups overnight, it can be configured to back up modified files within a much smaller time window.

    You may find that there are similar programs that are more Windows-centric - I've no idea whether there is a free option like boxbackup.

    Mark

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    Default Undeleting software

    I appreciate the advice but the purpose of my posting was to illustrate how, human nature being what it is, backups prone to let you down etc. etc., there are ways of recovering data. Most computer users know that; what I wanted to show is that even amongst seemingly identical software there are functional differences which make one restore program useless if you have avery large number of directories and one a life saver.

    Computer magazines (which I read) frequently mention backups and equally frequently mention how very few people actually use them. Even if I'd make a reliable backup just before I started shuffling about 1000 of the 3000 files into more logical directories, removing duplicates and near-duplicates a backup would not have helped me un less it was an hour or so old. I just couldn't face restoring to a position even a day before I started moving these files around to go through the whole loop again. That's why I had to recover these files, in the exact tree structure as at the point I deleted them.

    Furthermore, there is an additional synchronisation issue that is not so obvious.. We do in fact have two of these mini-servers and they can be (manually) synchronised with each other. One sync copy is about two weeks old - far too old for this exercise. The reason that we don't trust them to automatically synchronise (which they could do every minute) is because a big error on one would replicate itself on the other almost instantly. So there would be no additional security from the backup at all. In the case of auto-sync, my accidental deletion of those 3000+ files and folders on the main server would have been cloned across to the backup server which being dumb, wouldn't know that the changes were unintended. So, one way or another, the best solution is to recover the data from the drive which it still resides on, albeit hidden from the operating system if at all possible. Which, as explained, it was.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Re: Recommended computer software

    Alan

    Apologies if you feel that this is too far off the subject but the solution I adopted to avoid this potential disaster was to switch to an Apple Mac. A bundled system program (Time Machine) automatically backs up to a separate disc every hour any files / directories you choose. You can restore the status at any previous time by a s couple of clicks. Depending on the size of your backup disc and how many directories you wish to backup, this period can extend back from weeks to years.
    I used PCs for 10 years or so beforehand and had to rely on others to maintain system 'integrity'.

    David

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Recommended computer software - PC or not PC?

    'Going Apple'* is not an option for me, although our youngest was bitten by the Apple bug at about 15 and has used one since - he's just in the last few months at university. I'm sure that they are artistically very fine, but I'm familiar with the PC - and especially the screen gamma of the PC (MACs have a very different screen luminance, lower contrast and brighter). Anyway, there are no speaker design related engineering programs suitable for the MAC (and if you remember, our server is all engineering files) and I'm definitely not buying a MAC and installing Bootcamp to run Windows on it!

    I've been with the PC since it wasn't the "IBM Personal Computer" - the name hadn't yet been coined. I worked at NEC UK, a large Japanese semiconductor corporation as Consumer Account Manager, handling all UK consumer factories including Sinclair and Amstrad in the early 1980s - and yes, I did work with Alan Sugar and Bob Watkins (the unsung heros, also Marl-Eric Jones) of Amstrad on an hourly basis - and yes, learned much from them.

    I vividly recall the day in about 1981 we received a call from the buyer at the UK's then largest TV factory (Thorn, Enfield) asking us to visit to look over the parts list of a new subcontract project they'd tendered for and won, they having the most sophisticated PCB auto-assembly line in the country. Invited into his office I was told to close the door, sit down and sign a non-disclosure agreement. That done, I looked at the list - all digital components, including the 8086 processor which NEC made under licence from Intel at the time. 'This isn't a TV' said I - 'it's some sort of digital box'. I was told that this was a data-entry terminal for IBM, a tool to help them sell their mainframes and replace punched card input.

    Quizzing the buyer about likely quantities they'd make he told me - and this I'll never forget - 'Price this kit on the basis that 30,000 of these boxes will fulfil the world demand'. Because IBM didn't conceive of the real potential (billions of PCs) they didn't patent protect the design (too much trouble, too expensive), used generic chip parts (a fact competitors would realise within weeks). There was no conception of the "PC" needing to have "graphics" (what's that got to do with computers?) or even colour; it was a text-only unit. Why would you need anything else? And that's why the architecture of the PC was designed so - as future generations of PC users would regret.

    Needless to say, within a few months Thorn were back on the phone for more: but by then the genie was out of the bottle, and the PC clones were appearing - not that we, NEC minded: I sold chips by the millions to anyone! Looking back now I can see clearly that, IBM being IBM, they would have provided comprehensive service manuals with schematic diagrams via their service operation and those very service tools showing standard off-the-shelf parts throughout would have been analysed by the would-be clone-PC vendors. There were many interesting characters at the time who, working almost from their kitchen tables made PC clones. Happy days. None of us could guess that the humble PC would transform the world, let alone the mighty IBM.

    * David has owned many Apple computer/phone/media player products these past 5-6 years. I have observed that, disappointingly, most, maybe all of them have failed under warranty and been replaced, sometimes more than once.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Backing-up to a remote (internet) server

    One member has helpfully mentioned that there are many "off-site" backup vendors, offering to store your data on their computer, somewhere in the world, accessible by an internet connection. Example of 'data vault' here. We're drifting somewhat off my original intention of a brief note about data recovery but let's look at this data-vault possibility.

    I've looked at these over the years, and I cannot recommend them for anything other than a few, small, office-type documents. I cannot see that this off-line backup is viable for bulk data storage. May I remind readers of the scenario that I laid out on my other message namely that I had accidentally deleted 2.54GB, 3240 files, 232 - and that is only a fraction of the entire engineering data, covering all models, which amounts to about 40GB and a vast array of files and directories.

    Today's copper-wire-8Mb internet technology is just not fast enough for backing up 40GB, and 40GB these days is a really small amount of data storage. Let's look at the maths .... let's assume that we have 40GB of data as we must back-up the entire drive as we don't know which part we will need to restore.... working in round numbers that's about 40,000,000,000 bits of data. First we have to upload that to the remote server. I made a speed test of my broadband connection (see attached). Note the next bit very carefully! Broadband, correct name Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line is asymmetrical, that means it is far, far slower to upload than download. Most broadband users are downloading from not uploading to the internet so they don't notice this. You can see from my measurement that I can download at 5800kb/s (roughly) but only upload at 373kb/sec, that's about fifteen times slower to upload than download: very typical.

    So now, let's see how many seconds to send up to the off-site server my entire data .... (40,000,000,000) divided by (373,000) that's 107238 seconds, about 30 hours continuously. Bad enough, but my monthly broadband package has a limited amount of data I can send/receive or there are heavy penalties. This volume of data would far exceed my package, would take me far beyond 'fair usage' and would almost certainly invoke disconnection.

    Please check my maths - admittedly after the first, massive, 30 hour upload (if it worked) it would only be necessary to upload and synchronise the changes .... but I just wouldn't trust any of this. There are far too many potential problems. An external USB hard-disk is a much better alternative and vastly cheaper - and best of all, it's completely under your personal control. The issue here was not about backing-up, I was reporting what I'd found when restoring deletions.

    >
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    Alan A. Shaw
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    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Re: Undeleting software

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    Yesterday, as part of my tidying-up, http://www.interwoven.com/index_iManage_legal.jsp

    [/COLOR][/COLOR]

    In our office we use IManage to deal with employees deleting files or using office computers for unauthorized work. It serves well to back up and also prevents accidental deletion. Hope that helps.

    ST

  12. #12
    honmanm Guest

    Default Re: Backing-up to a remote (internet) server

    You can get improved mileage from your ADSL connection by going for a "business" package or preferably a local-loop-unbundled ADSL2+ service such as the one offered by Be/O2 (assuming your local exchange is part of the LLU scheme). One can expect roughly 3x your present upstream bandwidth, uncapped, at less than ?35 per month, making online backup a much more realistic option.

    We've been using an on-line type backup solution for 2 years (server on-site as there is about 400GB to backup and it has been reliable the whole time - though it is a very good idea to forcibly resync every month. However I've never had to do a full restore, and until that day there will always be a nagging doubt. Backup has always been a problem for our roving laptop users, so we're going to try the online backup route. Will report back on success or failure...

    Mark

    On "Business" or "Pro" ADSL connections... These typically give you increased upstream bandwidth (800kbps for an ISP that uses BT Wholesale, 1Mbps for Be/O2) and no bandwidth cap. If you have a good line, Be is able to tweak their settings for up to 2.5Mbps upstream. Given your download speed of 5.8Mbps you could see 1.2 to 1.5Mbps upstream on ADSL2+.

    We are in the country, so get 1.5Mbps/750kbps on PlusNet's BT-based business service (?32/mo) and 3.8Mbps/1Mbps from Be Pro (?24/mo). Our site in Rothwell (near Leeds) gets 12Mbps down/1.5Mbps up on Be Pro.

    And the good news is that we 80% or more of the full line bandwidth at peak times. BTW we use a router with QoS management capability so that bulk traffic has a reduced priority.

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    Default Re: Backing-up to a remote (internet) server

    Quote Originally Posted by honmanm View Post
    ...(assuming your local exchange is part of the LLU scheme).... However I've never had to do a full restore, and until that day there will always be a nagging doubt...
    Noted. We are not on a fast modern telephone exchange here, and even if we were, as you hint, there is always the nagging doubt about tasking someone else with looking after your property when nobody really cares more for it than you!
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default Backing-up locally, disc archiving and recycle bin protection

    The purpose of this entire thread was to highlight a specific solution that I'd found to a specific problem, and to alert you to the time and money wasted chasing believed solutions until I found one that worked.

    Just to refresh memories, my specific problem was to recover valuable data from my hard disc that I had accidentally deleted. The data was still there on the disc, and in fact, all Windows really does when it's asked to delete disc data is merely to tag the data as 'hidden' and if you can find software to untag it, it again becomes visible to Windows. For that reason you should always be cautious about disposing of your old computer because it's a relatively trivial matter for the new owner to undelete all your seemingly deleted files, emails, passwords etc..

    I don't want to discuss changing to expensive, belt-and-braces IT support procedures that are applicable to big companies with specialists paid to look after computer networks: it's not appropriate to home users reading here nor to a little company like us, but to complete my advice based on long personal experience, I'd just like to pass on one or two more tips that have really helped me in this self-inflicted mass-delete situation. They may or may not be appropriate for you; they've been a life saver for me.

    1. Create an additional disc partition on your main "C:" drive, assign it a drive letter, and place your valuable data in that partition. If you have a normal PC, C:/ will be your root Windows directory, D:/ your CD drive and, say, E: this new partition. Or letter it Z: - whatever you like. It separates valuable data from the C:/ (program) drive, which as we all know can sometimes fail to boot. I've never stored anything valuable in My Documents (on the C: drive) because it's too closely associated with the Windows files and if you have to do a reinstall after a crash, you may have to erase everything in C: including My Documents. If your data is in another partition, unconnected with Windows a reinstallation will be confined to C: only.

    2. Install Acronis True Image. Home edition here. If you read PC magazines as I do, you will often find a free, fully working copy of last-years version of Acronis on the free cover disk. If not, it's really inexpensive to buy. They are a friendly company, and over many years I've never known an Acronis backup or disc clone to fail. Norton Ghost? Ummmmmm. What can Acronis do for you? Well, there are many back-up-and-restore software solutions available of which this is only one, but I find it extremely easy to use. This is how I use it and my thinking behind it:

    (a) I assume that sooner or later, Windows will fail to boot, corrupt or crash and I won't be able to get into it to boot in the normal way. I'll not cover that solution here, although Acronis could help you clone the entire drive very easily. That's what we do periodically.

    (b) If you have followed my advice in (1) and placed all of your data in a separate, easy-to-find partition it is simple to crate an Acronis back-up archive file containing all that data, compressed. Now the compressed Acronis archive can be placed on an inexpensive USB external hard drive. This archive, or back-up file will be about half of the size of the original data and best of all, when you mount or open it in Acronis, you can navigate the entire tree very fast, as fast as if it were the original data, and you can extract individual files, folders or the whole structure. In my situation, I did have an Acronis archive which, in extremis, I could have used to restore from, but it was created several days before I undertook a major tidy-up so I'd have had to go through that all over again; that's why I wanted to do an undelete. This entire situation came about because as reported, in a workgroup network if any user deletes a file on any other PC the file is not saved in anyone's recycle bin: this strikes me as deadly and is how, sitting at my laptop controlling the 'server', I deleted a whole tree: 3000+ files. Had I not noticed what I'd done, or had there been fewer files marked for deletion so that the process had flashed past in the blink of an eye, it might have been months or years later that I realised chunks of important historical design data had vanished. But where? When? How? It must happen frequently on peer-to-peer systems such as home music servers. I must have accidentally deleted files and directories unnoticed before.

    3, Install recycle bin protection software on the main PC. So, as I've discovered now, in a network situation you need to augment the Windows recycle bin, at least on the 'main' or quasi-server PC (in a peer to peer network) so that it catches all deletions and protects them. The Diskkeeper Undelete software I've tested this week does that and can be purged from time to time. If you have a music server shared over a p-2-p network with full rights, you definitely need this protection.

    4. If you have lost data, perhaps due to an accidental undelete, the most important rule is 'do not write any more files to the drive you've deleted on'. Stop immediately! This greatly increases your chances of restoring the deleted files. Then as mentioned in the previous post, install (to C:) Advanced File Recovery or some other undeleter that restores not only the files but the directory tree too.

    So that's it: you are the best person to look after your data, and no need to trust to massive expensive internet uploads to invisible, anonymous people who'll charge you for the pleasure - that's for big corporations. Self-solutions are the best and cheapest - they just need a little brain power.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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