Jan 132018

Everybody has a role to play. Mine, it seems, is “cautionary tale.” So when I say to learn from my mistake… well, I guess I need to be more specific. So, I’ll just stick to the one that wound up consuming my entire Friday and into Saturday.

After unfortunate experiences and scares years ago, I’ve long since separated my internet computer from my work computer. If something horrid and malicious comes through those series of tubes into my internet computer, it might make a mess of my ability to go online and whatnot, but hopefully it won’t hop  to computers with my drafting and CAD modeling and the like on them. So far that has worked.

A bit short of a year ago I found a “chromebook” in a pawn shop for all of fifty bucks. It was relatively new and had a bigger screen than the dinky little netbooks I’d used for internet work, so, after a factory reset (wiping out everything on the computer, including – presumably –  spy and malware), it became my internet computer. And it continues to work fine, with only one problem: the hard drive is pathetically small, only 25 gigabytes. With just the most basic set of programs loaded on, more than 20 gig is already consumed. It’s forever trying to update Windows, but it can’t… the update requires 8 gig free, and there simply isn’t that much space available on the drive. A poor design, IMO.

Due to the space limitations, one of the USB ports has a tiny little USB drive permanently installed. All downloads are directed there. This drive, smaller than my thumbnail, has 128 gigabytes of storage space, which makes me wonder why the built-in drive is so tiny.

Anyway, the USB drive is slowly filled with images, videos and PDF files. Every few months I go through what’s on it, clean out the junk and save the save-worthy to other drives for permanent storage. I was going to do that this weekend. Friday morning, one of the first things I did was to take a look at the “download” directory for a file I’d downloaded from a government report server a while back. I saw a few things that weren’t needed so I deleted them. And that’s where things went wrong.

After i hit “delete,” it should have been just a quick flash, then done. But it took long enough to attract my attention… and I saw “now deleting 18 gigabytes.” Somehow the system decided to delete all my downloaded files, not just the one. I killed the process as fast as I could, but the bulk of the directory was cleaned out.

With a regular hard drive, this would be a minor irritation… just go into the “recycle bin” and restore the files. But with a USB drive, there is no recycle bin; it simply wipes out the files.

There are programs such as “Recova” that should, in principle, allow for the recovery of deleted files. when a computer deletes a file, the file isn’t truly gone; it’s still there, but the space it occupies is opened up for other files to come in and over-write. So since I started the recovery process essentially immediately, those deleted files *should* have been recoverable. But… they weren’t. The files were found, and a handful were ok, but the great majority of them were *somehow* already over-written, by files downloaded days ago. I don’t get how that works, but there it is. Hundreds or thousands of files were wiped from existence.

The remaining option: Firefox keeps a record of all downloads. In this case, back to early November. So I compiled a list of all the PDFs I’ve downloaded and started downloading again. That took hours.


Then the fun part: I had to go through all the PDFs. Most of the ones I downloaded were of no value to me, so when I’d originally downloaded them I looked through them and wound up deleting them. The record of downloads didn’t make that distinction, so I had to scan them all again, and again toss most out. Again. And those I kept, I had to copy out into PNG format all the images (diagrams of aircraft and spacecraft, naturally) that I wanted. Again. It’s now well into Saturday and I’m *mostly* done re-doing this work. Gah. The directory with the reports and images is now at 14 gig, meaning 4 gig has vanished. This, I presume, is due to files I downloaded prior to early November that Firefox no longer remembers. Gone for good, I suppose.

So, there ya go. Learn from my mistake and don’t do what I did.

Hmm. WordPress says the preceding blather amounts to 770 words, or a bit over two novel-length pages.  One error caused by one erroneous keystroke consumed a day and resulted in two pages of probably unreadable text. I suppose if I find I can make a go out of my fiction writing (I’m still waiting to hear back about some editing for my first novel), I might take a stab at writing advice books. “Learn From My Mistakes, volume 1: Career” and “Learn From My Mistakes, volume 2: Romance.” Sure to be big sellers.

 Posted by at 2:16 am
  • James

    Gah that sucks have had something similar happen. I amd betting your computer started “cleaning” those files and rearranging as it deleted them which is why some were overridden. That or you have skynet.

    • Scottlowther

      Hmmm. Could it be that rather than 20 of the 25 available gig being consumed by Microsoft Bloatware, it’s actually consumed by Apple Skynet 1.0? Hmmm….

      • FelixA9

        I’ve often wondered if the first real AI would end up distributed amongst the “cloud” with bits and pieces scattered about every computer connected to the internet.

      • James

        Don’t mention apple. I hate apples and macs.

        Fuck your rights and privacy- apple.

  • Robbie

    Excellent work on APR V1N5! Thinking about what we could’ve done with Project Orion makes me cry.

    • Scottlowther

      Learn from my mistake: build the damn nuclear bomb-powered spacecraft the first chance you get. Don’t put it off.

      • Robbie

        In my alternate history timeline that currently exists in my head, the Apollo program was truly smoke and mirrors to keep the public’s and more importantly the Soviet’s attention focused elsewhere while they secretly worked on Project Orion. Of course it was no longer a secret when one blasted off towards the Moon with a million pounds of cargo to set up the first true manned base.

  • FelixA9

    I did something similar. Several years back I somehow deleted a folder in which I stored military and technology videos. We’re talking about 8 years of video clips. I lost some good stuff that I’ve never been able to replace.

  • Irek7

    Why don’t you buy a Mac. All deleted files, even from USB drive, are put to recycle bin. So you need double action to delete files ea. delete them from USB and after that delete them from recycle bin.
    PS. There is a full working Rhino 5 for Mac, also.

    • Paul451

      “for all of fifty bucks”

  • se jones
  • Billoz

    Ditch Windoze. Install Linux. More secure and more reliable and you’re not always forced to update it every week. All the programs you desire are nearly all free as well. I haven’t paid for any software for over 20 years.