A tale of a harddisk failure & ensuing data rescue

The older i grow the more i appreciate the soothing confidence a terminal can instill. No matter how fucked up your system is, as long as you can get a terminal running all is not lost.
Those problems i had with my ibook which i blamed on overheating issues? I was a little off there. I still believe that my ibook was running too hot and that resetting pram and nvram resolved these problems, but the inexplicable slowdowns after longer periods of use were apparently caused by a slowly failing harddisk drive. Last sunday my ibook went into its last massive slowdown before its harddisk kicked the bucket.
Smart as i am, i didn’t have any decent backups. Following potential-massive-dataloss protocol i panicked and started googling around, leading me to this mac os x hints article in which we learn how to dump an image from a corrupt harddisk drive using dd on a mac. This article shall henceforth be known as the most valuable piece of text on the whole wide web.
In this article you’re walked through rescuing your failing harddisk by means of dd using its noerror- and sync-options to make it continue after read errors and pad input blocks to the specified input block size.
Problem in my case was that the failing harddisk was my bootdisk and i didn’t have any backup-installations of os x lying around on external drives either (what do you expect from a guy who doesn’t even backup his home directory properly?). So i booted from the mac os x tiger install dvd (press c during startup to boot from internal optical drive) and found a terminal with all necessary commandline tools there. What a pleasant surprise. I tried to determine the mount point of my internal hdd with

disktool -l

but apparently the drive was so far beyond rescue it wasn’t even listed there. While trying to boot in verbose mode before (press cmd-v during startup to boot in verbose mode) i had noticed that my boot partition was disk0s3, so i figured the bootdisk name should be disk0 (disknames have the format diskX, partitions have the format diskXsY). I gave it a try with something like

dd bs=512 if=/dev/disk0 of=/Volumes/External2/img.dmg conv=noerror,sync

and my ibook started happily copying away. About ten hours later i checked the resulting disk image and to my own astonishment it not only mounted, but appeared to be almost complete.
Overall i’m just glad that i could rescue (most of?) my data and i felt almost relieved that finally there was an easily reproducable error when i brought the ibook into repairs. I just wonder what people who are a little less savvy with computers can do in a situation like this, aside from suffering a massive data loss?


iTunes 4.9

Apple released itunes 4.9 with integrated podcasting support today. Among the more interesting pieces i read on this so far are Dave Winer’s assessment, Edd Dumbill’s assessment and Brent Simmons’ take on this as an rss aggregator developer.
I had to bring my ibook back into repairs again (more on this later) so i couldn’t check out the ipod integration so far, but here’re a few thoughts from a quick testdrive of the windows version (as a bulleted list because it’s getting late and i need to get to bed):

  • Their implementation is pretty nice considering it’s their first try and it makes a lot of sense to integrate podcasting support with your digital music library.
  • The approach of separating your podcasts from regular audio in your library is great. I don’t wanna run into a podcast while shuffling and setting up a smart playlist just for excluding podcasts is a little tedious. Would be nice if there was something like this for audiobooks as well.
  • From what i’ve heard the latest ipod firmware implements this separation of podcasts and other audio as well. A welcome surprise, i just wonder how much longer it’ll take to get compilation grouping support in there as well… this has been missing for at least months and i’m slowly losing my hope.
  • I see no way to subscribe to podcasts outside their own, controlled directory. Perhaps i’m missing something obvious or this is actually hidden somewhere deep inside some half-forgotten menu, but if not this is bad. Nobody likes gate-keepers and walled gardens, it should be possible to subscribe to a podcast by specifying its rss-feed url.

I wonder (again) where this leaves odeo. For all i know they are still in invitation-only beta. Last numbers i heard they’ve handed out 11.000 accounts and now apple the goliath comes to market before them. I bet apple had more users on day one than odeo signed up in the weeks up to its launch.
I was lucky enough to get an odeo account recently and even though it’s really slick and one of the most polished web applications i’ve ever seen, they’ll still have a hard time competing with podcasting support directly built into your music player, no add-ons required. Honestly i wouldn’t bother to use another service that ultimately has to be more cumbersome to use by its own design and platform. On the other hand, i couldn’t find suicidegirls radio on itunes while odeo has it…

Someone Comes… for your crappy phone browser

Cory Doctorow’s third novel someone comes to town, someone leaves town came out a few days ago and once again it’s available under a (very liberal) creative commons license. I’ve been looking forward to this and i really like reading ebooks, but my current motophone makes for a very poor ebook-platform, no way to install decent reader software and the browser just barely handles xhtml pages up to a size of about 5kb. So i wrote a simple php-script, converted the txt-version of Cory’s book into a bunch of tiny html-chunks and threw them on my server for out and about phone-browser-consumption.
And because there shouldn’t be any problem with making this public thanks to the cc-license and it’s up here for my own perusal anyway, i figured i might as well share this with the rest of the world: someone comes to town, someone leaves town spread out over 145 tiny html pages so that your (and my) crappy phone browser can handle it (only the download version available now, see below). The first few pages are just the license, the real action starts on page 8. It’s far from perfect with wonky character-encoding here and there but appears to be sufficiently readable on my motorola e1000. Don’t count on this staying here forever, it might move or disappear entirely at some point in the future.
If you’d rather put this on your own server or just want your own copy for whatever other reason, here’s a zip-archive with all 145 html files (~330kb). Let me know if you have any problems with this and i’ll try to fix them.

Tiger frying *books?

Those overheating issues my ibook recently had mysteriously went away somehow. Ok, not exactly mysteriously, but rather inexplicably.
The repair-shop returned it after a week without repairing it because they couldn’t reproduce the problem. The day they returned it, my ibook overheated again after six-or-so hours of use, but ever since it worked without a hitch (knock-on-wood). When i brought it into repairs they zapped the pram and nvram before taking it in and apparently Justin Blanton had the same problem with his powerbook after installing tiger and zapping the pram and nvram resolved his issues as well. I’m still not convinced that the fans are working properly. There is a fan located under the left palm rest next to that little grill on the left side of g4 ibooks, right? That one doesn’t come on anymore ever since i had my mainboard replaced. However i really don’t have the nerves to have a possible problem fixed that’s not reliably reproducible and isn’t giving me any trouble right now, so i’ll just sit and wait until my laptop bursts into flames before dealing with apple care again. Or even better, perhaps this won’t give me any more trouble, the large fan at the back appears to keep islington cool enough for now. Let’s see how it fares once we hit 30°…


Reboot7 was every bit as great as i could’ve hoped it would be and even more. Meeting and listening to all these people doing great things and advancing the field i’m most interested in, the way humans interact with technology and with each other through technology, on so many fronts was incredibly inspirational and energizing. There was a lot of common ground among participants (i got like 6 comments about my creative commies t-shirt in one evening, without ever getting one before anywhere) which made it really easy to meet new interesting people and have great discussions.
If you look back at my first post from reboot on friday you’ll notice that it’s named Reboot7 first day, first half. This turned out to be a bit optimistic, there was just too much going on to leave enough time for posting around here. Three sessions in parallel all the time, all day long, few and short breaks in between, massive back-channeling on irc (mostly of the bitch-and-moan variety, but in a mostly good, very entertaining way), keeping up with current proceedings on the wiki, taking notes in subethaedit and of course hanging out with many great people.
Deciding on a session was sometimes really hard, except during the keynotes three sessions in parallel were scheduled all the time. I think i made some poor decisions on friday (Jason Fried’s talk wasn’t that revelatory, at least if you’d been following 37signals for some time and i heard Ulla-Maaria Mutanen’s talk on craftblogging and the long tail in fashion was amazing) but even during fantastic talks i sometimes had this nagging suspicion that i was missing out on other great stuff, like Michael Heilemann’s talk which collided with Jason Calacanis’ or Lee Bryant’s which collided with Doug Bowman’s. I hope the organizers come through on their promise to put audio recordings of all sessions online.
In the meantime there are some notes available. I have a lot more lying around on my hdd, i’ll add those asap. Collaborative notetaking with subethaedit worked incredibly well, there were always three or four people taking notes simultaneously and fixing mistakes together in one shared document. Nice to be able to take a break from taking notes, knowing someone else is keeping up with the proceedings. It was also a fun way to follow what was going on in the sessions in other halls.
Finally i’d like to say thanks to the organizers of reboot7, they really did an outstanding job. The registration process was a bit chaotic from my point of view so i feared they weren’t prepared for so many participants, but the actual conference went great and without any hiccups except for a minor wifi outage during the Doug Engelbart demo. The halls easily accommodated everyone, there was free wifi, a sufficient number of power outlets for laptops, free coffee, water and fruits at all times and abundant food during breakfast and lunch for everyone. A job really well done.

Who’re you again?

Being at reboot7 poses an interesting challenge: there are lots of people i’ve been reading for years, but i can’t put a face on most of them for the life of me. Case in point: at the thursday meetup i stood next to Michael Heilemann and i was certain that i’ve seen him before and had this sneaking suspicion that it’s him, but i wasn’t quite sure. Then he dropped a random link to me about the guy blogging next to him on binarybonsai so i was finally assured that it was indeed him. Another example: i just met Mark Wubben who i haven’t been following as closely as some others, but he’s definitely been on my radar, but with my really poor eyes having trouble reading name badges i didn’t realize it was him until he gave me his url. Funny how this stuff works.

Reboot7 first day, first half

Reboot is great so far, the thursday meetup yesterday was a lot of fun, met some great people. The program is packed so time for writing is scarce, but i’ll try to more or less keep up. Doc Searls‘ keynote was great (feels funny writing about someone who’s sitting right in front of you), Scoble‘s part was somewhat overshadowed by Ben Hammersley (aka TheAntiScoble) heckling him on irc. Doc Searl’s talked about how damaging the word “like” is to language (among other things), which reminded me of this post at language log. Ever since reading it the phrase “if you will” makes me chuckle.
I really liked Jason Calacanis‘ presentation. He talked about how he found himself thinking that he’d been holding back his best people as an editor once he saw them succeed with their own blogging endeavors and talked about the direct correlation between success and the amount of legal threats you receive. I also really liked his approach in dealing with annoying, stupid lawyers: just hang up on them and don’t make the mistake of telling them before that you’re going to do so.
If you’re interested in reboot7 you might want to keep up via technorati, flickr or join the irc channel #reboot7 on irc.freenode.net.

Off to Copenhagen

I’ll be off to copenhagen for rebootin a few minutes. Actually planned to write a tad more but my train to the airport was running late and i’ll have to board my plane any moment now. No wifi on this flight i’m afraid, more when i get back online in copenhagen.

Apple & Intel

As for the news that apple is switching chip suppliers, ditching ibm in favor of intel – i just don’t buy it. Read John Gruber for the reasons – there’s no way this is gonna be a smooth switch, putting an incredible burden on users and developers, what with the huge architectural differences. Even more importantly, should apple announce this at wwdc and the switch will take until 2006 (as suggested in that cnet rumor), they’ll cannibalize their sales for the rest of 2005 and i really don’t think apple’s willing to take that hit. Perhaps ibm isn’t as reliable as apple’d like and they sure didn’t make good on their promise to bump the g5 to 3ghz till ’04, but losing two or more quarters after having been able to grow sales and extend market share lately sure looks like the more costly path to me. Of course feel free to call me out on this one on monday if i’m wrong.
Later: Yeah, i was totally wrong.