Ever since the makers of Ghost got bought by Symantec and Symantec got bought by Norton (or is it the other way around?), I have had an inkling of what Ghost might have become through the unfortunate experience of having used Symantec/Norton Antivirus (8.0, I believe it is that MIT offers?)

I got a chance to use Ghost again. Ghost 10.0 that is. Unbelievable! What a piece of crap! I just wanted to image a disk, but now you have to run the ugly yellow UI in Windows — wait, you have to first install it in Windows so it can “help” you “automatically” “define” “restore points” so you can “backup your computer.” What does that user-fuddy gibberish mean?! Oh look here, I can be an “advanced” user and make a straight disk-to-disk copy (no disk to image?) but every time I click the button it wants to install .NET Runtime 1.1 first, what the …? And it keeps wanting me to activate the product and get “LiveUpdates.” Umrghh! Booting the CD up by itself gives me a patchy “recovery console.” No option to image disks in sight. Needless to say I junked the CD.

Fortunately the package tucks in another CD called “Ghost 2003″ for “older” computers. So it turns out Ghost 2003 is the Ghost that I remember. Man, thank goodness for older computers… Snorton has totally killed Ghost. Caveat emptor.

Useful information (Appendix)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.


Here are all the tools that made an arguably irreplaceable contribution in the recovery:

(Read the article)

Today I can go no farther (part 6)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 6.

Today I can go no farther (so I stopped)

The last days of this project are spent on two tiring tasks that do not gain me very much, but must be done to carry this project to its logical conclusion. One of these is to decrypt a few very small, but important NTFS-encrypted files. The other is to wring the last readable bits out of the broken Seagate drive by splitting all the error regions to isolate the unreadable regions as much as possible. These can proceed in parallel.
(Read the article)

The story begins (part 0)

My laptop hard drive died a painful death last week. Thanks to a friend (PGD) who agreed to be my ghostwriter for the initial draft, the process of my shuffling through the ruins is documented. This documentation is long, so it will be split into parts. The parts are assigned to the correct dates when the things described happened. Therefore, the sort order of the parts and the sort order of the dates do not necessarily match.

Part 0.

The story begins:

A 40GB laptop hard drive using NTFS became corrupted. The laptop could not boot off its normal disk, so was booted by CD into a Linux environment to recover the data. The idea was to quickly save a raw image of the NTFS drive onto another disk, and to use recovery tools on the image… It turned out this was much easier said than done.

On to Part 1.

The tide turns (part 5)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 5.

The tide turns (rather quickly)

After the exceedingly annoying but ultimately inconsequential ext2 interlude, I’m back on track with the original problem of recovering data from the broken Seagate drive.
(Read the article)

I rammed my head against the wall, and all was clear (part 4)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 4.

I rammed my head against the wall (of absurdity that is ext2), and all was clear

The obvious need to fork off another hard disk recovery project from a hard disk recovery project was just too pathetic to think about so I kicked this aside for a day. Today I started back from the beginning, this time researching the ext2 filesystem. The documentation (that is within reach of Google) for this file system is just poor. Whoever is responsible for documenting this part of Linux should be flogged, or at least made to go home and do it over. Yeah, I can go look at the source code (which I did), but I’m sorry, that does not constitute proper documentation.

(Read the article)

Today I became suspicious of everything (part 3)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 3.

Today I became suspicious of (the ext2ifs driver, the mkfs command, the USB enclosure, and basically) everything

On Christmas morning Santa Claus had not granted my wish: ddrescue was still running, but the image file had not been timestamped any more recently than when I left it, and the damaged drive had spun down by itself. dmesg revealed a syslog message “too many IO errors” or something like that, which had caused Linux to give up on reading from the damaged drive. I was very frustrated because, well let’s see, I had expected the disk imaging to make good progress, but instead… I must suffer a reboot and the induced indefinite re-churning of the drive, with even more data loss! What.
(Read the article)

I tried a whole bunch of things, and all that (part 2)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 2.

I tried a whole bunch of things (most that didn’t work), and all that.

What is there to do? Data recovery services that run into the thousands of dollars can probably get most of the data back — they have a track record of that. My data isn’t worth nearly that much, sad to say. But I don’t feel like abandoning perfectly good data, either. Yes, there is probably McNorton ViralGhostSpy or whatever this bloatware is called these days; I don’t know… I prefer more flexibility so I’ll take the trouble to proceed with free or freely available tools.
(Read the article)

Today I became suspicious of Seagate products (part 1)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 1.

Today I became suspicious of Seagate products (and my fortune in general)

Windows XP was running, and programs were being used. The disk was probably being accessed for memory cache. I noticed the drive making repetitive noises, spinning down and then spinning up, and the machine became unusable. I power-cycled the machine, and it was “NTOSKRNL.EXE is missing or corrupt.” Bad news.
(Read the article)

Vista blah

Memory management: Despite running on 256MB (actually 274MB is what it’s set to, to be precise), memory management in Vista seems to be working well. The paging policy is persistently keeping physical RAM usage at around 200MB, +/- 20MB. This isn’t too different from XP.

Disk management: There appears to be some rudimentary non-destructive repartitioning functions like “extend” and “shrink,” much like gpart. The disk is also versioned. Creating and destroying symbolic links, however, is still not exposed in the shell.

Network management: A crapload of changes in network management — too much to figure out what’s going on there right now. Most notable is probably exposing IPv6 support.

Privilege escalation: Windows itself now makes the request for administrative privilege if it is needed, instead of saying the current user privileges are insufficient. So far this is saving a lot of time.

Foreign languages: Display of East Asian languages are enabled by the default installation (I guess that just means the fonts and codepages are installed by default). The input methods I use are still the same, although there are a lot more input methods now, including a half dozen minority languages of China. That’s amazing. But, I can’t believe that the language bar is still having issues, not knowing whether to hide itself on the taskbar or how it’s supposed to be aligned.

Other stuff: There is this “Windows Cardspace” thing which seems to be a online accounts manager. There is also a “People Near Me” function that uses the Messenger social network. Some lame games and a “game manager.” BitLocker and ReadyBoost are nice, but kind of over-engineered. I doubt these will be used extensively.

In general, I think there are many good and needed changes here, but very little that I find compelling. From 2000 to XP, remote desktop, multiple user logon, system restore, and wireless support were compelling. From XP to Vista, the only thing I see is Media Center. But that isn’t in most versions of Vista. Add packet writing of optical discs, also, that might come in handy. Some of the other changes might have been compelling years ago (like Sidebars), but at this point are too little too late. If new applications turn up either from Microsoft or others to make a compelling case for the new graphics subsystem or anything else that has been included (pen input? speech recognition? text-to-speech? imaging/color codecs?), things may be different.

In other trials:

  • RDP 6 works fine. Sound quality seems better. Not much else exciting going on here. I thought there might be application publishing support, but that requires the server OS.
  • Office 12 is fine. XML file format and some UI changes. The thing seems to be the same to me. Outlook doesn’t use the new UI but has improved IMAP support including remote sent-mail folder and auto-purge support, but I had those working with scripts anyway.