fwbackups 1.44 progress

First of all I wanted to mention I've registered #fwbackups irc.freenode.net, so you you have an account feel free to come by and discuss and ideas, feedback or bugs.

I've also been learning C++ (slowly) so I'm going to rewrite fwbackups into C++ but keep the interface the same. In other words, you shouldn't notice a thing except it being much, much faster! A friend also recently joined the development team, so hoepfully 1.44 won't take too long and we're planning to release with support for archives, direct copy as well as incremental backups à-la-Time Machine, have a backend plug-in system and have it run naitively in OS X too!


Fedora 9

Fedora 9 is here! As usual, this new Fedora release is the best so far and includes many new features from PackageKit replacing Pup and Pirut to the new PolicyKit system that makes regular users perform tasks that require root privledges easily. Check it out at fedoraproject.org.


Don't forget the ice cubes

My cousin has a 4 year-old iBook G4 that died recently... When I took a look at it, it was pretty evident that it was a hard disk failure. My cousin didn't have a backup and the iBook wouldn't boot at all, so I held Command+S to boot in single user mode and see what was recoverable. Everything seemed fine.

The longer I used the iBook, the more "ls" and "cd" hung... That's never a good sign. I plugged in my USB disk and tried to dd the iBook's disk over, which did work but at 5KB/s. That comes to roughly 72 days to copy the entire 60GB disk! I've heard the stories about people freezing their hard drives to get some data off, so figured at this point there was nothing to lose and it was worth a try. I stuck the Mac in the fridge for an hour and went to buy a 6-to-6pin Firewire cable.

When I got back, the Mac was nice and cold. I connected the iBook to a working Mac with the Firewire cable, connected my USB disk to the working Mac and finally, booted the iBook while holding "T" (for target disk mode - it makes the iBook act as an external disk).

To my surprise, not only did the iBook turn on (screen working and all), but the working Mac I had connected the iBook to recognized the iBook's hard internal disk! I was able to start running dd and then thought "that's great and all, but who says it's not going at 5KB/s again?" Well, a quick kill -s SIGINFO $! revealed that it was copying at over 5MB/s... Not bad!

The verdict? The freezer myth is true. I kept a ziplock filled with ice cubes around the area where the disk drive is on the iBook, and it kept up the 6MB/s rate for over 8 hours now, save for a few spots where there were bad sectors or funnily enough, when the ice melted! If you'd like to try this procedure, here's the condensed version:

  1. Make sure you have a partition that supports large files (ie, FAT32 won't cut it - we're making a disk image the size of the hard disk you're recovering). In my case, I used a 100GB HFS+ volume.
  2. Place the dead Mac in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Connect the dead Mac to a working one with a Firewire cable, and boot the dead Mac while holding "T" on it's keyboard. You should see the Firewire logo appear on it's screen after a moment.
  4. On the functional Mac, open Disk Utility again and you'll see the "Macintosh HD" volume from the dead Mac on the left pane. Select it and do File > Get Info to determine the partition identifier. It should be diskXsY, where X and Y are typically numbers under 10.
  5. Open a Terminal (Applications > Utilities > Terminal) and enter:
    dd if=/dev/diskXsY of="/Volumes/VOLNAME/dd.img" bs=512 conv=noerror &
    pid=$!;while true;do kill -s SIGINFO $pid;sleep 15;done

Remember to replace diskXsY with the identifier we found for the dead Mac's Macintosh HD. Replace VOLNAME with the volume name of drive you'd like to save the image to. It could be a networked, internally, or externally attached volume. For example, I used a volume on my external USB disk which had the name BACKUPS. I used the following:

dd if=/dev/disk1s2 of="/Volumes/BACKUPS/dd.img" bs=512 conv=noerror &

These commands will clone the dead Mac's hard disk partition, effectively creating a .dmg disk image of the dead Mac's drive. Once dd has finished, you'll find the image saved as dd.img on the volume you selected. dd will skip any bad sectors it encounters, so some data may be lost but if you're lucky you'll be able to get a good chunk out (in this case I was able to recover ~90% of the data). Statistics about the transfer progress are printed every 15 seconds - Once the disk copy is done, you can hit <ctrl+c> and quit the terminal to stop printing them. I hope this is able to help someone who needs data off their Mac!


Realtek HD + Mic (aka Intel Integrated Audio on ICH8)

I bought a low-end Logitech headset recently and it works perfectly in Linux but for some reason in Windows the volume was terrible. To make matters worse, it seemed like the drivers don't support mic boost and only the main "capture" slider is changable… The others such as line-in are locked!

After a bit of Googleing I came to relatively simple fix to the problem. If you're looking for a way to bring up your mic's volume, follow these steps:

  1. Update to the lastest drivers available from the Realtek website.
  2. Browse to C:\Program Files\Realtek\Audio\InstallShield and run the program named MicCal.exe
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions and when promted with a slider, bring it down to zero, leave it there for a few seconds. Raise it to 100% and be sure to click Next right away. Continue with the on-screen instructions to finish the wizard.
  4. Open up Realtek HD Sound Effect Manager from the Sounds, Speech & Audio Devices control panel category. You'll notice under the Playback knob on the left, you have a litte wrench/tool icon; click it and make sure Rear Pink In is checked off.
  5. Now, (use the arrows as needed) click the small button labeled .. (the Advanced button) under Rear Pink In. There, hidden, are the options for Mic Boost!

Reference: johnnygoodface's post at techspot forums


Future of fwbackups: What features do you like?

I've been thinking about the future of fwbackups, and the engines are causing me a bit of trouble. TimeVault is pretty cool and I'd like to implement something similar, but to do that I have to scrap the tar and tar+gz engines. I could also forget the TimeVault-like features for now and implement incremental backups. So, what do you think? I've got a poll running so you can vote for your preferred option on the left.

On another note, 1.43.2rc1 will include a minimize to system tray function so that fwbackups can stay in the tray as an applet :)


Welcome to the Matrix.

I like the Matrix trilogy more every time I watch it... There's some pretty interesting ideas in the movie. With the capabilities of technology growing every day, I don't believe we are going to be imprisoned by machines anytime soon but I do believe that the idea of a computer-generated "reality" will become, well, a reality pretty soon.

What is real? It's going to be interesting to see how reality (both the sense of the word's meaning and the experiences we all retain from this "reality"), will change. If computers can interact with the nervous system, how will we be able to tell the difference between the current and computer-projected realities? In theory, the two would be indistinguishable and as with all other digital technology, chances are the digital projection of reality would be even better than the real thing. Either way, linking human brains to machines is going to bring about both new possibilities and vulnerabilities... Ad-hock networks of brains would be something very cool - imagine swapping digitized memories, complete with a sense of smell, touch, etc that you could replay any number of times. Work experience/skills could be transferred as well, which would make education easier and quicker. The gaming industry would be revolutionalized... You wouldn't play games anymore, you'd experience them. Interact with them.

On the other hand, I bet it won't be long before brain-malware (brain32.mydoom O_o) appears too. But that's a whole other topic...


Favourite Freeware Apps for Windows

Well, as usual, it's been a while... I'll start by saying happy new year! Better late than never I guess ;)

Anyways, ever since I started developing fwbackups for Windows I've had to use it a lot more often than I used to. Here's a list of some (free) Windows apps I've found to be very useful:

  • iTunes: As much trouble as I've had in the past with Apple products, I've yet to see a better media player that's as easy to use, configure and has equivalent features. The only thing I wish is that I could import with lame directly from iTunes.
    • iTunes Lyrics Importer searches lyricswiki.org for song lyrics and automatically updates your iTunes library
    • iTunes Library Updater (iTLU) makes it a breeze to manage your library when it comes to updating track info, adding new songs or removing the dead links in your library.
  • Notepad++: One of the best text editors I've seen when it comes to programming or just general-purpose text. Of course, nothing beats good old GEdit though ;)
  • MediaCoder is a free audio and video transcoder. It supports almost any format you can imagine, has a nice interface, huge amount of features, and even some presets for various devices like the PSP or iPod.
  • WinSCP for all your secure file copying needs.
  • PuTTY for all your SSH needs.
  • 7-zip: Finally, open bz2 archives and a whole lot more without any annoying "trial" and "upgrade now" messages!

All these programs are free to download & use, and most are open source. Enjoy!


iPod touch

I have to say, I'm impressed. I'm typing this from an iPod while listening to citizen cope... You can even type with two fingers! ;)


obsethryl's lab

I came accross obsethryl's lab the other day. It's the website of Freenode's #labchat IRC channel where you can talk about GNU/Linux, software mediated automation, development on opensource platforms, automation, and anything concerning else cross-platform FOSS software. Besides being a great idea the site looks really neat! (read: resize your window and watch the background Wink)


Join the team

Because of time constrains, it's getting tougher to upkeep every one of my open source projects - If you'd like to help out developing one of them, please let me know.