Recover Deleted Files

I’m super careful with files on my computer. Careful almost to the point of obsession. After having a hard drive crash and losing a bunch of data 15+ years ago, I made sure it would never happen again. But recently I broke one of my own rules and ended up in a bit of a mess. The rule is: get your files off of SD cards as soon as possible.

There are bunch of good reasons for this but a few are:

  • SD cards are easy to lose
  • SD cards are easy to damage
  • SD cards are easily corrupted

None of those bit me. The problem that bit me was user error. I left files on the SD card for a couple weeks because I was too lazy to put the card in the computer and copy them over. The exact sequence of mistakes is probably boring to read, but the bottom line is that I thought all of the old photos on the card had already been transferred off but only about 80% of them had. There were a bunch of “first day of school” photos that I hadn’t transferred off right away and I didn’t notice that fact before deleting them.

As soon as it happened, I realized what I had done and my stomach twisted into a knot. I just lost files not because of a software/hardware problem but because I was an idiot.

I immediately ejected the SD card from my computer and slid the lock lever over to prevent any further stupidity. Next it was time to find something to recover the files. When a computer deletes a file, it doesn’t actually overwrite the file, it just removes the entry from the “card catalog” that points to the actual file locations. So if you can carefully scan the disk and you know what the binary header of your file looked like, you can still read the old data.

If you search around for “recover lost files” there are tons of programs available and I believe two things are generally true:

  1. They’re going to cost quite a bit of money because they know you’re panicked.
  2. It’s a great way for hackers to get you to install spyware/viruses. You’re in a hurry and you click away without really checking the validity of the site.

I ended up using PhotoRec¬†which is free, open source, and hopefully safe. It’s not very user friendly, but that was fine with me.

The tool worked ok, but it didn’t find any files on my first scan. I had only saved .CR2 (Cannon Raw) files and the tool didn’t have a scanner for those files included out of the box. Thankfully they allow you to add your own file signatures, so I whipped open a hex editor, figured out what the header of a CR2 file looks like and added a new signature.

After that it quickly plowed through my SD card and found the “deleted” files. It didn’t get 100% of them, but because I took about 100 pictures of Elijah in ~4 different poses, I still had plenty of good photos to choose from. The day was saved.

But this is one of those lessons that I’ll never forget. When you walk in the door with new pictures on your SD card, immediately copy them to your computer and get them backed up to cloud storage. And whenever I buy my next camera body, I’ll probably be buying one that has built-in WiFi syncing available. I might even check out those WiFi SD cards to see if they’re worth it.

Storage Closet Cleanup

We have a fairly big closet at the top of our stairs that holds a bunch of stuff that doesn’t otherwise have a home: sleeping bags, board games, wrapping paper, vacuum cleaner, folding chairs, etc. It’s a mess. That’s not terrible except that we have to leave the door open because it is also the closet where I had the electrician run all my network jacks. That closet has a whole bunch of networking gear and two computers that are on 24/7. It gets way too hot if the door is closed. Some day I might build a ventilation system in there, but regardless of whether I do that, I knew I needed to build some storage that was better than our old wire frame shelves.To kick things off, I cleaned out the closet, took down the wire shelves and then patched all the old screw holes from those shelves. I even sprayed on some new wall texture to hide the patches. I had a leftover half gallon of the same brown color that is used in many other places in our house and it was the perfect amount to paint the closet.

The real improvement will come from some new storage cabinets, but first I needed a solution for the mess of computer wires. It had to just sit on the floor while I was painting and I needed it out of the way for the cabinet project. So the first build in this project was a very simple set of shelves to hold the computers, routers, battery backups and other miscellaneous gear. The shelves were a quick one day build (with Elijah helping) out of a sheet of 3/4″ plywood, some poplar to hide the exposed plywood edges on the front, and a bunch of pocket screws.
It’s not fancy, but the bulk of this will be hidden by the new closets along the same side wall anyway. And for me, this is glorious. It’s going to be so much easier to diagnose problems and I finally have all of the network jacks in our entire house connected at the same time. Nerdvana.

Now it’s time to build some big cabinets…

ISS Transiting The Eclipse

Destin Sandlin has one of the best YouTube channels in existence: Smarter Every Day. I don’t know how he keeps upping his game, but he has managed to do it again. He found his way onto the perfect tiny little patch of earth where he could watch the eclipse AND see the International Space Station transit across the sun during the eclipse. The math is bonkers. He got a bit lucky because they periodically adjust the height of the space station (it slowly falls to earth) and the last adjustment put the viewing location on some reservation land that is very difficult to get to. It all worked out and he has a great video about it. He wins the eclipse.

CrashPlan Service Changes

I’ve been an enthusiastic CrashPlan cloud backup user for well over 6 years. The small fee that I paid for their service saved me a ton of time trying to hack together my own solution. Unfortunately, yesterday I got an email saying that they are going to stop offering CrashPlan Home and focus on the business market. The transition plan sounds very smooth and they’ll continue honoring all of the time that I’ve prepaid for, but of course it means that I need to start thinking about what to do when my service runs out in a little over a year.

There are a few options to consider:

  1. CrashPlan is officially recommending Carbonite (who was a competitor until CrashPlan exited the home market). Their service is $60/year which is very similar to CrashPlan. The only downside is that I have to re-upload my ~4TB of data. That’s not horrible except that Comcast silently added a 1TB/month cap to my plan.
  2. Stick with CrashPlan and use their Small Business offering. While they are offering existing users a nice discount for the first 12 months, eventually it will cost me $120/year. It’s roughly double what I was paying, but maybe it’s still worth it since I don’t have to change anything.
  3. Go back to rolling my own solution. It’s not too hard to encrypt the data myself and then upload it to Azure blob storage. This would be kind of fun to piece together but it’s not going to be cheaper than Carbonite or Crash Plan Small Business. They set their prices for the amount of data a normal human uses and clearly I’m not that.

Thankfully I don’t have to make this decision any time soon. My contract runs through Oct 2018. However, if you’re thinking about starting to use cloud backup (and I recommend it!), you should be looking at providers like Carbonite or Mozy.

Revenue Per Employee

Microsoft recently announced quarterly results and they were very good. I started thinking about how much the revenue has increased over the years and how many more employees there are. How has the revenue per employee changed?

Some quick searching revealed that this is a pretty common metric to track when investing, but I couldn’t find good, free data going back far enough to satisfy me. So I pulled the data together myself. This is NOT very reliable or accurate! Specifically, many of the employee count numbers were estimated from a chart image. Don’t make any investment decisions from this chart. That being said… it’s interesting to see that when you factor in inflation, Microsoft gets roughly the same amount of revenue per employee every year. Toss in a bunch of new employees and print more money. It’s a pretty good setup!

How does this stack up against other companies? Credit to for the chart below:

This Visual Capitalist infographic shows revenue per employee for various sectors and companies you probably recognize.

I wonder what would happen if you walked into HR with these numbers in hand to talk about your salary? Good luck with that.