Requiem for Better Storage

Disclaimer: This post is a musing. You may/may not like it but the title will give you a fair idea of what I want to say.

The world has completely turned digital. All my memories (parts of it which my brain can no longer store) are in the form of 1’s and 0’s spread out over the vast cloud of the Internet and in the 2.5 inches of space my external Hard Disk takes in one of it’s dimensions. As all things that change, it is for the better and for the worse.

How it is for the better is quite obvious. Reason enough that almost all the world now talks to each other in 1’s and 0’s when not face to face.

How it is for the worse is something only those with the experience and the means can tell you. You have all heard of hard disk crashes. Happens all the time. People around you lose loads of data – Movies, TV Shows etc. But they’re all bright and sprightly the next day. In a hostel with 600 guys, there are no movies, games, TV shows, unwanted videos, music videos etc which cannot be found. It is when you lose something very precious that you know how fickle life in the digital world can be. I found this out … the hard way.

I recently bought an external HD. After debating with my parents, friends, my conscience and with people online, I decided to settle with a 1 TB itself. I bought the HD on the last day of the vacations and immediately backed up almost 465 GB of data on to it. I felt liberated. No longer was I constantly running out of space. No longer will I have to think before installing a new OS when I have so much free space to spare. No longer will computer crashes worry me because all my data is outside. No, I wasn’t stupid. I’ve seen people lose data. I backed up all my files and songs onto my computer hard disk because although the chances of the external HD getting corrupted are almost as minimal as an internal HD getting corrupted, there was still the possibility. What I did not think about was backing up other stuff which was just as important to me.

I connected 2 Seagate HDs (mine and my friends) to the laptop at the same time. Result? Both crashed. My friend’s HD got its headers corrupted (at least that’s what I think) while mine got totally screwed. I tried everything I possibly could. My first priority was my own HD. I had to recover truck loads of data and it was gonna be corrupted – I knew that the minute I realised the HD had crashed.

I first removed both HDs and then plugged mine back into my linux OS. No use. I unplugged and went to friends comp and plugged it into HIS linux OS. No use. Plugged it into his Windows. No use. Took it out and gave it a day to cool off (you know, one of those age old things .. hitting an electronic device may make it work, giving a computer time may magically make it boot even though it’s BIOS is totally screwed). No use. Then, I got really techy and downloaded a Hex Editor (took me a whole day) so I could dabble around with the headers and make them right (hey, who knows, right?). The next day (after the Hex Editor had been downloaded), I realised the HD wasn’t even getting detected. Forget the fact that the partitions table had been corrupted, the computer was now recognising it as an un-allocated 931 GB of space (which also made me realise that we’re cheated out of 97 GB of space on every 1 TB hard disk).

So, I finally resorted to recovery software. It took the software 6-7 hours to scan and make a list of files that could be retrieved and another 13 hours to retrieve them. Yep, almost a day. I was very happy though. The recovery had been done. All my folders were back in place. All my files seemed to be there and except for some 3 files, everything had been recovered (according to the software). I didn’t care what those 3 files were since I couldn’t see them in the important places.

It was then that I realised that all my movies had been corrupted. I didn’t care though. Movies could always be re-acquired. I felt a little unease and started going through the folders one by one to see what else had been corrupted. Then, I realised it. All my pictures, videos and books were gone. Kaput. Like they were never there. 45 GB of data, or more importantly, 6 years worth of memories went away in a second all because a small sequence of 1’s and 0’s couldn’t set themselves right and so told their digital master (my computer) that the rest of the 1’s and 0’s didn’t exist. Their digital master then told me that I had been fubar’d 😦

I am mostly a very hyper guy. I can move my considerable weight around and act goofy, not because I want people to notice me, but because it’s the way I am. That day, when I realised what had happened, I moped around in the room without going out. People thought I was sick. I didn’t talk much because my mind was buzzing with possibilites as to how I could ever recover my data. I have lived through disheartening board marks, seeing an accident, getting operated on, getting rejected by most top institutes but this … this hurt me where it mattered.

I have always been a strong proponent of technology. Everyone around me knows that. I have fought long and hard with my parents to digitise their photos, which they still stolidly refuse to do. I have taken the time to acquaint myself with shortcuts, softwares and general knowledge in things most people around me don’t know exist. My friends think I’m some sort of genius when I fix their computers. Truth is, if they took some time to google it out, they’d be just as savvy. Witness to the fact is how woefully uninformed I am about most things that are concerned with art and extra curricular activities. But this .. This made me feel like an agnostic. I started doubting what I’d put all my faith into. If the world of 1’s and 0’s was so fickle that a little shizz of electricity could make it delete almost everything I have of value, I have to believe that there is something better out there. Some medium of storage that would unfailingly make sure my data does not corrupt itself.

In the aftermath of the moping, I started taking random trains of thought to see where they lead (my favourite time pass). Unwanted crap put aside, I realised that most of my data is now digital. Movies, books, photos, videos .. anything and everything is in the form of binary data. My personal journal is now on the computer. My public journal is on WordPress. Thanks to the world shifting completely to digital cameras, I now have 40 GB of personal pictures and videos which got deleted entirely. My text books and fictional book collection is now in PDFs, which have also been deleted. There is nothing left on my hard disk. I still retain the pictures, videos and books in hopes that SOME recovery software will be able to get it back (it makes no difference whether I keep them or not, I know, but it’s just me being a little humane).

I have almost NO record of any conversation with my school friends. I keep track with messages, emails, chats. All digital streams of data which have every chance of getting corrupted one day or the other. I have never written a real letter in my entire life. I have never seen a telegram ever. Any record of my very existence has chances of getting erased within seconds. Is our existence so fickle? Is there a possibility that the minute we are ushered into an era with totalitarian rule, the ruling power will have all the infrastructure in place to assert themselves on us? Is there no way in which our memories could be stored more permanently? Is the world of digital data here to stay? Because if it is, I must start creating strategies to save all my data if the inevitable armageddon or loss of privacy does happen.

All of mankind has reduced to a bunch of binary data. Implying that if we somehow die out and someone releases several EMPs just before the apocalypse, all data of our existence would be wiped out. No time capsule would be saved considering we’re getting our life so much into the digital sphere, time capsules will probably have pen drives in them. That said, I’ve always believe any remaining copies of Lord of the Rings (which was written long before the digital age was even considered a possibility) would become gospel. What clue would future civilisations have that the world was any different that what Tolkien had written? Maybe Sauron really existed. Maybe the Ainür still existed in this unknowable land the book called the West. I’ve always had the feeling the Bible was some epic work of fiction from a previous civilisation that just happened to be found and made the gospel for all Christianity and Jews.

Yes, I know .. Random rants and digression. But this is my blog and this is where I let loose. Anyway, I shall return to the bunch of recovery software I’ve downloaded and give everything a try. What I’ve lost is not something that can let me sleep in peace. Adios, world. I shall now drift off into forced subconsciousness and take other trains of thought to follow (seriously brilliant exercise, I assure you).

How to go unprepared for a Trekking trip 101

So, I thought I’d officially start the year with a bang and went for a trip to Ooty with friends from college. There were 16 of us and to keep it short – it was fun. But this isn’t about the trip as a whole.

This is about one particular aspect of the trip – trekking up a hill in almost completely uncharted territory. To be more precise, this is about how to go unprepared for said trip.

How to go unprepared for a Trekking trip

Aim: To make an itinerary of all the items that would be detrimental to a trekking trip and procedures to follow that would effectively endanger your life and those of others with you.

Apparatus Required:

1) Sandals with no traction – 1
2) Sprain in leg – 1 (Maximum of 2)
3) Cotton clothing for effectively letting the chill get to you
4) Foolhardiness – As much as possible

Procedure:

1) Start with letting your friends plan a trip. Initially, refuse to go along so that you’re absent from the planning sessions. When you agree to go along, make sure you forget the fact that a trekking trip has been planned.

2) Do not forget to act tough and not take any type of protective clothing even though you are going to a hill station and you know about it.

3) Make sure you don’t have enough sleep because you know sleeping on a bus with 15 friends (who talk themselves to high glory) is quite easy.

4) Start the trekking trip with minimal energy. This is essential to gathering the grit to go till the very top.

5) Remember to sprain your ankle a little on each leg so that it gets worse by the time you’re done.

6) Start the trek

7) Remember to keep your foolhardiness at max throttle and agree to move forward on unused slippery muddy pathways.

8) Take support from people on both sides of you. This way, you’ll feel safe that when you fall, you won’t be the only one going down.

9) Do not think about the way back and how much more difficult it is to stop yourself while slipping down the muddy pathways.

10) Reach the top. Stop for photos on the way when there is enough foliage to literally hide an elephant.

11) Start the trek downhill. This is the part where the fun starts.

12) Hold on to maximum number of people so that you can take everyone down when you go. For best effects, make sure the people on both your sides are light ones. This will help in bringing down the whole group a lot faster (Satti’s Weight Disproportionality Theorem).

13) Break a few toe nails so that you can feel the pain when you are trying not to slip.

14) A few thorns all over your body will also help. For good measure, make sure they’re poisonous.

15) Hope that the sprain in your ankle acts up to make your job all the tougher.

16) Get down and look at your feet. Mud should have crusted all over your nails (the ones that aren’t missing), mud over your pants and T Shirt(which should have been black for maximum effect).

17) Make sure you come back into your room with said filthy sandals and then realise the fact. Reminisce about the trip and write a blog post on the one part you think would not be all that boring to read.

Conclusion: To decrease your chances of coming back alive, do not go for a trekking trip with your head in the right place or traction in your footwear.

Of course, the trip on the whole was awesome. My sarcasm is directed wholly on myself and my stupidity for not being prepared for a trekking trip.

1984 – A review

Yes, it’s been a long time since I blogged. A lot has happened. For instance, my college has started. But more on that later.

Classics is a very ambiguous word. I believe it’s a classification given to anything that has stood the test of time with a large set of people. It is not necessary that most people you know will like what has been termed a classic – be it music, books, movies or anything else (even the good old Irodov).

I’ve always had a fascination towards the classics. I am intrigued by why something was labeled a classic. I’ve come to learn that, in most cases, it is justified. There is something about the book, movie or music that has made it alluring to so many people over such a length of time.

It was with this trepidation or lack thereof that I started reading 1984 – a novel by George Orwell. I was not disappointed.

1984 - George Orwell

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is, as the name suggests, a story set in the year 1984 as imagined by Orwell when he wrote the novel in 1950. He paints a bleak future where the world is divided into so called 3 “super-states” – Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia.

Our protagonist lives in Oceania in modern day England. Oceania is ruled by the Party – an oligarchical dictatorship – whose founder/leader/dictator/ruler is a man only known as Big Brother. The Party is completely authoritarian and rules every aspect of people’s lives by watching them through telescreens, rewriting all newspapers and historical books to wipe out the trace of any history that existed before the Party itself did and other absolutely despotic and mind blowing stuff. The Party aims at killing emotions, like love, in their subjects and fueling them with hate while the endless war with the other super-states goes on.

The protagonist – Winston Smith – is still capable of independent thought and cannot take in the whole agenda that the Party propagates. He sees through all of it, unlike most of the population of Oceania which has been brainwashed over time and where people like Winston are slowly being wiped out (vaporised) from the society. Winston finds love in a similar minded woman named Julia. But – and I quote directly from the back of the book – “Big Brother does not like dissent. For people with independent thought, the Party invented Room 101 … ” . Gather what you will from that statement because I will not tell you what it means.

I rate the book among the best ones I’ve read. Yes, I know I rate all books as awesome but this one strikes a little closer to the heart.

Why? Zombie – my pal – and I have long chats on certain nights. We exchange not only intellectual ideas and what our latest fascination is but also what we imagine our perfect future would look like. I always emphasize on freedom in such discussions. Freedom to study what we want, freedom to contribute to society however we want, freedom to stop worrying about such things as a job, family etc. The future depicted in the book is the exact opposite, in every way, of what I’ve been imagining. It is, at once, daunting and intriguing. The measures the Party takes to curb all the basic freedoms has been depicted in such detail in the book that it fascinated me no end to just look for loopholes. Yes, I found some few and far in between but they do not seem obvious to you unless you’re looking for them.

You want to know how good I found the book? I’m giving it a second read in a few days. Yes, I’m serious. The book is absolutely terrific. I have a feeling that concepts for movies like Equilibrium and V for Vendetta were taken from this book.

Edit1: Wikipedia proves me correct.

Edit2: Apparently, Big Brother, the reality show which started in UK, takes its name from the character in the book.

Consensus – Must read for any intellectual.

War is Peace.
Freedom is Slavery.
Ignorance is Strength.