Monday, August 6, 2012

Space Saving

I've been running out of hard drive space. While I've upgraded I've also done a little bit of 'cleaning up' as well. Little did I know just how difficult this would be. With the recent increase in hard drive prices (due primarily to the Thailand floods) I (and others) have been looking at unusual sources. One of these has been purchasing portable hard drive expansion packs (hard drive and enclosures) that are on sale and removing the internal hard drive which often ends up being cheaper than purchasing the drive alone. Sounds simple, right? Not quite.

I tend to do some background on product purchases. In the past, this has held me in relatively good stead but with the advent of online marketing and reviews it seems as though everything has balanced out. Almost every single brand seems to have 'problems' and unless something is truly worthy it is unlikely to have a clean bill of health. In fact, a random sample of Amazon (and HDSentinel) reviews seemed to indicate that anywhere between 10-25% on average are dissatisfied with their purchase of electronic goods (anything from flash memory, hard drive, routers, to wireless network cards).

On top of this an increasing number of companies are locking down their hardware/software which means that modification can be difficult if not impossible. Obviously, there are issues relating to consistency, security, and so on. While some compromises I understand, other's I'm not so certain about. For instance, Clickfree actually have a microchip in their enclosures (warranty void if removed) which holds the key to being able to use the internal drive as a normal drive or as a 'Clickfree' drive. Toshiba have been attempting to draw more power than standard from USB ports for their external enclosures than standard. Seagate have been (depends on the age of the enclosure) using slightly larger than normal (12.5mm as opposed to 9.5mm height drives) in their enclosures which means you can't use them as a replacement for your internal hard drive. Western Digital have even altered their circuit boards so that instead of a generic SATA out interface that leads to a USB controller/interface card which then leads to your PC the circuit board is direct to USB (I never would have believed this had I now seen the pictures on HDDGuru). I've even seen accounts of HP using non-generic PCB's which basically encrypt the contents of your drive which mean that while your data is safe if it is removed from the drive in the advent of a failure it's difficult/impossble to recover your data without skilled aide. Firmware flashing of the requisite chip seems to be the only way around this without using a different enclosure.

Moreover, many firms are developing tamper proof enclosures that mean that opening them up is extremely difficult without causing damage to the enclosure themselves. The general consensus seems to be a combination of higher local ambient temperature and careful prying using thing pieces of plastic/metal is the best way.

While I've previously used SyncToy and other tools to run backups and syncronise drive contents I recently came across Syncback. Overall, it's just like many other backup tools. The thing I like about it is that it creates it's own backup logs (HTML format) instead of me having to create them.

Transcoding of media files seems like an extremely simple affair and I thought that many applications would be able to handle audio syncronisation issues easily by now but that's not the case. Whether I'm using CLI (ffmpeg) or GUI (HandBrake, FormatFactory, MediaCoder, Avidemux, etc...) based tools there doesn't seem a single tool that can transcode (at an acceptable level of quality) without extra input from the end user while maintaining sync without causing abberations in the transcoded file. The simplest option seems to be a mass transcode via MediaCoder/ffmpeg and then using the MediaInfo/Avidemux/VLC in order to re-sync/edit the transcoded file back to normal. This of course, raises other concerns.

ffmpeg -i out.ogg -itsoffset 4.267 -i out.ogg -map 1:0 -map 0:1 -ar 22050 video.flv

In my case, temperatures were exceeding acceptable limits/normal parameters which meants that it would automatically trigger system shutdown. Obviously, I've worked with CPU throttling applications (I even built one) previously though so using a combination of ThrottleStop, Open Hardware Monitor, and Process Lasso I've been able to slow things and maintain a more sustainable thermal environment.

If you've ever used a particular brand from Jaycar you'll notice that they have some quality control issues. Recently, I once purchased a mini microSD card reader but after noticing read errors from the device I returned it for another. I noticed the same thing again but this time decided to take a closer look. Apparently, they may have a dry solder problem with what appears to be an onboard crystal oscillator.

I also noticed similar read issues with another product (a USB to IDE/SATA convertor) from this particular brand. As soon as it hit the 1GB file mark of a certain file copy (this only seemed to occur on one particular file transfer) it seemed to silently fail (under Windows). There are accounts of the core chip not dealing with errors correctly (under reporting information during failure) and also incorrect/un-optimal implementations. I may explore this further if I have time but I'm still working on my 'Cloud and Internet Security' report.

Life in Vietnam 2, Data Recovery Work, and More

This is a continuation of my other post: - more Yo...