Spinrite on par with Craig Venter’s brilliance?

20 02 2009

some feedback i just sent to Steve Gibson, the creator of Spinrite (v6) at www.grc.com :

Hi Steve,

I’m a long time Security Now! listener & Spinrite user, and today was one of those blue moon days where Spinrite saved our bacon.  No dramatic ‘Special Ops’ story here :), but satisfaction & gratitude abound none the less, and perhaps a new point of view on why Spinrite is so awesome.

Our Foxpro developer’s old Dell laptop which had been trucking along fine for years, suddenly wouldn’t boot this morning, BSODing during every boot attempt, and as usual Safe Mode was no help.  He’s usually a stickler for doing frequent backups, but when I asked how long since the last backup, I got back only an embarrassed sheepish smile.  Oh boy…

Recognising immediately that this was probably Spinrite’s cue to enter from stage left, I put it to work, and in about an hour it had completed.  Although there was no record of any bad sectors found or corrected, I did notice it churn away for several minutes on a few spots and suspected I was on the right track (no puns intended!)

Sure enough it booted right up, and so far all looks to be intact.  A backup has now been performed, and the impetus to replace the laptop very soon has been renewed!  Just another day at the office for Spinrite, but a significant potential loss averted for us.

Thankyou so much for such a legendary product.  I promise to buy another couple of licenses to reach  my ‘consultants license’ status ASAP.

BTW, while doing a bit of research into SMART a while back, I stumbled across a hard-drive data recovery expert’s site, which had a page recommending data recovery & utility software.  At first I was surprised not to see Spinrite at all (let alone at the top of the list where it should be!), until I saw a note where he explains that he (paraphrasing) “disqualifies Spinrite because it doesn’t take a copy of all the readily-accessible data before attempting restorative measures, and thus puts more data at further risk”.

I understand the logic behind this argument, and I agree that in rare circumstances a drive may degrade to such an extent (or have physical damage to the heads, for example) and not be diagnosed until it’s hanging by the proverbial thread, and thence Spinrite’s thrashing may snap that last thread.

But you know what?  Having used Spinrite myself since the early 90s, and hearing all your testimonials on Security Now! every week for 3 years & hear you explain how it & hard-drives work, I’ve come to realise that most hard-drive’s magnetic media failures don’t fall into that severe category, and that Spinrite’s approach offers FAR more ‘bang for my buck’ than data recovery specialist services.

Whilst he’s probably just taking a very conservative approach (understandable in that industry), someone more cynical than myself might suggest this guy’s wowser attitude is not in his customer’s best financial interests!  Even more cynical people might wonder if some of these data recovery specialists secretly use Spinrite to recover data from customer’s drives and charge traditional (read: exorbitant) data recovery prices for it…

I’m reminded of the race to decode the human genome in the 90s, with the ‘purists’ using a stubborn narrow-minded linear sequencing technique that was threatening to take forever, and Craig Venter’s maverick scatter-gun recombination approach – which won the race.  I see your unique and novel approach to tackling magnetic media failure in exactly the same light.  Simply brilliant!


Dear Manhunt.net…

16 02 2009

Manhunt.net, a gay ‘dating’ site, recently chose Australians to beta-test their new site upgrade.  oh boy…

if they put up a localised blog with comments, they must want some feedback!  here’s mine… ;)

1) my login-failure solution:
after an unhelpful reply from tech-support (”be patient”) my patience wore out after 3 days unable to login, having tried clearing browser caches, restarting browser, rebooting, trying other PCs, all with no luck. UNTIL i clicked on the ‘English’ language link at the top, then bingo, able to login fine ever since. maybe it was just a coincidence of timing, but one minute no joy, the next i’m in.

2) ‘Private pics unlocked’ notifications incorrect:
i got one today, which said “xxxxxx has unlocked his Private Pix for you.”
but *I* am xxxxxx, it should (of course) say the name of the profile that sent/unlocked :). looks like a simple coding oops.

3) no search by postcode/distance:
the temporary removal of this feature before the site went live was a major tactical blunder – unless you had a REALLY good (undisclosed) reason to NEED to migrate to new servers before it was ready on the new version.

Manhunt is of limited _efficient_ use without this critical feature (i don’t care how many hapless users don’t use search, wasting time online is their choice!), and now with one amorphous mess of hundreds of towns (and several of my local inner city suburbs missing, inc Collingwood, Clifton Hill, North Fitzroy!!!), it’s even worse than the original Manhunt and postcode/distance search is still weeks away :(.

who wants to wade through endless “who’s online” lists containing everyone in the state? or wade through that amorphous mess to list who’s online one suburb/town at a time? i really think you need to somehow get sensible area groups in the list too (not just as a stop-gap until postcode/distance works). yeah i noticed you can now add a bunch of suburbs to a saved-search, which is great, but that only applies to search, not simple ‘who’s online’ lists.

4) the tedious logout/log-back-in shuffle to remain reasonably visible:
basing the ordering of lists according to how recently someone logged in would have to be one of the most brain-dead designs i’ve ever come across in this genre of site. i understand you wanna ‘reward’ those who remain active (rather than those who just login & walk away for a day/week like some on Gaydar!), but this logout/log-back-in BS is not (and never was) the answer – not for us, and not for your systems that have the additional burden of processing several/dozens(?) of logouts/logins per actual user session.

it is in fact a fundamental admission that you haven’t nailed that problem at all if i have to do the work for you on top of actually being an engaged user. that there is still no way for a user to select how a list should be ordered, other than your hard-coded ‘time since last login’ is probably the fundamental problem.

5) search flexibility
even if(when) postcode/distance search is reinstated, i still find the limitations of search feature to be quite frustrating – i can tick various attributes to be “yes, i want them to be into this”, or leave it un-ticked for “i don’t care what they answer here”, but there’s _still_ no way to filter on “i want them to NOT be into XYZ”, which is sometimes where the best filtering happens for some users/purposes (eg. guys4men.com)

i understand a single tick-box is nice n compact, and a 3 way choice (probably a drop-down list) on each attribute will take up alot of space, but for your ‘get on, get off (quick)’ mantra to be realised, there needs to be better ways to filter guys out to minimise results lists.

6) web programmers love making stuff in fancy AJAXy/fly-over/hover/translucent/auto-pop-menu/blahblah, and sometimes it works well, but not on the main menu, especially now that your auto-drop-down menus are across the top instead of down the left side – i’m finding they pop-down almost every time i move the mouse to/from the browser tab bar &/or other stuff on the desktop, which is incredibly frustrating, and utterly unnecessary. so what if i have to click the menu to drop it down?!? i’d rather that than have them getting in the way all the time when i had no intention of ‘clicking on’ the menus anyway! it’s web-designer wankery that doesn’t serve the user.

7) “he’s online now” lights
speaking of web-designer wankery, those new indicators to show if someone’s online are far less ‘readable’ with all that orange simulated LED bezel BS surrounding them. someone in the design department’s been drinkin way too much of the coolaid…

Manhunt, overall i like the new layout, and i dont mind ’silly bugs’ cuz they can be fixed, and i really appreciate that there’s this this localised blog to keep us in the loop & make feedback easy (and bypass the scripted robots in tech-support), but as you can probably tell, and as a paying customer, i’m pretty PO’d not only because a major upgrade to the site has left a critical feature missing for unspecified weeks, but much moreso that a major redesign has failed to address glaring limitations in functionality & usability.

i was questioning whether to remain on Manhunt after my current subscription, and unfortunately this ‘upgrade’ hasn’t done much to increase the site’s utility for me.

not only does the upgrade seem to have been rushed, with Australian’s used as beta testers like it or not, but too few improvements beyond a new coat of paint.

sorry to stick the knife in, but this seems like a classic case of an IT upgrade project mis-managed (too influenced by web-designers & not addressing core issues or features) and poorly executed from the user’s perspective.


Tim at Manhunt emailed to thank me for my comprehensive feedback, which may help nail a bug or two (as well as assure me that my thoughts were heard loud & clear ;), and a brief email exchange ensued.  I neglected to mention in my comment on their blog that much of what they’re doing is behind the curtain stuff aimed at achieving better scalability, and to that end, “more power to them”, it’s a complicated and major undertaking for websites of this size & 24/7 operation.  He assured us in further blog comments, and in his emails, that they’re flat out dealing with the cut-over, but that the postcode/distance search is the next cab off the rank, with several other popular issues including some i’ve raised as also high on their agenda &/or being (re)considered.  Perhaps there is hope yet.  One has to give credit for any organisation willing to put thier cock on the block in a public blog/comment forum and engage their customers ‘face to face’ rather than only through the arms-length of tech-support.  Thanks for listening & hearing, Manhunt, I’ll wait patiently for what’s around the corner, and perhaps beyond.

Apple karma eats blogger-journalist dogma?

14 02 2009

i’m really liking Daniel Eran Dilger‘s clarity of thought & style:


he simultaneously rattles the cages of the ‘journalists’ & echo-chamber bloggers with rather plain (and usually well deserved) vitriol, states his case clearly & rationally, educates his reader, and manages to come across as rationally pro-Apple without resorting to any of the usual MacFanBoi crap/tedium.

i read his post above immediately after reading Paul Thurrott’s post whining yet again about how stupid Microsoft is for allowing Google to be the 500th&something licensee of Exchange Activesync, seemingly still clinging to the notion that Windows Mobile has any significant future in its current fundamental form (as a shrunken Windows desktop, complete with Start menu, which smartphone makers with even half an ounce of style replace with their own shell).

viewed together, it’s pretty clear that what’s driving alot of anti-Apple/iPhone media coverage (past, present & future) is a failure to realise that what Apple is doing, the hard lessons they’ve learned from their behemoth competitors, and the impact it’s starting to have on Microsoft and others, is what Microsoft have done to countless others over the last 20 years.  maybe there is such a thing as karma afterall…

chalk & cheese, night & day.  good stuff.