Thursday, November 05, 2015


I had problems with two of my hard disks, one which I could deal with easily, the other, not so much so because I did not backup. If you want to know about how to scan disks for errors, or if you see a partition/drive missing in Windows, read on. If you don't, you definitely should backup data you don't want to lose anyway.

Victim 1 - ~1 year old 3TB Seagate Barracuda)

It started when I was watching an episode of The X-Files. The video froze and didn't resume until I closed the media player and started it again. I have seen this happen before and usually it means that the video file is somehow corrupt. This can be either a problem with the download/copy but it can be a sign that the disk has errors - if you see videos that you play off your hard disk freeze often, its definitely worthwhile doing a full disk scan. So I did one over-night. And since I was doing it for one, I thought I will do it for all my disks. I run Windows 10 currently (I would have run Linux but I play video games and they are still mostly Windows only). These are the steps I followed for my logical disks D:, E:, and F: (I skipped C: as you need to do it as part of boot as it is a system disk).

  • Opened up notepad and paste the following lines
    • chkdsk.exe /R /X D:
    • chkdsk.exe /R /X E:
    • chkdsk.exe /R /X F:
  • Saved the file as diskcheck.bat in C:
  • Pressed the Window key and typed in cmd, then right clicked on the Command Prompt shortcut and chose Run as Administrator
  • Navigated to where I saved diskcheck.bat:
    • C:
    • diskcheck.bat
That took a long time and hence the run over-night. The next morning when I checked the results, one of the volumes (F:) had bad sectors. It belonged to a 3TB Seagate Barracuda drive I had bought about a year ago. It shouldn't have bad sectors! I used the drive for storing TV shows/movies (all legitimately obtained of course!) and so even if I did lose the drive, it wasn't a big deal. But I moved about 1.8TB of data to an external 2TB hard disk. Then I downloaded SeaTools for Windows, a Seagate utility for checking disks, and let that run over night. It said something about the disk being bad and recommended that I run SeaTools for DOS which could attempt recovery. So I made a bootable USB drive using a great software called WinSetupFromUSB (there are lots of software that can create USB boot disks, some people swear by unetbootin, but WinSetupFromUSB lets you have multiple OSes bootable from a single USB stick!) and the image from the SeaTools website and ran the tool overnight. It reported an error code and a message saying there is an problem that can't be fixed. So I RMAed the hard disk (it was still under the 2 year warranty period). Apparently 3TB Seagate Barracuda drives have reliability issues:

Victim 2 - ~6 years old 320GB Hitachi

So the D: drive I mentioned above that I scanned and didn't find any problems with? Well I hadn't actually scanned it in a long time and maybe it was so old that it didn't like a torch being shined at its dark places. One fine day, I found that D: was gone. I open up Windows Explorer, and where there was a Pictures (D:), there was nothing! As the name suggests, it had my photos, a decades worth of them. So that made me slightly sad. I am pretty religious about uploading photos to Google photos and Facebook so I do have some backup, but other than that, I only backed up my other personal files. I excluded my photos because they were about 30GB. I think I had copied them over to my external hard disk sometime back but then did other things with the external disk and deleted them. So on to recovery.

I opened up the Windows disk management service (press the Window key and type in disk, then pick Create and format hard disk partitions. It should show you all your connected hard disks, even the ones that don't have any partitions. This is what it looked like:

This is after I bought another hard disk (Disk 1) and recovered all my photos (see below). But see Disk 2 of 298GB? That was what my Pictures (D:) had changed into. A blob of Unallocated nothingness! If you search for data recovery, you will find free software. I personally am very grateful to PC Inspector File Recovery and have used it to recover photos from an camera SD card after an accidental format. But it couldn't find any logical drives in the Unallocated blob that was the 320GB hard disk now. Most recovery software I tried could see the 320GB drive, but they couldn't recover the partition. So I started searching for partition recovery software. I was pretty sure my data was intact - drives don't usually fail so completely that all data is lost forever. The problem usually is that certain critical parts of the drive become corrupt and so the operating system can't figure out what kind of logical partitions are present on the hard disk.

My search found a free tool called TestDisk. It let you choose your disk (you can figure this out by looking at the size of the disk), choose a partition type (Intel/PC is what old disks will have, newer ones could be EFI/GPT), and then lists the partitions it finds (which was nothing - the same Unallocated blob shown non-graphically as a sad empty table), and then provides a Quick Search option:

Sadly the Quick Search didn't yield any partitions and neither did an in-depth search option that was suggested after the quick one failed.

My further searching found something called MiniTool Partition Wizard. I had actually used this once to resize my logical drives and it was pretty nice. It apparently had an option to recover lost partitions and so I gave that a go. There was a Partition Recovery Wizard that let me choose my 300GB disk and then let me choose either a Quick or a Full Scan similar to TestDisk.

But sadly again neither scan was successful in recovering the partition. I had just one partition on the disk but it wasn't found. This tool recommended that if I didn't find any partitions, I should probably try Power Data Recovery free from This turned out to be another tool from the same company, MiniTool. I started it up and chose the Lost Partition Recovery option, selected the Hitachi 320GB disk that showed up and clicked Full Scan. The Total Files Found count started going up and I got excited! Things were finally being found! So I turned in for the night happy. The next morning I got up and checked the results.

It had found everything on the drive in exactly the way I remembered it - all my folders as they had been before the blob took over! So I selected a folder and then saved it to another disk and yes(!) the photos were all there! My hunch about things being recoverable had been correct. Then I saw that I could only recovery 1GB of data for free. If I wanted to do more, I had to buy an upgrade. And it cost $70. That is a price that I could afford but I knew that if this tool could recover my files and even my folders, there should be some tool out there that can do so for free. If it had been $30, I would have paid up. I actually donated $5 to the TestDisk author because I thought what he did was cool. But $70 was about the cost of a small hard disk and I didn't want to pay that price for my not backing up data stupidity. Not just yet. I knew I could recover my photos, so I thought I will dig around a bit more and try a few more things before I ponied up.

I thought I will try gparted, a Linux partition utility, a try I created an Ubuntu 15.10 bootable USB disk again using the nice WinSetupFromUSB, booted into Ubuntu and ran gparted. But after a long scan, like TestDisk, and MiniTool Partition Wizard, gparted didn't turn up anything either. I tried testdisk on Ubuntu just for kicks but it was the same. I then tried a companion application to TestDisk called PhotoRec. It actually started recovering files from the disk but the names of the files themselves were not recovered and neither was the directory structure. I found photos that I had taken in 2006 mixed with photos I had taken a few years later all with randomly generated names in randomly generated directories. I almost gave up then and paid the $70 but slept on it.

The next day I did a final bit of searching around and found a tool called scrounge-ntfs. It is a command line tool and it needs you to input things like an MFT offset, cluster size, and the start and end sectors of the partition. I did a bit of research and found that the MFT was a table that recorded the locations of all files/directories in a partition - so if you find it you can basically find all your files, directories and their names. I gave it a go:

C:\Users\akarollil\Downloads>scrounge-ntfs -l
    Start Sector    End Sector      Cluster Size    MFT Offset

Drive: 0
    2048            204800          8               68264
    206848          486344704       8               6291456
    486551552       921600          8               307200
    487473152       921600          8               307200

Drive: 1
    1               4294967295

Drive: 2

Drive: 3
    2048            3907027119      8               6291456 

This kind of told me the drive I was interested in was Drive: 2 as it was the only one that did not have a start or end sector displayed. And a Guessing Partition Info page told me what input to give to the program. So I tried d (the drive) as 2 for Drive 2, m (the MFT offset) as 32 (I didn't remember having Windows XP), c (cluster size) as 8, 63 as the start sector and since the disk size was 298.09, the last sector should be 2048 x 298.09 * 1024, so about 625139710:

C:\Users\akarollil\Downloads>scrounge-ntfs -d 2 -m 32 -c 8 -o d:\scrounge 63 625139710
[Scrounging via MFT...]
scrounge-ntfs: invalid mft record
scrounge-ntfs: couldn't read mft: No error

So that didn't work. I then tried an MFT offset of 6291456 just in case, but that didn't work either. The MFT couldn't be found. I searched around a bit again to find a way to locate the MFT but didn't get anywhere. 

I then gave up on scrounge-ntfs and tried one last tool called Active Partition Recovery For Windows. It actually was much quicker than Power Data Recovery tool that I had success with previously but again though advertised as free, you actually have to pay to recover files. But I saw something interesting. The software displayed the start and end sectors for the partition that it saw and though my end sector calculation was correct, the start sector was not. I had picked 63 as recommended by the scrounge-ntfs page but it was apparently 2048. 

So I tried that with scrounge-ntfs:

C:\Users\akarollil\Downloads>scrounge-ntfs -d 2 -m 32 -c 8 -o d:\scrounge 2048 625139710
[Scrounging via MFT...]
scrounge-ntfs: invalid mft record

scrounge-ntfs: couldn't read mft: No error

No luck there, then I tried the other recommended MFT offset of 6291456 without much hope:

C:\Users\akarollil\Downloads>scrounge-ntfs -d 2 -m 6291456 -c 8 -o d:\scrounge 2048 625139710
[Scrounging via MFT...]
[Processing MFT...]
\System Volume Information
\System Volume Information\Chkdsk
\System Volume Information\Chkdsk\Chkdsk20150805170834.log
\System Volume Information\Chkdsk\Chkdsk20151014173753.log
\System Volume Information\tracking.log
\2 wheelers
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak\bajaj-chetak-1471058_b_19bb383db626d517.jpg
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak\bajaj-chetak-1471058_b_2eefcc7e52095a5a.jpg
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak\bajaj-chetak-1471058_b_964fbbea532c24c1.jpg
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak\bajaj-chetak-1471058_b_b6a65d91ff1ce5ac.jpg
\2 wheelers\1980 Bajaj Chetak\bajaj-chetak-1471058_b_e62d1a6e72615288.jpg
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\00012.jpg
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\1980_GS750E-L_USleaf2_800.jpg
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\IMGP1215.JPG
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\IMGP1216.JPG
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\IMGP1217 - Copy.JPG
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\IMGP1218 - Copy.JPG
\2 wheelers\1984 Suzuki GS 750E\IMGP1219 - Copy.JPG

BAM! Jackpot! Nothing sweeter than to see all those files with their names and their folders getting copied from the old broken disk to the new disk that I had bought to replace it :)

So for those of you who skipped to the bottom, moral of the story: BACKUP! Get an external hard disk, or an internal one dedicated to just storing backups of things you would dearly miss if a disk fails. And disks will fail. They just will.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two wheelers!

I have owned a few motorcycles over the years, and so thought I will write about them. And then I thought why stop there and write about all the two wheelers I have had the pleasure to use in my life. They aren't that many - currently they make a total of eight :) So without further ado, here are the two wheelers which have been a significant part of my life.

Bajaj Chetak

The first! I still remember my father taking me to a then remote place in Cochin to teach me how to ride a scooter. The Bajaj Chetak was the first automobile that I drove. And it had gears :) So I guess its the first transmission I learnt and once you learn one, the basics of it are the same across automobiles, be they scooters or sports cars :) You need to know how to release the clutch and feed in the throttle to catch that sweet spot that makes the vehicle start moving, but the release can't be too fast or too slow. And that sticks with you for life. I do love manual transmissions. There is something satisfying about shifting gears. My cousin and I even used to do it when we used to run around imagining we were driving trucks. Mmmmmmmmmm (revving)... chck chck,(gear change)...Mmmmmmmmmmm! :-D

These excellent photos are from a website that sells scooters in Finland! I have absolutely no idea what a Bajaj Chetak is doing right now in Finland. A market for antique Indian scooters in Finland? How did it even get there? It definitely is a great scooter - very durable. But Finland?! :) - Espoo, Usimaa, Finland

Kinetic Honda Marvel

My father sold the Chetak and we bought a Kinetic Honda Marvel which was gear-less, mostly I think for my sister (snigger, snigger :D). It actually was a good scooter - lots of power and lots of leg room - the brakes were both on the handle bars and so the foot rest had lots of space for say groceries. The following is an image from a second hand buy/sell website in India that I googled.

I could not find this in Finland :D But funnily I found a rally for scooters, and here is the mighty Kinetic Honda Marvel braving the elements:

Hero Honda Splendor (2002 and 1998)

My third two-wheeler was a Hero Honda Splendor. Well it was actually my father's but mine when he went away on his work tours. I used to use it quite a bit in my later college days. And when I moved to Bangalore, I bought one for myself. The one I bought was older but since it was older, it had none of the emission requirement related changes that were made to the Splendors that came after 2000 or so. This meant that the sound on mine was heartier and it was more in line with the tag then for Hero Honda - 'Desh ki dhadkan' - the country's heartbeat :) I bought mine off a colleague at Wipro through Wipro's internal buy/sell website. I later sold it using the same network. This is how the 1998 one that I bought in Bangalore looked like, again somebody's upload found via Google.

1986 Honda VF500F Interceptor

The first bike I bought in Vancouver. A friend of mine, Ashish,  who was my room mate for the first year at UBC had a motorcycle and he inspired me to get one too. I had absolutely no clue what the process was, which led to this: This bike though it looks very sketchy and was sketchy in some ways (it was missing the instrument cluster, well actually the seller did give it to me separately), was very smooth and for my first big bike, had lots of power.

At Iona Beach

Trip to Kamloops with Ashish's Yamaha Maxim that could do only 150KM on a full tank :)

I followed him to keep to the speed limit as my bike didn't have a speedometer :)

On the way back it rained. You can see that my 'gear' wasn't that adequate. That jacket is one I bought from Wipro when I used to work in Bangalore. The pants are Ashish's ski pants, and those shoes are not waterproof :D

1984 Suzuki GS750E

The second bike that I bought was also off craigslist - actually all bikes that I have bought till now in Vancouver have been off craigslist. It was for $1100 and though it had a rattle at certain RPMs from one of the exhausts, it sounded great even so. I don't usually care much about how motorcycles sound, and I absolutely HATE loud ones, but if it sounds like what an 84 Suzuki GS750 sounds, I am okay with it. Its not too loud and it gives you good feedback and its nice to know you are on a motorcycle. I still remember dropping the guy I bought it from back at his place after he sold it to me. You definitely do not see two men on a motorcycle absolutely anywhere here, mostly because people don't use motorcycle for transport. They are more or less toys for recreation. You take your partners but definitely not your friends. I guess there aren't many gay motorcyclists around :) So when I was with the guy behind me on the bike, we stop at a signal and an old lady starts crossing. She looks at us and smiles. We are slightly embarrassed and my friend slides a bit backwards :D This bike was great for a while except for some electrical niggles until things went quite wrong mechanically (there was rust in the fuel tank that eventually clogged up the needle valves in one and then two of the cylinders) which then unfortunately led to

At Jericho

At Cypress

With its younger but bigger brother which I got next

1997 Suzuki Bandit 1200

First bike after I got my job. Pricier at about $3000 but definitely better maintained. This was a big one - all of 1200CCs and had lots and lots of power. I had to handle it pretty carefully because of its power and because of its weight. But it was as stable as a rock and could pull at whatever gear, even when at ridiculous speeds. I had trouble selling it later mostly because it was big and so cost more in insurance. I met a guy once who had the same bike and he said that I should advertise it as "The bottomless pit of torque!". And it was. I don't think I ever opened up the throttle fully, well not at the very start where that torque is felt the most.

Duffy Lake Loop

I dropped it once when doing the Duffy Lake Loop. But it was at standstill - I took it off the road a bit, which was a bad idea to begin with and after I parked it, and was about to get off, the sidestand sank into the ground and I fell with it, with my foot stuck under it. Thankfully my boots were good and though I panicked for a bit as I was off the highway and couldn't really wave anybody down, I eventually managed to pull my foot out. And very luckily, and very coincidentally, a friend had told me about how to lift a heavy fallen motorcycle just before the trip. I am pretty sure I would not have been able to do it otherwise!

Sunshine Coast with Ramesh's Ninja 250

Port Angeles

Mt Baker with Ramesh

North Cascades Highway 20 with Sharath's CBR 600RR and Ramesh's Ninja 250

The Bandit with its younger cousin, the Honda 919, which was my next bike. The Bandit 1200, the 919, and the Yamaha FZ1 are the naked heavies that are usually compared with each other.

2006 Honda 919

This is to date the best bike I have had. Lots of power and almost as heavy as the 1200 Bandit, but somehow nimbler and easier to handle. It was just cleaner than anything I had ever had, mostly because it was newer, but also because it was a Honda, I think. Most of the Honda engines that I have had experience with are clean, smooth, and somehow feels 'tight'. I can't explain it. One thing that I could try to explain that with is the engine unit - it was somehow sealed well and I didn't have any trouble with it at all. The Bandit 1200 had some oil leaks, but then in its defense, it was about 10 years older. This was newer and had fuel injection - so no need to wait for the engine to warm up or use the choke on cold mornings! I rode the most on this bike - about 20000 KM in total. This was the bike I did a trip to Mexico with. And the first bike I took to a race track, which actually was a lot of fun.

Ross Lake camping with Ramesh and Parvathy

Sunshine Coast - the highway there is one of the most enjoyable ones I have ridden

Somewhere on Vancouver Island

Somewhere in the American Midwest

Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road - there was construction at the beginning and hence the muddiness.

Hope, BC, on the last leg of the 7500 KM ride to Mexico and back

2006 Yamaha FZ6

My current bike. I bought it from a retired maths professor who had babied it.

Even though its made in 2006, it had only 5000KM on it! Absolutely spotless and pristine - with original tires :) Its 600CCs but it has enough power though you have to rev it hard to get to it. But I somehow don't like revving bikes hard. I guess I like torque more and torque comes with bigger engines. But this can do more than 300KM on a tank of regular gas while the 919 could do at the very best 250KM on premium gas. I think its a good bike, but the 919 is still the best I have had. And sadly they don't make them anymore. But I also have had days when I didn't like the 919 because it was a bit rough and worn. When on other days it was a pleasure to shift gears and cruise. I also remember a really old Honda that my friend Ashish lent me for a day when I was visiting him in Boston.

That was by far the smoothest motorcycle I have every ridden. I guess I like cruisers. But I also like fast cornering and I did enjoy the one time I took the 919 to a race track. But yeah, maybe one day I will find something that is smooth and powerful and nimble and gives me 400KM to the tank :D

Mt Baker. The road that leads to it is again one of the most enjoyable ones that I have ever ridden on.

More to come! :)