Archive for January, 2009

Hard Drive Suicide

by on Jan.24, 2009, under Annoyances, Linux

How now! An external hard drive?
Clatters to the floor
[Within enclosure] O, I am slain!

Well, it happened something like that…

I was about to attach my external enclosure (containing a Seagate 120GB 2.5″ SATA hard drive) to my other laptop, when the cord came up short and the drive slid off my desk.

To the floor three feet below…

While it was running.

Hard Drives are rated to withstand falls from a few feet, but only when they’re not running. When they are running, however, the heads smash into the platters, spinning at 5,400 RPM.

So I’m running a fsck on the drive, and it finds a bad block (about 2.3 million 4096-byte blocks into the disk). As I went to pull my laptop and hard drive into my lap, and the hard drive slides off the desk again. In the same place, and landing the same way.

By this point, I’ve started to give up. Fsck tells me that there is a bad block in the same place, and I check the SMART statistics: 0 Reallocated Sectors.

I write data to the bad sectors to force them to reallocate. This goes on for quite a while (with the badblocks tool, among other things such as creating as many 10GB files filled with zeroes as I could (I got to 6 files of various sizes before the drive began buzzing) and I get up to about 150 reallocated sectors (Or around 90 as a calibrated hard drive value; for the record, the failure threshold is 36. The drive started at 100.).

I decide to back up the data (only one of the actual files on the drive is corrupt; all the damage is in unallocated space) and delete some things I have elsewhere. 156 reallocated sectors.

After backing up the data I decided that it would be best to do a destructive write test. Writing to bad blocks causes the drive’s firmware to reallocate them on a different section of the physical disk.

By the middle of the test (700,000 4096-byte blocks, starting at the first corrupted region), the drive began buzzing again, and when I finally gave up, it had reallocated about 2,100 sectors, and the calibrated value was down to 44.

At this point, I gave up.

Rest in peace, Seagate. You have been with me since I got my laptop. Thanks for all the fish.

On another note, I’m now in the market for a new 2.5″ SATA drive.

UPDATE: The drive is a lost cause. I’m not writing anything to it, and it’s reallocating sectors on its own.

Reallocated_Sector_Ct 0x0033 018 018 036 Pre-fail FAILING_NOW 3282

Powered-on time: 305 days, 6 hours. Rest in Peace.

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Windows 7 Beta

by on Jan.13, 2009, under Windows

I have to say, Microsoft really did a great job here. The beta version of Windows 7 (Build 7000) is far more usable at this stage than Vista ever was. All my issues (see here and here) with Vista are not present here.


  • Wireless worked immediately; during setup, no less! (screenshot)
  • All my hardware was detected and drivers automatically downloaded from Windows Update, without my intervention. (screenshot 1: All drivers installed; screenshot 2: Installing my SATA card)
  • User Account Control is 100% less intrusive, and doesn’t hang while blanking the screen.
  • Aero is Beautiful in this release.
  • Paint got a complete overhaul (screenshot: menu) and can do something similar to Word’s AutoShapes.
  • Progress bars in the taskbar. (screenshot)
  • Calculator now has a “Programmer Mode.”
  • It’s fast, in both setup and use.

Minor Issues

  • Address bar icon in IE8 doesn’t support PNG transparency properly. (screenshot)
  • Folders no longer display the size of their contents unless the contents are selected. (screenshot 1: Windows 7; screenshot 2: Windows XP)
  • Paint uses the Ribbon Interface (not an issue, just hard to get used to). (screenshot)

While the beta expires in August of 2009, I foresee great things for Windows 7.

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WordPress for a New Year

by on Jan.02, 2009, under Projects

The title says it all; This combines my love of (read: veiled interest in) talking about random things online with my love of having a new toy to play with.

Plus, Howettblog® is now completely located on the HowettNET server!

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