Learning the hard way – 71

PhD Life

I have done it again; these words are coming from the mind of an un-caffeinated coffee addict. Once again I have failed to inform my partner, who handles our online shopping delivery, that we are low.

I feel quite absent-minded and uber susceptible to distraction, but I will get through this post even if I have to run to the closest coffee shop.

This week, I had a meeting with one of my funders which is the head of the agronomy section of a major premium retailer here in the UK. As with all things we consider with high importance, they are usually far less of a moment than we had imagined, and this meeting was no exception.

We had lunch in the senior common room, and then I gave a presentation about all of the work I had done over the past year. Contrary to the persona my subconscious had given to this person; they were not a corporate dragon whose sole purpose was to ridicule and take away my funding. They were an ordinary functioning member of society who was a nice, encouraging person like many of us.

So, another week has passed, and it was relatively drama free. It has just occurred to me that I should have hyped up the details of this week’s events for storytelling purposes. But that just wouldn’t be me, I am trying to give a more honest and accurate account of what is happening, plus it is easier to write like this.

I did have one legitimate drama this week. For one part of my experiments, I measure colour changes in crops over time. I do this as it can be useful in assessing disorders with the crop. I do this by taking images and then analysing them with software.

For the first time in my life, I had a drive fail on me. When I went to load my images onto the computer, the images were not on the SD card. This is a disaster as I cant just re-take the images as time is essential with this experiment, so the conditions have changed since imaging. Re-taking the images is not an option.

When I put the card into the computer, I can see that the amount of space available is consistent with the amount of space that there would be given my images were still on there. So I know that they are still on there I just have no way on accessing them.

I ended up on google trying to find a solution. After a few hours, I found a program called photorec, and my mind has been blown. Not only did I recover 80% of the files, but I have also learned a valuable lesson as to how computer memory works.

When you delete something, it is not actually removed…

What actually happens is that it becomes un-allocated and therefore it can be written over by new information, but until this happens all the information is still there. This allows us to recover some files if they are deleted by accident, but if the drive got into the hands of someone with malicious intent, the things we though we had deleted might well be accessible.

I have since learned that to be really secure when you’re getting rid of a data drive you should run a program that writes junk data over the entire drive to ensure the deleted data is no longer accessible. There are many programs that will do this for you with the most recommended being called ‘boot and nuke’ which I quite like the name of.
That was my drama. A potentially catastrophic event, with respect to my experiment, was avoided and I learnt a valuable lesson. I am always wondering why I have to learn things the hard way, but I will be slightly less harsh on myself this time as I am not sure how I could have prevented an SD card failing.

All the best,

See you next week.

Published by Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

24 thoughts on “Learning the hard way – 71

  1. Hi mate, sometimes making a mistake or if something don’t go to plan, it makes us look into why it happened. Then we learn from that mistake/failed plan so it doesn’t happen again 😊👍

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh, I am fastidious about creating backups for exactly this reason. I schedule one day a week (as a minimum) to create backups of my data. I use an external hard drive, the cloud, and a secondary laptop. Of course, there is not much you can do if a device fails. Glad you were able to recover some of your data. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so relate about the coffee. I am back on caffeinated coffee now. Also, I am distractedly reading your blog instead of writing. About the hard drive, super helpful information thanks for sharing. I feel like this is a message from the universe telling me to deal with mine. I’m a rampant photo-taker and digital hoarder (particularly of family photos) and I need to move some things to my external drive so that my laptop will function well again. As for backups, my husband, a techie, has us set up with Apple’s Time Capsule, and our backups are automatic and wireless. Old files can be seen via Time Capsule somehow though of course these things all have their own learning curve. One thing is that it won’t perform backups when my hard drive is over-full.

    I loved your phrase “corporate dragon,” I don’t think I’ve heard that before. I also loved that the imaginary dragon was slain in your mind, or shall we say recognized as being a kind ally in this case.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is always good to have a techie in the family to avoid mishaps, but I guess it means you don’t get to learn as much yourself.

      My father is a carpenter and general handyman and thus my siblings and I are not very practical as he would always fix everything.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true! That’s probably how I finally ended up on WP! I knew the resident techie wouldn’t touch it so I’d be blissfully on my own, screwing up to my heart’s delight! ;))

        My dad was awesome at fixing things with duct tape, and luckily he was also a teacher so he passed all his awesome handyman skills on to me. ;))


      1. Hey Louis, No, actually, don’t think it’s new, a scammer once left a comment on my blog months ago, his name contained an inappropriate link; I managed to edit the name so that the link was removed (for the safety of readers)


  4. it’s cool dude, we always learn something new everyday. Be kind to yourself. Least now you know it might be a better idea to have backup, ALWAYS!


  5. Thank you for the likes on my blog 🙂 I’m starting my PhD in October and am very uncertain about what to expect (nobody I know has ever done a PhD) so really happy to have found and to be following your helpful and well written blog!


    1. Yes, I didn’t know anyone that had done one. The hardest part is the lifestyle of it, if you can get a hold on that as soon as possible you will be fine. The pass rate is ridicoulsy high so I can confidently say you will be fine. What are you studying?


    1. Oops, , I just made a Mistake, that Grammarly”can’t change, nor help… and it can be…” quite embarrassing”…posting to the wrong person, especially a misplaced comment. So, as far as mistakes? “Just humans being Humana”…sorry, ”humans”.


  6. Learning from your own mistakes is the best way to learn!

    We used to call this a “low level format”, back in the days of MSDOS. I haven’t been keeping up with the latest development but at that time deleting file meant (from an operating system point of view) replacing the first letter of the file name with a question mark, which made it invisible to the system. I used Norton Commander to access and on occasion recover those files. After that came Windows Trash bin, that added another step, so you first remove the file into Trash bin (those files still count towards occupied disk space) and then “permanently” deleting it. Like you mentioned, even then the file remains on the disk until it gets overwritten by another file.

    When it comes to highly sensitive data, even the experts don’t trust software solutions like low level format. “You have to nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure!” (I couldn’t resist a bit of Aliens (1986) reference). That’s why you see even in Hollywood movies/series IT guys destroying hard drives with hammers, drills, and fire.


    1. ‘Nuke it from orbit’ is one of favourite movie quotes. There are lots of occasions where it comes in useful!

      Unfortunatly I have only been a consumer of technology until relatively recently. So I don’t have a firm grasp on how it all works. It is something I am trying to rectify though. My first introduction to computing was Windows vista haha.


      1. Vista is probably the worst introduction to Windows. I avoided it and went from XP straight to 7, which I still use today on my first 8 year old laptop. Before I was die hard desktop user. I’ve built several throughout the years.
        Nowadays Google is your friend, even if you are a veteran. I was just trying to fix faulty keyboard on a laptop from karate friend and Google proved indispensable. Experience comes with trying to fix things on your own, that’s for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Recuva is the one program that saved my child’s video concert from being completely erased because of my naïveté in understanding my camcorder functions. But, after multiple hard drive failures and computer deaths, I’ve learned to back up to multiple places for multiple reasons. Glad you were able to rescue your files!


  8. Hooray! Good job on your presentation, being open to see people as they are, learning new things, and saving your photos! I’m glad things worked out so well.


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