Saturday, December 30, 2006

previously on...

greetings from singapore. now that i'm on holidays, and internet access outside of APAC have been severely disrupted by the recent earthquake in taiwan, it seems a perfectly logical time to blog... right?! anyways, entries have been somewhat infrequent around here, so i thought i'd try to do a bit of a recap of what i've been up to in the last month or two, before a new year begins. here goes:
  • saturday 04 november -- visit to the newly opened ikea logan. i was enticed by ivan's ravings about ikea's famous sausages which he regularly ate in KL. alas, this particular ikea did not serve them! anyways we went for lunch and a walk around the massive store. [photos]

  • saturday 04 november -- went along to a surprise birthday party for ST, and subsequently hung out with a few unicellers for more surprises and dessert at the newly reopened (and relocated) blue lotus dessert lounge. [photos]

  • sunday 05 november -- watoto childrens choir performance at a local church

    this is a video clip of their opening sequence. it's the second time i've seen the choir perform, and much of it felt familiar / similar to the first viewing. i guess the novelty wore off, but the message they bring still makes an impact. check out their tour dates to see if/when they're coming to a venue near you.

  • thursday 09 november -- dinner at the ottoman cafe in west end with ST and HZ, catching up a year after we last had a similar meet and eat. [photos]

  • thursday 16 - tuesday 21 november -- flew to sydney to meet ES and co. from singapore, visiting to attend MH's wedding. [photos]

    also caught up with my sister and BIL, who took us to bills surry hills for brunch. they have almost all of bill's cookbooks, and reckon his food is a goer - simple but tasty. my scrambled eggs with toast and gravlox salmon don't look as interesting as the sweet corn fritters sis ordered, but it was a fairly filling if not inexpensive meal. nice decor and fairly busy venue.

    photos specific to david and michelle's wedding on saturday 18 november are here.

  • saturday 25 november -- visit to sirromet winery, as requested by ES. the shtes joined us for the winery tour and winetasting, followed by some scones for afternoon tea. a somewhat cultured feeling afternoon, leaving me as sure as ever that i just plain don't like wine. [photos]

  • thursday 07 - monday 11 december -- went to sydney again for another long weekend to attend another wedding. flex leave is good :) a few of us from clay made the trek, and while there caught up with some other ex-brisbanites for a meal at tony roma's, famous for ribs. the collage shows the onion loaf entree my table had - a bit of a change in presentation from your usual onion rings - and also my regular slab of (what i think were the) carolina honeys ribs. i don't often order ribs but i have to say these were very nice indeed. anyways, photos of alex and jenn's wedding on saturday 09 december are here.
well that's about all i have up till about mid december. will probably post more about my christmas holidays etc when i get around to uploading photos and the like. which probably won't happen until after i return to brisbane. which means it'll be after i get back to work. which means i'll be slack again... ;)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

out of the frying pan...

"But know this, that if the owner of the computer had known at what hour the hard drive would die, he would not have left his computer to be without a backup. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
-- from the apocryphal Lucan narrative (IT edition), chapter 12 and verses 39-40.
about two months ago, i spent about a week's worth of spare time during my nights and weekends trying to sort out an annoying problem my PC had developed with outlook, IE, and by association other apps that use IE to render webpages. despite plumbing the depths of google and trawling through the annals of microsoft support, no potential solution i came across (and there were many that looked promising) resolved the problem. i had ruled out the virus/spyware factor, having scanned my entire machine multiple times with multiple scanners. circumstantial evidence hinted at a possible bad patch - i had just completed a round of windows and security updates before this problem appeared on the scene - and i was close to the point of laying blame for the whole saga at the cashed up feet of the microsoft monster. but then i came across a detailed troubleshooting procedure on the MS site, and even though many of the steps involved had already been tried in various combinations, i decided to give this one more try. and by the books.

in the midst of this last effort, i was sprung by the dreaded BSOD. my PC rebooted past the bios and turned percussionist with mechanical ticking/clunking noises now emanating from my primary hard drive. this cannot be good, i said to myself. sure enough, after speaking to a few data recovery places and computer technicians, and doing some preliminary tests (which may have rendered the drive even more useless), i decided it was time for the professionals to take over.

nevermind the software problems, i now had some serious hardware issues to contend with. compounding the joy was the fact that my backup/recovery strategy for such disasters was... well, let's just say fairly minimalistic. hugely ironic for someone who has worked in the IT industry, and specifically dealing with aspects of backup/restore for machines whose power and value tower over the likes of my humble PC, the only backups i had were
  1. "my documents" folder, done over 2 years ago, and
  2. an outlook pst file, done over 6 months ago
everything else has gone the way of all matter when encountering a black hole. thankfully i did have much of my other data sitting on a separate drive, which is still running strong :) *knock on wood*

anyways, i was now faced with a recovery bill ranging from $5-600 through to several $thousand (assuming successful recovery). is my data worth that much? if it was, would it not have made sense to have some protection/insurance against this sort of thing happening? hindsight always oozes wisdom...

so i spent i think about a week sweating on the thought of wiping a few zeros off my savings, and vacillating between wanting to do (almost) whatever necessary thing it takes to retrieve as much of my data as possible, and wanting to live out a bit of the que sera sera philosophy (mixed with twinges of guilt about spending so much money on bits of ones and zeros, the benefits of having which don't spread too much farther than me myself and i). in the end, the damage to the drive proved to be unrecoverable. it was about 2 or 3 months out of warranty. having heard stories of successful recovery following much more severe damage, i was a bit surprised by the status of my drive. in any case it solves the dilemma of whether i should spend the money on getting the data back...

and so i've now invested in a couple of new (and bigger) hard drives, and embarked on a slow process of rebuilding my computer, coming across some useful and note-worthy tools along the way. i'm keeping a changelog of sorts, so that it'll be easier to repeat the build if i need to. but hopefully with my backup strategy in place (part of which involves a sleek looking Cooler Master X-Craft external HDD enclosure), i won't need to do any rebuilds unless i choose to, or until the next you-beaut version of windows is finally released.

recommended tools (all freeware):
  • nLite - Deployment Tool for the bootable Unattended Windows installation (a tool for permanent Windows components removal and pre-installation Windows setup, with the option to make a bootable image ready for burning on cd or testing in virtual machines). I used this to create a custom installer CD for my OS - it wasn't quite as unattended as I would have liked, but it still made the installation a lot easier to manager.
  • DriveImage XML - program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives, with images stored in XML files (can be accessed and processed by third party tools), and support for "hot backups" via microsoft's volume shadow service. I use this to clone my whole OS drive to another physical disk, effectively giving me a reasonably up to date (depending on the frequency of backups) spare OS drive that's ready to swap in should the main one die. I'm also using this to create images of my two internal drives, on my external drive.
  • SyncBack (free version) - backs up and synchronises your files and directories to a choice of destination media. With support for filtering, compression, and scheduling with Windows scheduler. Runs very quickly and efficiently (if not using hashing to check file changes). I use this to keep a backed up and synchronised copy of my data drive.
here's hoping i've learnt some lessons from this experience!

oh, i should add that despite the trouble this whole episode has caused me, not to mention the hours spent on the computer (hmm... actually i do a lot of that anyway), i am thankful for things like:
  • the seemingly anal but nevertheless prudent decision i made in the days when gmail invites were scarce and a much sought after commodity, to forward a copy of all my emails to the welcoming and deep spaces of the gmail inbox. basically this meant i had copies of my emails which i could import into outlook, to replace those lost due to the crash.
  • the goodness that is dell axim - i had synchronised copies of all my outlook notes, tasks, contacts and calendar items on my pda. again, a relatively easy way to replace the data lost on my pc.
  • the competitive computer hardware market in this town, meaning i get to upgrade to bigger hard drives for cheap.
  • learning to deal with the loss of something i wouldn't choose to give up, but when it's forced upon me to more or less get on with it. well, what else can you do really... if you don't have a choice, you don't have a choice.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


didn't feel like getting out of bed today, and it wasn't even a work day. just felt like closing my eyes and staying off the moving sidewalk of life a little longer.

after waking up a few times -- thrice due to phone call/SMSs, and once when the wind/air pressure forced my partially closed door to open, thus exposing me to the sounds of other human activity in the household -- i eventually succumbed to the increasing heat, hunger and wakefulness and rolled out of bed at about 1pm.

i think that's the latest i've gotten out of bed for a while. i did sleep pretty late last night though, having discovered a blog of someone i know, and browsing through the archives -- some good laughs there.

i feel so lazy.

which partially explains why i haven't blogged lately, and why i'm revisiting this space. though there are more factors involved than a general lack of motivation.

it's december already. man.. *yawns*

[photo: caught on camera trying to get a moment's rest]