29 December 2014

Yet another exercise in data recovery?

Just before the Christmas break, my main drive on my main PC - at home - seemed to start to fail (the kernel put it in read-only mode). Good thing we have backups, eh? They are all on portable hard drives, usually encrypted, and maintained with unison. No, they are not "in the cloud."

Surprisingly much of my data is WORM so what if there are differences between the backups? Was it due to those USB3 errors (caused a kernel panic, it did), hardware fault, or that fsck which seemed to discover a problem, or has the file actually changed? (And a big "boo, hiss" to applications that modify files just by opening them - yes, you know who you are.) In my case, I would prefer to re-checksum them all and compare against at least four of the backups. So I need a tool.

My Christmas programming challenge for this year (one should always have one) is then to create a new program to compare my backups. Probably there is one floating around out there, but my scheme - the naming scheme, when I do level zeros, increments, masters, replicas - is probably odd enough that it is useful having a bespoke tool.

On the grid we tend to checksum files as they are transferred. Preservation tools can be asked to "wake up" data every so often and re-check them. Ideally the backup check should quietly validate the checksums in the background as long as the backup drive is mounted.

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