Life is never simple is it ?
Following along after my last post, I was just finalising my upload to the Amazon S3 storage, and then had planned to update the removable hard drive we keep in a safety deposit box, but I first decided to take a few minutes and do a bit of spot checking. In this case, the ‘few minutes’ turned into a few days ……..
As I checked through the photo files I noticed that here and there – not very often, but often enough to be annoying – the thumbnail view of the photo files was not being displayed. I have seen this before, and if you Google this problem you’ll find that it is a commonly known Microsoft feature. In the past I’ve typically just refreshed the file from one of my other backups and continued on. However this time, I happened to try and open a few photos on either side of files which were missing the thumbnail view and found a new problem – here and there although the thumbnail of the photo looked fine, when I tried to actually open the file there was either no valid JPG file there, or the file opened as a black screen. The result varied with the tool that I used to open the file.
I reached for my bottle of antacids, as this was not good at all.
Everyone knows hardware will fail – that’s just a given as stuff does just wear out and frankly you are a fool if you don’t plan for it, but a search of the web showed that, as for the missing thumbnails, file corruption is also a fairly common problem for which the most common connection is the use of Microsoft products. In fairness given the percentage of the market Microsoft successfully controls this is not surprising, and it could happen with any vendor’s software – it just doesn’t make it any less annoying.
I’ve done much Googling for possible solutions, but have not found anything that I would call a definitive answer, although file transfers for USB devices and file transfers in general do seem to be a common issue area. In my own case I suspect that my problems may have started around XP SP1 time as there were some reported driver related issues, and I just had not noticed. Vista users seem to have had this sort of problem a lot, giving me even more incentive to not use that product and its related applications, but at the same time I’m not convinced either MAC or Linux based solutions would be trouble free either as it is all software, so by my definition can’t really be trusted. What I have done is gone back to basics, and double checked that I have all the XP patches and applications updates, plus as per a few suggestions I happened across, I have also updated the firmware on the ASUS motherboard of my XP machine. While I was at it, just for good measure I also updated the firmware on my D-Link DNS-323 home server as a number of incompatibilities with this device were flagged when Vista was released. Doing firmware updates to otherwise working hardware is generally something I try to avoid as you can create more trouble than you solve. In this instance although I’m not using Vista, it wasn’t clear to me whether Vista ‘features’ may not have been introduced to XP with the later SP2 and SP3 XP updates, which may then also have possibly introduced similar Vista file corruption problems to my XP platform.
I have spent a lot of time this past couple of days, doing file transfer tests and I can’t reproduce the problem so for the moment at least it is on ‘monitor’. On top of the testing, I have also spent many, many hours going through my full digital photo collection accumulated over the past 10 years, and at the end of doing so have determined that about 15,000 or 25% of the photos were suspect or had been trashed ! I have been able to recover these files from other backups (I’ll admit that I am anal about backups), and then have reloaded these back into my Amazon S3 storage space.
When you consider the digital age we live in, and increasingly the many years of photos and fond memories that exist only as bits either on a local hard drive or as bits kept somewhere else, it is sobering to consider ones digital past could so easily disappear due to a glitch, be it either software or hardware related. Following this experience, my suggestion to anyone out there who is using either XP, Vista or frankly anything else, and who thinks that their photos are all safely stored on either a local, removable or network hard drive, CD or DVD should perhaps take a look at them and do some in depth checking. You may be surprised, and not in a nice way. In the meantime, I’m going to restock my supply of antacids …….