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Bug Data Storage Apple

One Developer's Experience With Real Life Bitrot Under HFS+ 396

New submitter jackjeff (955699) writes with an excerpt from developer Aymeric Barthe about data loss suffered under Apple's venerable HFS+ filesystem. HFS+ lost a total of 28 files over the course of 6 years. Most of the corrupted files are completely unreadable. The JPEGs typically decode partially, up to the point of failure. The raw .CR2 files usually turn out to be totally unreadable: either completely black or having a large color overlay on significant portions of the photo. Most of these shots are not so important, but a handful of them are. One of the CR2 files in particular, is a very good picture of my son when he was a baby. I printed and framed that photo, so I am glad that I did not lose the original. (Barthe acknowledges that data loss and corruption certainly aren't limited to HFS+; "bitrot is actually a problem shared by most popular filesystems. Including NTFS and ext4." I wish I'd lost only 28 files over the years.)
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One Developer's Experience With Real Life Bitrot Under HFS+

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  • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @09:46AM (#47236035) Homepage
    Btrfs (at least) can store multiple copies on one disk and use a checksum to identify the good copy to read. Obviously more disks is better, but...
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @10:04AM (#47236113)

    This is something everyone forgets.
    It takes decades to build long term reliable file systems.

    ZFS, BTFS, are less than a decade old.
    Windows runs on NTFS Version something. NTFS was started in what year?
    HFS, and then HFS + was built in what year?
    How long has Microsoft been promising WinFS?

    File systems change but only slowly. This is good. you need a good long track record to convince people they won't lose files every ten years due to random malfunctions.

  • by cpct0 ( 558171 ) <slashdot@NOspam.micheldonais.com> on Saturday June 14, 2014 @10:08AM (#47236133) Homepage Journal

    Bitrot is not usually the issue for most files. Sometimes, but it's rare. What I lost is a mayhem repository of hardware and software and human failure. Thanks for backup, life :)

    On Bitrot:

    - MP3s and M4As I had that suddenly started to stutter and jump around. You play the music and it starts to skip. Luckily I have backups (read on for why I have multiple backups of everything :) ) so when I find them, I just revert to the backup.
    - Images having bad sectors like everyone else. Once or twice here or there.

    - A few CDs due to CD degradation. That includes one that I really wish I'd still have, as it was a backup of something I lost. However, the CD takes hours to read, and then eventually either balks up or not for the directory. I won't tell you about actually trying to copy the files, especially with normal timeouts in modern OSes or the hardware pieces or whatnot.

    Not Bitrot:

    - Two RAID Mirror hard drives, as they were both the same company, and purchased at the same time (same batch), in the same condition, they both balked at approximately the same time, not leaving me time to transfer data back.

    - An internal hard drive, as I was making backups to CDs (at that time). For some kind of reason I still cannot explain, the software thought my hard drive was both the source and the destination !!!! Computer froze completely after a minute or two, then I tried rebooting to no avail, and my partition block was now containing a 700mb CD image, quarter full with my stuff. I still don't know how that's possible, but hey, it did. Since I was actualy making my first CD at the time and it was my first backup in a year, I lost countless good files, many I gave up upon (especially my 90's favorite music video sources ripped from the original betacam tapes in 4:2:2 by myself).

    - A full bulk of HDs on Mac when I tried putting the journal to another internal SSD drive. I have dozens of HDDs, and I thought it'd go faster to use that nifty "journal on another drive" option. It did work well, although it was hell to initialize, as I had to create a partition for each HDD, then convert them to journaled partitions. Worked awesomely, very quick, very efficient. One day after weeks of usage, I had to hard close the computer and its HDD. When they remounted, they all remounted in the wrong order, somehow using the bad partition order. So imagine you have perfectly healthy HDDs but thinking they have to use another HDDs journal. Mayhem! Most drives thought they were other ones, so my music HDD became my photos HDD RAID, my system HDD thought it was the backup HDD, but just what was in the journal. It took me weeks sporting DiskWarrrior and Data Rescue in order to get 99% of my files back (I'm looking at you, DiskWarrior as a 32 bit app not supporting my 9TB photo drive) with a combinaison of the original drive files and the backup drive files. Took months to rebuild the Aperture database from that.

    - All my pictures from when I met my wife to our first travels. I had them in a computer, I made a copy for sure. But I cannot find any of that anywhere. Nowhere to be found, no matter where I look. Since that time, many computers happened, so I don't know where it could've been sent. But I'm really sad to have lost these

    - Did a paid photoshoot for an unique event. Took 4 32GB cards worth of priceless pictures. Once done with a card, I was sifting through the pictures with my camera and noticed it had issues reading the card. I removed it immediately. When at home, I put the card in my computer, it had all the troubles in the world reading it (but was able to do so), I was (barely) able to import its contents to Aperture (4-5 pictures didn't make the cut, a few dozens had glitches). It would then (dramatically, as it somehow have its last breath after relinquishing its precious data) not read or mount anywhere, not even being recognized as a card by the readers. Childs, use new cards regularly for your gigs :)

    - A RAID array b

  • by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @11:01AM (#47236375)

    A database is something special

    I basically make a "full backup" of my Oracle DBs once a week, and a "incremental backup" in the form of DB change logs every five minutes. (that is, the change logs are pushed "off site" every five minutes, of course they are being written locally continuously with every change.

    The thing with backups, though, is not only to make them often but to also *check* them often. With my DBs there is a handy tool where I can check the backup files for "flipped bits" because there are also checksums in the DB files.

    For my "private backups to DVD/BR" I only fill them up to ~70%, and fill the rest of the disk with checksum data with dvdisaster. [dvdisaster.net], for other "online backups" I create PAR2 files that I also store. With those parity files I can check "are all bits still OK?" now and then, and repair the damage when/if bits start to rot in the backup. In the 10 years I do this, with ~150 DVDs and ~20BRs so far I had 2 DVDs that became "glitchy", but because of the checksum data I was able to repair the ISO and re-burn them.

    Basically, IF you go through the trouble of setting up an automated backup system either with software or with your own scripts, It doesn't add much work to also add verification/checksum data to the backup. And that goes a long way into preventing data loss due to bit rot.

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