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Monday, December 06, 2004


A Long and Winding Story

Wherein SteveR Finds Himself In a Digital Dilemma

There I was Sunday morning, back in that same spot in the Maritime Republic of Eastport... OK, just what is this spot and why am I there so often lately?

It's a 3-story office building that houses TKF, a non-profit for which I'm doing some database work. This is the remnant of a side-business I had a few years ago, Binary Brothers Business Computing. Why "Binary Brothers?" I'll tell that story another time.

In any event, in my moonlighting heyday, I did database consulting and created Microsft Access database applications . Nowadays, I don't look for new work. But about two years ago, a friend of mine, who had created and was maintaining the database for TKF, found herself wanting to spend more time with her toddler and less working on databases. She recommended me to the TKF, and so I became their Database Guy. At this point, it only amounts to a dozen or two hours per year.

The building that houses TKF has outside walkways on each floor, and the third-floor walkway is an especially convenient vantage point from which to photograph Spa Creek and Annapolis. So there you are.
Chillin' In The Sun
Now Sunday, I had my new, cheap 512 MB CompactFlash® card in my camera. I had just bought it nine days earlier at the "Black Friday" 6 AM sale at our local Best Buy. I took a few shots as I arrived, just before nine, and then some more after my work was done, about 1:30 PM. No early-morning glowing light this time, but it was a beautiful day and Spa Creek was a deep blue from the cloudless sky above. Down on the pier, right by the water, there were two guys in dark blue pullovers standing in front of a bright red railing. Dark blue?... bright red?... Picture time!

Eastport Christmas
So a few photos of these fellows, a few more pictures across Spa Creek, and then back down to ground level. On a sailboat just about twenty feet away, a man was winding a long string of christmas lights around the mast. Aha!... "Eastport Christmas!" - I had already titled the shot in my head. I took a number of photos in continuous-shot mode, something I rarely do.

I stopped for a minute and looked at the LCD screen to check the exposure, and then hit the "back" button to look at the previous few frames. Suddenly, the monitor went dark and the LCD panel read, "Err 02." "That can't be good," I thought. No, it wasn't. the camera locked up until I turned it off and then on again. I could shoot more frames, but every time I tried to go to that frame near the end, the camera locked up with that same error message.

Back at home and deep in the unexplored hinterland of Section 8 - Reference of the Digital Rebel manual, I learned that "Err 02" means a problem with the CompactFlash card. A problem indeed! Although I could navigate to and see every frame (but one) just fine with the card inside the camera, when I tried to copy the files to my hard drive, I got this Terror Message:
cannot copy file: parameter incorrect
What to do now? Hit the Internet, of course! Using the search terms, recover image"flash card" got me "about 17,200" matches, according to the top left of the Google search screen, which also proudly noted that it took all of 0.32 seconds to find all those results. I usually don't even look at the "sponsord links" that head the list of search results, but this time I did, and noticed a link for "Photo Recovery Experts," which promised "Free recovery software. Free tech support. Editors' choice award." What did I have to loose?

This link led to the website for Flash Fixers, the makers of ImageRecall 3. And fortunately, true to the "Free recovery software" claim, there's a link to download a trial version.

Unfortunately, the trial version only recovers the first ten files it finds - and in this case, those would be images that I already downloaded and burned to CD-ROM.

Their website also has a Recovery Tips section. The very first thing it says is to "...stop doing anything more to the card." That is, don't try to write to it in any way, including, I assume, deleting files.

Being a cheap so-and-so, I really didn't want to spend money right now on the software. So I hit on an idea. Why not delete all of the already-archived images using the camera, that is, put the card in the camera and start using it's delete feature to remove images. Then once I had only new images left, see if the trial version would recover the first ten photos. Then delete those photos and continue the process until either (a) I had all the new images or (b) my luck would run out.

So, totally oblivious to FlashFixer's no doubt wise injunction to not mess with the card, I popped it into my Digital Rebel anyway, and using the camera's own "trashcan" button, deleted the older, archived images, in camera, if you will. Then I took out the card, put it into my card reader, and got ready to use the ImageRecall demo.

Just for the heck of it, I opened Windows Explorer and tried to see if I could copy a file ... I could! In fact, I was able to open Microsoft Office Picture Manager, and using the filmstrip mode, I could see the first several thumbnails just fine. I advanced the filmstrip, and sure enough, for file "img_5396.jpg", the eighth one from the end, there was one of those "can't open this file" icons, the little red "x", in place of a thumbnail. But to the right of that one, the remaining thumbnails looked just fine.

So I selected all of the files except that bad boy number 5396 and copied them to my hard drive, then burned them to CD. Life was good.

Afterwards, I put the suspect card back into my camera, formatted the card, set the drive selector for rock-and-roll, and held the shutter button down. Well, that lasted about 3 shots. I really haven't used the "motor drive" mode much, and I now see why you should invest in a fast card (this 512 MB card is just the rotgut variety, the runt of the SanDisk litter.) It seems as if the "busy" light was on for 30 seconds or so every time I took a few shots in rapid succession. So it took me a loooonnnnnngggggg time to squeeze off 150 or so shots. But, surprisingly, I had no problems. I could even thumbnail-view my way from the last batch of nine to the first. Last time, just trying to go to thumbnail view at all caused the camera to hang up with "Err 02."

Back at my computer, I found that I was able to transfer all the files to my hard disk with no problems. I checked a few of the images, and except for the fact that they were pictures of Nothing, they looked fine.

And now the delimma - do I worry what happened? Was this a one-time glitch, or a sign of more serious problems, either with the card or, Heaven forbid, the camera.

To schvitz over it, or not to schvitz?

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