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Recover from Disaster

Saturday, April 5th, 2008 at 18:15 ET

Today I’m helping a friend of a friend with her computer. As I’m sitting here watching xcopy backup most of her data onto my computer (temporarily) and pondering resizing her hard drive partition (non-techie-types can read that as “hopefully fixing the problem but running the risk of deleting her whole computer”), a thought floats through my mind. Does anyone remember undelete?

I think this is an especially poignant question for me these days as I’ve recently bought a new computer with Windows Vista (crappy Microsoft) and I’m quite sure that I have no idea how I would go about accomplishing an undelete. My friend’s friend’s computer has Windows XP (crappy Microsoft) and I don’t think I’ve ever undeleted a file on XP either. I don’t even know if NTFS (Windows 2000 Professional or later) supports the same kind of un-delete operation that FAT (Windows ME or earlier) did. When was the last time I seriously tried to undelete a file?

Actually, I know the answer to that question. It was when I was working on my website: my webhost runs everything on Debian Linux and I’m not as snazzy with *nix platforms as I am with Windows (crappy Microsoft). I deleted a whole folder by accident and then spent a few hours searching for a way to undo the operation. After a lot of Google research, I decided that even if I knew what I was doing, the files were probably gone, so I gave up.

There’s definitely the command-line factor. Who remembers DOS? That’s when undelete reigned supreme. It was really easy to type something and accidentally delete a file you didn’t mean to. With a graphical interface (thanks Apple, even if you’re overpriced) I think mistakes are a lot less common.

I also think it says a little about the evolution of the relationship of the computer to the operator. As we become more familiar with computers and they become more familiar with us, mistakes requiring undelete are a lot less common. I know, I know, there’s the trash can (or recycle bin — crappy Microsoft), but who really uses that thing, anyway? I think I have it turned off on two-out-of-three computers I regularly use.

So I’m sitting here thinking about the evolution. What would young Jed, writing MS-DOS-based batch files to create boot menus, think of OS X anyway? Would he even know where to start? What does that say about how computing technology has progressed, and more importantly, what does it say about how computing technology has pushed Mankind to progress?

Filed under: Computer Geek

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