Saturday, June 28, 2014

Does Formatting The Hard Drive Erase My Data?

Someone was asking this on an Internet forum I frequent and I was re-reading it, I realized that my reply actually made sense, so I decided to share it to a wider audience in case anyone else finds it useful.

Formatting the drive doesn’t necessarily mean that the data is gone. And a quick format most definitely does not erase the data. Also, deleting the partition does not remove any data.

If you want to know for sure it’s gone, use a third party utility that actually erases the drive byte-by-byte, sector-by-sector. Some apps will even overwrite each byte several times with a different “pattern” value, because in some cases it might be possible to recover data even after it’s properly erased.

A good clue on how effective your erasure is by how long it takes. To erase a drive, a software application has to write every sector on the drive, and to do that takes a long time on large capacity drives because there’s just so many dang sectors. It should take about as long to erase a drive as it does to fill it with data. Anything where you press a button and it says “done” a minute later is only overwriting a few sectors—the data could still be recovered.

Think of the partition and directory information as maps to your data. If you delete the maps, the drive appears to the operating system to be empty, and that’s good enough most of the time. The drive functions the same. As you put data on the drive, the “maps” are rebuilt for your new data, and the old data is overwritten one file at a time.

Which also means 10 years after you format it, some data from the old format could still be there. The recovery tools and procedures are very sophisticated. It may not be what you want to hear, but if you even have a little sensitive or private data on there, I wouldn’t part with it other than to toss it or destroy it.

In the old days (80’s and early 90’s), formatting the drive erased it completely. It pretty much had to because hard drives weren’t as reliable and the format had to check for bad sectors and take them out of the pool. But as time went by, drives became larger and more robust, and nobody wanted to wait 2 hours for the drive to format. And now it’s probably the least of your privacy concerns. Your private data is more likely to be scraped off your Internet connection than your physical drive.

The best way to keep your data private is to encrypt the whole damn drive with something open source like TrueCrypt. Once the power goes of and the drive un-mounts, the thing is a brick without the password. Make sure to use older versions of the software as it’s probably been compromised as of a few weeks ago by some TLA (three letter agency) but the older versions should be fine.

It’s a hassle typing your password for every drive every time your system reboots, but once the power goes off, you know it’s secure. Of course there’s lots of ways to compel people to cough up the password

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Battery Capacity Tests

Recently I got this Opus BT-C3100 "analyzing" charger. This charger can test the actual capacity of a wide range of rechargeable battery chemistries, including NiCD, NiMH and Li-ion chemistries. For the most part the bigger name batteries deliver at least the capacity they promise, but it's good to keep them honest. There are also off-brands which can perform as good or better than their big name counterparts, or fall horribly short.

Photo of some of the batteries being tested, such as Olight, AW, Efest and LG

This post will be updated as I test more batteries.

ProductChemistryStatedActual# SamplesLowHigh
DLG 14500 Flat TopLi-ion7507514734759
Eneloop XX AANiMH25002480424552496
eFest 16340 IMRLi-ion5505774555594
AW RCR123ALi-ion7505594556565
Olight 14500Li-ion7508014788821
Sanyo UR14500P 14500Li-ion8408194808825
Ultrafire AA NiMHNiMH35004084373431


  • AW is supposed to be the best money can buy, so it's a little disappointed to see the test results of the first batch of batteries I bought.
  • Normally I don't buy Ultrafire batteries, which are considered to be crap. But they do make a few decent models, and this battery had over 400 reviews with 5 stars! They must have been switched out to fakes at some point.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life Without Net Neutrality

Behold, the future of the Internet without Net Neutrality. We are very close to this being a reality. The problem of course is 'regulatory capture' where an industry under regulation provides a career path for folks in charge of overseeing regulations for that industry.

Simply put, the policy makers in charge if Net Neutrality are ex-lobbyists with a vested interest in seeing it fail and will be hired again as lobbyists the day they leave office.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Phone Scammers: Part Three

Finally I think they took me off of their call list. I had a very interesting exchange with the same gentleman who, uh, claimed on a previous call that he had relations with my mother. It didn't sound like he remembered me, but I remembered him. I am typing this from memory, but our exchange went something like this:

(Recording) "Hi, this is Rachael from account services. There is no problem, and your account is in good standing, so we are calling to offer you a lower interest rate. Press #1 to speak with us about this limited time offer."

(presses 1)

"Hello, this is account services, did you press 1 for a lower interest rate?"

"Hi, this is account services, right?"

"Yes sir!"

"And my account is in good standing, right?"

"Sir, I don't know what you're talking about. We work with many different companies to find you the best rate."

"But your recording said that my account was in good standing."

"Sir, you are wrong."

"Do you think I forgot what the recording said when I just heard it a few seconds ago?"

"And yet, you pressed 1"

"Yes I did."

"Why is that? Why did you press 1?"

"Because you are scammers, and I figure every minute I waste is one less minute you have to talk to someone more vulnerable."

"That's stupid because we'll just keep calling you 3 or 4 times a day."

"With your spoofed caller ID."


"Just like you have been for the last several weeks."

"And you keep pressing 1?"

"Yes sir. I have wasted quite a bit of your time."

He said something snarky and I said "Talk to you tomorrow, scammer a**hole." and hung up. It's been a couple weeks since and they haven't called back. If they do, I've been thinking over a few scenarios where I can maybe even reverse scam them. I read somewhere that there was a small group of people who managed to scam one of those Nigerian scams out of something like 10 bucks.