Category Archives: Data Management

Cutting your chances of data loss

Data loss is probably the single most traumatic experience possible for those that store their data electronically. In recent years, I have had the good fortune to be spared of this event, touch wood, but I will be forever mourning the loss of the first computer game I wrote, back in the early 90’s on a Mac SE/30.  It was a hypercard stack, 2.1 Mb in size, so I couldn’t back it up on a single floppy.  Eventually, the 40Mb HDD in that great machine died, and I was crushed.  Years of work, all that creativity, a window on my teenage years.  Gone.

But it was just a game after all.  Recently a friend of mine lost pretty much all the photos of their first born child (3 months worth) due to a botched home server upgrade.  Crushing.

We all know the answer is backup, but many people just don’t get around to it, thinking, ‘yeah I should do that’.  Like many people, I have a server at home (Gentoo linux) that is my firewall, dhcp server etc. and of course file server.  I have a 4.5Tb RAID5 (7 x 750Gb drives) which is about 80% full of data that I’ve amassed over the years.  At the moment there are only two clients – a desktop for everyday use, and a media centre hooked up to the TV.  Even though I do have some level of data redundancy since I am using RAID5, data loss will still occur if more than one HDD fails.

Ok, so finally to the point of this post – to boost my data integrity (and aid in learning WPF), I have written a ‘folder mirror’ utility.

As you can see, the folder mirroring process can be paused and resumed at will, log files are maintained in a directory of your choice, and a system tray icon is shown, which dynamically displays the percent complete.  To configure which folders to mirror, the program reads a file called folderMirror.config, in which you can define as many folders to copy as desired.  The utility is designed to be used as part of a scheduled backup, such as a scheduled task.  I have it running every day, creating a mirror of  the data I care most about on the two client computers.  So now my chances of losing data due to HDD failure have been cut down to managable odds, and I can sleep much easier.

You can download the utility for free here.

FreeCommander + SuperCopier2

As fun as file systems are, you really don’t want to be spending longer than you have to when it comes to copying / moving / viewing files and navigating folders. I was saved years of grief fumbling about with Windows Explorer thanks to a mate’s advice to switch to TotalCommander back in 2003 (I still remember his look of horror when when I said ‘Total-what?’). When it comes to speed and efficiently, the keyboard is king, and TotalCommander and all the other *commander variants take advantage of that.

Last year I switched to FreeCommander, and am very happy. The main benefits for me are:

  • a more modern / nicer UI
  • ‘type to navigate’
  • plenty of customisation options
  • it’s free 🙂

Unfortunately there are some serious drawbacks:

  • The file-copy/move dialog is the Windows built-in one (which is down-right horrible)
  • The file-delete dialog is the Windows built-in one, and it’s modal to the application
  • The FTP client has a terrible time-out issue and is generally buggy

I’d like to solve all three of these, but I’m starting with the first.

Luckily, FreeCommander allows you to use an external copy/move program via an INI setting. I tried the free TeraCopy for a while, but when I discovered SuperCopier 2, it was perfect! It really is lightning quick at what it does, it doesn’t get in your way, and has all the options you need (pause, error handling etc.). The only problem is, as of v2.2, the copy interception code was re-written, and it could no longer be fully integrated with FreeCommander. To solve this problem, I have written a small executable in C++ called SC2Integration.exe that uses the API provided by SuperCopier 2 (available on their sourceforge site) to re-unite FreeCommander with this excellent file-copy replacement.

Simply drop SC2Integration.exe into your FreeCommander installation folder (or anywhere else you would like to store it) and add the following two lines under the [Form] section of your FreeCommander.ini file:

FileCopyPrg=%FcSrcPath%\SC2Integration.exe Copy "%ActivSelAsFile%" "%InactivDir%"
FileMovePrg=%FcSrcPath%\SC2Integration.exe Move "%ActivSelAsFile%" "%InactivDir%"

If you didn’t copy SC2Integration.exe into your FreeCommander installation directory, replace %FcSrcPath% with the full correct path (no quotes). On Windows 7 your FreeCommander.ini file is here by default:


Download the SC2Integration utility for free here.

UPDATE: If you get an error ‘Parsing arguments…’, make sure you add double quotes around %ActivSelAsFile% and %InactivDir% in your FreeCommander.ini.