Hello boys… I’m baaaack!

It has been a while, but I wanted to tell the world that I am back!

Just when I thought I could get away with being an “all Apple” guy I got hit with an issue that made me thankful for having been conscious of being a platform agnostic technologist.

I have a Western Digital 3TB external USB hard disk that basically contains our entire households data. Even more so than our Time Capsule, as that starts removing really old files over time. This disk, which I had created in ExFAT format for cross-platform compatibility, was working just fine two weeks ago when I successfully backed up approximately 600 photos from my MacBook Pro as well as doing a complete back up of my Wife’s MacBook Pro. This was crucial, as our Time Machine backups recently started failing to back up to our Time Capsule. So, were planning on using this external hard drive as the center piece of our digital lives, which would give my Wife the freedom to purchase a MacBook Air with less storage space and utilize the drive via WiFi to upload/download data.

Well, out of nowhere this drive can no longer be mounted on OS X. At first I thought it was related Yosemite, which was a fair assessment seeing as I haven’t used it since upgrading. However, I plugged it into my Wife’s MacBook Pro, which is running Mavericks, and it failed their too. I researched the error online and the suggestions were to run the “Repair disk” option in Disk Utility. Unfortunately, this returned an error that suggested backing up the data and reformatting it. There is an issue here though… How can I backup the data on the disk if it will not mount on OS X??? I tried using the Windows 10 Preview partition, which I had upgraded from Windows 8.1 Pro, but it wouldn’t mount there either. Windows Disk Management recommended the same procedure.

So, I was in a position where $4,500 worth of Mac technology and $120 (for the Win8.1 Pro license) of Microsoft technology could not help me. Who should I turn to…? The one and only Linux! To be more specific I wiped out my Windows laptop and did a fresh install of Ubuntu 14.04. The disk could be mounted in Ubuntu, but I couldn’t read or write to/from the disk. Fear not! After a quick DuckDuckGo search of the error I found an Ubuntu forum that recommended installing a couple of lightweight utilities using the “apt-get install” command (copied below), which searches and downloads packages directly from Ubuntu’s repositories. Nothing more to do than copy & paste the command from the forum and within a minute my disk was revived!

I’m sure if I went to the Apple Store or Microsoft Store they would have recommended taking my hard disk to some recovery place who would have charged me an arm and a leg to pull my bits (ooh er!) back into place. This is what I love about the Open Source community. The person (or group of people) that created these utilities did it out of the kindness of their own heart or they were simply just faced with the same problem and had the technical know-how to solve the issue, then published their findings.

I wish I had the skills to contribute to the community in that way. I mean, the Ubuntu Operating System itself is completely free as were the utilities I used to solve my problem. So, seeing as I can’t contribute with code I contributed to Ubuntu with my wallet. I didn’t have $4,500 just sitting around needing to be spent, but believe me I would have if it was available, so I sent the fine folks at Canonical $120 via PayPal and the rest as they say is history.

Where do we go from here? The lesson learned from this experience is that if I were stubborn on being an all Apple person I would have been dead in the water (or at least in my wallet) with regards to solving this issue. I’m not going to go on a rampage and slag off Apple, but it has got my attention focusing back on making myself a little more plagtech, but in the right places. The Western Digital external hard drive is merely a regular hard drive housed in a sleek plastic case. Perhaps I need something a little more robust. I don’t want to pay for a Drobo, but I could easily set up something very similar using Ubuntu, or a neat little OS called FreeNAS, which as the name suggests is a FreeBSD based OS specifically for Network Attached Storage (NAS).

More to come in this area in future posts.

ExFAT command:
sudo apt-get install exfat-utils exfat-fuse