Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Worst Commercial Ever

For the past six months, I've witnessed an ad campaign that makes me seriously re-examine the grasp advertisers have on reality. This ad comes from BRIDGESTONE, a tire manufacturer. Granted, I know it's hard to make a tire interesting and marketable, but let me tell you, this is not the way to do it.

The particular ad continues BRIDGESTONE's "Wheel Goes Round and Round" campaign. Previous commercials using this song have been very good actually, but now they've gone too far. This ad is an R&B version of the song and features the phoniest looking and sounding actor I have ever seen. He looks like he's made of plastic.

As bad as this commercial is, it makes me sadder to know that the song is based on a version of singer/songwriter Roseanne Cash's song "The Wheel." For those of you not familiar, Roseanne Cash is the daughter of country legend Johnny Cash.

After thirty seconds of atrocious choreography and tacky disco-Beyonce moves, the singer inexplicably reaches to his side and motions towards the camera as if he were flicking something at the audience. He threw a CD at the camera!

What the hell can this possibly mean? Why does someone who is selling me performance tires insist on flipping a compact disc at me like a frisbee?
Absolutely unbelievable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Google Earth

When I found out that "Google Earth" was released, I was pretty psyched to launch right into it. I was expecting a hefty download (like the 184MB required for WorldWind), but instead I discovered a compact 10MB download which was done in minutes. Once downloaded, installation was a breeze. Here are a few general comments about the program.

I. The Interface

As comparied to WorldWind, Google Earth's interface is much cleaner and less murky. Everything you need is basically in front of you. When you first open the program, you are greeted with a nice, deliberately slow animation of the earth zooming in. This is representative of our 21st century need for speed combined with our willingness to sacrifice speed for eye candy.

The controls are half intuitive. If you left click and drag the mouse, the map will pan in whatever direction you want. If you hold the right click button and drag the mouse up or down, the map will zoom in and out. Unfortunately, I think it would have been better if the map tilted when you held down the right click button. The only reason I say this is because Google programmed the mouse's scroll wheel to also zoom in and out. Granted some people don't have scroll wheels, but this seems kind of repetitive.

You can use the buttons on the bottom of the window to control the navigation, though unfortunately they are not well marked or easily distinguishable. On the bottom of the screen, you'll see the directional controls flanked on both sides by two sliders. I still can't remember which is which. One is for zooming in and out (again) and the other is to tilt the map. There are buttons for rotating the map in each direction as well as buttons to reset the position of the map. Why do we need most of these controls at the bottom of the screen when they are either repetitive or a waste of space?

Google Earth comes with a standard set of options--as compared to WorldWind which came with next to nothing--for tweaking the viewing experience. This includes one very important thing: the ability to change the size and type of fonts that are displayed. This solves a big problem found in WorldWind where the text was too small or just downright illegible. More on the text later . . .

II. The Earth is a Ping-Pong Ball

As soon as you use the zoom feature or pan the map in any direction, you'll start to notice that the map is extremely sensitive and jumpy. If you use the scroll wheel, the map will zoom very fast. If you want to move over to the other side of the country, you can zoom out and pan the earth over a few thousand miles, but Google's touchy controls make it feel as if the earth is completely weightless. As soon as you let go of the mouse button, the earth abruptly stops moving. While this is technically more "precise," it's very jarring to the eye. This abruptness does not fit with the rest of Google Earth, which is filled with beautiful text and effects fading in and out constantly. If we compare Google Earth to WorldWind, the earth in WorldWind has a more urgent sense of weight and movement.

Google Earth does allow you to change the speed of the zoom setting, which is mildly helpful. I'm not zooming out into orbit anymore, but it still stops abruptly. How about a little motion momentum?

III. Reminds me of Karachi!

There is such a thing as too many options. There, I've said it. Google's interface gets too crowded too fast. On the one hand, there is a list of checkboxes on the left that you can check off to reduce the amount of information displayed. On the other hand, there is no "check all" or "uncheck all" feature nor is there any way to shift-click or cntrl-click multiple items at once. This forces me to sit there clicking through forty things before I can see the map.

While it looks cool at first to see how much detail and infromation is actually included, it gets tiring very quickly since it impedes ease of use. Here's a tip, don't ever turn on the "webcam" feature, which displays live webcams of a particular location. They litter the map with entries and clog everything up.

IV. Features and Integration

I'm not going to go into much depth with this since a list of these features is easy to find at Google Earth is well integrated with Google Maps, a fantastic web-based service for finding directions. It completely blows away mapquest or mapblaster. The only thing is, if all you want to do is get some quick directions, opening up Google Earth is a waste of time since you should just use the web-based service at

Unlike WorldWind, Google Earth lets you easily search by inputting an address or a landmark or a cross street. This is invaluable. There are, however, some quirks. The program won't recognize "San Jose Airport, CA" but will recognize "San Jose Airport." The one drawback with Google Earth is that the resolution on the images is not as high as certain WorldWind images. This is because Google has kept certain images for professionals only. It makes sense, but I would sure like to see my neighborhood with more clarity.

Another feature that seemed exciting at first was the "fly by tour" of your directions. This is basically a waste of time. Some decent features include the ability to find business reviews, see 38 cities in 3D, save your search results for later use.

Google Earth can be run in OpenGL or DirectX. Depending on your graphics card, one might be heavily preferred over the other. However, the program seems to randomly black out images every once in awhile. This is very frustrating, especially when you're trying to figure out directions.

V. Conclusions

Google Earth is definitely a must-install map program, though i'm not sure if its a must use. Google has a ways to go before Google Earth really strikes it big. It is a bit cluttered and repititive and they need to work out their controls and display issues.

Freshly-Cut: Albums of the Month

(July 2005)

  1. Interpol / “Antics”
  2. Aimee Mann / “I’m with Stupid”
  3. Belle & Sebastian / “The Boy with the Arab Strap”
  4. St. Germain / “Boulevard”
  5. Jack Johnson / “In Between Dreams”

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mobile Tips

Here are two quick tips regarding cell phone usage

Minute Counter

If you are wondering how many minutes you've used on your cell phone for your billing cycle, type #646 (#MIN) for a free text message of how many minutes you've used and of what type (peak, off peak, in network, weekend, etc.). This is much better than using the minute counter on your phone.

I would highly recommend programming #646 as one of your speed dial numbers for quick access. The minute text message feature definitely works for Verizon and T-Mobile, but I'm not sure about other service providers.


I can't stand waiting and typing in my password for my voice mail. This is very cumbersome especially when I am driving and want to check my messages. This tip will help you press and hold just one button to listen to your messages.

A world of caution, this is a much less secure way of listening to your messages. Anyone who gets ahold of your cell phone can check your messages. So, if you think this is too much of a security liability, then don't bother.

First, create a new entry in your phone book and set it as whatever speed dial you want, preferably a single digit on the outer rim of the number pad (so you can easily feel the key when you're not looking). Name the entry "Voicemail" and, assuming that you're voicemail password is 1234, enter the following string:


The "T" in the above string is not the letter "T" but a symbol for "long pause." This pause is available in all cell phones, just search through the options and it'll be there. Save the entry when you're done. After that, whenever you want to check your voicemail, hold down the speed dial number and you'll hear the prompt to enter in your password, just wait and the phone will enter it in for you. Enjoy.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Top Video Games of All-Time

Arkanoid (Arcade and Nintendo)
The rich man’s pong.

Batman Returns (Atari Lynx)
Fantastic color depth and controls.

Battlefield 1942 (PC)
Amazing texture quality, sound and game play. Try the Merciless 1942 mod.

Blade Runner (PC)
Best all-around story

Bonk's Adventure (Turbo Grafx 16)
Poor man’s Super Mario

California Games (Atari Lynx)
Nothing beats the BMX challenge and the surfing

Castlevania (Nintendo)
Enough said.

Cobra Triangle (Nintendo)
Best game involving boats and/or water

Columns (SEGA GameGear)
Don’t worry about matching the colors because sooner or later they’ll all collapse at once

Command and Conquer: Red Alert (PC)
Forget Warcraft, this was the real deal.

Contra (Nintendo)
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, B, A, Select, Start . . . you bitches.

Daytona USA (Arcade)
I blame this game for my brother’s subsequent driving record.

Double Dragon (Nintendo and Gameboy)
Greatest theme music

Duckhunt (Nintend0)
Shooting that gun into genitalia has made millions barren.

Earthworm Jim (Genesis)
Fantastic animation and gameplay

Excite Bike (Nintendo)
That bike overheated faster than a Fiero. Ability to make your own tracks was a plus.

Final Fight (Arcade)
Cody and Hagar + Lead Pipes and Knives = Good Times

Goldeneye (N64)
Kiss two years of high school goodbye. Greatest weapon choices, challenging missions, and best multiplayer game of all time.

Halo (XBOX)
Launching a new generation.

Hot Dog Stand (Apple II)
Capitalism 101.

Ice Hockey (Nintendo)
Don’t pick all skinny guys!

Iron Tank (Nintendo)
High degree of difficulty.

JAWS (Nintend0)
Award for repetition in gameplay.

Killer Instinct (Arcade)
Personally, this beats out Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter. This is the one game I would have if I could buy an arcade game.

Life Force (Nintendo)
Nonstop action.

Marble Madness (Nintendo)
Nobody ever figured out how the controller was set up. I think it only had a Y and Z axis.

Metroid (Nintendo)
I have absolutely nothing to say about Metroid.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Arcade)
Just hitting that dance button was worth the quarter.

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (Nintendo)
Bald Bull from Istanbul? That motherfucker was tough. Though by the time you got to Soda Popinksi, you didn’t care as much . . .

Mortal Kombat (Arcade)
What the—blood in a video game? Fatality!!

NBA Jam (SEGA Genesis)
Nothing like an 11-overtime thriller at 4:00am with my childhood friend Ali.

Need for Speed (PC)
Realism award for automobile physics.

Ninja Gaiden (Nintendo)
Ability to stick to walls = instant classic.

Off-Road (Arcade and Nintendo)
Nitro, nitro, nitro, nitro . . . left turn . . . nitro, nitro, nitro . . . left turn.

Oregon Trail (Apple II)
Go hunting, go hunting!

Out-Run (SEGA Genesis)
Second-generation racing

Pac-Man (Arcade)
25 cents = 3 hours of fun.

Paperboy (Nintendo)
That stupid dog always ran into me.

Pit-Fighter (Atari Lynx and Arcade)
Nothing like beating people for money. I can’t tell if the graphics are good or bad.

Primal RAGE (Arcade)
Ain’t nothing like a dinosaur farting in your face after kicking your ass.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (PC)
Mindblowing graphics, mediocre fighting

Pro Wrestling (Nintendo)
The Amazon, Kin Corn Karn and the Giant Panther. Greatest wrestling game ever.

Rad Racer (Nintendo)
Creating the need for speed.

Rampage (Arcade)
They repeated the same damn buildings every level, but somehow kept it interesting.

Swashbuckler (Apple II)
I don’t even remember there being animation.

RoadBlaster (Arcade and Atari Lynx)
Mad-Max meets video games.

Robocop (Arcade)
Fantastic sound and 2D action.

Rygar (Atari Lynx)
No one else has heard of this game for some reason.

SimCity (PC)
Like no other.

Simpsons (Arcade)
Marge and her vacuum cleaner, hah.

Simpson's Doom (PC)
Was Doom not good enough on its own?

SmashTV (Arcade)
What, no buttons? Two joysticks?

Snood (PC)
Goodbye freshman year of college.

Space Invaders (TI-83 Graphing Calculator)
Without you I would still be wasting away in AP Physics.

Star Wars: Tie Fighter (PC)
Hey, let’s make every key on the keyboard control something!

Street Fighter II (Arcade)
If you didn’t pick Chun-Li, you’re in for a world of hurt.

Streets of Rage (Genesis)
Cementing my love for SEGA Genesis despite it’s shitty controller.

STUN Runner (Atari Lynx and Arcade)
A game only my brother and I loved.

Super Mario Brothers 3 (Nintendo)
The raccoon tail.

Superman (Arcade)
Fantastic game nobody played in the arcade.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nintendo)
I could never find the rope.

Tekken (Arcade)
Let’s just mark the moment in time when japanimation took over.

Tetris (Gameboy, multiplayer)
Best puzzle game of all time.

Tony Hawk (Playstation)
Because it kept the skaters indoors for a little while.

Wolfenstein (PC)
Creepiest game ever.

Zelda (Nintendo)
Award for the most involved game.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Dozen Hot Tracks

  1. Beck - Odelay - "Jackass"
  2. The Stranglers - Sexy Beast Soundtrack - "Peaches"
  3. Cat Power - Moon Pix - "Colors and the Kids"
  4. Neil Young - Dead Man - "Guitar Solo 5"
  5. Carlos Santana - Abraxas - "Samba Pa Ti"
  6. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Live at the Filmore East - "Machine Gun"
  7. Dave Brubeck - Take Five - "Take Five"
  8. Anthony Hamilton - Comin' From Where I'm From - "Coming From Where I'm From"
  9. The Tragically Hip - Road Apples - "Fiddler's Green"
  10. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out - "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House"
  11. Faces - Rushmore Soundtrack - "Ooh La La" (Incidentally, this song is featured on a fantastic new Nike commercial featuring doctored video of Tiger Woods as a child. The song fits very well with the advertisement)
  12. Talib Kweli - The Beautiful Struggle - "I Try"

Monday, July 18, 2005

Another Four Months of Agony

3 of every 5 tubes of toothpaste I purchase absolutely suck; I managed to pick another damned loser.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

External Storage: Maxtor OneTouch II

Maxtor OneTouch II Posted by Picasa

I was in the market for additional external storage and a backup drive when I came across Maxtor’s OneTouch II, which satisfies both of my needs. For some reason, I always thought that pure backup drives were relatively slow and were meant solely for backing up another drive in full—that is—I didn’t know you could use the rest of the space as regular storage or run programs off of the drive.

I. Maxtor?

In my mind, Maxtor is a manufacturer that is on par with Western Digital in terms of quality and price point. They both make similar hard drives, but just like operating systems, most people tend to stay with the company the grew up with. Maxtor’s prices seem a bit lower in general and their cache and capacities are slightly better than Western Digital's. I think Western Digital has a slightly (maybe negligible) edge in terms of prestige, but who cares.

The other major manufacturer that I trust is Seagate, who makes the famous Barracuda drives. Seagate drives typically sport higher prices and lower capacities, but have higher rpm speeds. Seagate also makes professional drives for RAID servers and a host of other uses. Seagate has also released a drive comparable to Maxtor’s OneTouch II, boringly called “External Storage Hard Drive.” Whereas the OneTouch II goes for about $279.99 retail, a Seagate model comparable in storage and interface is about 269.99.

II. External Storage

External storage is a relatively new thing for me. I used to just take hard drives that other people were junking and throw them into my computer. At one point I had 7 hard drives going (3 directly on the motherboard and 4 attached to a PCI add-on card) and while I had the speed I wanted, it had significant drawbacks:

  • HEAT: Hard drives throw off a lot of heat. And with 7 inside one box, not even the best retail fans could keep the case cool.
  • LAG: The more hard drives I added, the longer it took for Windows to load up explorer.
  • TRAVEL DEBACLE: It was much more difficult for me to take a drive with me on a trip back home to New York.
  • PARANOIA: If something went wrong with my system drive, the others might have problems as well (though I doubt this would happen). But, what is a drawback is that if your system dies, all the attached media is inoperable unless you physically remove them. Instead, external storage can plug in to whatever else you have laying around (like a laptop).
Please keep in mind that “external” storage does not necessarily mean “portable” storage. This is not your standard pocket drive. It is much larger than a standard iPOD. The OneTouch II weights 3.1 lbs and is 1 5/8” x 5 1/2” x 8 5/16”. It’s hefty.

III. OneTouch II Features

Maxtor has released a number of different OneTouch II models, all with different capacities and interfaces. I opted for the 300GB drive with USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces. The OneTouch II is fully compatible with WindowsXP and Mac OSX. For a 7200rpm drive, it is remarkably quiet and hardly vibrates my desk. The OneTouch II also boasts a beefy 16MB cache, which is better than my internal drives.

USB 2.0 and FireWire (400) are a terrific one-two punch. I will say, however, that I prefer USB 2.0 because it does not have quirky transfer issues. Theoretically USB 2.0 is supposed to have faster transfer rates, but I’ve never gotten around to measuring, so I always assume that they’re both equal. The problem with FireWire is its prevalence of “Delayed Write Failed” errors when transferring large amounts of data. It’s a real shame pain when the transfer corrupts data. The good thing, however, about having both interfaces is that you can hook the drive up to almost anything. Not only does everyone have either a USB (1.0 is fine too, though significantly slower) or FireWire port, they also have spare cables laying around, which means you can just bring the drive and the power adapter.

Apart from the vast amounts of storage, the OneTouch II has—as its name suggests—a button on its front that will backup your computer with just one touch. Of course, it’s more like one touch, and a few clicks of the mouse, but you get the point. Maxtor’s drive comes bundled with Dantz’s “Retrospect HD Express,” a backup utility that, while not overflowing with features, gets the job done with ease. I have the drive programmed to run an automatic backup every Friday at 2:00am. It backs up any files that were changed or added to my system drive over the previous week. The great part about these weekly backups is that they are appended to previous backups. This means that you can basically restore your system to a specific point in time since older files are not replaced when a new backup is made. The downside is that this style of backup takes more space on the drive. But with 300GB, I’ll have years worth of backups before I need to start thinking about sizing it down. Plus there's other backup options included in the software in case you want to save space.

The button on the front of the drive can be customized. You can open any program you want when you press the button. Although this isn’t as useful of a feature to most users because no one wants to open up some random program, this is extremely helpful for professionals who might use more advanced backup software and opt out of the bundled software.

The drive has one peculiar setting. Under the “Adjust Performance” category, you have these two options: “Highest Performance” or “Normal Operation.” There is no explanation of either of these two choices. Guess which one most people would pick. I can’t stand developers who insist on giving people meaningless choices.

For those of you who backup important files with sensitive data, Maxtor’s drive features “DriveLock,” which is a software lock that you can install to lock out unauthorized users. Especially if the drive is lost or stolen, you (theoretically) don’t have to worry. Personally, I’d be pissed if my drive was lost or stolen. Second, I don’t know how good the software is, but I assume its decent since they have small business versions available too.

The OneTouch II is aesthetically pleasing. It has a two blue LEDs inside the button and the hard drive itself is made of anodized aluminum, which is much more pleasant to the touch than my BUSLink external hard drive. At full speed, the BUSLink drive will burn my hand whereas the Maxtor drive will simply get a little warm.

IV. Conclusion

If you would like to backup your entire computer and/or have some extra storage for videos, photos, documents or songs, Maxtor’s OneTouch II is a great option. It’s simple to use and works in a variety of systems and circumstances.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Guided by Voices

Human Amusements at Hourly Rates Posted by Picasa
I started listening to Guided by Voices only three or four years back and I sincerely regret not following their music earlier. Take a gifted schoolteacher, Robert Pollard, and give him 2 decades to amass a prolific song list of lo-fi rock (much of it unnoticed) and what do you get? Indie royalty.

If you’re new to Guided by Voices, I’d highly recommend their greatest hits album “Human Amusements at Hourly Rates.” The album itself is a bit sporadic with its song listing and a few of the tracks seem a bit . . . uncooked. Nontheless, it’s a great buy and a wonderful addition to any music library. Their music isn’t pretentious nor are they trying to fool you with fake emotion. The best part is that it's something you can have on in the background when friends come by.

Their sound isn’t too heavy; I suppose I would call it indie pop (though it’s not as happy sounding). Nevertheless, the music's energy is surprisingly uplifting. I haven’t been able to get “My Kind of Soldier” and “I am a Scientist” out of my head for weeks (which I’m sure has something to do with the fact that I have had the album on an endless loop at work and in the car for an extended period of time . . .).

I had the honor of seeing Guided by Voices perform live at Coney Island’s first Siren Music Festival a few years back. Actually, tomorrow (July 16) is scheduled to be this year’s Siren Music Festival. If you’re in the New York area, I’d recommend checking out the line-up. It’s a hot, sweaty, beer-and-pot smelling venue, and that's on top of the already pungent aroma of Coney Island. There are two stages set up and there’s music all night long. Plus, it’s free. I’m kind of sad I’m in California now since it will be the first year I’ve missed it. To look at tomorrow’s lineup, see

The thing I remember most about Scott Pollard—apart from his fantastic voice—is how much he smoked and drank on stage. He probably played four songs that day, and polished off about half a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack. That image of seeing him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth as he was strumming his guitar encapsulates my view of this band's general universe. Their songs aren’t exactly polished, but you know they have more fun playing music for themselves than for the crowd.

It’s a shame you won’t see Guided by Voices around anymore since they disbanded in 2004. If you were lucky enough to catch one of their last performances on Conan O’Brian, you’d know how big of an occasion it was for everyone. Now I have my doubts about performers retiring and then “returning” immediately to sell more albums (Jay Z anyone?). But I think for this band, I’d make an exception.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

LAUNCHcast Plus has been around for awhile and it hasn't changed all that much in the past few years, though it is still a great option for streaming music and video.

To begin, here's one of the best kept secrets at Yahoo! (who owns If you have SBC Yahoo DSL (which many do here in the Bay Area), you already have access to Launchcast Premium services. This account gives you full access to hundreds of stations and commercial-free content. For some reason, nobody seems to know this little nugget of information. If you have SBC Yahoo! DSL, your username at is your entire SBC Yahoo email address (i.e., and your password is your normal email password.

If you’re unfamiliar with Launchcast, it is a web-based media player with access to thousands of songs. Here’s the catch: it’s radio. Therefore, you can’t pick and choose what songs you are going to hear. Nevertheless, you can still skip a song if you don’t like it. Also, as you listen to each song, you can rate it. You can also rate the artist and the album. There are ways to give ratings to entire genres as well. As your ratings start to build up, Launchcast starts to suggest artists that you might enjoy. It does a remarkable job suggesting things.

Launchcast Plus Interface Posted by Picasa

I always thought that with a huge local music collection, I’d never have to go back to radio again. But after listening to my huge collection of MP3s all the time, just picking songs has become a chore. I find myself picking the same artists and my listening habits have stagnated over time. Letting Launch pick artists for you not only saves you time, but exposes you to a wealth of new artists and genres.

Launchcast also has a system of “influencers,” which is a fancy term for free-riding on someone else’s ratings. So, if you like someone’s customized station a lot, you can add it to you list and be “influenced” by it. That way you don’t have to sit there rating songs one by one. Don’t feel compelled to make your own station. The pre-listed stations are great. I recommend “Chill Out” and “Cool as Folk.”

Launchcast’s sound quality is acceptable. Usually if you really turn up the volume on streaming media, it begins to distort and sound tinny. But the sound on Launchcast sounds full and balanced, though not exactly CD quality. Depending on your internet connection, you can adjust the quality of sound so that you don’t max our your bandwidth. At its highest quality, Launch will stream roughly 9-12 KB/sec of data, which is a relatively small portion of your connection. Rest assured that you can power through the bowels of while listening to music.

Launchcast is the perfect option for someone who has a decent sound system hooked up to their computer at home. Launchcast is also great for those of you who spend a lot of time in front of a computer at work or are at least near one. The drawbacks are that unlike satellite radio, you can’t bring this into your car or attach the service to any portable device.

There are a few problems with Launchcast. For some reason, after awhile the artist/song/album information does not refresh properly on the player. This has been a persistent problem over the past few years and I doubt Yahoo! intends to fix it. I have tried a number of different browsers but all seem to have this problem. Every once in awhile the player will look like it is frozen. The buttons won’t respond, but will respond a few minutes later. It’s a shame because these simply software bugs mar an otherwise great streaming media service.

One thing I would love to see is something like Rhapsody’s music service, whereby a user can pick songs to listen to and create playlists. That is the big drawback with Launchcast. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard an amazing song and wanted to replay it, only to have it not play again for a few weeks. Apart from the premium services, Launch has a number of free stations that are also great.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Data Recovery: Active@ Undelete

Last week, I was in a bad mood. One of my external hard drives failed and became unreadable. My collection of music and old email archives were on this drive as well. I still have no idea what went wrong with it.

So I started looking for hard drive data recovery software. I tried over sixty different software titles that were pieces of junk. I tried about ten that seemed like they were working but in reality did not do anything at all.

I came across BinaryBiz's software called "VirtualLab 5.0" which is highly recommended by a number of sites. Unfortunately, the software is originally listed as freeware. I installed the software and ran a scan that took about five hours. An entire list of files came up! I clicked on recover and I was brought to a screen asking me to pay anywhere from 120 to 200 dollars for a quota. Moreover, the quota maxed out around 20-something gigabytes of data, and my harddrive was 200GB, meaning that I would have to pay whole lot just to restore my drive.

I lost all hope and in a last ditch effort I purchased and downloaded "Active@ Undelete." It searched through all 200GB of data in about an hour and recovered all of the files with their original file names in a matter of hours.

Active@ Undelete is well-balanced software. It's not bulky nor is it spare. The interface has a number of wizards for novice users, but more importantly has advanced features for those with special circumstances. You can recover files on any kind of hard drive, removable media (smartmedia, SD, MemoryStick), zip disks, usb hard drives. It supports large drives formatted in any file system. It will recover long file names, too (which is great when you're dealing with MP3's).

However, the two problems I found with recoverying my MP3s were: (1) all of the album art included in the files was lost; and (2) each directory was renamed from the artist name into a random number. The second problem could have been a complete disaster but for the fact that all of the ID3 tag data within each MP3 remained unaffected. Therefore, I could just load up the files in MusicBrainz and have it do all the reorganizing for me.

I finally figured out why the software is so good: it is from Canada.

For more information, visit