Thumb drive data recovery

I haven’t done any data recovery or data rescue work in sometime (the last time was on Linux, with a combination of dd, ddrescue, and some throwaway code to parse JPGs – it was a Compact Flash card that needed saving). This time, all I had was macOS, a 16GB thumb drive, and the files were someone’s life’s work, which were more than just JPGs but also AI (adobe illustrator), DOC, XLS, PDF, TTF, etc. files.

So via Homebrew, I installed ddrescue again. A command like ddrescue -v -n -c 4096 /dev/disk2 helena.dmg helena.log seemed to work. On macOS, fdisk totally couldn’t get me anything useful and if I ran diskutil list the output would be as follows:

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:                                                   *15.5 GB    disk2

For good measure I wanted to also make an image via dd, dd if=/dev/disk2 conv=sync,noerror bs=4096 of=helena.img. It was clearly throwing many errors, an example of which:

13399375872 bytes transferred in 1263.864380 secs (10601910 bytes/sec)
dd: /dev/disk2: Input/output error
dd: /dev/disk2: Input/output error

The real problem was mounting either the DMG or the IMG. On Linux you have this option to loopback mount a file; on macOS this isn’t quite there. There is hdiutil but frankly, this doesn’t work if there is no partition record. I tried to mount it using hdiutil attach -noverify -nomount helena.img but that didn’t work to then do a diskutil mountDisk.

Then… I found a tool: PhotoRec. I wouldn’t have to write something to parse the magic numbers and extract files. PhotoRec just works. It parsed the IMG file, and spat out plenty of files to look at. Recovery was generally full.

For reference, on Linux, there are some good resources: Mounting a raw partition file made with dd or dd_rescue in Linux, and Guide to Using DDRescue to Recover Data. From a forensic standpoint, Disk-Arbitrator looks like a good tool as well.

Twitter Promote Mode – save your $99

I like Twitter. It is the social media that I use the most. Maybe followed by Instagram, since I’ve always liked photography. I don’t spend time on Facebook/LinkedIn like one would expect. So my energy seems to be Twitter-centric if I’m going to use social media. On my iPhone, Twitter is on the main screen, which tells you I consider it useful :)

Before the social media apocalypse on the stock market recently, I thought I’d try to pay $99 for Promote Mode. I had been invited for many months but summer seemed like an ideal time to try it. Long story short? Save your $99/month.

I started with 4,660 followers. Today I have 4,547 followers. Less, how? Why? There was a recent purge of bots and fake followers, and I lost 2.64% of followers.

In the end, Twitter said I gained 19 new followers, with 185 promoted tweets, and I had 35% more reach (+107,274). 19 new followers for $99 seems like daylight robbery. I was targeting USA based folk.

When I asked their support if I could switch to the UK, they said it was not possible. The only other option was Japan, and I didn’t realise I had to choose so wisely at the start. And now you can only reactivate the subscription when promote mode gets out of beta (but with such poor performance I am unlikely to do that).

I wasn’t the only one how has had such a poor experience. Ahsan Anis writes, Is Twitter’s promote mode worth the $99 monthly subscription? (disappointed), Buffer writes How Effective is Twitter Promote Mode? We Tested It for 30 Days. (did not renew due to performance, limitations and ease).

Guess they’ll have to find a better way to make me pay to use the service so that the stock price can go up! (I am not an investor in Twitter stock, but really do like the product and want to see them survive in the long term).

Television & Movie consumption July 2018

I have no idea how I missed Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, but they are both on Netflix, and you can take them offline, so in between all the flying I did this past month, I caught up on the entire two shows! They are both excellent shows, and I can’t wait for the next season of Better Call Saul! The TV shows are definitely binge worthy.

500 Days of Summer is surprisingly a good movie, starring both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It is a break up movie, maybe a bit of a dark comedy, but it is also a movie about self-realisation. It is not your typical love story or romantic comedy. It has a lot of dialogue, reminding me of the Richard Linklater series, Before Sunrise/ Before Sunset/Before Midnight. Like those shows, this was relatively cheap to produce but grossed wonders ($7.5 million budget, $60.7 million at the box office – 709% return!).

One memorable quote, since a lot of people talk about their dream partners. (paraphrased) Why look for the girl of your dreams, when it is better to have X, as she’s real? Gives one a lot to ponder about.

Midnight In Paris was also a good watch – one where the main character, Gil, finds himself throughout the show. Sometimes you miss things right in front of our eyes, don’t we? Memorable quote? Nostalgia is living in denial; denial of the painful present. (full quote on Wikipedia). Another movie with $17m budget, bringing in outsized returns at $151.1m – 789%!

These movies so far have been recommended by the Netflix algorithm, which so far is giving me way over 90% match rates, which suggest that the algorithm for July 2018, at least, is working! I suspect these movies do speak to me to some extent, and that’s what makes them successful in my eye.

The Sam Zell book review – Am I Being Too Subtle?

I had no idea about Sam Zell before reading his book (which I only found out via Brad Feld), Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel. He runs Equity Group Investments, and their tagline is: “We identify opportunities others don’t — and invest like others can’t.” Do visit their website, it really is quite interesting. I tremendously enjoyed the book, I highly recommend reading or listening to it.

Here are some notes I made from his book.

  • always have a sense of urgency
  • trade conformity for authenticity
  • be blunt
  • culture is king
  • read risk – always understand the downside
  • listen. There is great value in this because you then know the motivations of folk.
  • look for clarity. Drown out the noise. Conventional wisdom tends to be a lot of noise.
  • “If you are really good at what you do, you have the freedom to be who you really are”
  • His daily routine: workout at 4.45am, then in the office by 6.30am, and stays there till 7pm. And he still does this at age 75!
  • Where there is scarcity, price is no object
  • There is value in tenacity
  • Use simplicity as a strategy
  • Strive to be asset rich, cash poor
  • Weak economies breed troubled companies
  • “Competition is great for you, but I’d rather have a natural monopoly; if I can’t have that I will take an oligopoly”
  • Board of Directors tend to have “good resumes whom are often past their prime”
  • Board members should be viewed as cheap consultants to the business. Management team should use them regularly.
  • Do not depend on people unless you understand their motivations. Listen to know their motivations!
  • When people ask Sam Zell what he does? “I am a professional opportunist.” (what a great job title)
  • He is always at his best when the scenario around him is at its worst
  • We should never get into a phase of “irrational denial” (like if people get cancer, you don’t get treatment, you will die)
  • Always make lists. Check them off.
  • “Liquidity equals value”
  • Find good companies with bad balance sheets
  • It is important to have owners, not just managers, in leadership positions
  • See micro-opportunities in macro events
  • Real estate tends to lag the general economy. So it falls slower than the rest of the economy when there is pain.
  • Sam is not pessimistic, but realistic. Go in with eyes wide open.
  • In real estate, he tends to assign walk scores. Takes number of steps to public transport. To the nearest Starbucks. Etc. This will tell you value of property.
  • “Please God, give us one more oil boom and we promise we won’t screw it up.”
  • “Everyday you choose to hold an asset is a day you choose to buy it.” Therefore if you get an offer greater than what you would pay for the asset today, you should sell!
  • Calculate risk, know what the downside is. Ask: if all goes wrong, what do I get from this deal?
  • “I don’t like auctions unless I am running them.” Bidding wars are something he doesn’t like to participate in.
  • Experience – you understand risk only this way. Experience teaches you how to minimise the downside.
  • Be an optimist. Focus on what is next. Do not lament on what could have been.
  • Emerging markets have built-in demand.
  • Global business requires:
    1. good partners
    2. aligned objectives
    3. vision, direction, strategy
  • Sam describes himself as the Chairman of everything but the CEO of nothing
  • Radius theory of business is the number of people between you and the decision. This will affect your ability to succeed.
  • Businesses that delegate too much fail as well.
  • Culture can either inspire or stifle innovation/creativity.
  • Fast decision making and autonomy is what usually wins out.
  • Be ready to pivot
  • Spot opportunity early for long term gains.
  • He is a voracious consumer of information. Reads 1 book per week. Knows how to get relevant information. Reads 5 newspapers per day and 5 magazines per week.
  • “If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas”
  • In everything you do, always be thinking of the next deal. Play it straight. You can be successful AND ethical in business. Do you consider their circumstances over your own? Loyalty definitely matters.
  • Always be tenacious, optimistic, have drive and conviction.

Now a GrabPay user, the promo will lead to inflated metrics

There are so many e-wallets in Malaysia now, it sure feels like I’ve got e-wallet fatigue and I don’t even spend much time in KL or use most of these wallets. I am more a fan of the AMEX, followed by Visa or MasterCard. Eventually e-wallets are going to have to implement merchant fees that seem closer to these credit card networks (your rewards have to be paid somehow…).

I have tried GrabPay before in Singapore where I loaded SGD$20 into my wallet from my credit card. I never did get to spend it. This balance sticks around for when I am next in Singapore. You have a separate e-wallet for Malaysia. I tried to set this up a few days ago, and they require a photo of your passport or IC to verify your ID (unlike Singapore). I seem to have failed this verification (it looks like an actual human does it, but when you fail it, they don’t tell you why; not that it matters, it seems you can still use it just fine). Also, Grab is now holding photos of the front of Malaysian’s Identity Cards… let’s hope they never have a data breach.

Today as I was trying to get a ride, a pop-up (potentially the first useful ad I’ve seen in the adware that is Grab…) said I could get RM5 off 2 Grab rides if I use GrabPay credits. So I promptly topped up my GrabPay wallet with RM20 (which came from my credit card), and then paid for a ride with GrabPay credits.

I see absolutely no difference with paying via a credit card. I believe you can use your debit card to pay for your Grab rides as well. There is an argument that cards are unpopular in South East Asia as evidenced by this Twitter thread, but if you have a bank account in Malaysia, you get a debit card by default that you can use for Grab. Maybe the play is that people will use it for peer-to-peer payments, like when you need to pay a friend for splitting the bill (like Venmo? Maybe I have a generation gap)?

However from a metrics standpoint, my desire to save RM5 off two rides (a total of RM10), has made me an active user of GrabPay. I loaded up a balance of RM20. Will I be able to bring that balance to zero or does Grab earn interest on my money (like they do for my Singaporean balance)? Will future promotions only apply to GrabPay payments that aren’t via credit card, but via this e-wallet service?

Yes, we Malaysians, and Singaporeans and probably most South East Asians love a good deal. One of the reasons that Grab probably won before Uber exited the South East Asian market was GrabRewards. If you could expense your Grab rides, participate in the loyalty program, and naturally keep the rebates, why would you ever use Uber?

Measure what matters. Anyway, back to e-wallets. The banks will wake up. The VC money will run out. Economics will eventually meet reality.

Molly’s Game: constant reinvention and perseverance

I recently saw Molly’s Game on a flight. It was so good I ended up getting the audiobook, to see if I missed out on anything. Molly Bloom (her Wikipedia page is a great read) is an entrepreneur. She trained to ski (and had a tough father, and siblings who skied better than her), but due to injury decided it was time to go find herself. From a terrible job as an assistant, she quickly began running poker games for her boss. When her boss decided to cut her off, she became independent and anticipated player’s needs and became an even greater success. Her games even brought in Hollywood celebrities.

When she exited the LA market, she did games in New York. So no stranger to starting from scratch, in an industry that she was already well-versed in. Eventually the law caught up with her, and she had to give up her high life. But with grit, the rebirth seems to have been writing her story, which became a movie that Aaron Sorkin directed.

Constant reinvention and perseverance. Those are my takeaways from both the book and the movie. I recommend watching the movie, then deciding if you are still interested before getting to the book/audiobook.


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