A Hex On You

But in this case - net forensics - it's a good thing

February 16, 2006

2 Min Read
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5:00 PM -- If it were a TV series, we'd be tempted to characterize it as "CSI: Miami Meets Storage Networking."

Sexy, huh?

We're talking about the advent of the discipline within storage known as net forensics -- dissecting hard drives after crashes or disruptions to recover whatever data can be had, or just to understand why a good drive went bad (age, virus, FedEx, dog bite, etc.).

Such forensic tools are the latest subject that our guest columnist, Fred Langa, tackles with his usual authoritative clarity. Langa's column, which appears courtesy of Information Week, dives into the complex subject of "hex editors," also known as disk editors, sector editors, or programmers' editors.

Hexadecimal notation, a base-16 programming language (0-9, a-f), if you must know, was introduced by Bendix in 1956 and later embellished by IBM. Click here for more info, or better yet, go right to Langa's article: Langa Letter: File & Disk Tools.Hex editors can be as specialized as the people who use them. Some let you into files that can't be opened any other way, others are better suited for recovery of accidentally deleted files. Still others handle un-formatting, un-partitioning, or un-deleting -- essentially useful stuff for resolving boot problems.

Langa is equally clear in his warning that some hex editors may summon volumes of data that call to mind the entire Library of Congress, what's behind Hoover Dam, and every document ever created with a name starting with http://. Lots of data, in other words. Some of it actually useful.

Hex may be old hat to you. What also makes this article worth reading is that Langa also reviews a handful of the latest hex editors to help make sense of this potential inundation and how to ferret out the few bits that are useful or recoverable.

While no broadcaster is likely to ever pick it up for a long run, such forensic tools could become a regular part of your data center's primetime lineup.

Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and Switch0

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