Data loss

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Data loss

Postby brian.riches » Sun Mar 25, 2018 7:56 am

I have recently encountered a situation that I find extremely weird.

To set the scene fully, I have four devices, all using Windows 10, in a network. To keep everything up to date and consolidated, each device runs a batch file daily to copy the contents of specified folders, e.g. Documents, to the other devices. Otherwise, all the devices run the same version of Open Office.

I first found the situation in Calc, but it may have also happened in Writer.

Having created a new workbook for the purpose of keeping track of dosages of various medications that I am forced to take, I entered details of the current stock quantity for each medication and then, over the course of a day, the actual usage and confirmed that cell formulae were working correctly. At the end of the day, I saved the file.

Within a couple of days, I noted that data that I had entered was missing. I had begun by closing the file in the “normal” way and relying on Calc to save the file as displayed. After noticing the data loss, I switched to saving the file by using the toolbar button first before closing the file. After about three days, there was suddenly a situation where all the daily data I had entered for the previous three days had disappeared. The cell formulae were still working correctly because, where usage data disappeared, the running totals also reverted.

Subsequently, I noticed that, in Writer, a text that I had created, and amended, to be copied and pasted into email messages had “lost” the amendments.

This is the first time that I have encountered anything like this. I have looked through all the set-up options to see whether there is any clue, but I cannot see anything relevant. My copies of Open Office report themselves up to date with version 4.1.5.

Has anyone else encountered this following the issue of 4.1.5? Or can anyone give me a clue why this is happening?
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Re: Data loss

Postby Zizi64 » Sun Mar 25, 2018 10:04 am

- Which file type are you using? (Always use the native, International Standard ODF file formats...)
- Please give us some informations about the size of the files (and for the Calc: number of the sheets, rows, columns)
- Where you saved theese files to? (Do you have full access rights to theese places in your op. sys?)
- Are you using removable media? (Never work directly on a removable media.)
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Re: Data loss

Postby Hagar Delest » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:55 am

How is set up your backup script?
Could the script copy an older file and overwrite a more recent one?
If you save under another name each time, do you still lose data?
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:58 pm

Your problem is not an OpenOffice problem - it is a "I have lost my file" problem.

brian.riches wrote:I have four devices, all using Windows 10, in a network.

To keep everything up to date and consolidated, each device runs a batch file daily to copy the contents of specified folders, e.g. Documents, to the other devices

Your method of syncing files by having four supposedly "identical" files on four different machines is a well known recipe for disaster.

The first principle of Data Management is "Keep one copy of the data and keep it in one place". If you keep two copies of the data in different places it is virtually inevitable that the two will get out of step and you will not know which is correct. Anyone with even limited IT expertise will tell you it is far better to place all the data on a File Server and allow users to access the File Server. The File Server then manages the integrity of data it holds. Users do not store the data on their personal machines.

Unless you have extensive software engineering and data management expertise, leave syncing folders to the experts.

Use Dropbox or Google Backup and Sync (was Google Drive) to do the synchronisation between the devices.

See [Tutorial] How to find and un-delete Writer temporary files for

a) detailed instructions on how to recover your file as it was when you last opened or saved it, or as it was when it was last saved with AutoRecovery.

b) how to find previous versions of the file in the folder it is located in, but which have since been deleted.

c) how to un-delete the temporary files Writer wrote while you were editing the file, and then deleted. This will recover your file as it was when you last opened or you last saved it and is probably your best hope.

It also discusses options like Always keep a backup copy and AutoSave.

If your problem is solved please view your first post in this thread and click the Edit button (top right in the post) and add [Solved] in front of the subject.
Last edited by John_Ha on Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Data loss

Postby Hagar Delest » Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:09 pm

John_Ha wrote:This is not an OpenOffice problem - it is a "I have lost my file" problem.

Well, that's not demonstrated yet.
We have seen similar issues in the forum. Even if rare, it can happen.
I experienced that once few years ago on my GNU/Linux system. I saved a file and the next time I opened it, it was an older version (changes lost) even if the timestamp showed the last time I had actually saved. Very weird.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:46 pm

brian.riches wrote:... each device runs a batch file daily to copy the contents of specified folders, e.g. Documents, to the other devices.

This is a potential, and the probable, cause of the problem. What happens if the batch file runs while AOO has a file open? Does it copy the open file to the other disks? Does it not copy the file because it is open? Does it overwrite the open file with files from the other disk(s)? What happens if a file is open on more than one disk? What happens if AOO tries to read the original, or write the changed file while the original file is being copied by the syncing software? or while the original file is being written by the syncing software?

The only safe way to do this is to ensure that the files are closed before they are copied and/or make use of Windows Volume Shadow Copy snapshot. That is why I stated that syncing is a task for those with expert knowledge of data handling and not for those without data management skills.
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Re: Data loss

Postby brian.riches » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:00 pm

Zizi64

Thank you for your response. To cover your points - I am using the native file formats. ODS for the spreadsheet and ODT for the document. The spreadsheet is 17 KB. At present, it has the regular 3 sheets offered when starting a new file. Only 1 sheet is in use. The main part of the displayed data uses 14 columns, over 96 rows. There is also 1 merged cell, originally of 2 columns and 1 row. It is only a note and has no bearing on calculations. The 2 left columns and the top 2 rows are frozen.

The file was saved, automatically, in the C:/Documents folder. I am not referring, particularly, to Auto Save. I simply mean that the basic setup is to save to the C:/Documents folder. I did not alter the destination folder. As an administrator, I have full access to all of my OS. There is no removable media involved at any point.

The Writer file is 27 KB. the text covers less than A4 page.

Hagar Delect

I cannot be specific about what you refer to as the backup. The batch files I referred to do not do a backup, they make copies. I cannot give you much detail on the batch files. I did not create them. I use an IT company that deals with everything to do with systems. They obtained and supplied all the equipment, delivered and set it all up. My network/system consists of 2 desktop PCs, 2 laptops and 2 printers dotted around the house. I have certain health and mobility issues. They are part of the reason for the batch files. I viewed the main purpose of the desktop PCs as data storage, although I wanted to be able to use them directly as well. My main use is of the laptops, 1 in my main bedroom and the other in my lounge. In the same way, I have 1 printer in my lounge on the ground floor and the other in my study on the first floor. I haven't tried saving under a different name each time. The file name tells me what it's for. Bear in mind that, if and when this issue is resolved, the fully completed sheet will have my data in 12 columns and 93 rows. In other words, 1,116 cells. In addition, each of 558 cells would have data manually entered several times. Thus, if it's a dosage taken cell, it might end up reading =2+2+2+2 but displaying 8.

John_Ha

Perhaps the foregoing will give you a better idea. I haven't lost my file. I know exactly where it is. And, as pointed out, I did leave the matter to an expert. He is the owner of the business and the head technician. Do you suggest that I tell him that he doesn't know what he's doing?

I can tell you a couple of other things. When I told my "expert", briefly, what was happening, his immediate response was "It shouldn't do that". Before moving to Open Office, I had considerable experience using Microsoft Excel for several years. Reaching the point of designing applications using Visual Basic. But, I know my limitations. In addition, before I retired, I was accustomed to using PCs that were part of a UK government network involving hundreds of PCs. Those PCs had to be available for use 24/7. Without "losing" data in the way that I described.


Thanks to all for the input.
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Re: Data loss

Postby brian.riches » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:19 pm

John_Ha

In response to your later message, I should point out that I did not create and save the Calc file on one PC and then attempt to view it on a different one. Although the file may have been copied to my 3 other PCs, I was opening and viewing it on the same PC as that on which it was created and saved. I don't think I see how the copying batch file could have affected it.

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Re: Data loss

Postby robleyd » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:31 pm

To keep everything up to date and consolidated, each device runs a batch file daily to copy the contents of specified folders, e.g. Documents, to the other devices


This suggests that perhaps once files have been copied from machine A to machine B, there may be the same named files having a different content copied from C or D to B or even A; this of course would be an undesirable situation.

Without knowing exactly what the batch files do, it is a bit difficult to determine where the source of the problem lies.

My solution to the need to share files would probably involve utilising Windows file sharing feature, or having one machine set up as a file server; rather than copying files back and forth.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:03 am

I very much doubt this is a "data loss caused by AOO" because data loss as you describe it is, in my experience, extremely rare and even then usually due to user error. In Hagar's experience it is rare in the forum, where there are about 5,000 posts per year. Yet you say you have had two occurrences in a few days! That does not sound feasible.

Within a couple of days, I noted that data that I had entered was missing.

Or, to put it another way, "when I opened the file, it was the previous version". This makes it very likely it is the synchronisation which has overwritten the correct file, or not allowed the correct file to be written, so you see the previous version.

Look elsewhere than AOO for the solution.

Hagar Delest wrote:I experienced that once few years ago on my GNU/Linux system. I saved a file and the next time I opened it, it was an older version (changes lost) even if the timestamp showed the last time I had actually saved. Very weird.

If you think how AOO saves a file, it is very difficult to postulate a process where AOO causes the data loss as described by the poster.

When you open Fred.odt, AOO takes a copy of Fred.odt and places it a temporary location as something like C:\Users\xxxxxx\AppData\Local\Temp\sv6a8vhe.tmp\sv6a8vt4.tmp. If AutoSave is switched on, this temporary file is updated each AutoSave; if AutoSave is not switched on, the temporary file remains as it was when the document was opened. The document data is loaded into memory and all edits and changes are retained in memory and are not written to disk while the file is open. The exception is adding graphics, where the graphics metadata is stored in memory, but the images themselves are written as temporary files to disk after the Remove from memory period has elapsed, or the allocated graphics memory has been exhausted.

The document will have been edited while opened, so it will be save-able.

If the user chooses Save ..., AOO creates a new content.xml file using the data held in memory, writes the other metadata files, writes the image files, compresses all files to a ZIP file, and writes the zip file to disk as Fred.odt, overwriting? or deleting? the previous Fred.odt. Corruption in the save process therefore usually results in a .odt file with a corrupted ZIP structure, a truncated .odt file, an "empty" .odt file full of NULLs (the #### problem), or bits of random binary garbage appearing in the .odt file. If errors are written in content.xml (eg SAXParse or Repeated attribute definitions etc) they destroy the XML syntax so it does not parse, the file does not open, and an error is given (eg col 2, row 154,732) showing where the parsing fails.

Corruption never appears as "correct edits to the XML in content.xml which remove only the edits made by the user in this session while retaining correct XML syntax" which is what the poster is describing. Hence my conclusion it is user error or, more likely, caused by a badly designed "user written" sync process.

If the user chooses not to save his changes, AOO discards the contents of memory. The original file is untouched and it retains its original file time stamp.
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Re: Data loss

Postby RoryOF » Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:41 am

I note that I have used OO exclusively since 2007, editing many large files (sometimes thousands of pages and thousands of edits/saves) in .odt format and never had data loss. I also use Calc - simple yearly 12 sheet files in .ods format to keep track of income and expenditure; apart from the expenditure trying always to be more than income, which I believe to be a common problem with expenditures, I have had no problems with these files: such files have never lost their data or reverted to a previous version.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Mon Mar 26, 2018 1:56 pm

brian.riches wrote:I did leave the matter to an expert. He is the owner of the business and the head technician. Do you suggest that I tell him that he doesn't know what he's doing?

I would suggest you tell him to abandon "his" sync and use a proper sync process with something like Dropbox or Google Backup and Sync. If he is reluctant, quiz him as to how "his" sync copes with each of the scenarios I suggested above, and copied below. There are probably others he also needs to consider - for example, and topical, what happens to timestamps if the batch file is running at the precise time at which the clocks change?

The Google Backup and Sync executable file is 45 MBytes. His batch file will be a few hundred bytes. Which do you think is more likely to be error-free because it has taken account of more possible problem scenarios?

John_Ha wrote:
brian.riches wrote:... each device runs a batch file daily to copy the contents of specified folders, e.g. Documents, to the other devices.

This is a potential, and the probable, cause of the problem. What happens if the batch file runs while AOO has a file open? Does it copy the open file to the other disks? Does it not copy the file because it is open? Does it overwrite the open file with files from the other disk(s)? What happens if a file is open on more than one disk? What happens if AOO tries to read the original, or write the changed file while the original file is being copied by the syncing software? or while the original file is being written by the syncing software?

The only safe way to do this is to ensure that the files are closed before they are copied and/or make use of Windows Volume Shadow Copy snapshot. That is why I stated that syncing is a task for those with expert knowledge of data handling and not for those without data management skills.
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Re: Data loss

Postby brian.riches » Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:20 pm

John_Ha

You seem to be determined to assign the "fault" to something other than Open Office. I wonder why.

So far you seem to have decided that the "blame" lies with how Windows 10 operates, the person who created the copying batch files and, apparently, myself for having installed the system/network. Are you, perhaps, someone that is involved in the design and/or creation of Open Office? If you are, do you not think that it would be, at the least, courteous to declare yourself?

RoryOF

My response to you is this, and might be read with some benefit by John_Ha, I'm very pleased that you have used Open Office exclusively for 11 years and never encountered any problems. Solely from memory, I would say that I have used Open Office exclusively since 2010 and never encountered this issue before. I think I've also given clues that I used Microsoft Excel before that and not encountered any similar issue. So, whilst I have admitted to my limitations, this is not the first time that I have used spreadsheets. I'd like to remember the date when I first encountered/created a spreadsheet, but I can't. Date it, if you will, by when Microsoft Office, including Excel, was available in Windows 3.1.

But one thing really does occur to me. I didn't encounter this issue AT ALL until version 4.1.5. Might there have been an unintended consequence of that update?

I would also like to point to this factor. Non-Open Office files, of which I have many, are not affected. If it was an OS issue, why are XLS, EML, REG, DOC, MHT, IAF, PDF, PPS, ZIP, WPS, TXT file types, all of which exist in the C:/Documents folder, not affected.

I will also say this. Once someone has said that it is not an Open Office issue, they have nothing to add. Unless they compare all the code in v.4.1.5 to, say, v.4.1.3 and are able to point to and explain why the code in v.4.1.5 makes the "issue" that I have described impossible. There can always be problems with code. It's why there are innumerable applications where the developers issue "bug fixes". For the record, I happen to think that the Open Office suite is wonderful. Not least because it appears to do all that Microsoft Office does. For free instead of charging hundreds of £s for it. But that doesn't mean that there can't be errors.

I shall pass on relevant comments to my IT "expert" and see what he makes of them. After all, his attention, when I call for it, costs me money and I expect value for money. But, if anyone remembers or cares to look back, my first question was whether anybody had encountered the "issue". I draw the parallel of the filing cabinet. One has a document. At the end of a working period, the document one has created or amended is placed in the cabinet. No-one else has access. At the beginning of the next working period, the cabinet is opened and the document taken out. Wouldn't one expect the document to be in the same state as when it was filed?

And something else has occurred to me. How do people who are not encountering problems go about re-opening files? My normal method is to open File Explorer, find the required file and open it. Does anyone want to tell me that that method is wrong? Bearing in mind that if one uses the Recent Documents metthod, that list is limited.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:48 pm

You asked
brian.riches wrote: can anyone give me a clue why this is happening?

I gave you a number of potential reasons following a well thought out analysis of your circumstances as reported.

brian.riches wrote:John_Ha

You seem to be determined to assign the "fault" to something other than Open Office. I wonder why.

Because I did a well thought out analysis of the probability of possible scenarios and user error was at the top of the list by a mile. It is thousands of times more likely to be user error (by which I also include the sync process) than AOO managed to do "correct edits to the XML in content.xml which removed only the edits made by the user in this session while retaining correct XML syntax!!". Did you take the time to read the analysis? I repeat it below:

If you think how AOO saves a file, it is very difficult to postulate a process where AOO causes the data loss as described by the poster.

When you open Fred.odt, AOO takes a copy of Fred.odt and places it a temporary location as something like C:\Users\xxxxxx\AppData\Local\Temp\sv6a8vhe.tmp\sv6a8vt4.tmp. If AutoSave is switched on, this temporary file is updated each AutoSave; if AutoSave is not switched on, the temporary file remains as it was when the document was opened. The document data is loaded into memory and all edits and changes are retained in memory and are not written to disk while the file is open. The exception is adding graphics, where the graphics metadata is stored in memory, but the images themselves are written as temporary files to disk after the Remove from memory period has elapsed, or the allocated graphics memory has been exhausted.

The document will have been edited while opened, so it will be save-able.

If the user chooses Save ..., AOO creates a new content.xml file using the data held in memory, writes the other metadata files, writes the image files, compresses all files to a ZIP file, and writes the zip file to disk as Fred.odt, overwriting? or deleting? the previous Fred.odt. Corruption in the save process therefore usually results in a .odt file with a corrupted ZIP structure, a truncated .odt file, an "empty" .odt file full of NULLs (the #### problem), or bits of random binary garbage appearing in the .odt file. If errors are written in content.xml (eg SAXParse or Repeated attribute definitions or Format error discovered in sub-document etc) they destroy the XML syntax so it does not parse, the file does not open, and an error is given (eg col 2, row 154,732) showing where the parsing fails.

Corruption never appears as "correct edits to the XML in content.xml which remove only the edits made by the user in this session while retaining correct XML syntax" which is what the poster is describing.

Hence my conclusion it is user error or, more likely, caused by a badly designed "user written" sync process.

It's free advice and if you don't like it, ignore it. But don't shoot the messenger just because you don't like the message he brings. Note that both RoryOF and roblyed suggest the same as I do.

brian.riches wrote:John_HaAre you, perhaps, someone that is involved in the design and/or creation of Open Office? If you are, do you not think that it would be, at the least, courteous to declare yourself?

I am not a developer. I am a user like you, albeit one with considerable IT expertise, and knowledge of AOO.

I have done some analysis of user problems with corrupted files and I wrote a paper Common Writer problems as seen by forum posts for development in which I identified possible causes for corrupted files and suggested routes for development to investigate.

I must have analysed and repaired over one hundred corrupted user files and I wrote [Tutorial] How to fix SAXParse errors in LibreOffice files.

Following investigation of the way in which AOO opens and saves files I wrote [Tutorial] How to find and un-delete Writer temporary files which discusses how AOO handles files.

Hagar's [Tutorial] Format error discovered in sub-document is based on a post of mine.

I have never seen a well documented case of AOO causing data loss in the manner in which you are describing.
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Re: Data loss

Postby pyramidide » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:45 am

But I have sometimes a problem when I save my file and open it again it is not complete
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Re: Data loss

Postby Hagar Delest » Sat Mar 31, 2018 4:52 pm

Personally, I think that there may be corner cases where it can happen. See: Saved file lost, that was in the early days of OOo 3.

If your IT guy is sure that the batch copy can't take an old file to overwrite a new one, I don't think that the OS would be the culprit.
What is surprising here is that you manage to reproduce the behavior quite easily. Few chances that this is a corner case (that occurred to me only once in 12 years using OpenOffice).

Perhaps another application that could interfere?

My advice was to save the file with the date of the day in the filename so that there is no overwriting of a previous version. There is an extension for that IIRC, just hitting save would append the date string to the filename.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Sat Mar 31, 2018 6:36 pm

Hagar

This is why I think it is most likely to be user error or, in this case, the "home grown" sync process.

The poster is reporting that he makes edits to his file and that all his edits are missing the next time he opens his file.

I typed "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and saved it as a .odt file. I then edited it to "The quick yellow fox jumps over the lazy dog". I then compared both content.xml files.

The first file contains 24 lines of XML. The second contains 31 lines of XML. So, the "random" corruption has to delete the added XML without making an XML syntax error.

The before line of text is <text:p text:style-name="Standard">The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.</text:p>

The after editing line of text is <text:p text:style-name="Standard">The quick yellow fox jumps over the <text:span text:style-name="T2">lazy</text:span> dog.</text:p>

What is the probability that a "random" corruption of the second line will produce the first line exactly? That is what must happen if corruption is to lose the recent changes!

Of course, the simpler the edit, the more likely a "random" corruption might get it correct. But, even if just one word in one sentence is changed, and one word in another sentence is changed, what is the probability that just those changes will "randomly" be put back to exactly what they were before? I submit the probability is vanishingly small.

I therefore think that the data loss problem is far more likely to be user error, where the changed file is accidentally not saved, and is deleted. In this poster's post, he has a sync system which overwrites files on his PC so the probability of that going wrong is, in my opinion, infinitely higher than the line in content.xml is "randomly corrupted to be the same as it was before the file was edited".

... and the user reports it happened twice in a few days. That doesn't stack up.

before editing.png
content.xml before editing

after editing.png
content.xml after editing

The post to which you refer was nine years ago and can be explained by the poster did not save it as he thought, or he saved it with a misspelled name (a typo) and then couldn't find the accidentally renamed file. The poster states he isn't particularly PC skilled and even had to ask how to find the time stamp on the file.

If such data loss was common occurrence - and this thread's poster said it happened to him twice in a few a days - the forum would be flooded with reports. We know from experience that it is rare for a poster to give the exact circumstances of a failure.

There is a data loss post at Re:Text has vanished which was analysed in depth.
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Re: Data loss

Postby Hagar Delest » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:03 pm

The result is data loss but I don't think there is any corruption here. It would be much more visible.
I think more about a file management problem.
I don't think we should rule out some combination of factors leading to such situation. The user fault may be a hasty conclusion.
Think of the #### problem. Still no smoking gun but it happens.
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Re: Data loss

Postby ryansmom » Thu May 31, 2018 1:10 am

I am having the same problem. I have found posts about cells cutting off text from years ago that were not resolved, so I do not know how to fix this. I'm doing everything normally, saving as the newest version of .xls. Not saving anywhere I don't have access, just saving as I do normally with other programs and files. I can paste the cell contents from the original .xlsx into the .xls file in Open Office again and again but when I save it, andopen it immediately again, the cell contents are cut off.
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Re: Data loss

Postby Zizi64 » Thu May 31, 2018 6:50 am

I'm doing everything normally, saving as the newest version of .xls.

That is nor a normal thing. Always use the native, International Standard ODF fileformats of the AOO and LO. The foreign, obsolete, never standardized fileformats (like the binary .xls) always can cause some problems.
Tibor Kovacs, Hungary; LO6.1.6 on Win7-10 x64Prof.
PortableApps, winPenPack: LO3.3.0-6.2.5; AOO4.1.6
Please, edit the initial post in the topic: add the word [Solved] at the beginning of the subject line - if your problem has been solved.
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Re: Data loss

Postby Zizi64 » Thu May 31, 2018 7:26 am

I can paste the cell contents from the original .xlsx into the .xls file in Open Office again and again but when I save it, andopen it immediately again, the cell contents are cut off.

Please upload sample files here.
Tibor Kovacs, Hungary; LO6.1.6 on Win7-10 x64Prof.
PortableApps, winPenPack: LO3.3.0-6.2.5; AOO4.1.6
Please, edit the initial post in the topic: add the word [Solved] at the beginning of the subject line - if your problem has been solved.
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Re: Data loss

Postby John_Ha » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:11 pm

ryansmom wrote:I'm ... saving as the newest version of .xls.

See [Tutorial] Differences between Writer and MS Word files for why you should always work in and save Writer files as .odt. It applies even more to spreadsheet files.
AOO 4.1.6, Windows 7 Home 64 bit

See the Writer Manual, the Writer FAQ, the Writer Tutorials and the Writer guide.

Remember: Always save your Writer files as .odt files. - see here for the many reasons why.
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Re: Data loss

Postby fredd_vander » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:37 am

Data loss is one of the worst situations one can ever come across. It can surely bring anyone to tears. Losing the invaluable data ain't less than a nightmare for any computer user. There are many causes of data loss. But the most common are accidental deletion, hard disk failure, virus infection, power failure, and human error. The complete information can be found in this article - http://wordpress.semnaitik.com/top-5-causes-of-data-loss/

A valid and updated backup can play the role of a lifesaver. It can help you restore your data at the time of data loss. So be smart, and take regular backup.

Regards.
Last edited by robleyd on Wed Sep 19, 2018 11:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Disable live links [robleyd - moderator]
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