Memory Lapse: USB on Ubuntu, Flaky Digital Camera

Two recent experiences with portable memory offer examples of how, as reliant as we’re becoming on flash drives, memory sticks – what would Jack Bauer do without them in his phone? – how new problems can crop up as you use them in new ways. I recently found answers to two problems I had where I knew I should have more space on a memory stick, but it wasn’t appearing.

USB and Ubuntu:  the .trash file

The first was on any removable memory plugged into my Ubuntu-based PC.  For example, I might have put 100 Megabytes of files on a flash drive, taken it home, deleted them all, and found I had less memory on the drive than it was supposed to hold.  There’s nothing more annoying when you’re mobile and trying to use your portable memory which is “empty” and find that the 1 Gigabyte storage is really only 200 MB.

The trick in Ubuntu is to look for the hidden trash folders.  In Windows, you will get a Recycler folder on each drive (although I find that when you delete from a network share, you may not be able to restore that file from trash).  Similarly, each drive in Ubuntu seems to get its own trash folder.  When you empty the trash on your system, it does not empty the trash on remote drives.  Here’s where I learned more about it.  I’m the worry wart that blog post describes, so I wasn’t ready to have everything go directly to trash.  But I can see the .trash-XXX folder now (I changed my Nautilus settings so that I can see hidden folders) and it reminds me to empty the trash on the removable drive.  Since that is where everything went that had been deleted from the drive – which meant that the drive went from having 100 MB of active files to 100 MB of deleted, invisible files, but no net gain in space – it was then easy to be able to use all of the space on my flash disk.

The HP R707 Digital Camera

Having just had one memory issue, I figured I might be having deja vu when our digital camera was reporting it could only hold 60 images, when it used to be able to hold hundreds on a 512 MB memory stick.  I first changed the image quality settings, downgrading it to the lowest image  resolution and file size – no luck.  I took the stick out, looked for any extra (hidden!) files – no luck.  I replaced the stick with another memory stick, which I’d confirmed was completely empty.  Same problem – only 60 images available.  I even followed HP’s directions for resetting the camera (paper clip into the tiny hole next to the door hinge covering the battery).

Then I stumbled on the “format disk” option.  When you take a picture, you can choose to delete it on the camera.  At that menu (“Delete THIS picture” – “Delete ALL Pictures” – etc.) you can also choose to format your memory stick.  Since it was empty anyway, I formatted the stick and the R707 was happy again.