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jshanker

Certain notes appearing as blank / zero-byte on one or more platforms

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I struggled with how best to describe this in the title since the problem seems unusually complex. I am a Premium EN user running EN Windows on ~5 computers and Android on 3 devices. I have about 3500 notes.

 

A couple of days ago I searched for a note on the laptop and could not find it. It's a note I use regularly so I knew it existed, but could not find it. I then searched for it on my desktop and found it. I date-sorted the laptop to see if I could find it in the same squence. Instead I found an UNTITLED NOTE in its place in the sequence -- same creation date, same modified date, same tags, but no title and no body.

 

Needless to say I was alarmed. I've since worked to understand and address the problem and here's what I've found:

 

There are more than a dozen such "selectively blank" notes I've identified, with the following characteristics:

  1. Every computer is host of at least one untitled note
  2. Every computer is the host of at least one "real note" that is blank/untitled elsewhere (i.e. no device is immune from the problem, no device is the sole source)
  3. Modifying the "real note" on a device will then sync it correctly to the devices having a "blank note"
  4. Modifying the body, title or tag of a "blank note" on a device will then overwrite everything about the note on the device that has good data
  5. In some cases the "blank note" still has the correct title, but no body, and still shows as zero bytes (maybe titles don't count toward bytes?)

Initially I thought that the blank notes only appeared on the laptop and I was going to wipe EN off it and reinstall, but now that I've found blank notes on other platforms I'm concerned that some note may exist ONLY on the laptop and I'm stuck with identifying each one, manually updating it on a good platform and then syncing it.

 

The larger problem of course is that this has shaken my faith in a tool that I love. Can anyone help my understand how this happens, how best to fix it and how to prevent it in the future?

 

Is there any sort of "thorough sync" that can be run manually to check for this type of inconsistency note by note?

 

I sync all devices frequently and I'm at your disposal to answer any other context questions that would be helpful. Thanks!

 

--Jason

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Did you go to the web and see the status of the notes there?  

 

Something similar to this happened to me once and I modified the note on the web and it then synced to my laptops.  Don't know how it happened in the first place though, hasn't happened since.  May be worth a support ticket.

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Thus far every note I've checked has been present on the web. That said, the only way I can IDENTIFY the blank notes is by sorting by size, which as far as I know I cannot do on the web. So I don't have a way of finding a note that's blank on the web.

 

I did just check another of the Windows machines that I sync to and found another 39 zero-byte messages. All have been modified since July 8th at 9:39 pm but they'd been created as early as 2 years ago, and had synced successfully before then (that is, they are messages I'd referenced on all devices during that time).

 

I submitted a ticket when it happened, but I've not heard anything yet on it (not sure whether they monitor it on the weekend).

 

Again, I know I could probably wipe it out on each device and resync, but I have to check each message first to make sure it's not only on a local device, and once I've done that it's just as easy to make a change and resync. But now that I've found another nearly 40 such errors, I'd prefer to find a recovery sync option.

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Ouch.  You have a software upgrade or any sort of issue around july 8th?  

 

Anyway, if the web looks good, you may want to consider a reload on all your devices.  Support may even tell you to do the Revo thing.  I guess I would wait for them.  But none of that will answer the "how come for why" of it all, which I never found out either.  Good news thought, problem hasn't reappeared since it was fixed.

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Sometimes support will recommend that you start with a clean slate by using a tool called Revo Uninstaller to remove the EN application in its entirety.  If you have local notes you have to export them to an ENEX file and import them after a re-install of EN and a sync.  They will give you detailed instructions if that is where it ends up.  

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Ahh, yes. I'm familiar with Revo Uninstaller. My concern with an uninstall/reinstall is that without checking each note individually I have no way of knowing if there are notes that only exist on one of the devices.

 

I'm also not thrilled with modifying each note to get it to sync since I use the "updated" date/time as an indicator for various things (follow-up frequency for example) and now that data will be artificial.

 

I'd always been amazed by / skeptical of the ability of Evernote to keep so many things in sync. I'm sorry to have now landed firmly on the skeptical side of the divide. Hugely troubling as someone who has relied on the tool for my business.

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Ugly, but if you think it is all notes after July 8th, you could tag each of those as Missing.1 on machine 1 to Misssing.5 on machine 5 and after syncs do searches on each machine for note counts and to see where you don't have 5 tags per note.  May accidentally fix the problem at the same time.

 

Had the same feelings when it happened to me.  Old saying, if one number on the page is wrong, they must all be wrong.

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It's definitely not all notes after July 8th. It's that it seems to ONLY affect notes after July 8th (a subset of them). And the problem with tagging them from a machine where they are blank is that doing so forces the sync of the blank note to the other platforms. At best I'd end up with dozens or hundreds of conflicted notes, at worst I'd end up losing data.

 

For a program that undertakes such a complex syncing process (and as I now know does so imperfectly) I'm kind of surprised that there's no thorough sync option where it goes note by note and confirms consistency.

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Didn't mean to imply all notes from 7/8, just that you seem to think it is the universe of your issue.  Also, I should have more specific sorry, I meant tag the "good" notes on each PC.  Then when you look at the web you can find notes without 5 tags, modify them there and see if fixes itself on the problem PC.  This may be too scary as well, but this is what I short-spoke above.

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Ahhh, I see. And sorry if I didn't sound grateful for the input (especially since I've still yet to hear anything from EN staff here or on my support ticket!).

 

I have hundreds of notes modified since 7/8 so tagging them on all platforms then searching the web for all changes would end up taking more time than the manual process of finding the 39 bad ones, going and finding them on a good machine, and changing them. But I really do appreciate the ideas.

 

The thing that makes this defect really troubling is that if you came across one of these notes on your computer, you'd just think it was blank -- perhaps you started a note and then got sidetracked and the window got closed as a blank note. So you delete it, but it turns out it WAS an important note, and now that deletion syncs the important note off your other devices as well. Decidedly not good.

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Agreed, the above was more around validating that the universe of 39 was it.  Good luck and I hope you get some resolution soon.

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Gotcha. Finding the bad notes is pretty easy since I can sort by size and just look at the ones at the zero end of the list. The harder part is then finding that same note on another device and editing then resyncing everything. Since the notes are blank the only way to find them is to sort another device by time and scroll down to the exact date and time from the blank message.

 

And of course, this happened while I was traveling so my only way of checking the other devices is over remote desktop tools. Fun!

 

In the back of my mind I always knew EN was too good to be true. I'm not saying there's something better out there, but faced with definitive proof that the syncing process is subject to widespread data destruction, I don't know how I entrust data to it again. Among other things I enter billable time and materials into Evernote notes. If one of those happens to be the one EN decides to discard, then come invoicing time those charges don't get billed.

 

I may be stuck with it for the time being, but after 48 hours with nary a word from the people I buy this software from I'm afraid I'm done recommending it to others . . .

 

I do appreciate your time and help csihilling, thanks!

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No problem, don't know that I did much.  Hopefully one of the moderators will pick this thread up and advise support of your situation.

 

I guess two things would have to happen to help you get slightly comfortable:  1) after a reload ALL your notes on are on all devices, 2) updating a "0" note on the client does nothing to the note on the web.  Short of that, though, I agree I would really want to know what happened and what can be done to prevent it in the future, or what my alternatives might be.  Sync issues need to be like dropping babies, doesn't happen.

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Evernote's support team don't work over the weekend,  so I'd expect they are,  as we speak,  working through all the issues that got passed to them in the past 48 hours.  If you've still not heard from them though,  please quote your ticket number here and we'll flag the report for an internal admin to look at.

 

As regards general trust and reliability,  Evernote's record has been pretty good with me over several years and (currently) 18,200 notes;  whatever this problem may be I don't think you have major problems.  Plus - Evernote keeps a note history so you should be able to 'step back' a newly-blanked note to when it wasn't in that state;  I wouldn't recommend making any changes to the problem notes to force a sync however - that could change the date of your blank copy until it becomes the 'master' version and you do wind up with blank notes - even if only temporarily.

 

However you don't yet seem to have verified whether the web version of your notes via Evernote.com contains any blanks.  If it does not,  you merely need to export any unsynced or local notes from your various satellite machines,  refresh those databases and reimport any exported notes to get your database up to date.  That might be a bit of a nuisance,  but it's not a disaster.

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Thanks for the help gazumped. The support ticket was # 679536. One of the reasons I have had so many occasions to recommend EN to people is that I run a technology consulting business and thus spend my days solving tech problems. So I'm totally comfortable with the inherently fallible nature of technology. And as far as I knew, EN's record with my data over several years and 3500 notes had been perfect.

 

Here's why I believe this is actually disastrous: https://evernote.com/contact/support/kb/#!/article/23176542

 

It is important to remember that deleted notes are not recoverable, even by Evernote Support. Evernote does not store copies of deleted notes, so please be very careful to only delete notes that you’re absolutely sure you don’t want to keep.

 

 

This means that I don't know -- and if you believe what I'm reporting you can no longer know -- that your data's been correct across those years and notes. If a note with hundreds of edits and tens of megabytes of data can spontaneously show up as a zero byte blank untitled note on your computer, then there's no way to know that any blank notes you've ever trashed haven't been actual notes, and if you go looking for it later but have emptied the trash, that data is gone forever.

 

All you know for sure is that none of the data that you've lost (if any) has been needed. Yet. But I also thought I had all my data until Saturday when I went looking for a particular note and it was not there. Now I can't be sure, and I'll just hope that any future syncing errors work the same way and at least show me a zero-byte note, which I'll never again delete without checking other platforms.

 

I'd be wary of "stepping back" the note since my "blank" note is not an actual version, it's an error. If I go back, I'll lose whatever new data was added in the last version. If the blank note were a "version" then it would likely be on every device.

 

As far as I know, there's no way to see size on the web version, so I can't confirm whether there are any zero byte notes there. If I'm incorrect, please tell me where/how to look.

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Ah.  You're exactly right about zero-length notes not being visible in the web version - except that in the snippet view they'd show up as white blanks,  but that's probably not useful if you're looking at a lot of notes.  Support may be able to help you with this.

 

I don't think the link you posted is relevant - if you delete a note,  that's a catastrophic purge of all its data,  and the way backups work means that within a few hours or days that purge has rippled all the way through the system - hence no recovery.  It looks here as though some notes are either displaying incorrectly or haven't been synced properly.  The stepping back process should still find the history of that note and (at some stage) the full data - but let's wait for Support to advise on how best to do that if its necessary.

 

You're also right that I haven't found any data loss - yet;  but I do keep regular local backups,  and being similarly paranoid about IT I did go through a period of sequentially numbering all my scans with a code that meant I could tell if one or more didn't make it to all my Evernote versions.  After a while I stopped doing that - wasn't doing anything useful and I didn't have a single lost note...

 

I flagged your ticket - let's see what the tech guys have to say...

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Thanks for the help gazumped. The support ticket was # 679536. One of the reasons I have had so many occasions to recommend EN to people is that I run a technology consulting business and thus spend my days solving tech problems. So I'm totally comfortable with the inherently fallible nature of technology. And as far as I knew, EN's record with my data over several years and 3500 notes had been perfect.

 

Here's why I believe this is actually disastrous: https://evernote.com/contact/support/kb/#!/article/23176542

 

It is important to remember that deleted notes are not recoverable, even by Evernote Support. Evernote does not store copies of deleted notes, so please be very careful to only delete notes that you’re absolutely sure you don’t want to keep.

 

 

This means that I don't know -- and if you believe what I'm reporting you can no longer know -- that your data's been correct across those years and notes. If a note with hundreds of edits and tens of megabytes of data can spontaneously show up as a zero byte blank untitled note on your computer, then there's no way to know that any blank notes you've ever trashed haven't been actual notes, and if you go looking for it later but have emptied the trash, that data is gone forever.

 

All you know for sure is that none of the data that you've lost (if any) has been needed. Yet. But I also thought I had all my data until Saturday when I went looking for a particular note and it was not there. Now I can't be sure, and I'll just hope that any future syncing errors work the same way and at least show me a zero-byte note, which I'll never again delete without checking other platforms.

 

I'd be wary of "stepping back" the note since my "blank" note is not an actual version, it's an error. If I go back, I'll lose whatever new data was added in the last version. If the blank note were a "version" then it would likely be on every device.

 

As far as I know, there's no way to see size on the web version, so I can't confirm whether there are any zero byte notes there. If I'm incorrect, please tell me where/how to look.

 

I would not suggest running Revo, but instead waiting for a response from the Evernote Support Team. I've included the information from this thread and escalated your ticket. You should be contacted shortly. 

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Just an idea - set up Evernote on a brand new device and let it download your notes from the server. Then sort by size - this will give you a good idea if the server has any blank notes. If no blanks on the new device, then the server probably has none. If there are blanks then the server likely has bad copies. (Not a lock, as you might get a bad download/sync etc etc.). Try to find a note on this new device that is blank on another device. If its content is there, then there is a fair chance that all or nearly all the notes are OK on the server.

 

If the server looks good, then you can wipe Evernote off of each bad device and reload it. This is not just an UNinstall - when this happened to me (several blank notes on one device) I had to uninstall both the Windows 8 touch version of EN, and uninstall the desktop version and also delete a data folder (in C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local\Evernote). This worked well for me. But it would be wise to follow someone with more knowledge than I on how to do this just right! Also, make sure you have a good solid fast Internet connection when you do this. I think my problems originated due to a poor connection.

 

Hopefully, support has already gotten back to you. In any case, it might be best to do nothing until support does get to you.

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Did you get a satisfactory resolution to your case, jshanker?

 

I have exactly the same issue - and exactly the same concerns about it - as you.  I'm hoping you got some joy from EN support.

 

Keen to see a resolution that doesn't involve uninstall/reinstall every time something goes wrong as well too - this introduces other risks.

 

Depressingly I spotted this issue had started occurring with my set-up while logging on in order to start making local backups :(

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Don't want to start another topic here,  but why do you say uninstall/ reinstall introduces other risks?  You may be doing it wrong if that's the case..  Making sure that you have a full clean version of the app in place and/ or refreshing the database are always pretty good basic fixes where other first aid fails...

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Don't want to start another topic here,  but why do you say uninstall/ reinstall introduces other risks?  You may be doing it wrong if that's the case..  Making sure that you have a full clean version of the app in place and/ or refreshing the database are always pretty good basic fixes where other first aid fails...

 

In my case at least I feel that uninstall/reinstall -- in this instance -- is risky because of the possibility that one of the notes in question might only exist in its non-blank form on the device I'm uninstalling/reinstalling.

 

Normally I'd agree, if I have no sync concerns then uninstall/reinstall is a good diagnostic step (albeit with 3500 notes it's annoying and time consuming). But now that I know that Evernote's sync is not infallible, I cannot dismiss the possibility than any given device may contain the only complete version of a certain note.

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Apologies - I wasn't clear and as a result I think we may have been talking at cross purposes.  I wasn't referring to 'other risks' to the notes themselves, but rather the more general notion that the more configuration changes are made to a PC the greater the risk of introducing some kind of issue at that level - e.g. with other software.  Even the best uninstallers aren't perfect.

 

I don't know how much of this concern may or may not apply to evernote in practice, but that's just it - I don't know.

 

More to the point, it shouldn't be necessary (IMHO).  I believe what we're talking about here is re-freshing/re-downloading the local database from the master in 'the cloud'?  If the need for this is a possibility then shouldn't it be functionality of the software, not something that can only be achieved by a side-effect of dong something else?  Uninstall/re-install has other effects than just refreshing the local database presumably?

 

But this is all somewhat of an aside.  I agree with jshanker: in this case there *is* a specific risk to the notes from removing and re-creating the local database, because we *don't know* where the correct master is for any individual note.  I agree with him/her that there's no way of knowing without checking them all individually.  Without establishing the cloud version is the correct master for every note, we can't confirm with certainty that deleting and re-creating the local database is actually the solution.

 

To be honest, the only thing that would give me confidence at this stage would be evidence of evernote understanding how the zero-length notes got that way, and what the automated solution for reliably recovering from that situation was... hence wondering if there'd been any updates on the case you raised, jshanker?

 

I'm also wondering if I should also add "confirmation that zero-length notes is the only kind of sync issue; other possibilities have been ruled out" to the wish list as well?

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