Friday, September 27, 2013

A New Life for an Old Dell Dimension Desktop

I recently acquired an old Dell Dimension 4300 desktop from the 2001 era. This old computer was running Windows XP and when it booted up, I was presented with a password protected user log in. Por fin! (Finally!) I ran to my box of computer supplies and found a disc labeled Windows XP password recovery or hacker or something. A friend had given me the disc and I'd never had occasion to use it before now.
Unfortunately, the disc failed. Ahhh...
No worries. Google is my friend and helped me discover that booting into Safe Mode will get you in with administrator privileges sufficient to modify the user accounts as needed. Nice.

I played around with the machine, but ultimately decided that short of a fresh install of Windows XP Home, to which I did not have a handy installation disc. The product key was taped to the side, but I wasn't in the mood to go through all that, especially when I had a Ubuntu 12.04 LiveCD lying around just begging to get installed somewhere.

The LiveCD disc was left to beg a little longer. I read up on the web that the minimum requirements for 12.04 were probably a bit too much for this old heap. Not to be beaten, I ran back to my box of computer supplies and pulled out an even older LiveCD I picked up years ago: Ubuntu 5.10.

I promptly installed Ubuntu 5.10 and then went to work to see if I could install OpenTTD.

This Linux n00b quickly found out that Linux is 'super easy', but only if you're recently updated. I read through numerous forum posts and toyed with the idea of what it might take but retreated to the 12.04 disc instead.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the 12.04 installer was incapable of recognizing the hard drive. Weird. The 5.10 installer had no problem, and while running in trial mode the 12.04 environment could detect and mount the hard drive. However, as soon as the installation process was started in 12.04, the hard drive was not listed as available installation targets. (Only my USB drive was recognized.)

Back to Google.
Turns out, Ubuntu comes in several flavors. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu to name a few. I quickly settled on Lubuntu. But, again, another road block, I'm running low on blank CD's!
No problem. That's why they built tools like 'unetbootin'. You can use it to put/install/write/make? your .iso files onto a USB flash drive and then you can go to your target computer and tell it to boot from your USB device instead of the optical drive. Hurray! See this HTG post for more details. http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/13379/create-a-bootable-ubuntu-9.10-usb-flash-drive/

Oh, no! This old machine doesn't have the option to boot from USB.
No worries. Turns out they built another tool, called PLoP, to solve this problem as well. See this HTG post for more details. http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/16822/boot-from-a-usb-drive-even-if-your-bios-wont-let-you/

Success, right? Not so fast. The troubles kept coming. In fact, I almost posted this question to the askUbuntu forums while I was trying yet again to install Lubuntu 12.04 via the alternate installer, for the second or third time.

Linux n00b. I have only used Live CD's in the past for various things. These are my first install attempts.
I have a 2001 era Dell 4300, to which I successfully installed Ubuntu 5.10, as the live CD for 12.04 appeared too sluggish. (These were the two discs on hand.)
I decided that 5.10 was a bit too outdated to be able to do what I wanted (install openTTD).
Hoping to get a lighter desktop I then sought for Lubuntu 12.04. Rather than burn another CD, I used unetbootin and plop for boot from usb support.
However, the installer for Lubuntu 12.04 failed to detect my hard drive, similar to this thread. http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1608255 ( same results from the ubuntu 12.04 disc, too.) During a live session the hard drive is visible. Start up the installer, however, and only the USB drive is listed as available locations.

I then went and downloaded the alternate installer for Lubuntu and tried again. However, now I think I'm getting Bug#658865. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubiquity/+bug/658865   The solution listed there is to start the live session and make the file change and then launch installation. This doesn't work for me since the installer on the desktop version doesn't detect my hard drive.

If someone can illustrate how to upgrade Ubuntu 5.10 to Lubuntu 12.04 - that would be great. However, after spending all day on this, I'd also like to know how to be able to install Lubuntu 12.04.

While composing the question, I also figured out that you'll have much better luck, like I did, if you don't have a USB keyboard attached to the computer you are trying to use PLoP with to boot from USB. It just doesn't support USB peripherals at this time. Ohhh, see, it helps if you read all the instructions first.



Turns out, I was able to try installation again, this time with a ps/2 keyboard and successfully navigate through installer and things worked. So, I never posted the question I composed above. Almost though.

Oh, and Lubuntu 12.04 works great! Many new adventures in Linux are just waiting to be discovered! Well...first things first. I have to go download openTTD now.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Scan for Windows Viruses using Linux

Apparently, lots of people have this question: How can I use Linux/Ubuntu to scan for viruses on my Windows hard drive?
And yet, lots of the forums are filled with people praising Linux for its lack of viruses and the lack of the need for virus scanners. Well, that's nice and all, but it doesn't answer the question all that well.
Luckily, HTG (HowToGeek) answered the question and they did so very well.
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/14434/scan-a-windows-pc-for-viruses-from-a-ubuntu-live-cd/

Monday, September 23, 2013

Upgrade Your Hard Drive Without Re-Installing Windows Again

This is another tech support post where I'm just recording my notes for future reference.
A desktop computer running Windows Vista again, but this time, the desire was to just swap out the hard drive with a newer one. How do you do that if your computer originally shipped with a recovery partition and didn't ship with discs? What if you really do not want to re-install Windows again?

Luckily, there exists a simple solution. I almost took the more risky solution though. Both solutions that I considered (among several other options) involved Linux. Yeah, you're guessing it. I was reading up on the 'dd' command. Which, surprisingly, is nicknamed 'disk destroyer' because so many people get it wrong. Yeah, that's enough to pause and make you think twice.

What is the 'dd' command? It's essentially a command line tool that does what more expensive tools like TrueImage will do for you - clone your hard drive. And that's exactly what I wanted to do. I used a LiveCD for Ubuntu 12.04 and was nearly convinced I had the correct command. Instead, I went and burned a CD with CloneZilla on it and took that route instead.

If you are going to use CloneZilla, do yourself a favor and boot into BIOS first to verify which disk is which, or look at the disk physically and take note of it's serial number because CloneZilla will likely identify your disks this way. I didn't do this first and had to stop the process and start over because my two disks were very similarly named WDC (Western Digital). Getting it wrong in CloneZilla is just as bad as getting wrong with the 'dd' command in your linux terminal.

CloneZilla worked great. The new hard drive is happily in its new home and thinks it shipped straight from the factory.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Inspiron 1545 Problems Booting Windows Vista

A friend recently asked me to help fix a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop that would no longer boot into Windows Vista. There were a few files that the friend did not want lost either. What follows are just some of the notes that I took while surfing the web that helped me in my efforts to restore this laptop to working condition. 
 
How to recover your Windows Installation from the recovery partition when you have no windows installation currently on your drive, or when you get the Bootmgr is missing, or you've nuked your drive using the Ubuntu LiveCD.
 I actually did use the Ubuntu LiveCD to find and recover any personal files as my first order of business. Using the LiveCD I was able to expand my fledgling Linux skills a bit more and explore the contents of the drive. I found the files and saved them off to a USB stick for later. 

I used all the drive diagnostic tools, available from BIOS to Windows repair, to check out the drive because a particular error was coming up and several Google searches were indicating that the actual hard drive might be flaking out.

Error code 1000-0142...unit 4....Drive Self Test Failed..status byte 75.Is this the indication of a bad HDD?
That means the file system is corrupt and there may be bad sectors on the hard drive.

Try this:
1. Boot the computer with the Windows disc.
2. At the "Welcome to Setup" screen > press R to start the Recovery Console.
3. When prompted type "1". (if you have a multi-boot computer, select the installation you want to repair.)
4. When prompted > enter the Administrator password. If there is no password, just press ENTER.
5. Now you should be in the recovery console.
6. Type chkdsk c: /p /r > press .
7. When the disk check is done: Type Exit > press .
8. Take the Windows disc out and reboot.

If that doesn't work the hard drive has to be replaced.
 (I think I found the above on http://www.techsupportforum.com/)

Ultimately, I reached the end of my time to troubleshoot and attempt fixes and just set it to restore from the factory partition. I know, lame, but that's all the time I had to devote to this issue. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Take Five

Take Five is a concept, an idea.
It was born during my early college days and was partly inspired by a great jazz song of the same name. (Although, the version I listened to was original to a group of university students that went by the name, In One Ear.) Below is the hand written notes that I saved from that day.

I feel stressed a lot of the time to accomplish many things and feel bad that I do not complete those things of which I feel are also important to me. Some of those things include the following:
Piano, Trombone - Personal Talents
School
Scripture study, Institute classes - Spiritual
Roommates, Work, Friends, Dating - Social
Exercise - Physical

Now that I write them down, I see they incorporate all aspects of a well rounded life - and yet I find myself running first to accomplish first my homework. And it never ends, and I hardly have time for it - so how can adding more help? But will i have really reached my goal and feel satisfied if in the end my goals were left alone by the wayside?

I do not believe so.
So, if I can just "take five" maybe I can achieve my goals with faith and hope and trust in help from God. I believe if I "take five" and then work diligently I can produce results and pray that my intellect can be enlightened to work quicker, more efficiently.

Work. Be obedient. Be more like a missionary. Plan and then work towards that goal by properly scheduling your time and developing Christlike attributes.

I came back to this concept and revisited it again a few years later.

Today is Saturday and tomorrow is Sunday. I was just thinking how good it would be to wake up and study the scriptures and kind of fill this personal spiritual low when it occurred to me. I thought of how improbable it would be since I am home, family is home, I have commitments, etc. If only I had a few days without the world... but that is what made me realize that the one important principle is not to just strike it rich, get it all at once, but rather stay the course, little step after little step, mundane, boring, but always steady. What am I saying? If it be our level of spirituality, time spent with a certain activity - studying reading to kids, etc, or money and debt - these all need one principle to achieve success - A little everyday - constantly.
Winning the jackpot or sweepstakes  or receiving an inheritance or having that one day may seem nice but you cannot grow spiritually all in one day, you cannot read all the children's stories to your child on one day, you cannot practice for one day and become great, you cannot pay off your debt in one day - and believe to be happy.
It is that little five minutes so mundane and almost seemingly worthless that is applied each day after day after monotonous day that we stick with it and though it all that journals are written, debts are paid, time is cherished, and we grow. God sent us to live a life here on Earth - not just experience an instant.
I share this in the hopes that you, too, can find five minutes in your life and apply it to that goal that is almost forgotten, to striking out into a new area and trying something new, to sharpening the saw, to read to your kids, to do whatever it is you wished you could do more.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zig Zag Book Review

From the introduction:
Creativity doesn’t always come naturally to us. By definition, creativity is something new and different; and although novelty is exciting, it can also be a little scary. We’re taught to choose what’s familiar, to do what’s been done a thousand times before. Soon we’re so used to staying in that well-worn rut that venturing into new terrain seems an enormous and risky departure.

I mentioned this before, we’re afraid of change. It frightens us. However, embarking into new territory need not be feared, but rather practiced. Keith Sawyer, the author of Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity declares that practice is all that is needed to become a more creative person. From his own creative works, “Creativity did no descend like a bolt of lightning that lit up the world in a single, brilliant flash. It came in tiny steps, bits of insight, and incremental changes.” All his experience has been distilled into eight steps. In fact, after reading through this book once, I feel like it is meant more as a go to resource, like a home remedy book for writer’s block, or perhaps it could be the Schaum’s Outline for your Creative Genius class next semester.

The eight steps that you can practice daily to encourage more creativity in your life are these:

1. Ask

2. Learn

3. Look

4. Play

5. Think

6. Fuse

7. Choose

8. Make

The reason why I liked this book, is because it motivates you to stretch yourself. Don’t be content to travel the same rut. Experiment. Find out what life is like outside the rut. What does it look like? How does it alter your concentration? The book is filled with examples of successful creativity based on the application of the methods and practices that are detailed with each step.

This book is a wonderful resource. Don't bang your head against the wall anymore. Learn how to be more creative today and how to practice until the ideas just flow to you. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, by author Frank Partnoy, is probably the perfect book to read as a follow up to Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, my review here.

Wait is another book about decision making. Whether you are a CEO of a billion dollar company, or just going out with friends, we all could benefit from a better understanding of what impacts our abilities to make decisions.

Partnoy, acknowledges, Gladwell's recent book, but criticizes his emphasis on thin-slicing being only two seconds long.

"Stop for a moment now and think about the idea of thin slicing. When we thin slice we detect patterns in an event even if we see only a narrow portion of that event. The key to the concept is that we reach a conclusion even though we don’t have the full picture. Thin slicing is driven by the unconscious system because it takes the lead over the conscious system in decisionmaking during such a short period.

But thin slicing is almost never about just two seconds. In fact, not even the titles of the leading articles on thin slicing are about two seconds. The revolutionary paper by Ambady and Rosenthal is entitled “Half a Minute.” John Gottman’s coauthored study of video tapes of couples is called “Predicting Divorce Among Newlyweds from the First Three Minutes of a Marital Conflict Discussion.” Minutes, not seconds."

Despite the criticism, the concept is sound. More recently, Ambady and other coauthors defined a thin slice as “any excerpt of dynamic information less than five minutes long.”

Lest I lead you to believe this book is just written in retaliation to Gladwell, let me address some of the other points that I found relevant and interesting.

To which I must say that any author that quotes Douglas Adams gets a gold star in my book.
"One of the main reasons why “Don’t panic” is such valuable guidance is that the sudden onslaught of fear we label panic can seriously interfere with our ability to decide on the best course of action. Panic makes it difficult for us to use logic or reason. Panic shuts down our conscious system 2 and leads us to rely on our primal automatic system 1. Relying on system 1 is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if we are experts."

Partnoy also graciously assuages my guilt of procrastination. "active procrastination is smart: it simply means managing delay, putting off projects that don’t need to be done right away. In contrast, passive procrastination is dumb, equivalent to laziness."

Some final notes related to our working lives.
"A second approach is “event time,” where we continue doing something until we finish or some event occurs. For example, you might start work, not at 9 a.m. (clock time), but after you finish breakfast (event time)."

"Efficiency means going fast; effectiveness means being complete, even if it takes longer."

"If we are motivated to accomplish something important in our work, we will be willing to wait decades and understand that jobs we start might not be finished until after we are gone. Hourly pay eats away at this philosophy and ultimately makes work less fulfilling."

This last quote is especially interesting if you consider grandiose achievements of our world. When you read that, what came to mind? I thought about the architectural wonders that took years or decades to create, Notre Dame, Statue of Liberty, or even the iconic LDS temple in SLC. Each was a massive undertaking, but well worth the wait.

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