Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

5/27/2014

Keeping Windows XP Alive

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

First, let me say that I don’t endorse this as a way to avoid upgrading.

Second, let me fully affirm that this is completely awesome!  And, as someone who maintains a Windows XP virtual machine to run some older software for my camera, I am thrilled to have this option, for as long as it lasts.
The hack is pretty simple, basically just adding a small entry to the Registry.  First published by Wayne Williams at BetaNews a day ago, it’s been all over the internet today.  I did it earlier on an old machine at work and it worked great.  Your results may vary.  The steps are simple and in that linked article, but I’ve included the 32-bit version of the registry file that you can just download and import to your machine or virtual machine.

Use at your own risk!
And upgrade as soon as possible!
(Here’s the link to the REG file.)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The person who WILL NOT read is no better off than the person who CAN NOT read."

2/7/2014

Get Started!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, we’re a month into the New Year.  What have you done so far?

Last month, I posted my fun, hopefully funny, Random Resolution Generator, because, well, everyone seems to make those annual New Year’s Resolutions, but who ever follows through?  As it turns out, almost no one does.  In fact, most people don’t even start, much less follow though.  And, really, getting started is everything.

Go read that last article I just linked to, then come back.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Back…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"On a clear disk, you can see forever."

5/21/2013

Backups and Data Recovery – Home Edition – Part 2

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:07 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I’ve finally heard back from DataRetrieval.com!

(Actually, I heard back a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been a little busy and haven’t had a chance to write things up.)

After a couple days of trying to get a response from an actual human being as to what was going on with my drive, I finally got a quote.  Well, actually, two quotes, which was kind of confusing.  The first quote was for about $300 and the second quote was for $1800.  But, I got no explanation of what the two quotes meant!  After a whole lot of back and forth over the course of more than a week with what seemed like an email autoresponder, I finally got in touch with a customer service representative to find out what was going on.
As it turns out, the quote for $300 was the minimum price to just get started.  Let that sink in for a minute.  They wanted $300 up front before they even started working on this drive with no promise whatsoever of actually retrieving data.  The $1800 quote was an estimate of the entire cost for retrieving all my data.

DataRecoveryReturnDrive Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for me and I told the service rep that.  Then, apparently, we started negotiations.
He came back with a counter offer price, which was still way too high and I told him so.
A day later, he came back again with another, lower offer.
In the end, that $1800 got cut down to about $500, which made me wonder just what they were charging me for in that first outrageous quote!

Finally, I convinced them that I wasn’t going to use their service and that I just wanted my drive back.  They charged me $25 for shipping, which I thought was fair enough, and they sent my drive back to me.  And here’s where they really lost me as a customer ever.  To the left, you see the box they sent my drive back to me in.  In case you forgot from the first post about this incident, since it was so long ago, I sent the drive to them in a larger box that was specifically designed to ship drives in, to keep them as safe as possible.

At the right, you see how they packed things inside the box.DataRecoveryReturnDrive-3
After all the strongly worded warnings and disclaimers about making sure you ship your damaged drive to them well padded so they won’t be liable for any additional damage or data loss, they don’t return the drive with anything like that same consideration.  I suppose they don’t feel like they need to since they won’t be making money off the drive, but, damn, that kind of disrespect for potential customers really says something bad about them as a company, at least in my mind.  I mean, there wasn’t *any* padding whatsoever!  It was just wrapped in two plastic shipping bags and shoved into the box!
Thankfully, the drive doesn’t seem to be damaged at all, or any more than it was when it crashed, so I’m probably no worse off than I was before I sent it to them.  Still, it’s the idea that they’d show so little care with my data that makes me question their entire service.  I know that I, personally, won’t ever trust them to attempt a data retrieval again, that’s for sure!

Also, based on what I’ve read, the problem is most likely a bad board on the drive.  A board which I can get off eBay for about $40, replace myself, and quite likely retrieve all my old photos.  I haven’t actually decided if I’m going to try and run down the board that matches the BIOS on my particular drive, but I may.  Kind of a huge difference, though, between $1800 and $40, plus a little of my time, isn’t it?

In any case, if I decide to get the board and fix the drive myself, now that I finally have it in my possession again, I’ll post another follow up with how that went.  And, possibly, even a tutorial on changing out that board.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
They say integrity is what we do when no one is watching. What are you doing now?

4/4/2013

Backups and Data Recovery – Home Edition – Part 1

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Fun Work,Geek Work,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Two is one and one is none”.

I’ve quoted that a lot over the years.  I’ve reminded people over and over again that just moving your data to an external drive is NOT a backup.  If you can’t afford to destroy it, then it’s not backed up.  I’ve said all those things.
And, yet, on Tuesday, I lost data because it wasn’t backed up.

As many long-time readers know, I’m an amateur photographer.  In the past five years, I have taken over 18,000 photographs.
On Tuesday evening, the network attached storage device, an IOMega two terabyte personal cloud edition NAS, to be exact, died.  Or, more specifically, the drive inside it died.  The sad thing was that I was preparing to copy it all to another device when it bit the dust.  Oh, sure, I still have a little over 4,000 of the best shots uploaded to my Flickr photostream, but, it’s not the same.  (I talked a little bit more about the backup portion and the loss over at my other site, JKHoffman.com)
So, here’s what I’ll be doing; First, I’m investigating the data recovery services of DataRetrieval.com and Second, I’ll be ordering two more large drives for my Pogoplug to store and backup my photos from here forward.

Let’s take these in reverse order.
I plan on adding a new feature to this blog called “Tools for Tuesday” which irregularly reviews various tools, software and hardware and even non-computer, that I’ve used and enjoyed over the years.  One of those early reviews will be of the fantastic Pogoplug.  In a nutshell, for those who aren’t familiar, this little beauty lets me attach up to four USB-based drives at a time to my network.  They can be any kind of USB drives I happen to have available.  Right now, I have two one-terabyte drives in generic enclosures hooked up to it.  They are set up as a master and a mirror drive.  In other words, one drive is where I put all my “stuff” and the Pogoplug automagically mirrors it to the second drive.
It’s really, really nice and when I have the right software installed on my various machines, I can map a drive to that device via the internet and upload to my own personal cloud in my server closet at home.  It’s very nice, albeit a little slow sometimes when I’m away from home.  Still, it’s private and reasonably secure and automatically backing itself up.  I’ve confirmed that two of these devices in separate locations can be used the same way, make a truly redundant mirror, if you really want to do that.  (I do, but I haven’t gotten around to getting the second Pogoplug and setting it up on another network somewhere.)
I really cannot convey how happy I have been with this setup.  I’m super, super impressed with this as a low-rent solution for the small or home business person, or, like me, the hardcore hobbyist.
So, by the time you all are reading this post, I’ll have ordered two three-terabyte USB drives of some kind.  And, clearly, I’ll be setting them up in a similar configuration as the ones I already have, so that one backs up the other.

I’m also sending my drive off to DataRetrieval.com to get an estimate on restoring the data.
I chose them because they had an office in Houston, and I like using local businesses.  Also, they sent me a free shipping label to send the drive to them to get an estimate, which I like.  And, yes, I did try several things to get the data back myself, including the ultimate hard drive “Hail Mary”; the “frozen drive” trick.  I only got as far as seeing the drive, but not being able to access any of the partitions.  And, based on the horrible clicking noise it was making, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take getting the platters out and mounted in their special recovery equipment to get the data off.
I’m choosing slow over expensive, so it may be a couple weeks before I hear back from them with an estimate.  And, depending on how pricey it gets, I may not even decide to follow through and have them recover it.  But, I have to admit, it really hurt to lose five years worth of my photography, even if I don’t really go back to the old stuff all that often.  Now, if I were a professional photographer, or a business owner, I’d pay through the nose to get that data back, but for me, it’s really not hugely important.  Still, I’ll be interested to see, and share, what the quote is and how it’s handled by the service techs at DataRetrieval.com

So, stay tuned!  I don’t know how long it will take, but I promise to do a Part 2 when I get the data recovery quote!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy."

1/1/2013

Day One

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:20 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

On this day, in 1660, arguably the most famous diarist in history, Samuel Pepys, made the first entry into his personal diary.

He kept his diary for approximately nine years, detailing everything from his personal life to the news of the day to even what he ate.  Although he clearly kept his diary purely as a personal exercise, he must have suspected that it may eventually prove interesting to future generations based on the care he took to bind it and…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Unhappiness is in not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it."
   --Don Herold

12/28/2012

Random Resolutions, Again

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:15 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

So, those of you familiar with my blog will recognize my annual New Year’s Resolutions post.

Yes, I’m pretty shameless about it, but, well, it was one of the earlier things I programmed and I still find it amusing and the New Year will fast be upon us.   Besides, this is fun and so many people take their New Year’s Resolutions too seriously.  Not to mention how serious it seems like  this year has been for people with the elections and the worries about the economy and all.  So, rather than be serious, why not try something more fun this year and generate your resolution randomly with the Diary of a Network Geek’s New Year’s Resolution Generator!
It’s fun! It’s FREE! And, I have to admit, it tends to lean toward resolutions that involve hard liquor and inappropriate behavior, especially with strangers.
Trust me, you’ll love it. Be sure to share it with all your drunk friends this weekend at your parties!
See you next year!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate."
   --Thomas Jones

12/7/2012

Writing Music

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Some music to create the Great American Novel by.

Or, you know, whatever it is you need to write.
Back in October, I brought you a link to soundtracks for your books, but this week, it’s music that will hopefully inspire your writing.  I know a lot of people who write to music, whether that’s PHP code, or fiction, or even blog entries.  And, of course, there are as many opinions about not only whether to listen to music or not, but what kind of music to listen to, as there are writers.  When I was writing more than I do now, I have to admit, I always had something on in the background, whether it was music or television or something else, just to keep part of my mind busy while I wrote.  And, when I got stuck, changing the music, or other background noise, often is what got me “un-stuck”.
So, whether you’re stuck or not, why not check out this article at NeuroTribes titled “Music to Write By” and see what ten very different writers have to say on the subject.  Who knows?  You may pick up some new tunes to help you the next time you get writer’s block!

Besides, you know if you’re reading my blog, you aren’t working any more this week anyway, so you may as well check it out.
Have a great weekend, y’all!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Never tell your girlfriend that her diet's not working."

11/23/2012

Rules for Writing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fiction,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:51 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The first rule is to WRITE!

No, seriously, in honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d link to things about writing and inspiration this month and, even though, I’m no great fan of rules, especially about writing, some people are.  So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share the Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.
They asked several authors, some of whom I am more familiar than others, and got each of them to list their “10 Rules for Writing”.  Some are funny, and some are a little too truthful, but one of them may help you break out of writer’s block, or just whatever writing rut you may have worked yourself into this month.
My favorite of the bunch, outside of all ten of Leonard Elmore’s rules, is “The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.”  That comes from Anne Enright, who I confess I have not heard of before, but who is entire correct.
So, get back to writing, okay?

Well, get back to writing after you click the link and read the other rules they have there.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"No matter what goes wrong, there is always someone who knew it would."

8/24/2012

Enough Money?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Yes, I’m a little obsessed with money this month.

No, it’s not because I can’t pay my bills.  Rather, it’s about work.  Now, for the most part, I enjoy my work.  I find it challenging, but not too challenging, and interesting and the pay is pretty good.  Also?  I have a ten-minute commute.  Hard to beat that!  But, the reality is, at heart, I’m a lazy bastard.  If I could skate by without working another day in my life, I totally would do that.  For real.
The problem with that, of course, is paying all those bills.  So, how to do it?  What kind of money do I need to be able to tell the world to, essentially, and pardon my language, “Fuck off”.  (Yes, what I’m talking about is commonly referred to as “Fuck You Money”.)  So, what would that take?  I don’t need to live like a king, but, to not work, I will need to keep getting money somehow, like through investments.  But, the question is, how much will it take and what kind of investment do I have to make to keep it coming steadily enough to pay the bills?

Luckily, a smarter gentleman than I, Nilesh Trivedi, has posted an Excel spreadsheet that will help you calculate just how much you need to start with and how good your investment needs to be so that you never have to answer to another boss again.  Download that, and read his explanation, here: How Much Is Enough? : A Formula for FU Money.  (And, if  you’re like me, you’ll start by saving the money you might have spent on Microsoft Office and open that spreadsheet in LibreOffice instead!)

So, there’s a little something to think about while you wait for the weekend! Enjoy!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
   --John Barrymore

8/17/2012

6 Personal Finance Apps

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Fun Work,Life Goals,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:54 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Can we ever have enough money?

Or be too thin or too good looking?  Well, I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve struggled at times with money.  It seems to slip through my fingers like water.  The harder I squeeze to hold on to it, the faster it seems to slip away.  But, I know that about myself, so I do what I can to stop the bleeding, so to speak.  For me, the first step is tracking where it all goes.  And, I mean, tracking every last dime.  Nothing is too small or too big to count.  Back in the day, I used to record every 50¢ can of soda I had at lunch and could tell you, to the penny, how much money I had in my pocket at any given moment.
Sadly, that was some time ago and I’ve slipped back into some of my old ways.  But, now, at least, I know how to tackle the problem.  In my case, the tool I use to capture my financial info has been Quicken, though I need the newest version still.  What’s changed since I had this problem last, though, is the miracle of smart phones.  So, I was quite thrilled to see PC Magazine review 6 personal finance apps.  I use an iPhone, so I tend to focus on iPhone apps, like those reviewed in the article, though I’m sure there are plenty of Android apps, too.

I’m not sure I’m ready to trust an app that synchronizes with a website, like Mint.com, for my personal finance needs, but some of the other ones reviewed looked interesting to me.
So, how about you all?  What do you use to keep track of your finances?

(Yeah, I know, not quite as “fun” as my regular Friday links, but I’ve been thinking about a more serious Tuesday post that just features tools of various kinds that I’ve used.  Thoughts on that would be welcome in the comments, too!)

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
   --Buddha

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