Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/1/2014

Get Smart with KeySmart!

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I debated writing an April Fool’s entry for this week, but I decided against it since this feature was so new. Maybe next year.KeySmartAsShippedMyKeySmart

Also, I noticed that I seem to be obsessed with locks and keys this month.  Or maybe every month.  In any case, this week the tool I’m talking about is the KeySmart.  I’m not sure if you’d call it a “key chain” or a “key management system” or what, but, as you can see from the photos, what it’s meant to do is make your keys neater, easier to manage and take up less room in your pocket.  It does all those things admirably well.

This started out as a project on Kickstarter, which I backed.  And, let me tell you, I am so happy that I did!  These things are fantastic!  In the photo on the right, you can see my two “active” KeySmarts.  The blue one is for work, because it matches the blue in our logo and it’s easy for me to remember.  The black one is my personal set of keys.  You’ll notice a couple of differences.  First, on the blue one, I have a single 8G USB drive attached at the key fob holder.  On the black one, you’ll see that I have a couple odd-shaped keys and a tiny, LED flashlight attached with the key fob ring.  That may be the only real down-side I see to the KeySmart, actually.  Those odd, bulky keys just don’t work in the KeySmart itself.  But, they are doing just fine as I have them.  In fact, I’ve happily had them on that ring for several months now and that solution works just great for me, giving me access without adding too much bulk.
That being said, that little drawback is also why I don’t keep my car keys on the KeySmart.  Of course, it’s probably a good thing anyway, since the weight of all those keys would probably mess up my ignition eventually.  Besides, if I valet park somewhere, I’d rather not give them my house key and my car key at the same time.  I’m a little paranoid that way.
KeySmartInUse

There are actually two basic kinds of KeySmart, both of which come in a rainbow of colors.  The “standard” length or the EXT-style, extended length like I have pictured here.  I’m very happy having gotten the extended style because of how the longer keys fit together in it.  Everything folds down all nice and neat, with nothing sticking out to catch or snag.
The basic configuration of either length can comfortably hold four keys, two on each end.  However, you can get post extenders that will let you fit more keys on per side.  The expansion packs also come with small washer and rubber o-rings to take up any slack that you might have from an uneven number of keys.  Personally, I recommend trying to just make it work out right with an even number of keys.  After a bit of fiddling around, that really seemed to work best.  You can see what comes with the smallest expansion pack in the photo at the top on the left.  That little baggie has the posts, washers and o-rings that make it easier to fit additional keys in your KeySmart.  I tried one of the larger expansion packs, but I found that it really got unwieldy in my pocket to have anything more than the smallest expansion pack.  Your mileage may vary on that, but I carry a lot of keys and the small expansion pack did quite well for me.

The posts are small, as you can see, but they still fit most keys.  The website sells blanks that will all work with your KeySmart, but I, and many other Kickstarter backers, found that it was very little trouble to use a rotary tool to expand the opening on the few keys that didn’t fit.  I had a couple keys that I had to do that on, but it only took a couple of minutes to get them all sized right to work.

KeySmart offers a USB drive that fits into their product, available in a range of storage capacities, and it’s okay, but I have to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with it.  I ended up having to use several of the rubber washers just to make it fit right and not rattle loose or make the keys around it loose.  What I found worked better for me was getting a [amazon_link id=”B00A3U8L8U” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]LaCie USB Key[/amazon_link].  The model I have seems to actually be discontinued, but it fits great.  I suspect that the current model, which is shorter, would do just fine, too.  It just slips in there like any other key would, though it does take up just a little bit more room than a regular key in the KeySmart.

I have to say, again, how pleased I am to have backed this when it was on Kickstarter.  There are other key management solutions, but this one is elegant, simple and rugged.  Also, relatively inexpensive at roughly $17 for the EXT+ versions that I have, not including the USB drives and expansion kits.  Very much a good deal in my book.
And, everyone I show these things to has run out to buy one!  That’s about as good an endorsement as I can give!

4/22/2009

Upgrading My Laptop Hard Drive

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,The Network Geek at Home — 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 Waning Crescent

Right, so this weekend I upgraded my laptop’s internal hard drive.

SeagateMobileSATA500GB

My trusty Toshiba Satellite, which I used all through my chemotherapy treatments almost two years ago, came with an 80 GB hard drive and was starting to fill up. All the pictures I take add up, I guess, especially when I shoot in RAW format. So, I decided that with drives being as cheap as they were, it was time for an upgrade. As I wrote Monday, I scooted over to MicroCenter and picked up a 500 GB Seagate 2.5inch, mobile, SATA drive on Saturday. They were on sale for $115, which is, I think, a pretty damn good price. I got a couple other things, too, since the drive upgrade and a previous memory upgrade makes my laptop the most capable machine in my house, outside of the servers upstairs. (Why are so many non-tech people surprised when I mention that I ran cable and have a server room, with servers?) Oh, and before I get too far, let me mention that you can click on any of the pictures here for larger versions if you want a closer look than the thumbnail. Just click back when you’re done admiring my work.

KingwinEZ-Connect02

The other essential piece of hardware to start out with is an external USB drive adapter of some kind. I bought the Kingwin EZ-Connect, pictured here. I got that at an earlier trip to MicroCenter, with whom I do NOT have an endorsement deal, by the way. I just love their store. In any case, I got this particular one for two reasons. First, it was under $30. Second, it could handle the three major types of drives that I’m likely to encounter on a regular basis.

KingwinEZ-Connect01

What you get in the box, as you can see, is a USB cable, a drive adapter, a power adapter and a power supply. Oh, you also get a small CD that has some drivers, which you don’t actually need if you’re using Windows XP, and some simple backup software. I didn’t actually use this software, but, rather, I went to Seagate’s website and downloaded their free utility called DiskWizard. There were a number of reasons why this made sense for this situation. For one thing, I didn’t want to just back up the drive, but I wanted to make a bit-for-bit mirror copy of the drive so that I can replace the old one and still have a bootable, working computer. For another, I’m familiar with Seagate’s utility and have successfully used it before.

So, after installing DiskWizard following the default prompts, I hooked up my new drive via the USB adapter.

CloningDrive

I did install the included software and the drive was immediately recognized. Then, again, I simply followed the DiskWizard prompts with a single false step when I had to go back and change an option in the cloning configuration to make sure the new drive was set to be bootable. I cannot stress that enough! When doing this, you absolutely must make sure that the new drive is being configured to be bootable, system drive. If you don’t do that, your machine will not boot when you change out the drive. If you use DiskWizard, it will require a reboot. In fact, after setting your configuration, the software will prompt you to reboot and, after the software reboots your machine, it will automatically launch and start the cloning process. The actual drive cloning took about an hour or two. I was running around doing other things, so I didn’t get a good time on it. Best just to allow several hours and, like I did, do other things to amuse yourself while you wait.

UnplugandRemoveBattery

Now, it’s important to remember to both unplug your laptop and disconnect the battery. Just unplugging won’t be enough to make your laptop safe to work on. As long as that battery is in there, you could suddenly have a jolt of electricity jump through the circuits and make any planned upgrades pretty much useless. Also? A little jolt of juice can bite you pretty hard, especially when you’re not expecting it!

The next step, obviously, is to remove the old drive.

OldDriveOut

In my case, it was pretty easy. In the past, on some laptops, getting the drive out required taking the whole machine almost totally apart. I’ll never forget having to take a laptop’s entire keyboard off the top of the case to get to drive bay! I had to take the screen off at the hinge and everything! It was a dangerous, delicate mess! But, on today’s laptops, you mostly just have to take off a single panel, as you can see in the picture. The drive was in there really snugly, thanks, in part, to the rubber, anti-vibration sleeves meant to keep the drive quieter in a laptop. What I found interesting, however, is that there were no screws holding the drive itself in. No cages or straps or anything outside of the SATA connections and the tightness of the fit. Because, the drive bay door fit very snugly and I had to apply pressure to get it in place correctly and screwed shut again.

NewDriveIn

On the right, you can see the drive bay still open with the new, freshly cloned drive in it and the old, small drive laying next to it.

This was actually a pretty simple upgrade to make. It was what I generally refer to as a “one screwdriver job”. By that I mean that I could mainly have done it with the tiny pocket tool I carry with me in my pocket. Though, in this case, I used the old, cheap red-handled screwdriver in the picture. It’s a freebie that is often used as a giveaway by tool companies. I’ve had that one since my first IT job, back when I worked for Hyatt Hotels. It’s a little beat up now, but it can still handle a nice, easy job like this.

NewDriveVeryGood

As you can see, the formatted drive is a little smaller than advertised. Also, they tend to round up a little and bytes and megabytes and gigabytes aren’t round numbers, so the math gets a little funky. Oh, and there was a special 251Meg partition that couldn’t be clearly identified by DiskWizard, even though it cloned the partition just fine. So, when you factor in all those things, you can see the nice, big partition, which is mostly empty and waiting for me to fill it up with great pictures!
Well, that’s the plan at least.

In any case, now you have some idea how to change out a laptop hard drive if you should ever want to upgrade for yourself. I really left out a lot of the nitty-gritty detail that I felt was either self-explanatory or that you should really know how to do before attempting this in the first place. Perhaps not the best tutorial, but at least a good step-by-step overview of how to get it done!


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