Upgrade Windows 7 RC to Official Release

Microsoft treated a lot of geeks and technies with a Release Candidate (RC) of Windows 7. By the time the official Windows 7 came out, a lot of us learned that we couldn’t upgrade to the actual Win7 and would have to reformat our computers to do so.

Fortunately, my friends over at How-To Geek figured it out. You basically just copy the entire disk to your hard drive, edit a configuration file, and then run the setup wizard.

For a step by step, check here.

Cloning a Hard Drive Using dd

The other day I helped a friend with his daughter’s computer. The issue was that she had a machine with a 50GB hard drive, all one partition, and it was 99% full. It was a small form factor Dell with only 1 bay for a SATA drive, so simply adding another drive was out of the question. So, how do I get everything from the old hard drive to a new 500GB drive quickly and efficiently?

Easy: dd. What is dd you ask? Well, its a pretty awesome little utility in Linux distros that manipulates file systems at the low, block level. So, this means that you really need to be careful, because you can seriously destroy any hopes of recovering/copying data if you mess up the command.

For starters, you either need a bootable Linux disc, such as Knoppix, or you just need a machine with Linux already installed. For this, I used a netbook I have with Ubuntu 9.10 installed. You will also need at least one external drive enclosure. For my project, I needed two. One for the new drive and one for the old. If you are booting to a disc, pop the disc into the old computer with the drive that is going to be replaced and plug up the new drive via USB.

After you have booted into your Linux distro, you will need to determine which drive is which. This is a very important step. With Ubuntu, you can use the disk utility and easily determine which drive is which. You are looking for something that says “/dev/sda” or something similar (could be /dev/sdb, sdc, etc..). Once you have determined which drive is which, you can open a terminal and begin the process.

For the sake of examples, lets assume that the old drive is “/dev/sdo” and the new drive is “/dev/sdn” (O for old, N for new). The command would look something like this:

dd if=/dev/sdo of=/dev/sdn conv=noerror,sync

The if part of command is “input file” and of is “output file”, the “conv=noerror,sync” tells dd that if it can’t read a block for some reason, it should at least write something the same length/size.

This process takes quite some time. For the 50GB hard drive, it took about 10 hours to copy. After it is done, you can take out the old hard drive and put in the new one. Then turn on your machine and it will boot just like it used to. But, this is only part of the solution. The dd command also copied the partition table, which means that you still only have 50 GB.

Next we need to extend the partition. In Windows, a great tool to use is EASEUS. In Linux, you can use gparted. They both have a GUI and are pretty easy to figure out.

So there  you have it, and if you are uncomfortable or need help, just comment on this post and I will be glad to contact you and help you out.

How Not to Use Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and countless iPhone/Android/Palm/WinMo apps. All of them allow you to post things like where you live, what your hometown is, who your relatives are, etc. Many people don’t realize how much a security risk this really is. Many password reset questions ask for Mother’s Maiden Name. If you happened to list your mom as a relative to you on Facebook, guess what… well, I’m sure you know the rest.

You may have also seen status updates and Tweets about going out and about. There are also mobile device apps that will track and report your location. Well, one web site has capitalized on PUBLIC INFORMATION that has been placed on the internet for all to see, and has organized it.

The website? A pretty appropriate name: www.pleaserobme.com. Check it out.

Remember, if you are going to use social media, just be careful as to what you put out there. If you are using a mobile device, pay close attention to the privacy settings. It does not behoove oneself to share everything.

A Personal Story, A Day in the Life of Me

I was at a client site today to investigate why a certain gentleman’s PC Card wasn’t working correctly. I have never met the guy before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I walked in, I saw this guy who pretty much reminded me of a mix between Grizzly Adams and ZZ Top. He had long grey hair and an equally long and grey beard. He was looking quite dashing in his flannel shirt, Cabela’s vest, blue jeans, and untied boots. I introduced myself to him and we began to look at his issue.

I first tried to release the card from the slot with the button. After several attempts, this did not prove to be working. I then tried to get a hold of it with my fingertips, but couldn’t grasp the card. I told the gentleman that I might have to take the laptop apart to get it out. He then informed me that “that’s not necessary!” and pulled out his trusty pocket knife. At this point, I knew what was about to happen, but like watching a car wreck, I just stood in amazement. He put the pocket knife between the case of the laptop and the edge of the card and pried at it until it came out. It was at this point that I realized numerous marks where he had done this before.

After inspecting the card, it was clear that it was not made to go in that slot. I explained this to him and he seemed fine with that. The odd thing was, he seemed to think that prying into his laptop case was a completely normal way to handle the situation.

I have heard stories like this before about users. You know, the one’s about someone using a CD tray as a cup holder, but I never really thought they were based on any fact, just something a geek made up for a good story. Now I wholeheartedly believe it.