Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DBAN Hard Drive wiper

Check out this nifty tool to wipe a hard drive clean. It's only a 2MB down load. Burn it to a CD, boot to CD (it boots in about 5 seconds), type autonuke and it wipes your hard drive. Better than going to work on the disk with a hammer.

Good to use when selling or giving away your old machine so you don't leave personal data behind.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vista Backup is lame

I gave the MS Vista's backup utility a try and really never got started....

First, while sitting in my easy chair using my laptop I fired up "Backup and Restore Center" and I received this error.

You cannot create a backup or change backup settings when your computer is running on battery power. Attach a power cord and try again. (0x8100000B) (source)

Really? That's lame, but I wonder if they are trying to protect against me starting a large backup and then having the computer loose power in the middle.

I plugged into wall power and then...

As confirmed by Microsoft on their technet blog, you cannot use Vista backup to backup your Vista machine to an XP Home machine. The explanation I'm sure if very valid...but in the words of the Saturday Night Live News Desk, "Come On!"

The network share could not be accessed for the following reasons:
You need Full Control Permissions for the network share. Make the user a co-owner of the share, with Full Control. The network share cannot be on a computer running Windows XP Home. (0x8100002A)
Please ensure that the network location is valid.

It's as if MS is trying to stop us from backing up files!

The good news is that the errors are very clear so I wasn't guessing at some weird error code.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Headblade looks like the standard for shavin the head.

This nifty video demonstrates how to use it.

Taking a razor to you head

If you are looking for a good tutorial on creating a dome to remember then this is your link.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Camp Needmore web site

I've been toying with this for a while, but I finally have a simple web site for Camp Needmore...

Friday, August 22, 2008

iTunes won't stop trying to restore the iPhone

Somewhere in the process of upgrading the iPhone to the 2.0.2 software my system got stuck in a loop where iTunes wanted to set up a new phone (New Phone or Restore the iPhone to a previous backup).

I was able to get out of this weird loop by reading this thread and taking this action ... force closed itunes while I was restoring. Shut off/Reboot the phone. Start up itunes. Plug in the phone. Everything seems to be fine now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What kind of RAM do I have?

Finding the type of RAM to buy can be a pain. If you are using Windows and IE then Crucial is the way to go. Even with Firefox on Windows at least Crucial gives you a great tool to figure out what RAM to buy.

In linux it is a different story. This blog shows a lot of options for linux but nothing as good as Crucial with Windows.

I found that 'sudo lshw' worked pretty good for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Open Source Alternatives

Nearly every commercial piece of software has an open source alternative...some better, some worse. Osalt is a great web site to find those alternatives...


The gimp and open office are the obvious, but did you know about 7-zip instead of winzip or sumatra to write files in pdf format?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Every year Lara poses the kids with a sign for a special Father's Day picture. I am lucky. Happy Father's Day to all.
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Rails Up

The house railing project is chugging along. I think they look pretty good, if I do say so myself.

The last thing to do is put up the short little stair railing in a few days.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fruit Smoothies

1 Ripe Bannana
1 cup Vanilla Yogurt
1 cup Frozen hand picked strawberries
10 Blueberries
1 cup Apple drink
6 ice cubes

Put all ingrededients into the blender. Blend well. Drink and Enjoy.

-Reed, Amy, Daddy and Mommy6/10/2008
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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Replacing the porch railing

Our porch railing has a bunch of rotted wood and needs painting so I'm replacing it with vinyl railing. In these pictures I've torn down the old railing. Now I have a carpenter and painter coming in to do the hard work. They'll replace all the other rotting wood and then paint the exterior. A couple of the pillars need most of the wood replaced and I don't want to mess with that. Nor did I want to worry about the "load bearing" nature of those pillars. After they are done, putting up the new vinyl railing is a snap.

It's neat to see the house like this. A lot of old housed didn't have porch railings.

Notice the 1 set of new vinyl railings in the back. That was my test run. I started in the back so any screw ups are hidden.
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Summer came in strong

Just last week it was in the 60s. Then BAM, today it's 104!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saved me 10 bones

I was all set to pay $10 on a domain name just so I could access a good wiki on Google Apps when I discovered Google had made their "sites" feature available to non "Apps" users.

The url is a little ugly, but at least it's free.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A virus for Jim

Date: 4/27/08

Jim’s Laptop…

Toshiba Satellite M45-S269
Pentium M 1.7 Ghz
512 MB RAM
Windows XP version 2002 Home Edition XP2

This is the error message…

Your computer was infected by unkown Trojan.
It’s dangerous for your system (critical files can be lost)!

Click OK to download the antispyware program to clean your system!

I then tried to run Norton 360 but I couldn’t do a virus definitions update. I’d get this message.

A scan is already running. Please wait until it finishes and try again.

To get Norton to update I had to chat with the help desk from symantec.com. The first thing he did was kill a process called “scanstub.exe”, this process appeared to have hung somehow. The had to install another new patch or something called “i32 Intelligent Update”, but the help desk did it all and I just watched. The help desk logged into this computer using Logmein Rescue.

With Norton updated, the Norton help desk recommended I use the symatec.com/vremoval help desk to get help removing the virus. I figured I’d try on my own first. But it’s good to note that Symantec seems like they would help for free.

So, to fix the virus I followed the procedure on this Hijackthis forum
I would have tried system restore but the we didn’t know really when the computer became infected and we had installed other software. I’m not sure if we should have just done a restore or not. I wonder what the consensus is on that.

I installed and ran SUPERAntiSpyware
- found a bunch of things that I had and this software clean them all.
- this program will be running all the time checking for spyware. It’s probably a good idea to keep this on since Norton 360 didn’t detect any problems.

I installed and ran Malwarebyte’s Anti-malware
- found a bunch of things that I had and this software clean them all.
- this program does not run all the time, it only runs when you tell it

I’m not sure what actually fixed the problem, but now the virus seems gone.

I have installed Microsoft Update and am updating Windows XP.

Other things of note…

1. Zcfgsvc.exe seems to be using all the cpu and it hangs when we reboot. Maybe MS update will fix that.
a. Downloaded and installed new wireless proset drivers and that seems to have fixed it.
b. The new driver is Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG Network Connect
i. Old version dated 10/28/04 v.
ii. New version dated 6/26/06 v
c. The tricky part was that after installation I was getting a “failed loading plug-ins” message every time I booted. So, I went into add/remove programs and selected remove/update on the Intel Pro/wireless software. This gave me the option to reinstall, repair or remove the software. I did a repair and then told it to not install the only component it was trying to install (the troubleshooter). For some reason the other 3 items (Single Sign on, WMI and toolkit) were already marked as do not install. For whatever the reason, this worked.
2. It looks like 360 is automatically backing up data to some sort of on-line storage. I wonder if Jim knows this or if he has signed up to pay for this service.
3. Word documents and powerpoints have a little green check mark by them. I wonder if that’s something Norton 360 does for backups? The little green checks seem to go away from time to time.
a. Here is what I got from this blog
b. After the backup task completed I notice something a bit odd. The icons for many of my files now sported a checkmark in a green box at bottom left - kind of like the boxed arrow that appears at bottom right for shortcuts. It turns out this is a new backup feature. The green arrow means the file has been backed up and hasn't changed since. A blue box with chevrons (>>) means the file has changed and needs backup. And a slash in a gray box indicates the file is excluded from backup. Right-click any file and choose from the Norton 360 menu to add it to the backup, exclude it from backup, or scan it for malware. Oho! Now I can believe it's a beta - when I excluded a couple files the icon didn't change until I hit F5 to refresh.
4. Norton 360 didn’t seem to start on the last reboot. N360 started on the next boot so I don’t think that was a problem.
5. I installed and ran ccleaner. It cleaned off about 26MB worth of stuff and deleted a ton of registry entries. This seemed to make things faster.
6. I also updated the bios from v 1.1 to v 1.2. This was absolutely painless. I guess the days of scary bios updates are over since this is 3 laptops in a row that I’ve updated and had it be completely dummy proof.
7. On whim I did a shut down and noticed that XP then decided to install some updates. I don’t know what they were but they took 2-3 minutes before the shutdown completed. It seems like no harm, but I’ve never seem XP behave like that.
8. There must be a utility out there that will go find and update all system drivers…but I’ve never seen it.
9. I’d like to get a spyware, malware and virus checker for the thumbdrive. Then I could just sort of plug it in and go.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

FTP over SSL in FileZilla

I've been using FileZilla as an FTP server for some time but decided to go the next step and configure it for secure FTP. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this by using VPNs like Himachi or SSH servers like OpenSSH. I decided for simplicity to go with FTP over TLS/SSL. There are differences between SFTP and FTPS as described here but FTPS seems secure enough for my needs and easy to implement.

  1. On the FileZilla Server inteface I selected Edit->Settings.
  2. Under SSL/TLS Settings I first Generated a new certificate and saved it somewhere on my hard disk that is out of the way, yet I'd know where to find it. I filled in all the information and selected Generate. This created 1 file that is a key and a certificate.
  3. Next I "Enabled SSL/TLS support"
  4. for the Private key file and the Certificate file I chose the file I generated in step 2.
  5. I typed in a password, but I'm not sure what it's for.
  6. OK
  7. On the Filezille Client I went to the my hosts tool to save these settings for my server.
  8. port = blank...it picks the default
  9. ServerType = FTPES - FTP over explicit TLS/SSL
  10. LogonType = normal; user=regular FTP user; password=regular FTP password
  11. OK
  12. Finally I configured my NAT routers to forward the new port (as listed in FileZilla Server settings) to the FTP server.
  13. During the first first use of each client I have to accept the certificate, but from then on it's good to go.

This worked like a champ. Since it was so easy I'm sure there is something unsecure about it, but it's better than wide open FTP.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why use 2 browsers?

My issue is that my wife and I like to use the same computer, use our own email accounts, bookmarks and other settings and not be stuck switching users in Vista all the time. If we both used IE7 then we'd have to log off and on to our web-mail accounts all the time....what a pain! The answer was very simple, but I've never heard anyone ever talk about this. We use 2 different web browsers.

On our computer we leave 2 web browsers open all the time. I use Firefox and Lara uses IE7. I don't really have a preference since both browsers to everything we ask. The beauty is that we can both be logged into gmail on the same computer at the same time. When I was up to our computer it's already logged on an ready to go, no fuss no muss.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Yahoo mail has me stuck

I've been loyal yahoo mail subscriber since about 2000 but I am considering giving it the boot. But it's not that easy. On one hand the gmail is so good and the new yahoo mail web-client is so, so bad...on the the other hand I am completely investing in my yahoo email address to the point where switching sounds as bad as changing my name.

The web client that yahoo mail released about a year ago has been a horrible experience for me. I like the idea of updating the look and feel to a more rich and interactive interface. What I hate is the FLASHY ads, inability to change my home page, no POP3/IMAP support and the poor reliability of the client itself. I also refuse to pay the $20/year for the yahoo mail plus service. Yahoo mail plus eliminates the adds, home page and POP3 but 20 bucks is 20 bucks. The reliability is something that suprises me. Many times a week when I attempt to view an email message I get "unable to retrieve message" error and I have to come back after a while just to read email. I wonder if it's because I have 3,000 emails in my inbox?

So why not change? 8 years worth of signing up for email alerts and educating the family on my new address doesn't seem worth it. I still have some family members trying to send email to my erols.com account from 1999. What are the chances they'll buy into my new email.

Maybe some day I'll switch cold turkey, but until then I'll continue to use and complain about yahoo mail.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bizarre Part 2

To follow up on last night's post. Things seem all fixed without me doing anything.

When I got home from work I noticed that the computer had rebooted itself during the day. When I logged in again the iTunes database was there so iTunes loaded everything just fine, the start menu shortcuts worked and all was well.

It's as if when I rebooted the laptop in an attempt to clear up the internet connection problem Vista didn't load or find my user profile properly. It makes some sense to me that the start menu shortcuts might take a bit flip and not work 1 time, but the vanishing iTunes database is something else. Somehow the entire "Music" folder was different for just that 1 logon session.

It's not to often you get a second chance. I have now backed up the music folder and I'll continue to investigate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bizarre Computer Behavior

Weird things happened to our computers. 1 is the inability to browse the web and the other is some missing data.

  1. 0745 3/11/08 - downloaded and installed "isitup"
  2. ~0750 3/11/08 - lost ability to browse the web. I could ping the Google ip address but not the Google URL.
  3. I left it alone and went to work. With isitup set to monitor the Google ip and the Google URL.
  4. 1945 3/11/08 - Google ip was good all day but the Google URL was out all day.
  5. Lara plugged in to sync her iPhone but it wouldn't sync since itunes was "empty." The itunes database is gone from the My Music folder so itunes had to start fresh. The music file are still on the server the but the itunes data is gone.
  6. The Documents and Pictures buttons on the start menu do not open anything. The larson, Music and Games buttons do open to the proper folder. The properties of Documents and Pictures are empty as if there are corrupted or something.
  7. Since things are weird I'll start a Mcafee virus scan just in case.
  8. I couldn't browse the web from any computer in the house but I could ping the Google URL and the Verizon DNS ip addresses.
  9. I hard rebooted the Netgear router, but that didn't change anything.
  10. I then reconnected Gateway laptop to the Actiontec router and did an nslookup www.google.com. This didn't work the first time, but after a few seconds I tried and again and it worked.
  11. It's as if this kick started things since now I can browse the web from any computer in the house again. Maybe I need a firmware update to the Actiontec.
  12. 2245 3/11/08 - Opening FireFox (v2.0.0.12) asked me if I wanted to import settings from IE as if this was the first time I'd used FireFox on this computer (ekalaka). I answered no to importing anything. Yet, after opening FireFox I see that my bookmarks are still there.
  13. 1115 3/11/08 - Mcafee finished and it found 18 cookies which Mcafee removed. This doesn't see like a big issue.

Monday, March 3, 2008

editing exif data

I'm liking the geosetter tool (http://www.geosetter.de/) for updating the date and other metadata "EXIF" information on jpegs. With all these scans of photos it is invaluable to be able to put the correct date on pictures. Geosetter also allow me to put comments, aka "captions," in the jpeg file that is displayed be Windows and Picasa as a caption. The tool helps me put in latitude and longitude and a ton of other metadata.

iPhone 1602 error

When syncing Lara's iPhone I received this error "iPhone could not be updated. An unkown error occurred (1602)" and iTunes wouldn't sync the phone.

A quick google brought up this article on the apple web page (link). This page directed me to completely remove and re-install iTunes. I didn't like the sound of that. So, another google search found this page (link) . This blog gives much better news. All I had to do was connect the phone to a different USB port. This worked like a champ. I then switched back to the original USB port and it still worked, no fuss no muss.

So much for apple's guidance. The lesson learned is to research of a couple different sources before doing anything drastic.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

To much information?

I wish I had something profound to say after watching this video. Part of me wants to question the statistics, but that's just being a killjoy. I wonder what they define as "new" information. This blog posting might technically be "new" information, but I'm not sure the relative value to the Earth. Maybe that's the trick. Thought: The web has made it easier to create "new" information, thereby creating this new problem of generating more information than can be effectively used.

Part of this video indicated that the U.S. needs to be prepared to not be the "biggest", "best" county on the Earth. The interesting part is that China is Communist Dictatorship and I'm not convinced that method of government can be really successful. Also, part of the population explosion in India is due to lack of education in young women...not necessarily due to the bi-lingual college graduations. That said, I think persons in the U.S. must become multi-lingual just to remain relevant.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm on a mission to fix all of our scans of old photographs so they have the correct date and location data. A scan of a photo from 1932 ends up with a "date taken" or something like 2008. Then photo management software gets screwy since the dates are wrong.

I'm trying a tool called Geosetter to edit the dates and add location data. It seems to work ok but it is very complicated. This looks like the best tool to edit the actual EXIF data in the image. Picasa and windows use a custom database to manage the imagery. Photoshop Elements Album appears to edit the EXIF data but it's more clunky and I'm not convinced it's working right. I like using Geosetter party since I know it's editing the actual file and not some database.

1. For date and time it makes be put in not only the time, but the time in relation to GMT. I use GMT-5, since that is the current GMT offset for Virginia. I don't quite understand why minus 5 also worked for Las Vegas pictures. When I review the EXIF data I don't see anything about GMT "offset".

2. Location data is very simple with geosetter. I just search for a location and click the little balloon to add the lat/long to the jpg.

ultimately I want to get rid of all the duplicate old files. Then start off with a sort of golf copy of the old photos with the right metadata.

I hope to get it down to a simple science so that I can digitize "all" of mine and Lara's family's hardcopy photos.