Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computers. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tucows, Soft32 & Cnet

Tucows and Soft32 manufacture new versions of programs that even the program's developers don't know about. These "new versions" are wrapped up in Soft32's and Tucow's "Download Administrator," which attempts to install malware on the end-user's computer. The motive for manufacturing a bogus new version is to tempt existing users of the program to download the "new" version--along with their revenue-generating "Download Administrator." Cnet uses a similar "Download Administrator," but I haven't detected bogus program versions yet, so it seems Cnet's management clings to one last, tattered shred of ethics--at the moment at least--or else they have eluded my vigilance, the cunning rascals.

Apparently these supposedly "free" download sites are desperate to make money, so they have joined forces with malware vendors intent upon crippling and misusing people's computers. Such vendors prey upon the technologically less sophisticated users, like my mother.

Thus, Tucows, Soft32 and Cnet represent unsafe web sites that must not be used by anyone except those prepared to take great risk with their computer system, such as professional computer investigators. I would recommend banning these sites altogether to prevent the unwary from accessing them.

A good site for obtaining free software used to be Source forge, but from what I understand, that site may also be oozing in the direction forged by the above corporate culprits.

It seems the almighty dollar is prized above ethics. Those with money always want more and they are willing to do anything at all in order to get it. When such souls pass on, they should be remembered for what they were. Big-shot, big-name CEO's, even of major computer manufacturing companies, are not exempt from posterity's judgment. If they sent American jobs overseas, betrayed America in other ways, crippled computers, or harmed people in some other way, then such deeds tend to overshadow their other endeavors. They made a bunch of money--big deal, so what, who cares? No form of currency is recognized after death.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Use Duck Duck Go and I'm Proud of It

There are several things I like about DuckDuckGo, a search engine competing with Google. For one thing, there needs to be an alternative to Google. I think everybody realizes that an absolute monopoly is not a good thing. However, I don't like my web sites getting hit by a thousand different bots from a thousand different search engines, either. It is obviously more efficient for just a handful of bots to patrol the web looking for new sites and evaluating their rankings and relationships. To that end, DuckDuckGo doesn't send out its own bots, but purchases search data from Bing and Yahoo and repackages it using its own filtering algorithms. DuckDuckGo bans content mills and may offer superior results to Google, which seems to be the #1 target of all SEO scum.

Another thing I like about DuckDuckGo is what I call the silly factor. I like the name and I like the quacking duck, all right? Is there anything wrong with that? I didn't think so. A ducky on my browser is a necessity. The ducky protects against dragonflies.

Another cool thing about DuckDuckGo is that it is Linux-friendly. Apparently some money trickles down to Linux Mint and various other Linux distros in exchange for making DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Firefox in those distros. I think that is fair, considering that these distros are provided free of charge to the end user, although donations are requested (but not often enough provided).

Google, like all companies, runs the risk of getting too big for its britches and becoming another unresponsive, uncaring, ambivalent corporate behemoth. I'm not actually a critic of Google. I like Google and I like a lot of the things that Google does. I can't think of anything I disapprove of in relation to Google. But almost by instinct I tend to gravitate toward the underdog, and the sillier, fiercer and feistier, the better, in my book.

I'm not a fan of Yahoo, because Yahoo serves up too many ads and toolbars. I believe Yahoo is lacking in ethics. Bing on the other hand suffers from the connection to Microsoft. It's just too smooth and too non-innovative, offering no new features, intent upon dwelling in the shadow of Google.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

IRC is a Fetid Corpse

IRC is beyond dead. I visited again tonight just to confirm my initial impression. Oh, God. It's horrible. Deathly quiet. A pall over all the channels, all of them with the exception of the ones that have text (spam) flowing in from outside sources. The few human beings slant towards being extremely anti-social, cliquish and downright hostile to anyone they do not know. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to communicate with anyone on IRC, so I uninstalled my IRC program and have no plans to ever play around with that nonsense again.

I did, however, find a site on the Internet where it is possible to communicate with human beings online in a fun and engaging manner. I think web sites have supplanted IRC, and good riddance, because IRC stands for I Reject Communicating. The problem always was that IRC favored the geeks, while normal people steered clear.

Even spammy, weird, virus-strewn and random Usenet is friendlier than IRC.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

IRC is a Desert

I tried IRC tonight. It was a desert. Every channel I joined had few to no comments. The few channels with activity slanted toward the geeky end of the spectrum and were neither welcoming nor interesting unless one has a great deal of expertise in the particular technical niche being discussed. For three hours I trudged through the sands of this desert. There was no oasis anywhere. Everywhere were signs warning of the consequences for spammers, trolls, and assorted rule-breakers. I thought that was amusing. The admins would be lucky to have a spammer, troll, or rule-breaker, because at least that would constitute activity. IRC seemed to me boring and pointless. Most channels have no activity at all, but the activity I did detect was of the snooze-inducing variety. I suppose all the nice people are on Facebook these days. I'm done with IRC for the time being. I feel the same way about Craigslist. There are ghettos on the Internet where one does not wish to go or where one might drive by in transit to a better place.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Avoiding a Critical Pitfall in Windows Backup and Restore

Windows Backup and Restore does not handle hardware I/O errors in an elegant manner. It displays a cryptic error message and aborts the process. That is a potential pitfall, because hard drives develop I/O errors over time. To my knowledge, all media are vulnerable to I/O errors. The only variance involves the degree of vulnerability.

In the future, I will use Windows Backup only for system-related files and directories. Media directories should be backed up separately using Windows Explorer. This will minimize the size of the Windows backup image while increasing the speed of restoration, but most importantly, it will minimize the potential of an I/O error stopping the restoration.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Windows: As Stupid as the Day is Long

Q. How many days are required to install Windows 7?

A. Wrong question. Replace "days" with "weeks." Windows refuses to install any drivers, so upon installation, the computer cannot connect to the Internet, cannot display higher than 640 x 480 resolution, and cannot read from USB drives. Linux distros perform these tasks, which is why Linux is more user-friendly than any Windows product.

But the very worst problem with Windows is that when an old hard drive begins failing, and a user connects a new hard drive to install Windows, Windows will secretly botch the install and sabotage all labor performed. That is, after Windows has (presumably) been installed on the new hard drive, and dozens of software applications have been installed and configured and updated, and Windows Update has downloaded 600+MB of updates and installed them, and all the media files have been copied onto the new hard drive, and then the old hard drive is disconnected and the power shut off--Windows won't boot. Ever. It's a botched install. Why? Because Microsoft is stupid and hates its customers. Instead of installing Windows to the new hard drive, what Microsoft did was install it to both drives, so that the new hard drive is forever dependent upon the old.

Almost any Linux distro is better than Windows due to the many "gotchas" in the Windows world, which inflict a multitude of pranks on the end users to compel them to either buy entire new systems or spend countless hours dealing with Microsoft-imposed problems. Most people I know simply chunk their old computer and buy a new one. I am one of the few that are willing to put up with all the crap Windows dishes out in order to save money. Indeed this is probably the reason why Microsoft inserted that little trap. Their system is malicious by design. Since Microsoft colludes with manufacturers, it is in "their" interest (Microsoft and the manufacturers) to prod users to replace, rather than repair aging computer systems. I don't know how much money is sucked out of the world economy due to Windows, but the figure is probably in the billions.

Windows is very similar to malware in a number of respects, from its poor design to its bugginess and its ways of harming the user by stealing time and effort. I wouldn't use Windows at all if it were not for ACDSee and Call Clerk, two applications that require it. The main problem with Windows is that it hides the details from the user and tries to simplify complicated matters, but the way that they go about achieving these objectives is completely wrong. Windows 7 is worse than Kubuntu, worse than PCLinuxOS, worse than Open Suse, and worse than almost any major Linux distribution I can think of, any distro that occupies a slot in the top ten list of Distro Watch. Anyone who tries these Linux distros cannot fail to arrive at the same conclusion. I look forward to the day when I can run nothing but Linux, when ACDSee and Call Clerk will at least work from Wine. Until that blessed day arrives, I am compelled to struggle with the weird maliciousness of Windows.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Namecheap, the Worst Web Hosting Company

Namecheap, Inc. just sent me an invoice for--well, I don't know what. They expect me to pay a bunch of money because, I guess, they need money. I haven't hosted with them in years and my domain is no longer registered with them. I'm not surprised their morals are amiss. Namecheap is possibly the worst web host in existence. Their service was lousy, with unexplained bizarre errors, and their tech support, which I frequently had to use, was foreign, incompetent, unresponsive, and uncaring. I was never so happy as when I abandoned my Namecheap account and moved to a different host, even though it cost me financially to do so. Namecheat is more like it.

The host I recommend is Bluehost, a class act all around. They may be Mormon-owned for all I know, but they do web hosting right, and on the extremely rare occasion that I have needed their tech support, I have talked to real, live American techies on the telephone who know what they are doing. I've never been talking to a Bluehost representative without feeling like they are intelligent and, perhaps more importantly, care. I've used Bluehost for many years. I don't know of any other web host that is as good as they are, although it's true I haven't tried many. Bluehost is even recommended by Wordpress, which I think is very impressive in itself. Their founder runs the entire company on Mac or Linux, scorning Microsoft. I've followed his blog off and on through the years. I doubt we would agree on politics, but as far as computers go, I think we are in agreement.

For the past couple days, my site on Bluehost has become inaccessible around midnight every day without explanation and stays slow until the morning. So I can't recommend Bluehost without reservation. I need to become more cautious about my enthusiasm for things. It seems like the very moment that I praise something, that's when I discover its shortcoming. In the case of Bluehost, I discovered their nightly slowdown about the same time that I renewed for two years. However, I think that this may have been a temporary glitch, possibly due to Wordpress attackers.

If this is the only post any visitor to my blog ever reads, then so much the better. Namecheap caused me hardship with their unexplained errors and incompetent service.

7/30/2013 Update: This post against Namecheap has been attacked on over ten separate occasions by spam comments linking to malware sites that try to infect people's computers with viruses. My policy now is that whenever that happens, this post will be updated to be the front-page, very first post; or else I may post another message about Namecheap and its sleazy, unethical business practices. There's no way that Namecheap can get out of their well-deserved poor reputation. They are going to have to live with it, no matter how many spammers they hire.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Speed Up Windows Backup

Backing up Windows is essential, because forty forevers are needed to get a Windows install back up to snuff. I used to use Clonezilla to clone my Windows install, but Clonezilla is quite limited for use with a failing hard drive. There is the "rescue" mode, which I used, but I found that the display suffered severe corruption due to I/O errors that displayed rather untidily wherever. Apparently, Clonezilla only updates five numerical values during the cloning process. The labels for these values are not updated, so any errors that pop up simply result in a mess. I did not like looking at that, because in order to interpret the display, I had to google Clonezilla and find a screenshot of what the screen is supposed to look like during ordinary operation. The Clonezilla web site does not offer such a screenshot, I guess because it was deemed unimportant. I tried the very latest version of Clonezilla Debian and Clonezilla Ubuntu, and both had the same behavior. Compounding the problem, I noticed that the "time remaining" value was constantly increasing, rather than decreasing. Of course I do not wish for the cloning process to last all my days, so I aborted the process by hitting the power button, which to my knowledge is the only way to regain control. I think in the future I will only recommend Clonezilla for drives free of I/O errors, and suggest that a drive scan be performed prior to attempting to use the program.

I resorted to using the Windows Backup in Windows 7. I did not have high expectations, but actually I have found it is fairly good, although simple-minded. The display does not get corrupted, which is nice, and what is even nicer is that I can continue using the computer while it is backing things up. The one problem I ran into is that by accepting Windows Backup defaults, again the backing up takes forever. It is much slower than it should be. Googling for help, I found that many users complain about the same problem. I made a simple observation that I am sure has occurred to others. First of all, Windows Backup attempts to compress files, which is often a bad idea, because some files are already compressed, such as jpegs and many popular video and music formats. For some users, such files comprise the overwhelming majority of the space used on their hard drive. This I believe is the main reason that many users complain about slow backup. I do not think Windows Backup is intelligent enough to skip compression for already compressed file formats. For the sake of performance, it should be storing these files, rather than attempting compression. Instead, it is attempting to compress them further, wasting time, because little or nothing will be gained in space. Once a file is compressed, it is impossible to compress it further without using a more efficient algorithm, and I doubt that Windows Backup uses the most efficient algorithm in the world. I do not know why Microsoft went this route.

The solution to slow backup in Windows Backup, in such cases as described above, is to pick and choose the directories to be backed up. The video, music, and picture directories should be copied using Windows Explorer to the backup drive. Windows Backup should not touch them, because that will only slow the backup process down a great deal. Where Windows Backup excels is at compressing all of the system files, documents and data files and areas that the user cannot easily access. I let Windows Backup handle all of that for me. It is actually a pleasant little utility that seems a lot nicer to use than certain alternatives, but like all tools, it does have its limitations.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Firefox Sync: Unintuitive

I never remember how to use Firefox Sync, and that means I can't recommend Sync to anybody. I recommend Firefox, because I love Firefox Add-Ons and the open source nature of Firefox, but Sync has given me frequent problems. In the first place, it doesn't always work for me. Sync stopped working for me once I amassed over 30 styles in Stylish. When I updated my operating system and installed Firefox, I couldn't Sync. There was no error message, but the Syncing failed. I tried several times and wasted about an hour before online research, which is my particular strength, informed me that Sync was broken and buggy. There is a storage limitation on their Sync server, and instead of informing the user about this, Firefox simply fails to Sync, leaving the user to wonder if he did something wrong and should try again a hundred-odd times until it works, which wastes bandwidth and time for everybody, Mozilla included. In the end, I lost all my styles.

But Sync has more problems than just not working right. I can't figure it out half the time. I always have to read the documentation. It is not clear to me how to sync or what each sequence of clicks will do. I have more than once lost an entire Firefox configuration due to the non-intuitive, user-hostile Sync interface. If I can't figure it out--and I'm not exactly a newcomer when it comes to computers--I wonder how all the other users are doing with it. I think it would be very easy to code Sync in such a way that it is intuitive and easy to understand. I think it would take all of an afternoon and nothing more. I just think whoever programmed it was not that skilled at user interfaces and is probably more of a backend coder, possibly good at making a system function but not so good at explaining it to human beings.

I find Thunderbird annoying in a similar manner. I can't figure out how to stop spam. Thunderbird marks emails it thinks are spam, but delivers them anyway in my "In" Box, alerting me with a visual and audible signal about the important spam message. I find Thunderbird pretty primitive as far as an email client goes, but it is still better than Kmail, which requires me to enter my password each and every time I check my email. I do not see the point of using a mail reader in the first place if there is a need to enter the password. Might as well used web-based email in that scenario.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Social Skills and Those That Lack Them

I admire those that have the knack for smooth social interaction, who can express themselves without resorting to crude and ugly phrases. I am rather less impressed by technical skills, perhaps because I have 'em. When I think about the people I like the most and the one I chose to spend my life with, it is clear that social skills are their foremost quality. Etiquette, sensitivity, insight, thoughtfulness--these qualities sometimes seem scarce in online discourse. Reading some people's messages, I wonder how they could possibly have good relations with anyone at all. My guess is that they probably don't.

I have been both moderator and admin and know what goes on and who goes into a forum. I do not envy moderators. Unless there is pay--adequate compensation--the better choice is to pass. The power, the glory? Eh, there's no glory, and power is only resented, whether used or not.

Nevertheless, online discourse has improved over the years. Back in the day, things were worse. Nowadays everybody has a computer of some kind. Computer use has become more democratized. Technical skills are not the filter, the prerequisite for participation in a forum. Thus, some forums, particularly those with wider appeal, are more representative of the human population, rather than being the exclusive province of geeks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flashblock 1.5.17 Eliminates Annoying Flash Autoplay

Ah. Peace and quiet again on my browser. Thank you, Flashblock 1.5.17, another fantastic Firefox add-on!

News sites like USA Today have gotten obnoxious, playing video the minute one clicks on an article. They must assume that their guests are lazy. Perhaps that may be so. When I visit, I don't want my reading interrupted by someone speaking to me. I can acquire more information reading than listening to someone read for me. I don't know what is wrong with the world that people don't want to read. I often find that when I search for things, Youtube videos are at the top of the search rankings. I want to know who has the time to wade through a ten or twenty minute video to learn a piece of information that could be found in thirty seconds in a well-written article?

I wonder if Google Chrome has such a feature as Flashblock? Probably not is my guess. There is so much Chrome cannot do. People claim it's faster playing their precious videos, so I guess that is what is important to them. For my part, I install an add-on to disable videos, because they are annoying.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Subscribing by Email

My mail reader informs me of new messages instantly. Partly for that reason, I never subscribe to newsletters. I never want to receive email from any company unless I have had recent or ongoing business with that company. Amazon sends me email when I write a review, or when someone comments on my review, and that is all right as well. Email in response to recent action is all right. However, companies assume that someone wants a newsletter on the slightest pretext. I left a comment on ZDNET recently, and their morons concluded I wanted a newsletter subscription. ZAP! POW! WRONG! If I want to read something, I will visit a site or subscribe via RSS. Only important matters should be transmitted via email. Email is for friends and business contacts only. Has ZDNET never heard of RSS feeds? What dinosaurs! Actually, I don't use RSS either, but if I were of a mind to want a regular newsletter, then RSS is how I would go about it.

Some outfits require a user to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to unsubscribe. Many require typing in the email address. I don't bother with all of that. The maximum effort I'm willing to put forth to unsubscribe is two clicks. I am doing the sender a favor by actually being nice enough to unsubscribe. If a third click or any typing is required, then I won't unsubscribe. Instead, I'll mark the email as spam. The more people that mark such email as spam, the more likely that the email provider, such as Yahoo, will default all the sender's emails to the spam folder for all users, which is right, because newsletter-pushers are indeed spammers.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Linux? I Don't Even Know What That Is

I told one of my clients today that I use Linux, and they replied, "I don't even know what that is." My client was sick of Windows 8 and wanted to dial back to Windows 7, so without thinking twice, she bought a copy from a local retail store. Of course, Microsoft wins; they sold her both Windows 8 and Windows 7, which makes for quite an expensive operating system--about $150, all told. Microsoft is being rewarded for making a turkey out of Windows 8.

In my view, she'd be better off with Linux, but how can I suggest a thing she never even heard of? Linux deserves better name recognition, but what can be done? One can point out that most of the web sites in the world run on Linux, and that mobile devices often use Linux, but that is not quite as apparent as the brand one sees on almost every laptop or desktop.

What deters me from recommending Linux even more is that mainstream Linux distros have little issues, and Linux gurus or even Linux journeymen are thin on the ground. She can't ask her friend, neighbor or nephew for help with a Linux system. That's quite a disadvantage.

Could I in good conscience recommend Kubuntu? Nope. My Kubuntu 13.04 system running KDE 4.10.3 is now booting up with two blankscrn.kss windows for no apparent reason. Do I really want her calling me on the phone asking what is wrong with Kubuntu and how did it get infected by a virus? Then there was the problem I wrestled with where Kubuntu dialed the clock back three hours. I had to use the command line to fix that problem and some pretty arcane syntax, too.

Could I recommend Open Suse 12.3? Nope. Open Suse won't install a printer for anybody but a bonafide geek. Open Suse will give an error message the minute she tries connecting to the Internet. Open Suse will give an error message on her very first update after installation, because even after all these years, the devs haven't learned to remove the dvd from the repository list. I wouldn't recommend Open Suse to anybody.

The only Linux distro I'd feel safe recommending to a low-tech individual would be Linux Mint Xfce or Cinnamon, but there again, Linux users are thin on the ground, so anybody who ventures into the Linux world has to be comfortable browsing and researching online forums and wikis in order to resolve the occasional unforeseen and the unexpected. I am comfortable and I think extremely good at performing online research, but the average user is not. The average user wants to speak to somebody on the phone or better yet, ask someone in person. At least with Windows, everybody and their brother knows a little something and the herd can help each other cope with Windows' eccentricities.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Post PC May Be OK For Some, Not Me

I often read in the media a premature obituary about the death of the desktop and how mobile gadgets are taking over the world. Maybe that is so. I know that a lot of my friends use mobile phones, although many also use desktops in addition to or instead of mobiles.

Although I'm sure mobile gadgets are useful for highly mobile individuals, such as salesmen and executive types, for the average person, I'm against mobile gadgets. If you invest in one of these traps, have fun buying a new gadget every two years when the old one has a minor glitch and has to be completely replaced with a brand new one. Gadget-makers do not encourage repair or tinkering. Gadget-makers do not design using the modular approach. Gadget-makers manufacture disposable items with planned obsolescence, which is bad for the environment and bad for the economy, because people have to keep buying the same products over and over. Me, I'm sticking with desktops, for several reasons, foremost of which is that if something goes awry, the modular design of the desktop allows me to swap out the bad part, like a bad hard drive, and plug in a good part. So I can "upgrade" for $100, tops, whereas those using mobile devices have to buy a whole new thingamajiggy. I have used the same case, scanner, and printer for over ten years. Ten years! It could have been even longer, because desktop cases simply last forever and ever. My desktop's other parts were not thrown away, but instead sold on Ebay, offsetting the cost of new parts. I never have to buy more than about $100 of parts to maintain my desktop. For the most part, nothing has ever broken--no piece of hardware has ever fried or burned or gone silent. The only reason I swap them out is to improve performance or increase storage. I find that desktops are more reliable because they are based on proven technology that has withstood the test of time. To a certain extent, even laptops enjoy something of this reliability, in comparison to less reliable phones.

My desktop can do about a hundred times more than a mobile ever could, because my desktop has high definition resolution, a real mouse, a real keyboard, real speakers, storage space measured in terabytes, and peripherals such as a printer, scanner, camera, microphone, and a network of other computers. When I go out, I like to experience the world, not tinker with my gadget--I do quite enough of that at home and need a break once in a while. The farthest I've gone towards mobility is buying a used $95 laptop, which works great with Linux Mint 14 KDE.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Firewall for the Telephone

My phone has a firewall. If it didn't, I'd disconnect my phone and give it to Goodwill. There are far too many evil scum in the world that call on a daily basis for the purpose of sales, scams, handouts or just pure harassment. Just as every computer should have a firewall, every telephone requires a firewall, and the best firewall is Call Clerk. That program just keeps getting better and better, with an update every few weeks. I would purchase Call Clerk before any other program, including Windows. It is reason enough to own a computer and is far more important than the internet browser or the operating system. Call Clerk transforms the telephone from what it is today, a weapon of harassment against the user, and makes it what Alexander Graham Bell intended it to be, a useful method of communication. The only downside is that it runs on Windows instead of Linux, so one has to use an inferior operating system.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Avast's False Positive on ACDSee 15

Avast Antivirus was giving a false positive on ACDSee 15 today, which was a minor annoyance, because by doing so, ACDSee's automatic camera offloading feature was disabled. I fixed everything and researched the issue, discovering a thread of messages on Avast's forum complaining about the false positive. I disabled all of Avast's shields until the next reboot, which might be a week from now, figuring they will fix their database by that time.

I have a couple of thoughts about this issue. One, Avast does not normally give false positives; this is an anomaly. I recommend Avast for a reason. Two, Avast shows laxity in regards to testing. It may be that they are releasing their database updates far, far too soon, and should test the damn things a bit better than they do. I am not sure virus database updates--or any system updates, for that matter--should be made in such a hellfire hurry. How about slowing down, letting a few systems have it, and seeing what the results are? Three, I'm not a paying customer of Avast, nor are the vast majority, so do we have a right to complain? Yes, because this is a free country, but Avast also has a right not to give a damn. It may be that Avast unleashes a false positive on purpose once in a while to scare the gullible into buying some of their product. Microsoft offers free antivirus, so I do not understand Avast's business model at all. I do not understand why anyone would pay for an antivirus when they can get one for free. At the moment, I am considering uninstalling Avast and installing Microsoft's solution, because Avast does like to be annoying with their little pop-ups and now a false positive.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Clonezilla Works With Windows 7

I used Clonezilla again last night to clone my Windows 7 hard drive. It is prudent to keep a clone of Windows, because that operating system takes an enormous amount of time to install and configure. A conservative estimate would be twenty hours in total. I don't want to lose another twenty hours due to hard drive failure or malware infection, so Clonezilla gave me peace of mind by creating a bootable backup. There is no cloning feature built-in to Windows 7, and the backup feature I think is a joke. I don't work with backups, I work with clones. A clone is a byte-for-byte copy of a hard drive. If a drive won't boot, it's not a clone. A clone can be popped right into a computer with a failing hard drive and make it whole again in less than one minute. A clone is what the end user wants and needs. The end user is always right.

I doubt whether a clone could be used long-term to pirate Windows 7, because the operating system binds itself to the motherboard and cpu. Also, Windows phones home on a regular basis to confer with Microsoft headquarters and tell if the user is doing something naughty. My interest is not in piracy, because quite frankly I don't want Windows on any of my other computers--yuck, what a thought. I just need it on one computer to run two specific applications that are not available in Linux, ACDSee and Call Clerk. All the other computers are going to be running a flavor of Linux Mint Nadia, either KDE or Xfce.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Clonezilla is a free Linux-based operating system contained entirely on a single live CD. It is self-configuring and does not require installation to a hard drive. Its purpose in life is to clone or image hard drives or partitions.

Clonezilla offers a Debian version and a Ubuntu version. I recommend the Ubuntu version of Clonezilla because of its more recent kernel, which implies better support for modern hardware. Both versions suffered display corruption on my system, but the corruption in the Ubuntu version was less severe, affecting only the initial, temporary startup screens rather than the important screen where the cloning process takes place.

Using the versatile Clonezilla isn't a no-brainer by any means, but the developers have made an effort to simplify what can be a fiendishly complicated task, cloning (or imaging) a hard drive or partition, and they have inserted multiple safeguards that protect data. Therefore I use and recommend Clonezilla for users of both Windows and Linux.

Although Clonezilla is a Linux distro, that doesn't signify; it can read a Windows NTFS drive with ease, as can all modern Linux distros. Windows can only read Windows drives, which is similar to the limitation where Windows can only network with other Windows systems and its many other severe and far-reaching limitations, bugs and security holes. At least Windows knows how to access more than 3.5 gigs of RAM now. That's nice. Maybe by Windows 50, Microsoft will figure out home networking with non-Windows computers.

Clonezilla is easiest to use when cloning a drive to a larger or same-sized hard drive, but today I cloned a 2.0tb drive to a 1.5tb drive, which is not quite as easy. For one thing, Clonezilla will not perform a direct drive-to-drive clone if the source drive is larger than the target, even if the data on the source would easily fit on the target drive. After many failed experiments, what finally worked for me was using Gparted (another Linux distro on CD) to shrink the largest partition on my 2.0tb drive by over .5tb to let it fit on the 1.5tb drive. Then I used Clonezilla to clone each of the two partitions on the 2.0tb drive, the tiny root partition and the large /home partition. I selected "device to device clone," "Beginner," accepted all the defaults, and everything worked out well. In the end, I had a bootable, perfect clone of my Linux Mint Nadia KDE drive and all its data.

Thank you, Gparted and Clonezilla!

Cloning a Windows 7 drive is more complicated, because Microsoft spends all its development dollars on making things more complicated for the end user. I discovered through trial and error that Clonezilla must be booted in UEFI mode in order to clone my Windows 7 drive. Otherwise, Clonezilla will not be able to properly read the drives.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Windows 7 Won't Delete or Rename Files with Long Pathnames

I tried to delete some files today, but Windows 7 coughed up an error message:
"Sorry, I'm stupid. I don't know how to delete files with a long filename. Why don't you erase me and replace me with Linux?"
I may have applied my editorial powers on the error message above, but the gist of it was that the pathname was too long for Windows 7's NTFS file system. Windows 7 refused to permit any deletion of the files, no matter which variant of del or rmdir I tried. As a last resort, I tried renaming the files to conform to Windows 7's inexplicable rule. Windows 7 refused to let me rename them. I googled for help, because Windows 7 is no help. Based upon suggestions on a microsoft forum, for about half an hour I tried variations of the rm, rmdir, del, and even the cacls commands, to no avail.

This is one of the worst bugs I have ever encountered in Windows, and it was not present in Windows XP, because the files with the too-long pathnames came from a Windows XP computer! Windows has just gotten buggier, not better. The only thing Microsoft thinks about is how to enhance profits. The end user experience is the last thing on its mind.

But I've got a new feather in my cap since 2012. I'm a Linux veteran. I wouldn't call myself a guru other than in jest, but I know my way around a Linux system and can create and execute shell scripts, upgrade the kernel, and modify system parameters without too much difficulty, and I'm learning new things all the time. Let me say this to the Windows diehards: Linux is very useful, and you should learn it because it will help you manage your Windows system. Today is a case in point. I had a funny feeling that the Windows bug would not exist in Linux. Linux can read a Windows drive without any difficulty. Of course, Windows cannot read Linux drives, because of its severe limitations in intellectual capacity.

I insert a CD of Gparted, the Linux distro with a funny name, and boot my system from the CD, accepting all the defaults along the way. I love Gparted. Its mission in life is to repartition drives, and it can handle just about any type of drive. I have used it for its intended purpose many a time, but today I wish to use it for an unintended purpose. The command line is what I want. A Linux command prompt is a powerful thing, let me tell you, about a hundred times more powerful than a Windows command prompt.

By default, Gparted boots into a minimalist graphical environment and loads the flagship program, Gparted, which after a few moments reveals the pathnames of the attached drives. This is important information that I will use to compose the commands below. I wait until Gparted has gathered its information, which takes about a minute, and then click on a different program, the Terminal icon, which gives the command prompt.

Do not fear the Linux command prompt. It is your friend. It will let you do what you want to do, unlike Windows. What I want to do is kill the files that Windows won't kill because Windows is stupid. The first step is to mount the Windows drive into the Linux file hierarchy. I prepare for this by creating a directory that will be used to mount the NTFS drive:

sudo mkdir /mnt/windoze
Then I take the information observed from the Gparted window, which reveals the name of the drive, /dev/sdsomething-or-other, and compose a command resembling this:
sudo mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/windoze
Note that /dev/sda2 isn't necessarily going to be the case on your computer, and /mnt/windoze is simply a name I made up, although it is quite proper to mount drives in the /mnt directory.

What's left is to navigate to the directory with the bad file and kill it.
cd /mnt/windoze
Note that ls is the rough equivalent of dir in the Windows command line. I enter several more cd commands. Once I find the directory or the files that I want to delete, I use a very powerful command, rm, which I suggest examining prior to using. To get some help on a Linux command, one enters the command followed by --help. Try
rm --help
The command that finally gets rid of the bad filenames, which exist in a folder called "documentaries", is
sudo rm documentaries --recursive
And that's that! No more immortal files lingering on my Windows filesystem. I clicked on Exit, and Gparted let me reboot the system back into Windows, where I confirmed that the files were indeed gone.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Windows Networking is No Fun

Nothing is more complicated and less fun than trying to debug a Windows 7 home network. There are about a dozen different places to look for things, and if something doesn't work, there could be multiple reasons. I've spent an entire day debugging a home network with a stubborn Windows 7 box. In the end, after much googling, I discovered a nasty secret. Linux and Macs cannot join a Windows 7 Homegroup.

I tote a USB stick from my Windows 7 box to my Linux box whenever I need to transfer a couple of files, despite the fact I have a home network, which used to work fine when the box had Windows XP.

Windows only gets worse with each new version, losing functionality along the way; devolution, rather than evolution. Microsoft adds new restrictions and limitations that are intended to enhance its profits, and only a few bells and whistles to entice the end users to shell out another hundred dollars.

I look forward to the day when I can dispense with Windows altogether, but I need it for the moment to run ACDSee and Call Clerk. One day my network will work well again, because every machine on it will be running Linux, and the many problems created by Microsoft will be only a memory.

techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions