Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Dumbass Disposable DVDs

A while ago, there were several articles about the idea of selling disposable DVDs. The idea was that the DVDs would be encased in an airtight package, and once opened and exposed to the air would begin to darken to the point that after 48 hours they would be unusable. This way you didn't have to return the DVDs to the rental store. No late fees, no hassle, you just throw them away.

Sure, a nightmare for the environmentalist wackos among us, but it could work.

Blockbuster rents DVDs for $4.29 around here, and with the ability to buy the latest releases at the local Walmart for $14-$16, it's just not worth renting anymore. I'd rather spend the extra few bucks and buy it straight out.

So I liked the idea of throwaway DVDs, almost no retail overhead for the manufacturers, so I thought it would be cheaper.

So along comes "EZ-D", the throwaways in test markets.

As you can see from the article, they aren't going over too well. At $7 a pop, I'm not surprised. What are they thinking? SEVEN dollars for two days of viewing? Again, when you can buy the non-disposable ones for just a little more why would you buy throw-aways for such a price? Sell them for $2-$3, and I'm in; otherwise forget it. Hopefully their test market data will tell them that.

Monday, October 27, 2003

In My (And Every Other Man's) Dreams

I am willing to make a bet that many of us men can get our wives/fiances/girlfriends to read this one, and not look at the URL.

I'm going to give it the old college try.

Jack's willing to volunteer for any women out there who want to see if this is indeed true. Just drop me an e-mail, I'm willing to travel.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I Couldn't Believe My Ears

So I'm flipping channels on my Hauppauge WinTV device that allows me to watch TV on my computer. Yes, it's the ultimate in sensory overload; TV and the Internet.

Anyway, I flip over to Fox News, my preferred Cable News Channel (like that's a surprise), and there's Geraldo. Yes, Geraldo, who couldn't get a good gig anywhere (for good reason), and Fox has him because he's a left-leaner and they picked him up back when the Big 3 networks noticed that Fox was taking some of their viewers. Well, in their attempt to paint Fox as being the extreme right-wing news source, they caused the upper muckity-mucks at Fox to hire Geraldo for some 'balance', and now they're stuck with him.

Even if he did get kicked out of Iraq.

So, here he is on his show (which I didn't even know he had), talking about the Kobe Bryant case (which I could give a shit about), and in a straight face he's speaking about dried semen and pubic hair on the victim's underwear. He also has some Forensic Pathologist there, whom he's asking how accurate the science is for determining how old the crusty spooge is.

Please Fox, dump Geraldo and quit reprinting AP stories on your website.


I'll even pay for a subscription.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Updated Redhat 9 Java Installtion for Mozilla 1.5

A while back I posted instructions to installing the Java plugin for Mozilla on RedHat 9 Linux. I've added a section for Mozilla 1.5 and the new J2re1.4.2_02 version of the Java Runtime Engine and Plugin.

If you're stuck, like I was (again), go there and check it out.

Oh, and I would suggest running Mozilla Firebird as a browser on Linux OR Windows. IE is no longer my default browser due to all of the recent security problems plaguing it. These vulnerabilities allow all of this damn spyware that innundates everyone's computers these days to be installed without the user's knowledge simply by visiting a website. Do yourself a favor and try it out. Save yourself some time and get the Windows Installer Version of Firebird 0.7 by clicking here. Otherwise you'll have to unzip it yourself, put it in the right places, and make registry changes.

Yup, the installer is easier.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Poor Man's Drive Imaging and Backup

Most of you have probably heard of products like Norton Ghost, Powerquest Drive Image, or similar disk imaging software. If you need to create an exact duplicate of the data so that you can restore it quickly in the event of data loss or hardware failure these two products can fill your need. There's even partimage, that will make an image of a drive and compress it for restoration later.

However, Norton Ghost and Drive Image are rather pricey (close to US$1000) if you want to back-up a non desktop OS like Windows 2000 Server (Standard or Advanced) or Windows NT Server. The consumer level version of these products won't install on those OS's, and partimage only experimentally supports NTFS.

And what if you don't have the money to buy these products, especially if you need to backup 20 or so servers or workstations from time to time.

Along comes a neat little *nix (or *BSD) tool called dd. It is a very powerful (and dangerous) tool that takes input from any sort of partition (/mnt/path), device (/dev/hda), or even a network mounted (NFS, SAMBA, nc) sources and outputs it to the same myriad of destinations.

The simple way is to use dd to create an image of a hard disk and copy it to another disk. This will give you an exact duplicate of the original disk, free space and all. However, if you are only using 10GB of a 60GB hard drive, you waste a lot of space imaging the empty sections of your disk. On a server this could get to be quite a headache, as you can have many large drives to image, and would require the same sized disks to back them up on.

So, in the tradition of other articles such as "Poor Man's Ghost", I present to you instructions to take any source drive and back it up, all while compressing the image so it takes up quite a bit less space. For this set of instructions, all you need is a secondary hard drive to store the images on, and a bootable CD Linux distro such as Knoppix (or any of its variants).

In my example I used Knoppix 3.3 to backup a 60GB Hard Drive with Windows XP Professional installed. The disk image storage drive is 120GB, enough space to normally store two 60GB images.

I'm going to assume this is a brand new backup drive, so I'll walk through the steps of creating a partition and formatting it for use.

First boot the Knoppix CD, and at the prompt type:

knoppix 2

This will boot Knoppix into Console-only mode. You can optionally just press enter at the prompt and work with the full KDE interface, but its not really necessary.

So, in our computer we have two IDE hard drives (original and backup) and one CD-ROM drive. Usually (though not always), the Master drive on the primary IDE channel is hda, the Slave is hdb, on the secondary IDE channel you have hdc (Master) and hdd (Slave). In our case both hard drives are on the primary channel, so the original is hda and the backup drive is hdb. This isn't really a good idea, due to IDE signaling slowing down transfer rates on the same channel, though if you have SATA (Serial ATA) this is not a problem - but for this example it makes things less confusing.

If you aren't sure which disk is which (and even if you are I would recommend doing this), issue the following command:

root@tty1[/]#fdisk -lu

This will show you a list of all of your drives, their sizes, and partition types. In our example, one shows NTFS/HPFS (hda) and the other shows no valid partition (hdb).

Knoppix and most CD distros don't turn on 32-bit drive access and DMA by default, so we're going to do that here so that we can increase transfer rates by 400-500% over 16-bit PIO mode:

root@tty1[/]#hdparm -c 1 -d 1 -k 1 /dev/hda (If your hard disk supports 32-bit I/O "c" and DMA "d")
root@tty1[/]#hdparm -c 1 -d 1 -k 1 /dev/hdb (If your hard disk supports 32-bit I/O "c" and DMA "d")

Now we're going to prepare the new disk by creating a new primary ext2fs partition on hdb that uses the entire drive:

root@tty1[/]#fdisk /dev/hdb
Command (m for help): n (For a new partition)
Create primary partition #1 with size equal to entire disk('p', then '1', then 'return')
Command (m for help): w (to write the changes and quit)
root@tty1[/]#mke2fs -c /dev/hdb1 (Will use entire partition)

Now we're going to create a directory "dskimgs" to hold our image, and mount our new partition to that directory:

root@tty1[/]#mkdir /dskimgs
root@tty1[/]#mount -t auto /dev/hdb1 /dskimgs

We should be now all set to make an image of the original and compress it, storing the image into a file called 'diskimage.gz'. We use gzip and maximum compression "-9" here. You can use any compression agent you wish, its just that gzip is usually present in any distro by default.

root@tty1[/]#dd if=/dev/hda bs=1k | gzip -c9 > /dskimgs/diskimage.gz

In that line, we take dd's input and pipe it to gzip a 1024-byte size block at a time, which with the -c option sends the compressed image to standard out, which we redirect to a file. You can try larger bs= sizes if you have the memory for it, since the compression is done in memory. I've used 1024K blocksizes before.

This takes about 90 minutes to run with our original 60GB hard drive. After its done, we have a 14GB file which contains an exact duplicate of the original drive.

How do we restore our image from hdb to hda if we need? Easy, just do most of the same steps with a change in our last command:

Boot the Knoppix CD:

knoppix 2
root@tty1[/]#hdparm -c 1 -d 1 -k 1 /dev/hda (If your hard disk supports 32-bit I/O "c" and DMA "d")
root@tty1[/]#hdparm -c 1 -d 1 -k 1 /dev/hdb (If your hard disk supports 32-bit I/O "c" and DMA "d")
root@tty1[/]#mkdir /dskimgs
root@tty1[/]#mount -t auto /dev/hdb1 /dskimgs
root@tty1[/]#gzip -cd /dskimgs/diskimage.gz | dd of=/dev/hda

The last line uncompresses the drive image to standard out, which we pipe to dd's output which is the hda drive.

Now remove hdb and reboot, and your OS is back just like it was when you imaged it. (In our example, the restore took about 30 minutes to complete).

DISCLAIMER: Use this at your own risk, no guarantees or any other warranties are implied or transferred. This may or may not work for you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I Had To Come Back To Comment

Yes, I know it's been almost 3 months since I've put anything here, but I had an experience today I have to share.

A local man, his name is Matt, returned from Iraq for his 15-day leave and arrived in Columbus to see his Mom and the rest of his family.

His Mom hadn't seen him in a year. His Aunt, an old neighbor of mine, moved about a mile away a few years ago but has stayed in touch. She was throwing a 'Welcome Home' party for Matt, and all of the Neighbors (new and old) were invited over to celebrate and show our support. Matt is with the 101st Airborne and is stationed in Northern Iraq, though he's seen action many places from what I was told. He's going back soon, but we all wanted to go over and say "thanks" for helping to protect our country and our livelihood.

I'm not sure who tipped them off, but the local media showed up and started interviewing everyone about what was going on in Iraq and what it meant to have Matt back for a short time.

I myself have little use for the media, and tried to stay out of the way. Thankfully no one from the TV stations or newspapers asked me for my comments. Though they would have been just like Matt's, which I'll speak to in a moment.

I heard two of the reporters whispering that they wanted to get camera shots of Matt's Mom's face when she first saw him after a year. Unluckily for them, I was the only one left on lookout outside when Matt arrived, and OOPS, I forgot to tell them that he had arrived and was outside until after his Mom had already greeted him. Heh.

Anyway, when the reporter approached him he pushed away the microphone and immediately began talking about how Iraq was nothing like the terrible place that we the American public were hearing about in the news, but instead that the Iraqi people had never had freedom, and now that they had a taste of it they wanted more, and how glad they (the Iraqis) were that we (the Americans) were around. He thanked the crowd and that was about all he said to the news media. He wanted little to do with them.

I had been bothered by the almost 100% negative coverage we had been getting from the media on the situation in Iraq, and was glad to hear that what I (and many others) suspected was true. I wholly believe there is both a conscious and unconscious effort on the part of the media to just make our President, George W. Bush, look bad no matter how good things are really going.

Made me feel proud, it did.