The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Fall down seven times, get up eight. – Japanese Proverb


A clean desk is the sign of an empty mind 8)

This blog will focus on technical advice for new users and observations of same. We live in a technical world and like any tools there is the good and the bad and the learning curve before everything. I will also try to provide links to tools and sites that readers will find useful.

Drives be Gone…

Like many of us who have been computing for years, I have a pile of older IDE and SATA drives that are now obsolete or are dying through mechanical issues or accumulation of bad sectors. These drives can still be accessed and may still have files, emails, and pictures. I’ve already backed them up but they are still private. I could try to wipe them but they are going into the recycle bin regardless. As some of them are also failing mechanically I would prefer they become the scrape they for good.

Three simple methods are around and I will discuss each of them. In all cases you should position the drive on a wood block or other safe surface. Take the usual safety precautions as well.

To destroy a drive with a drill keep the following in mind. Make sure your hole is in the radius of the platter under the drive cover. You will see the circle of the spindle that is in the center of the platter and just use that point as a guide. You need to make sure your hole is deep enough to pierce the platter.

If you are not the owner of a drill you can still achieve the same result with a decent Phillips screwdriver and a hammer. Again, find the spindle center on the top of the drive as with the drill method. Pound the point of the screwdriver through the cover into the platter. Make sure the hole goes deep enough.

Finally, if you are limited to a hammer, such as the ball-peen hammer in the picture. Strike firmly until you make a deep dent down into the casing. I usually turn the drive over and also strike the controller board on the bottom several times also.

In all of these you will be able to gauge your success easily. Just shake the drive and you should hear a sound like grains of sand. What you are hearing is bits of the destroyed platters that hold your data rattling around.

Old Phones live…!

In the illustration you see a from right to left a Lenovo Moto G4 Play (Android 7.1.1), Samsung Galaxy Core Prime (Android 4.4.4) and a worn but functional LG K3 (Android 6.0.1).

We hear a lot about E-waste, recycling and planned obsolescence daily. No better example of this problem is the smart phone. May I suggest instead…re-use it. Keep it as a “poor mans iPad” instead!

I started realizing I could still use an old phone after I inherited my brothers Tracfone (the Samsung) he had never bothered activating. The phone was brand new and with Google Hangouts I could still make a call with an internet connection and it was always handy for checking Gmail at Starbucks or taking a pic of something or reference.

When I was given the Lenovo as a gift and I upgraded the LG to a Samsung I did the same with these as well. They still hang around in my laptop bags as backups phones using Google Hangouts and for browsing and making notes. So far the Android 4.4.4 had not kept the Samsung from use but that is one area that may be a concern eventually.

So, think about it before you toss that old cell…8)

Hiren’s new Face

Hiren’s Ultimate Boot Disk has been the windows counterpart to the Linux Live CD’s such as Knoppix many many years now. For doing all those little jobs the HBCD cannot be beat for the versatility it brings. Now Hirens has the look of Windows 10 for its PE base.

As the CD drive is now becoming thing of the past the media of choice to use Hiren’s is the everyday USB stick. I keep a USB with the latest version of the Boot Disk for the very same reasons I also keep a Swiss army knife and mini leatherman in my pocket as well. I link below a Youtube that will walk you though this very simple process.

You can find this latest version at https://www.hirensbootcd.org/

Ubuntu and Me

Its hard these days with the abundance of excellent Linux distros like Linux Mint, Zorin and Antix that this was not always so. Fifteen years ago the rookie Linux adopter faced a very different universe…

I was a volunteer at an NGO that accepted computer donations and recycled what was broken and refurbed what was useable back to community organizations, schools and low income folks, We used a server install of a homebrew version of Debian Linux for our machines. This organization was a pure Linux shop….Microsoft windows install disks were destroyed when they showed up…too much glee.

The small computer store run by the NGO sold “store boxes”. I installed the other Linux of choice at that time on many of these PCs, Red Hat 9.0. Then the large cardboard boxes of Ubuntu showed up… This was a paragon shift in how Linux could be shared, let me explain.

The two Linux distos we used were install only and the process was either not what folks usually did at home or tedious. Your only option was to do the install and hope the user you were introducing to Linux didn’t lose his nerve and had his Microsoft install media if things went sideways….not comforting. I still have my set of Red Hat 9.0 cds….a useful reminder of how tedious those installs could be…

Ubuntu was RADICALLY different…it was a live CD and on one disk…no more frantic shuffling through a set…halleluiah! You could now also demonstrate the distro without having to do an install. Its hard to underestimate this when showing Linux to a newcomer…they could see how it works, play with the features, see what would be supported on their PC…and then run the installer right from the live desktop if they liked what they say. We do not give that a thought nowadays 8)

MX Linux – Midweight Simple Stable Desktop OS

MX Linux team – Screenshot captured from MX Linux 18.3


Source: MX Linux – Midweight Simple Stable Desktop OS

This is an excellent light weight distro for any user skill level. I started using this for older Thinkpads at MX 14.0 and the steady improvements have been impressive. I recommend this Distro for those who are looking to move away from Windows and Mac but have limited computer experience.

It’s All in the Notches…

It’s All in the Notches…

If you are on a budget like most are and you cannot pass up a “grab bag” or “misc bin” of used laptop ram at the electronics recycle or used electronics place here is a way to do a quick and dirty sort. Notice the notch locations on the ram in the picture ? From top they are PC3, PC2, DDR and just to make make sure you’re paying attention…PC133. My trusty tape measure gives you a size reference in the measuring units of your choice! Use the human tendency to see patterns to your advantage!


Peripherals for the old school…

Before there was the ubiquitous USB and Bluetooth if you wanted a peripheral for a “portable” you looked for those odd slots on the sides. Usually on the corners and often with a cover/filer blank (as you see here on this Dell Latitude) to keep dirt out. Called a PC card these follow the PCMCIA ( Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) standard. Early “Type I” versions were 16bit ISA bus platform but later “Type II” were 32bit.

I still use that very functional Linksys Wireless card, a treasured gift from a fellow computer club member, on an older Thinkpad. In the days of dial-up when my first laptop didn’t have a 56k modem adding one via PC card kept me from having to buy more gear 8) My 3Com 10/100 LAN card was also VERY useful when I started networking my old “portables” at home! PC card’s were more then modems or LAN, a Soundblaster X-fi from my brother made my old Compaq Presario tolerable for watching YouTube ! These are often tossed out now so I thought I would sing their praise just one last time…..


Hard Drives We Have Known…

Its interesting to see the reactions when I mention that once a loooong time ago a “hard disk” in a portable was an optional extra. You bought your 20 MB drive separately. The ancient Toshiba Portable given me by family friend  has NO hard drive…the plate in the back covers were it would have gone…Don’t lose your set of floppies…ask me why some time 8-}

These are three laptop drives I have kept for souvenirs over the years. My very first laptop was a slightly used Toshiba Techra with a blazing fast 100 Mhz Pentium, 24 MB of ram (you got 8 onboard and I scrounged up a 16 MB stick) and a 1 Gig hard drive… Running my installation of Windows 98SE no less ! Yes, ’98se ran on 24 MB of ram…mostly. This Seagate ST91430AG I saved was very very similar and  was probably once a spare for it.

The middle drive is also from a now long to recycle Toshiba Tecra Pentium II. At 2100 MB the Toshiba MK2101MAN gave my Windows 95 install plenty of room. It’s also still perfectly functional mechanically. Those things were built to last for the ages…

On the right is a 20 Gig Fujitsu MHT2020AT that was home to an early Windows XP Pro install in an IBM Thinkpad…good times 8-} All of these are IDE and I imagine many folks getting into computing nowadays don’t know what an IDE interface even is!

…and ALL are toys now compared to the Patriot 64gig USB drive sitting above them . Makes me feel old sometimes !




The Thinkpad and Me…

I have always been a fan of IBM’s Thinkpad line of business grade laptops. I started using them when they had a Pentium II processor in them and 126 megabytes of Ram was a big deal…oh the days 8-} When you gotta lug gear around the ruggedness starts to get important. The quality under the stewardship of Lenovo has started to slowly decline now sad to say but vintage units like this X201 can still be found if you watch for them !

In Praise of the Floppy…

If you are like me and got started on computing in the Windows 95 and 98 days then “floppy drives” are familiar. A good stack of “boot floppies” and others with modem and sound card drivers found a home in the little tool box I lugged to clients. Floppies in 8 inch and 5 1/4 proceeded but if anyone pays attention now the 3 1/2 inch is the “floppy”
they know. I have a vintage Toshiba “Portable” as a collectable running DOS so I will not be getting rid of my last few floppies just yet ! Like hearing a mechanical 56k modem connecting the unique sound of a floppy booting is just……8-}