Friday, November 16, 2007

An open letter to the Linux Community

An open letter to the Linux Community

Hello out there.  This is a plead to the Linux world out there.

For a long time now, I have been testing Linux and the wild variations of it.  Listen, I am pulling for you.  I want you to succeed; but to succeed, you have to put Linux on the desktops of my mom who is 75, and have her be able to use it.  If you can do that, you will be able to put Linux on the desktops of anybody.

In other words, you have to make Linux be like "Windows" - yes you do.  If you make Linux like Windows, minus the annoying performance hits you take with Windows as each new version is released, and keep it "free of charge", and get Dell, Lenovo, and other OEMs to preload it, then you will succeed in my opinion.  Now there have been great inroads.  I like the Ubunto product because I can install it and use it pretty much out of the box, or should I say, "out of the ISO".

Here are some of the things that need to be taken for granted:

1.  Networking, and more even so "Wireless Networking".  It just needs to happen without having to do one little geeky thing because my mom does not even know what a geek is even though her son is one.

2. Printing.  Samba, Rumba, Dumba, Daemons, Demons, LPTs, IPs, LPs, and whatever mean nothing to my mom, other than I think she might mistake them for variations of Rummy or Canasta or old vinyl Records.  Printing has to be like - duh!

3. Multimedia - again, what does most people, and most older Americans want?  They want to see pictures and share pictures of their grandchildren.  Along with Videos and to be able to burn them to DVDs, share them, etc.

4. Internet, email, IM, etc,.  Well here I see no problem as long as we can convince them that the Internet is not a big blue "E".  And you can get AIM, MSM and Yahoo pagers to work like they do in Windows.

5. Learn from Bill: Wizards!  Yeah I know, Linux help sites have traditionally stated, "If you have not read the "man pages" (documentation or help files), don't post a "help request".  Here I say get off your high horse!  Normal people don't want to read any manuals, paper, digital or otherwise.  If it isn't easy to do, they will not do it and let it go in frustration.  Listen that is why I have a job in "IT" - It is because most people don't want to deal with the hassles of setting up PCs or Software or trying to Decipher error codes, messages and install patches, fixes or upgrades!  Please listen!

6.  Here is the most important thing.  Get together out there.  Make a pact or something and reduce the insanely amount of distros you have.  Outside of the Geek community I don't hear anybody say the words "Slackware", "Mandrake", "Red Hat", "Ubunto", "Suse", or whatever other distro name exist out there.  But, I certainly hear people say Windows, XP, Vista, and Mac.  You need to become "one", or at least "two" or "three", not a "Legion of possibilities".

7.  Here is the Killer:  USB.  Every USB device out there should work with Linux.  This includes all the new widgets that do U3 or Portable Apps.  Every camera, printer, or whatever needs to be able to plug in just like we do it in Windows.

8.  Well, I thought number seven was a killer, but no, here might the one that puts you over the top:  Get Microsoft to develop their bloated Microsoft Office for Linux!  Hee hee, you would win with this one I think.

OK, that is my letter.  Please don't get me wrong.  I love Linux, I just would not give it to my Mother.  I think Ubunto has come the closest to what I want to see in Linux.  Please, please work on this because there is an opportunity out there.  I see a small window opening, but I think is going to close rather quickly if you don't succeed.  I think Linux will always be there for the Geek, the person who likes to install and try to get it to work, but for the person who is like my mom - which is most people, forget it!


Monday, November 12, 2007

File De-Fragmentation on the cheap

File De-Fragmentation on the cheap

This weekend I happen to be sitting in a location where I really could not go anywhere, I had to stay put for about an hour. This gave me an opportunity to pull out my November issue of TechNet Magazine. As I turned the pages, I found an excellent article that was quite timely since I have been dealing with some of these very issues at work this week. It had to do with file fragmentation, and how to de-fragment them. The article by Wes Miller was very good and covered some of the why(s) and how(s) of why files fragment. Also, some of the myths about it also; so I am not going to tell you what he said, it is his article. What I am going to cover is some of the utilities that he mentioned in the article. Very, very good stuff.

First, let me just cover the issues that I have been dealing with at work. One, we have been using Diskeeper from Executive Software. An excellent third party utility for the Enterprise level De-Fragmentation of Disks. Diskeeper allows scheduling, and boot time de-fragmentation which is very needed not only on workstations but on Servers. Yet what about for home, or for doing just one machine for whatever reason, or even if you use Diskeeper you my not want to spend that kind of money? The last part leads me to the second issue at work, some laptops just come in and need to be tuned quickly because Diskeeper has not run or had time to run, or the user just disabled it thinking it was slowing his machine down. For quickly trouble shooting and tuning, the last two utilities mentioned below come in very handy.

The three utilities I want to cover, are:

  1. The built in de-fragmenter in Windows, which is a scaled down version of Diskeeper
  2. PageDefra.exe
  3. Contig.exe

The built-in utility for file and folder de-fragmentation that now comes with XP has an advantage over the past ones, you can schedule it. This is one of the features of full blown Diskeeper; but with XP you have to use Task Scheduler, and you don't have all the bells and whistles. That is ok, just being able to automate when it runs is a real plus.

The other piece of fragmentation that you really can't do with the default utility that you can do with full blown Diskeeper is de-fragment the page file and the registry which can become very fragmented. The reason you can't do so is because these type of files are usually locked. To so so, you have to do it at boot time. This is where you can use the free utility from Sysinternals: PageDefrag. You can set PageDefrag to run once at boot up, or every time at boot up.

Also, sometimes, you may want to just de-fragment one file or one folder, for this enter Contig.exe, another free utility. You run this utility from the command prompt, but you can also script it and subsequently you can also schedule it. If you use these three utilities together, you will, in my opinion keep your disk and files in top notch shape.

System File De-fragmenter

I found this utility pretty straight forward. I can run it at the "next reboot" or at "every reboot". It consist of an exe and help file. Create a folder, put the files in there and create a shortcut to it. Run it, set the options, click Ok, and at the next reboot it will de-fragment the pagefile, the registry, and all the locked system files.


I found Contig really cool because you can run it from the command line, or create a batch file and schedule it. Also, you can defrag just one file or one folder or an entire drive. It is up to you. You can also use it to create a new file that is contiguous. You can also run it in verbose or quite mode, and with the -a, you can just get information on any file/folder.

Running defrag.exe as a scheduled task

The third piece of the puzzle is the defrag.exe. This is the utility that comes with Windows to de-fragment your hard drive. It is a pain manually ruining it. Usually it stops you from doing anything else, or at least it is a bother remembering to run it; but if you schedule it, you can forget about it. See screen shots below, and if you like, this Microsoft article.

With these three utilities and 0 dollars, you can keep your disk healthy and strong just as if you would of spent some money on a fancy de-fragmenter. I think that Diskeeper is a fine product, and it is very handy to deploy via a console in the Enterprise. It also does some real fancy things like "smart scheduling" and MFT padding just to name a few; but if you are just a single user or are just cheap, try these methods and utilities.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lenovo/IBM Thinkpads

Lenovo/IBM Thinkpads

I have had Thinkpads around now in the office for over 10 years.  I know that there are people over the years that have criticized the Thinkpads for not being very high power machines; but one thing I always liked about them was that they seemed for the most part to be reliable.  "Nobody got fired for buying blue", was the old saying.  The Thinkpads were often behind in the Benchmark tests; but in the Support and Updates area I thought they were head and shoulders above the others.

When IBM decided to sell their laptop and PC lines to Lenovo I was worried.  I believed that the Thinkpads that I had come to trust might become less reliable.  I did not stop buying them hoping that my fears were not ever going to be realized; after all this is being typed on a Thinkpad.  I have an X40 I carry around with me because it is light and portable; but with the last couple of Lots that I bought, T4x and T6x models, we have run into multiple problems.

One of the first problems we ran into was the Software Update program that we used for the last few years to keep the Thinkpads updated, stopped working.  This is because the Lenovo people decided to switch over to the System Update program.  As of this date I do not believe that it works as good as the Software Update.  We had numerous problems with the machine shutting down and rebooting in the middle of the updates because it need to to it, but it could not successfully pick up where it left off.  This was not a problem with the the previous Software update.

The second problem, and a pretty big one was the failure of the Access Connections program to work.  The Access Connections program is the program that Thinkpads use to manage network connections.  This was a real plus in the past, because it was so easy to tell users to use the Fn +F5 key to bring up the program which made it simple to scan for Wireless/Blue Tooth Networks.  It also let you create profiles for all your network connections including  hard wired ones.  But the program, at least the last version is real buggy.

Along with the above problem we experience another real weird problem.  The actual Ethernet connection would disappear if we unplugged the power cable.  Also on occasions we were unable to connect to the network unless we plugged in the power cable.  This all seemed rather strange to us.  We also suspected that it was there but not visible in the Device manager.

The other problem we had was Ghosting the machines.  That problem I laid out in a previous post.

After talking to Lenovo Tech support we really did not get much help, other than what we also found on the Internet.  Also, I have also noticed that we have had some issues with the Laptops after successful Ghosts with Explorer just hanging.  Not really errors or Processor usage, just Explorer crapping out.  Now I don't know at this time if it is happening because of Ghosting or just some other weird problem.

In short this is what we did to make these work:

Install the Hot Key Manger version 2.06.0708.
Install the Power Management Driver version 1.17.
Install the ACPI Power Management Software ACPI Power Management Utility version 1.43.
Uninstall the Access Manager and use the Windows Wireless Interface instead - if you want to go out on a limb, version 4.2 seemed to work.
The in-ability to Ghost was solved in the previous Post.
So in short, I have really lost my enthusiasm for Lenovo Thinkpads.

... an this is real situation where Tech Bytes!

Next, the problems with the Panasonic Toughbooks - not so tough after all ...