18 Sep 2010 @ 10:37 PM 

I spend a lot of my time on the computer. I also spend a lot of time exploring to find out what I can use to make my computing time more enjoyable and more efficient. I think others can benefit from the things I have found, so this is my first of posts that I will make to highlight hardware and software technology that I have and I like.

KeepassX logoMy first post will be about a piece of software I’ve been using for about a year now called KeepassX. This is a program you can use to keep your passwords organized. It’s free, its open source, and best of all, its cross platform. More and more sites these days make you sign up to use their service. Whether its a forum you participate in, you bank, credit card, email, Facebook, Twitter, servers, websites, the list goes no. Some folks have a separate user name and password for each place they log into. This can be hard to keep track of. I personally have some passwords that are tough for me to remember. KeepassX will help you keep track of that. Have you ever forgotten what user name or password you use on a website? KeepassX is your solution.

Is it safe to keep all your passwords in one place on your computer? I believe it can be. The file that KeepassX uses to store your information in is encrypted with Twofish or AES. You must remember one password to get into this file. It is a lot easier only having to remember one password instead of a whole list of them. If you don’t want to use a password, it will allow you to use a keyfile as well.

This method is also safer than keeping a word or excel document on your computer with all of your passwords. This is also better than the piece of paper some people keep by their computer (like my wife used to do before we got married).

There’s lots of features that you can explore about it if you like. For example, it can remind you to set a new password after a certain length of time. It can generate a password and tell you how strong the one is that you are using. One of my favorite features is when you open the program, you can right click on the list of logins and have it copy the user name or password to your clipboard. Then you can paste it into the form field without having to type it in. For security, it clears your clipboard after about a minute.

I use two computers in two different environments on a daily basis. Overall, I use Mac OSX, Ubuntu Linux, MS Windows, and Android on my phone. All of those environments have a version of KeepassX that will allow you to access your logins and passwords. You can keep one file that has all of your information in it. I have a file server that I had been using to keep my keepass file on that I could use to share the file between computers. I recently started using a program called Dropbox to keep the file synched between computers. I’ll write more about that in a later post.

You can download KeepassX from the website for free for what ever of the popular operating systems that you use. The android app is called KeePassDroid and is developed by someone else, but uses the same file format.

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Categories: Android, Linux, Mac OSX, MS Windows, Tech I Use, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 18 Sep 2010 @ 10 37 PM

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Part 3 – Installing Ubuntu Linux

In part two, we discussed putting together the hardware of your server. Now that your computer is put together, plug in your power cord and your Ethernet cord to your router. Since you don’t have anything on this computer yet, you will need a spare keyboard and monitor while you set this up. Go ahead and plug these in too.

You will also need to have a copy of Ubuntu Linux Server edition so you can install it. If you would rather use the desktop edition, that is your choice, but this tutorial was written for the server edition. Also, I did this within a month of Ubuntu 9.10 coming out. It was very buggy at the time, and I had issues with it. So I decided to use 9.04. You will need a second USB key to make the install as there is no optical drive on this computer. If you have another kind of external drive (hard disk drive or CD Drive), you can try using that. This computer’s bios does support booting from USB.

Once you have gotten the iso of Ubuntu, you will need to put this on a USB key to install the OS. It will fit on a 1 GB drive. I tried extracting the files from the iso by using Diskmagic and WinRAR and copying them to the USB drive, but that didn’t work. The way I got it to work is by downloading a file from unetbootin, and using that to put the installation files on my 1GB USB drive. Visit this site to make your USB key so that you can install from it: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

SETUP AND INSTALLATION

Once you have the USB key ready, insert it into one of the USB ports on the computer. Power up the computer and you will see the Foxconn screen as it begins its boot up sequence. At this point, press the delete key to enter the setup menu to have a look a the bios. This bios will allow you to boot up from a USB drive, which is VERY important for installing and running the OS as the two disk drives are planned to be used for data only.

First we will edit the system information so we can change the boot warnings. Here make sure that Halt on is set to All Erros But, and have Keyboard and Mouse enabled. Since this will be a headless system, we need to make sure it’s not going to halt the boot up because there is no keyboard or mouse present.

Hit ENTER on System Information

Hit ENTER on System Information

Make sure it says ENABLED by Keyboard and Mouse

Make sure it says ENABLED by Keyboard and Mouse

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Categories: Linux, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 02 Feb 2010 @ 09 55 AM

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Part Two: Building the Computer

Our first post in this series covered the planning of building our server.

Lets get started making a server. First, be sure and read the directions that come with this box. I was successful in not breaking anything when I did what it had to say.

There is one screw on the back. A simple Phillips head screwdriver will get it off. This will allow you to slide off the side panel for access to the inside of the box.

Next, we will need to pull of the faceplate. Follow the directions that came with your computer carefully, and it will come off. There are flimsy plastic clips holding it on. They do come off, so don’t force anything. I managed not to break mine.

Now that you have all of the outside pieces off, you need to unscrew the internal drive cage that will hold your 2nd hard drive. It is designed to hold one 5 in optical drive. I bought an adapter that allows you to put a 3 in drive into a 5 in bay.

Inside of computer once everything has been taken apart.

All of the components once it has been disassembled.

Closeup of the inside of the computer

Overhead view of inside of computer

Once you have it all apart, put your memory in.

Memory

Memory

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Categories: Linux, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 02 Feb 2010 @ 09 51 AM

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Part 1: Introduction and Planning

This tutorial is about how to make your own Ubuntu Linux file server. If you are wanting to follow along and are curious about the difficulty of this endeavor, I would give it a 6/10, where 10 is some kind of rocket science thing. I did my best to make this a step by step guide for anyone who, like myself, has lots of questions and isn’t totally sure what they are doing. I tried not to leave too much up to assumptions.

I am still a beginner at using Linux, but have been using a PC since the command line days of DOS. The reason I have decided to write this post is because I spent many hours perusing the Internet looking for answers on how to do what I wanted. What I found is that no one had posted exactly step by step for the noob how to do everything I wanted. So I had to take bits and pieces of pages from blog posts, message forums, the Ubuntu documentation, Linux Reality Podcasts, and help from the good folks at ubuntuforums.org to get where I wanted. I documented in Evernote along the way what I was doing so if I screwed up, I wouldn’t have to start all over again figuring things out (it took more than one try to get it to work). I wrote this post because I wanted to help others who may be trying to do something similar but can’t find all the steps. A lot of learning took place for me along the way. I did everything through the CLI (command line interface). It was like writing a book in a foreign language. I had to look up everything as I didn’t know the commands needed to do what I wanted. Once I knew what the commands were, I had to learn how to use them.

Here is what I wanted. A safe place to store my documents, music, photos, financial information, and anything else that I didn’t want to lose without worrying about a disk dying on me or succumbing to a virus. I am fully aware that this doesn’t solve every risk, but it did enough to make me happy for now. (This post might give you some insight to my paranoia with not trusting an external hard drive for my needs.) I also recently got married and wanted to make sure my wife and I both had access to everything in a central location. Since I am now the family IT guy, I wanted to make sure I had her data in a safe place too. This was also going to serve as a print server, and possibly more some time down the road. I wanted this to be virus free, cheap, long lasting, and energy efficient as it was going to be on 24/7. Once I was done getting it going, I wanted to be able to walk away and leave it sitting on a shelf doing its thing without needs for reboots, security updates, etc. I wanted it to be a headless system. That means no monitor, keyboard, or mouse. Just a power cord and an Ethernet cord. I’m sure my task would have been much easier had I just bought a fancy new computer and put windows server something on there or used OS X server, but apparently, I enjoy doing things the hard way (and I’m cheap).

The following is my setup:

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Categories: Linux
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 13 Jan 2010 @ 10 52 AM

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 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:03 PM 

Late last year, my Western Digital mybook hard drive stopped working. I had bought it less than 2 years ago for the purpose of backing up and archiving my data on there. I don’t know what the deal is with Western Digital. They used to be the best hard drive company for a while, but I won’t ever buy another one from them. I’ve had a couple of their internal hard drives die on me before this one, and this is the last straw. I read up on the Internet about this and found that are issues with this external hard drive. Apparently, the average use people were getting out of these drives was 2 years. The majority of the people were having problems with the hard drive enclosure not getting power. Ironically, these drives were advertised as being big relaible drives that you could store all of your important stuff on for a long time. Guess you can’t trust anything made in China. There was nothing earth shattering that I had on my drive. Come to think of it, I doubt there’s much of anything earth shattering about my life anyway. In fact, I can’t remember much about what was on there. The only thing I could really remember that I wanted back was about 4 years of email that I had archived on there. This is another reason why I stopped using email clients and have gone to email in the cloud with gmail.

So I figured I would try to recover my data. I bought a new enclosure for the drive, as it is just a regular 3.5″ WD drive that can operate in your desktop, but has a fancy box that goes around it. It uses a SATA interface, and my old desktop only does IDE. The new enclosure was about $30 from newegg. I plugged the new drive in, and still it didn’t work. The problem I was having is that it wasn’t being recognized by the computer. When I turned it on, I heard the drive spin up, then click, pause, click,pause,click,pause, click, then the drive stops spinning. Obviously, something physically wrong with the drive. I don’t know if the heads were sticking or what, but it was looking like a paperweight at this point. I did some more research on the topic and found where some people who have had physical hard drive issues have been able to resolve them by putting the drive in the freezer. I figured, the next step in this drive’s life was the trash anyway, so I gave it a try.

Last night I put it in the freezer. This morning, I got up to try it. I plugged it in, and the same thing. Clicks with nothing. I tried turning it off and on several times, still nothing. I even resorted to the Irish screw driver (hitting it really hard) and still nothing. Well, its officially trash. I found another site that talked about opening the drive. I figured I had never seen the inside, I might as well try. The torq screws were odd, I couldn’t get a driver that I have here at the house to work with it. I have some torq screw drivers, but they weren’t the right size. So, I resorted to another simple machine. The lever Enter my hammer, flat headed screw driver, and a pry bar. I got the top off of it, and manged to put some good scratches on the platters. I also got the magnets out of there. Those were some damn expensive magnets, but that is all that is left of it. So, no more Western Digital drives. Now I’ll have to save up for another drive to use for backing up my data. In the meantime, my web host Dreamhost offers 50 gig of space to backup your data. That should be enough for now for my important stuff.

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Categories: Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 09 Jan 2010 @ 07 06 AM

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 23 Dec 2008 @ 7:57 AM 

For those that may have never seen it, Google changes their logo once a day during the Christmas week. It is kinda cool. See it here. They do it every year for Christmas and also at different holidays throughout the year.

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Categories: Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 12 Jan 2010 @ 11 21 AM

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 11 Dec 2008 @ 8:27 PM 

Today, Google announced that they have taken their web browser, Chrome, out of Beta. I know there are concerns about privacy and whatnot, but I still really like Chrome. It has been my default browser for a while now. Its much faster to load the program and then to load pages than the other browsers out there.

Before I was using Chrome, I was using Opera, as it loaded the fastest. Before that it was MozillaFirefox, and I was using that back when it was called Phoenix and Firebird. I had become a big fan of Mozilla there for a while, but my tastes have changed. I was using Thunderbird for my email client. Now I am using Gmail. I was using Mozilla’sSunbird/Lightning for my calendar. Now I use Google Calendar. I’m just not the fan of Internet Explorer. My company makes us use it to interact with our scheduling software. That is the only time I use it now.

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Categories: Misc
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 14 Apr 2013 @ 06 43 AM

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 29 Nov 2008 @ 11:01 AM 

I was excited at the prospect of finding great deals online for Black Friday with retailers offereing prospects of big sales online. I must say I was disappointed on two levels. One, I didn’t find anything I really wanted that was a great deal. Two, I’m broke. So po, I can’t afford the ‘o’ and the ‘r’ to go with it.

For example, my laptop is 5 years old. I’m surprised it is still working, being a Dell. That and surprisingly, I can still use it for my daily needs, except for any computer game made in the last 4 years. But otherwise, it still serves the original purpose I got it for, being my entertainment center. I’ve been eyeing Apple’s the new Ipod Touch. Now that our ambulances have wifi, we can sit and play on the Internet all day (such as I am making this post). The Itouch, as it sometimes referred to, would allow me to peruse the Internet from the front of my ambulance without having to lug this bohemouth around. With Apple’s traditional Black Friday Sale, I was hoping maybe, just maybe, I could get a smokin deal on one. But, the best I could find was about $20 off. Yeah, that’s better than nothing, but with my pathetic hourly wage, I still can’t see where I can afford $200 for a luxury item like that. So, here I sit with my ancient computer, still doing the same thing I’d be able to do with the Itouch, just $200 cheaper.

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Categories: Misc
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 14 Apr 2013 @ 06 43 AM

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