Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope everyone had a nice Winter break. For my birthday last month, my good friends at [StarTech.com] sent me a nice [double-headed USB combo cable] that has both Micro-USB and Mini-USB connectors. I am always looking to reduce the number of cables I take with me on trips, and this one is perfect, as I have a Samsung 4G smart phone that uses the Micro-USB connector, and a Canon PowerShot digital camera that uses the Mini-USB connector.
(FTC Disclosure: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this a "celebrity endorsement" for StarTech's product. I have used the cable and it works as expected. My review is based on my own experience using the cable, and information publicly available. IBM and StarTech are independent companies. Aside from giving me this nice cable at no cost, I have not received any payment from StarTech or any other third party to mention them or their product on this blog, I am not affiliated with StarTech in any way, nor do I have any financial interest in their company.)
When the [Universal Serial Bus] standard first came out in the mid-1990s, my colleagues and I were all excited that this will finally put an end to all the proprietary plugs and cables that each manufacturer seemed to waste their time re-inventing the wheel with yet another cable connector. For the most part, USB has simplified this, and the USB cable can be used for both data transfer and for power charging.
Today, there are many alternatives to using a cable for data transfer, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but people are finding that their smart phones and other devices run out of juice way too often. At various conferences, I have seen several people panic looking for an electrical outlet to charge their device, and a few brazen enough to ask other attendees, "Can I plug my phone into your laptop?"
(Caution: Be careful allowing strangers to plug their device into your USB port, as this can provide data transfer in addition to power charging, spreading viruses or other malicious intent. On my Lenovo Thinkpad T410, one of the USB ports is colored yellow and is always powered on, even when my laptop is in suspend or hibernation mode. This would be a safe way to allow someone to charge off your power without concern for data transfer in either direction.)
Recently, I have flown on airplanes where each seat had a USB charging port, ideal if you want to listen to music or watch a video on your device. I have also driven a rental carthat had USB charging ports in addition to the traditional cigarette lighter option, especially useful if you need to make an emergency phone call at the side of the road, or if you are using the GPS navigation feature to find your way. These are both a good step in the right direction!
Carrying one cable instead of two might not seem like much of a big deal, but if you think about it, complexity in the IT industry is all about the number of cables admins have to deal with. The push from 1GbE to 10GbE can help reduce the number of cables. Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) takes it one step further, allowing NFS, CIFS, iSCSI and FCoE to all flow over a single cable. This can greatly reduce complexity in your IT environment.
If you are interested in reducing the complexity in your IT environment, contact your local IBM Business Partner or sales representative.
technorati tags: IBM, USB, StarTech, Samsung, Canon, Lenovo, Thinkpad, T410, Micro-USB, Mini-USB, GPS
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, transferred and organized all my data, and now ready for testing. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3], [Day 4].
At this point, you might be thinking, "Testing? Just use your laptop already, deal with problems as you find them!" In my case, I need to sign off that the new laptop meets my needs, and then send back my previous laptop, wiped clean of all passwords and data. I have until the end of June to do this.
The value of testing is to avoid problems later, perhaps an inconvenient time such as a business trip or client briefing. It is better to work out any issues while I am still in the office, connected to the internal IBM intranet on a high-speed wired connection. Also, I plan to do a Physical-to-Virtual (P-to-V) conversion of my Windows XP C: drive to run as a virtual guest OS on Linux, so I want to make sure the image is in working order before the conversion. That said, here is what my testing encountered.
- Of the 134 applications I had identified as being installed on my old laptop, I determined that I only needed about 70 of them. The others I did not bother to install on the new.
- I had not thought about "addons" and "plugins" that I have that attach themselves inside browsers or other applications. I made sure that Flash, Shockwave and Java worked correctly on all three browsers: IE6, Firefox and Opera.
- One of my "plugins" is an application called [iSpring Pro, which plugs into Microsoft PowerPoint. I thought I had Microsoft Office installed, but found out the standard IBM build had only the viewers. I installed Microsoft Office 2003 Standard Edition with PowerPoint, Excel and Word. I then realized that I did not have the original V4.3 installation file for iSpring Pro, so I downloaded the latest v5 from their website. However, my license key is only for version 4, so a quick email got this resolved, and the nice folks at iSpring Solutions sent me the v4.3 installation file.
Shameless Plug: We use iSpring Pro to record our voices with PowerPoint slides to generate web videos for the [IBM Virtual Briefing Center] which we use to complement face-to-face briefings. This allows attendees to review introductory materials to prepare for their visit to Tucson, or to stay up-to-date on products and features in between annual visits. If you have not checked out the IBM Virtual Briefing Center, now is a good time to see what videos and other resources we have out there. You can even request to schedule a briefing in Tucson!
- Testing out iSpring Pro, I realized that there are no jacks for my headset. On my old ThinkPad T60, I had two jacks, one green for headphone and one pink for microphone. My headset has two cables, one for each, which I then use for the recordings. I also use this for online webinars and training sessions. Apparently, ThinkPad T410 went for a single 3.5mm "Combo" audio jack that handles both roles. Fortunately, there is a [Headset Buddy] adapter that merges the two cables from my headset to the combo jack on my new laptop. I ordered one which will arrive some time next week.
- My new laptop doesn't fit my old docking station either. I had set the docking station aside while I had the two laptops latched together for the file transfers, but now that I am done with the old laptop, I discovered that my new T410 doesn't fit. I ordered a new one.
- Using find, grep, awk, sort and uniq, I was able to generate a list of all the file extensions on my Documents foler. I was able to find old Lotus 123, Freelance Graphics, and Wordpro files. I thought Lotus Symphony would handle these, but it does not. I was able to install an old version of Lotus Smartsuite that includes these programs so that I can process these files.
- I also found in the extensions list pptx, docx and xlsx files, which represent the new Microsoft Office 2007 formats. I installed the "Format Compatability Pack" that allows Office 2003 read these files.
- Lastly, I installed a few programs that support a wide variety of file formats. VideoLAN's [VLC] plays a variety of audio and video files. [7-Zip] packs and unpacks a variety of archive files. (Note: Another program, BitZipper, also supports a variety of archive formats, but the install will corrupt your Firefox and IE browsers with new tool bars, change your search engine default, and install a lot of other unwanted software. Cleaning up the mess can be time-consuming. You have been warned!) I also installed [MadEdit], a binary/hex/text editor that will open any file to see what kind of format it has inside. From this, I was able to determine that some of my extension-less files were GIF, RTF or PDF format, and rename them accordingly.
With the testing done, I am ready to go wipe my old system of all passwords and data!
technorati tags: IBM, ThinkPad, T60, T410, P-to-V, Flash, Shockwave, iSpring, PowerPoint, Headset Buddy, audio jack, Lotus, Symphony, SmartSuite, VideoLAN, VLC, 7-Zip, MadEdit
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], let's recap my progress so far:
- [Day 1 afternoon], I received the laptop from shipping on Wednesday, took a backup of the factory install image to an external USB drive, and re-partitioned to run both Windows and Linux operating systems.
- [Day 2], I spent Thursday using the "Migration Assistant" tool, and completed the operation sending the rest of my data over to the /dev/sda6 NTFS partition.
So now, Friday (day 3), I get to install any applications that were not part of the pre-installed image. Thankfully, I had planned ahead and figured out the 134 different applications that I had on my old system. I printed out a copy of my spreadsheet, and used it as a checklist to systematically go through the list. For each one, I determined one of the following:
If I could find the application already installed, either the same version or newer, or functionally equivalent, then I would mark it down as being part of the factory build. Of those programs pre-installed, I am quite pleased that the settings were carried over during yesterday's file transfer. For example, my bookmarks and bookmarklets on Firefox are all in tact. However, it did not carry forward all of my Firefox addons, so these I had to install separately.
- ISSI Download
IBM Standard Software Installer is our internal website for IBM and select third-party software for the different operating systems supported. Many of the ISSI programs were already included in the factory build, such as Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony, Firefox browser, and so I had very few left remaining to do manually from ISSI.
- INSTALL from D:\Install-Files
As I mentioned in my previous post, I saved the ZIP or EXE files of installation, as well as any license keys, URLs and other useful information to re-install each application.
- COPY over from D:\Prog-Files
Many programs don't have installation files, because they don't need to update the registry or create Desktop icons or Taskbar management buttons. For these I can just copy the directory over to C:\Program Files.
- WEB Download
In some cases, the Install-File was fairly downlevel, so I downloaded a fresh copy from the Web. In other cases, I forgot to save the ZIP or EXE, so this was the backup plan.
- DEFER for later install
I worked down the list alphabetically, but some programs needed other programs to be installed first, or I needed to find the license registry key, or whatever. This allowed me to focus on the most important programs first. Others I might defer indefinitely until I need them, such as programs to access Second Life, or to build software for Lego Mindstorms robots.
- SKIP those applications no longer required
Some programs just don't need to be on my new system. This includes software to manage printers I no longer have, drivers to attach to gadgets and devices I no longer own, and software that might have been specific to the old ThinkPad T60. This was also a good time to "de-duplicate" similar applications. For example, I have decided to limit myself to just three browsers: Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer IE6.
The planning paid off. I was able to confirm or install all of my applications today and have a fully working Windows XP system partition. I celebrated by taking another backup.
technorati tags: , IBM, Lotus, Notes, Symphony, Firefox, Opera, IE6, ThinkPad, T410, T60
Continuing my rant from Monday's post [Time for a New Laptop], I got my new laptop Wednesday afternoon. I was hoping the transition would be quick, but that was not the case. Here were my initial steps prior to connecting my two laptops together for the big file transfer:
- Document what my old workstation has
Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post on how to [Separate Programs from Data]. I have since added a Linux partition for dual-boot on my ThinkPad T60.
|/dev/sda1||26GB||NTFS||C:||Windows XP SP3 operating system and programs|
|/dev/sda2||12GB||ext3||/(root)||Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4|
|/dev/sda6||80GB||NTFS||D:||My Documents and other data|
I also created a spreadsheet of all my tools, utilities and applications. I combined and deduplicated the list from the following sources:
- Control Panel -> Add/Remove programs
- C:\Program Files
- Start -> Programs panels
- Program taskbar at bottom of screen
The last one was critical. Over the years, I have gotten in the habit of saving those ZIP or EXE files that self-install programs into a separate directory, D:/Install-Files, so that if I had to unintsall an application, due to conflicts or compatability issues, I could re-install it without having to download them again.
So, I have a total of 134 applications, which I have put into the following rough categories:
- AV - editing and manipulating audio, video or graphics
- Files - backup, copy or manipulate disks, files and file systems
- Browser - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome
- Communications - Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime
- Connect - programs to connect to different Web and Wi-Fi services
- Demo - programs I demonstrate to clients at briefings
- Drivers - attach or sync to external devices, cell phones, PDAs
- Games - not much here, the basic solitaire, mindsweeper and pinball
- Help Desk - programs to diagnose, test and gather system information
- Projects - special projects like Second Life or Lego Mindstorms
- Lookup - programs to lookup information, like American Airlines TravelDesk
- Meeting - I have FIVE different webinar conferencing tools
- Office - presentations, spreadsheets and documents
- Platform - Java, Adobe Air and other application runtime environments
- Player - do I really need SIXTEEN different audio/video players?
- Printer - print drivers and printer management software
- Scanners - programs that scan for viruses, malware and adware
- Tools - calculators, configurators, sizing tools, and estimators
- Uploaders - programs to upload photos or files to various Web services
- Backup my new workstation
My new ThinkPad T410 has a dual-core i5 64-bit Intel processor, so I burned a 64-bit version of [Clonezilla LiveCD] and booted the new system with that. The new system has the following configuration:
|/dev/sda1||320GB||NTFS||C:||Windows XP SP3 operating system, programs and data|
There were only 14.4GB of data, it took 10 minutes to backup to an external USB disk. I ran it twice: first, using the option to dump the entire disk, and the second to dump the selected partition. The results were roughly the same.
- Run Workstation Setup Wizard
The Workstation Setup Wizard asks for all the pertinent location information, time zone, userid/password, needed to complete the installation.
- Re-Partition Disk Drive
I burned a 64-bit version of [System Rescue CD] and ran [Gparted] to re-partition this disk into the following:
|/dev/sda1||40GB||NTFS||C:||Windows XP SP3 operating system and programs|
|/dev/sda2||15GB||ext3||/(root)||Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS|
|/dev/sda6||245GB||NTFS||D:||My Documents and other data|
- Redefine Windows directory structure
I made two small changes to connect C: to D: drive.
- Changed "My Documents" to point to D:\Documents which will move the files over from C: to D: to accomodate its new target location. See [Microsoft procedure] for details.
- Edited C:\notes\notes.ini to point to D:\notes\data to store all the local replicas of my email and databases.
- Install Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS
My plan is to run Windows and Linux guests through virtualization. I decided to try out Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, affectionately known as Lucid Lynx, which can support a variety of different virtualization tools, including KVM, VirtualBox-OSE and Xen. I have two identical 15GB partitions (sda2 and sda3) that I can use to hold two different systems, or one can be a subdirectory of the other. For now, I'll leave sda3 empty.
- Take another backup of my new workstation
I took a fresh new backup of paritions (sda1, sda2, sda6) with Clonezilla.
The next step involved a cross-over Ethernet cable, which I don't have. So that will have to wait until Thursday morning.
technorati tags: IBM, Lenovo, ThinkPad, T60, T410, Intel, Clonezilla, SysRescCD, Gparted, Windows, Ubuntu, Linux, Lucid, LTS