Useful Utils #5 – Darik’s Boot and Nuke

DBAN1Now this is a fun little app! We had some old boxes in the office that needing nuking before taking them off to be recycled and I remembered I’d seen a post on LifeHacker a while back on it.

It’s incredibly simple to use. You’ve got a few options as to how to run it, but I just downloaded the .ISO file from SourceForge and burnt it to CD. With that I was able to boot the machines directly into DBAN and nuke the drives.

There’s nothing flash to it, it’s purely functional. It’s running a cut down Linux kernel which looks like an old DOS app. You’ve got various options for what level of write you want, but I just went with DoD Short since it was relatively quick at an hour per machine.

The toaster broke my computer

One day a couple of weeks ago I was working from home and decided after checking my email first thing I’d have a spot of breakfast. So after a quick rummage around for some bread, I put the toaster on and the power went off… 

Feck and biscuits. There’s a dodgy socket in the kitchen that occasionally throws a fit and trips out all the downstairs sockets. It’s not normally a problem but my email was running in a virtual machine which was running off an external hard drive. And what had just tripped out?

APC Back-UPS ES 700VAYep, the socket that the hard drive was connected to. Laptops are quite good at coping with power cuts due to their internal batteries, but virtual machines run in this way are not. After turning the power back on I ran the toaster off another socket, had some toast, then ran some checks and, fortunately, nothing was damaged.

The end result of this little incident though, was that I finally decided to buy a UPS or two for home (and for work). There are lots to choose from but I decided to go with an APC one for a couple of reasons.

The first is that we use APC devices at work and they’re pretty reliable and very easy to maintain and monitor. The second is because The Hanselman had just replaced all his UPS’s with APC ones and you can’t get a better recommendation than that.

Also, as a further bonus reason to get them, the one I picked, the APC Back-UPS ES 700VA (a model name that really rolls off the tongue), came out top in the PC Pro round up of UPS’s in May’s issue. Which was nice.

So I ordered a couple from Misco which arrived very quickly (less than a couple of days. I actually ordered another a week later and that came in less than 24 hours. I can highly recommend Misco). Anyhoo, they’re pretty chunky buggers weighing in at over 7kg, which mostly due to the battery. All you need to do on arrival is hook up the battery and plug it up to the mains to charge, which takes 16 hours on first use! 

In terms of what they have, well, there are 8 sockets, 4 of which are battery and surge protected whilst the other 4 are just surge protected. It also has more three ports on the side. Two are for surge protecting a phone line whilst the third is for connecting it up to your PC, using a special cable (which is supplied, but is expensive to replace, so don’t lose it!).

With that connected you can run the cheesy looking PowerChute software (which if you’re using Vista, you’ll have to go download since the version supplied was well out of date) which can be configured to monitor the battery life but also to shut down your PC when the battery gets low on juice. The free software isn’t much different from what you get to run the proper business APC UPS’s.

Overall, they’re nifty little devices. I’ve not had to use them in anger yet but I know they work since I’ve tested them by unplugging them from the mains. They start beeping and throwing up alerts until the power is reconnected, but at least now I know I can safely trip out the electrics whilst trying to make my breakfast!

A bit more leg room

MyBook500GBSince switching to using mainly laptops I’ve found hard drive space a bit of an issue, since they’re not exactly well endowed in that department (although that is changing).

So I’ve been using external drives to help bump up storage. Our current weapon of choice at work is a 160GB Freecom drive which we picked for a number of reasons, but mainly because they were cheap (heh) and we’d be lugging them about in our laptop bags and they were pretty compact in size. But as it turns out the small format factor meant it was noisy since the casing is metal and because of that, they get pretty hot.

And really, a 160GB isn’t a great deal of space nowadays. When you start using Virtual Machines and running databases off them that space quickly disappears. So I thought lets try something that’s XXL and went and bought a 500GB Western Digital MyBook.

It’s like a mini Xbox in form factor expect not quite as ugly. In fact, it’s, dare I say it, quite cute looking. And whilst it’s certainly bigger than the Freecom it definitely runs a lot cooler due it’s funky plastic case design, which has pretty good airflow through it. Plus it’s quieter, but I don’t know whether that’s down to the internal drive being one of those new fangled SATA drives or the case being bigger and more open.

The only snag with it is there is so much storage that backing it up somewhere else is an issue. No where on the network at work has that much space (free) and I certainly don’t have that much space at home. Hmmm… well there’s only one thing to do… buy another one for backups!

2007 Bahrain Grand Prix

Ah fecksticks, clumsy pants Massa actually manages to win a race. I don’t think this win will end criticism of his driving, since if he was at any other team, he’d have no chance of winning. He just hasn’t got the talent and skill that Alonso and Raikkonen have. I rate him at the same level as Fisichella. He’s just not cut out to be champion.

Anyway, contradicting what I’ve just said, Massa romped away with it from the beginning. He seemed fired into action, most likely due to his incompetence the previous week, but it won’t last. The McLaren’s seemed off the pace and it didn’t help by running a long middle stint on the soft tyres. It was amusing to see that in the final stint on the hard tyres they ran the faster they had the entire race. If they’d have switched those tyres round things may have worked out differently. But as the great Murray Walker used to say: “If is a very long word in Formula One…”. 

However, it’s worth noting that McLaren have a stack of developments for the next race so that should even things back up again. It’s definitely going to be a tight season between McLaren and Ferrari.

And there is further good news for McLaren. Lewis Hamilton got another second place which is amazing for a rookie. He’s certainly sticking it to the seasoned campaigners of Raikkonen and Alonso, and well pretty much everyone else in the field.

Other teams did well too. BMW were well up there again and Heldfeld had his third 4th place in a row that came about due to a cracking move on Alonso. I’m hoping this level of form will continue because it would be good see a few teams at the top fighting it out.

The current points standing is a strange one with Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamliton all equal with 22 points, however Alonso leads due to count back. Massa is in fourth with 17.

So does this mean we have 4 championship contenders? Nope, as I said previously Massa is too inconsistent and volatile to prove any sort of threat to the championship. Alonso and Raikkonen are still my favourites with Hamilton perhaps causing an upset if his current form continues.

The next race is in Barcelona on the 13th of May.

Google Web History? I’ll pass thanks…

Like lots of other peeps I was intrigued by Google Web History but for the same reasons Tim Anderson notes in a blog post yesterday, I had to pass:

To sign up for full Web History, you need to install the Google Toolbar. This is how Google gets a record of pages you visit beyond your searches. However, I have a minimalist approach to add-ons, especially those which run all the time. My reward is a more stable and better-performing operating system.

I mistakenly thought with this being Google it would just work automagically. Having to install an add-on seems so old school, but if think about it for five minutes, how else can they track and data mine what you view?

Also, as was pointed out, minimalist is good. I currently have four add-ons installed for Firefox (All-in-One Gestures, Download Statusbar, Tab Mix Plus and Web Developer) and I’d like to keep it that.

Plus I’m not so keen on this part of how Web History works:

Finally, Web History helps deliver more personalized search results based on what you’ve searched for and which sites you’ve visited.

Is that really a good idea? I want an unbiased search. I’d don’t want my search results to be restricted down based on previous searches and what I’ve visited. Surely the idea of searching is to help find something you don’t normally look at?

A calavade of crap

Seems like someone dislikes the new Strongbow advert as much as I do:


I can’t quite see the fascination with cider of late. The adverts for Magners also annoy the living shit out of me with their arse cringing cheesyness. And since when do serve cider with ice?! Cider was something you drunk for a while as a teenager (Woodpecker and White Lightning were my tipple of choice. Ugh!) before you grew out of it and hit the beer.

Post title and image ripped from b3ta. Thanks!

2007 Malyasian Grand Prix

An unexpected result given the previous Grand Prix, but McLaren were back with a vengence. Alonso was on form, dominating from the first corner and Hamilton was simply stunning. Another cracking first corner manoeuvre to overtake both the Ferrari’s to take second position. To then hold them off for the reminder of the race simply cemented his standing.

It was thanks mainly to Hamilton that Alonso was able to build up such a lead and then keep it for the rest of the race. Because of that, Ferrari’s race strategy was ruined. Perhaps if Ross Brawn had been there they could have tweaked their tactics accordingly, but unfortunately not.

Massa again showed how much of inconsistent driver he still is. As was pointed out by Mark Blundell in the post race analysis, Massa is a vastly more experienced F1 competitor than Hamilton, so it should have been him making the bold moves and pushing ahead. Instead he made rookie mistakes with late braking and clumsy overtaking.

Jenson had a pretty horrid time but at least managed to finish in 12th place. Heldfeld on the other than did impress with 4th place. The BMW’s look surprisingly competitive compared to Renault and Williams.

The take away result from Sepang was McLaren’s strong showing against Ferrari. However it must be noted Raikkonen’s engine wasn’t running at full whack due to damage caused in Australia with a water leak. Having to run an engine over two meetings does have an effect and I’m not sure it’s one I like. The cost saving it brings is obviously a good idea, but it does make the races slightly uneven. They keep making tweaks to the rules to even things out, but it’s not quite there yet.

Snooker World Championship

Doesn’t time fly? Yep, another 17 days of Snooker goodness. It’ll drive wifey up the wall, but it’s a hell of lot better than watching Coronation Street :D

Anyhoo, the tournament seems to have got off to a good start with reigning champion Graeme Dott falling foul of the Crucible curse (i.e. no champion has ever come back after their first win and taken the championship the following year). Usually previous champs manage to stick it our longer than the first round, but I’m actually delighted to see him go. I know I said last year I was happy to see him beat Ebdon in the final, but really, neither player is particularly interesting to watch.

In other news, Ronnie O’Sullivan trounced poor Ding Junhui 10 frames to 2 yesterday. It wasn’t the classic everyone was hoping for and it seems as if Ronnie has got his head back together (again) after walking out of the UK Championships back in December. Ideally I’d like to see him in final, but there’s that nagging feeling that he’ll hit one of those scrappy patches, give up trying and get knocked out. Since the year he won, I’ve not since him play with that same level of conviction and composure.

As for Ding, well I think he was just feeling the pressure of his first Crucible appearance. I mean he certainly can play, watch his 147 at the Masters for proof of that. It’s just that Ronnie was showing some form and I think nerves got the better of Ding with some silly long shots and at times overly aggressive play.

There have been a couple of other upsets with Ken Doherty and Mark Williams getting knocked out, but other than that, the rest of the first round seems to going as you’d expect. I just hope we get some fast paced players through to the latter stages.

Oh and this is fun. They have a tournament predictor which is updated after each match. At the moment, I’ve got Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry in the final! Not very likely is it?