Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reset Hard Drive Size

I've been helping my good friend through an issue where a newly purchased 150Gb hard drive is only showing 80Gb after using Norton Ghost to copy data from a dying 80Gb hard drive.

Even after formatting the entire drive, it still only showed up as 80Gb - even on other computers.

After doing some searching on the net we realised that the "Ultimate Boot CD" had a utility on it called HDAT2 that could reset the size of the hard drive to its original size.

The first question in HDAT2's online FAQ deals with resetting the size of your hard drive to its default using this utility.

Very useful if you ever get stuck like this!

On a side note, the BIOS on Dell's laptops are crippled! The only thing you can change in them is the boot sequence! Argh.

Friday, February 27, 2009

On Microsoft and Suing

Over at Ars Technica they've written an article titled "Microsoft suit over FAT patents could open OSS Pandora's Box" (

They love their sensationalism over at Ars, that's for sure. Firstly, I don't believe there is a "Pandora's Box" to begin with. Microsoft would love us to think there was though.

This is all about Microsoft loosing out. They know there is a threat to their profits from Free and Open Source Software, so they try and discourage companies and businesses pursuing it by creating this overwhelming FUD aura around it.

No doubt, if Microsoft win this I see two things happening:

1) them using this win as 'proof' that Linux is dangerous and illegal. And that Microsoft themselves will possibly pursue you if you utilise it.

2) them using this as a testing ground against IBM. These two companies are at a stand-off with their respective patent portfolios and if Microsoft can win in one court against Linux then they can take this and bolster their attack on the big one, IBM. I wouldn't be surprised if IBM was very interested in this case.

Either way, its completely safe to use Linux. Microsoft is coming under increasingly intense scrutiny (especially from the EU) over its use of their market position and business tactics.

Give it 10 years and Microsoft will be another IBM, still big, but not dominant any more.

The frustration is mounting

Sometimes there is nothing you can do. Sometimes people, no matter how blatant the facts are, are incapable of change. Today is one of those days.

I would consider myself well acquainted with Open Source and knowing what it can and can't do, I have been able to replace some of the proprietary applications that we use with free software. That means no licensing costs, free upgrades and feature parity with proprietary counterparts.

Here's a few issues that are having me retreat to the bathroom to contain myself from bursting out in utter frustration at the stubbornness of the humans around me:

1. Firefox:

We all know that this browser is perfectly capable of holding its own against IE. Not many dispute that. Especially for our company, none of the sites we frequent or need are incompatible in any way with Firefox. And you know what? Firefox is so much quicker at rendering the pages than IE. I'm not just saying that - I manually install the OS on all the machines I manage to squeze the best out of them. ALL of them show, practically, that Firefox is quicker with websites than IE6 or IE7. If Firefox was slower, I wouldn't be using it. I'm not a die hard.

Nevertheless, I have people ringing me up asking for IE to be installed. Or even digging through Program Files so they can add the IE icon back onto the desktop.


Well, I've asked. I ask all of them. Their answer is simple: "Uhhhh, uhh, dunno. It works better - I think.". So I ask them, "What issues are you having with Firefox?". They answer, "Uhh, none. Dunno, its all fine. Its just I need Microsoft's stuff. It works better.".

At this point I normally either spew all over my desk, or I politely take the time to explain to them why they're wrong, and why I won't help them unless Firefox is actually causing them angst.

2. OpenOffice:

About 56% of our office now uses OpenOffice for all their documents. Unfortunately we don't use ODF for everything yet, but we do use it for many things already (brochures, statistics, letter drops, etc). It works and behaves well.

I understand that OpenOffice doesn't do everthing though, especially when it comes to charts (get your act together guys). So we use Excel for a lot of our charting purposes. Excel makes prettier charts - you can't dispute that. So, if any of our users are having issues when using OpenOffice that can't be resolved because of software limitations then I ditch it for Microsoft Office - for the sake of productivity.

The killer for me today was this: I installed OpenOffice on one of our staff's new laptops (saved him $300 over buying MS Office). I assured him that he could always buy MS Office if OpenOffice wasn't cutting it. He was aprehensive - I think mostly because he didn't want to have to relearn anything. Fair enough. I told him it works practically the same (these guys aren't pro users - they just type - maybe use bold and underline).

Anyway, today he came to me. He had found this amazing solution! He realised that he had a really old laptop at home with an unused copy of MS 2000 on it. Great! Success! Now you can work! Becuase previously you couldn't with OpenOffice! Wait....

I asked him if he was having problems with OpenOffice or whether he was having trouble getting used to it. He proceded to tell me that everything was fine, there were no issues, and that he was doing everything he needed. Then he said this: "Well, I dunno. It just looks different. It isn't blue (the toolbars). Are the fonts different on OpenOffice or something? It just, uh, *looks* different.".

Perhaps this doesn't seem like an issue to you, casual reader. But to me, living through this makes me want to either curl up in a ball and cry all day, or explode into a fireball of righteous indignation and burn the offending Microsoft zombie hordes.

Despite what I wanted to do, I maintained my dignity and told him frankly that if he wasn't really having any issues and it wasn't slowing him down that he should just stick with it.

You know what? Come July 14th, Office 2000 extended support will end. At that point, I won't even let him use it.

Why, oh why? I don't understand why the human brain cannot get past the colour of the tool bars! Its like, "WOOW, my tool bar is a neutral grey! My head is going to explode! Where has the BOLD BUTTON GONE!! AAAAGGGH!!! Oh, wait, its where it always is. This stupid OpenOffice, it doesn't work properly!".

.........angry thoughts.

I will continue to politely help them get their jobs done quickly and effectively - even if that does mean installing MS Office on a couple of computers for the staff members who can't cope with the slightest change.

P.S. For those who would like to rail on me about how MS Office is the only way: This is the only guy to kick up a massive stink about OpenOffice. Everyone else is using it without issues, and have been - for years.