Thursday, October 15, 2009

I had to come home to see this.

I can see many sights in Philly. The Liberty Bell, Boat House Row, the steps Rocky ran up at the art museum, Pat's and Geno's Steaks, and even the 2008 World Champion Phillies (NLCS Plug - Go Phils!), but I could only see this when I got back to my home in Ashland, KY.

Yes, that is an honest to goodness late 1990's Ford "Escort-achero" that I found less than a mile from my house. My girlfriend thought I was nuts when I saw the car and came unglued over the fact that I had found an "-Amino/-Chero conversion in the flesh. Maybe I have been too much of a fan of Jalopnik or perhaps I am a child of the 70's and 80's when the El Camino ruled my thoughts (especially the El Camino SS) and I always thought the concept of a car that had the utility of a truck was so neat.

I just wonder if this creation was brought to us by the fine folks that brought us the "El Camar-amino" that was featured on the web earlier this year. I did find this in the same county as the El Camar-amino and within 20 miles of where the Papa Johns Camaro was located.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Then Disaster Strikes!

The biggest fear of anyone who uses a computer is that of a hard drive failure. I have had a few in the last few years and a couple of them have been big. In 2005, I had to purchase a program that would recover the boot sector of my hard drive and then I could recover my data and rebuild the computer. In 2006, another failure was much more easy to recover and I was able to get back up and running with an afternoon of work. Last year, the hard drive crashed on my company laptop which is encrypted and it took several days of running SpinRite to correct the errors on the drive before it was able to be recovered. But because this laptop belonged to my employer, I was not worried due to the fact that I back up to the network regularly and it was up to the wonderful techs to recover the drive while I moved on to another laptop.

This summer, I knew the primary drive on Monster was not in the healthiest of states (no snide remarks about Pennsylvania meant in that statement either.) I had planned on not using it as the primary hard drive as I upgraded to Windows 7 and pushed the hard drive to back up status outside of the PC using my eSATA interface. I was relieved when I had installed Windows 7 and migrated the majority of information to the other drives inside of monster. I had about 90% of the information backed up and migrated when I turned on the PC the other day and discovered that the disaster had occurred and the drive was not going start because the data stored on the boot sector was damaged beyond repair or was missing. I downloaded some recovery software and it failed to recover anything. I downloaded another program and again, same results and no data. After trying about five try before you buy programs I had limited success with those with on 1 actually pulling file names but could not recover any data. The rest of the products did not get that far.

Hmmm..... What to do now? I was not in a total jam, but two of the files that I could not recover were the taxes from this past spring for my mother and me. I really wanted those files back. I am glad most everything else was backed up on a MyBook or another external drive. What next?

So, I decided to purchase SpinRite and go against all my training on recovering a damaged hard drive. The first rule is to never wite back to a drive that cannot be read by a PC because it can cause further loss of data, but considering everything else had been a loss, what did I have to lose. So I Googled SpinRite and was directed to Gibson Research and I bought a copy. I burned an ISO to a bootable CD and prayed it would work.

After running SpinRite, I was not able to see the hard drive as a mountable device, but I did have success with the one tool that worked a little. Instead of just seeing the file name, I was able to recover the directory tree and see the files. Whew! SpinRite did the trick.

Now, this is not a recommendation of SpinRite as a data recovery tool because it is not a tool to recover data. But if nothing else will work and you are not going to send the drive out to a pricey data recovery company, then trying SpinRite might just be the trick to make everything work. But, I guess you would be better off running SpinRite more often and preventing the crash from beginning ion the first place. So, I have my tax files back and I have learned a lesson. Take care of your hard drive because even if it is not on the verge of a physical failure, the data on it may be corrupted and may cause a failure down the road.

The moral of the story... Back up your data all the time and don't worry about hard drive failure.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Free Essential: ScreenHunter 5.1

I have to begin the Free Essential series with the one free program that has been the best staple that I have used for the last 4 years in my work as a consultant and business analyst. Wisdomsoft ScreenHunter has been a part of my PC's start menu since I began my second round of delivering setup and training documentation because of its many settings on window selection criteria.
As can be seen in my start menu, ScreenHunter 5.1 is on my Windows 7 system that I am using for this review. It is also installed on my work laptop (against the wishes of corporate IT), my spare desktop computer used as backup rig to my current system, my 4 year old and battle tested consulting laptop, and of course, the Intel Atom powered netbook aka Virtual PC. When launched, it takes a minimal amount of space in the memory so a computer with as little as a meg of ram runs fine without even knowing that it is in the background.

The interface when launched is quite intuitive. From the "From" menu, the single F6 hotkey works well for me, but at times I have needed to change it to a CRTL-ALT-F6 so ScreenHunter would not interfere with another application. Very rarely do I select the Full Screen option in the "Capture What" menu, but I often use the mouse pointer as a tool to point to a feature in the captured image.

Clicking the "To" Button displays another screen that allows the user to pick the type of screen capture image (gif, jpeg, and bmp), color and grayscale, and location to save the files. Just the stuff you need to get the job done.

Even the "Advanced" Button reveals a set of options in which the defaults work very well. Because I very, very rarely capture full screen, I do not use the Hide system tray icon feature although I do see a purpose for that. Although, hiding System Tray icon is not an issue in Windows 7 as the tray icon is not even present until the tray is expanded. As you can see by the image below, you have to click the expand arrow to see the hidden icons.

Once the menu is expanded, then the tray icon is visible.

So in short, that is a review of the most essential piece of free software that I use on a weekly basis. ScreenHunter 5.1 has not found paid option that works any better and I have yet to be convinced that SnagIt is a better option.

ScreenHunter can be downloaded from the WisdomSoft Website and be sure to select ScreenHunter 5.1 Free. If you have a convincing reason as to why to pay for one of the other options, please let me know and I will consider purchasing a better version, but after this many years of not being let down, I doubt if there is a feature that I need.

One side note does need to be made on ScreenHunter 5.1 for those that run more than on monitor and that is this program will only capture on the primary screen. I have tried to capture on the secondary screens on more than one occasions and quickly shifted my image to the proper screen and captured the image. With that being the only caveat, this program is an essential in my book.

New Series: My Free Essentials

When you purchase that brand new PC, it is hard to figure out what software to purchase. The aisle at Best Buy with all the programs can be nauseating at best with all the options available for anti-virus, utilities, productivity, creativity, and other software options that do not fall easily into categories. So, I have decided to come up with a list of free essentials for the PC. These are programs that have served me well for many years in addition to wonderful discoveries that I make all the time.

So why purchase a PDF creator package when one is free? Why purchase a Mac for iPhoto when a PC clone is available for free? Anti Virus? Norton and McAfee, we don't need to spend $50.00 a year with the free options available today. Need to burn a CD or DVD but don't have the cash for Nero or Roxio? There is even an option for that which covers those who don't have Windows 7.

So stay tuned for this new series. And don't think I forgot that Windows 7 is less than 3 weeks from launch. I am ready for this event and Microsoft is also ready by revving up IT professionals around the nation at kickoff events that began this past Monday. Official previews of Server 2008 R2 , Exchange 2010, and Windows 7 were shown to registered audiences across the nation. It was a good time, but the apple in the boxed snack (it was lunch so include a sandwich) was a bad idea.