Replace HD in Dell Inspiron N5110

I am no stranger to replacing bad equipment in servers, desktops and laptops, but some laptops don’t make it easy. This was one.

A couple years ago I swapped out an aging hdd in an older Dell Inspiron with a new ssd and, boy, the performance improved drastically. Lately, I have been using a new(er) Inspiron, an N5110 and have noticed that it sure took a while for things like bootup and Chrome to initially load. It was really starting to annoy me, so I looked up the specs on the original hdd and found that there was a squirrel in there pounding out the bits with a chisel, so I decided it was high time for a modern drive and splurged on a 240Gb ssd. I assumed that this was a simple pull the panel off the bottom and swap kind of procedure like the old Dell, so I pulled off the hdd sized panel and boom. The only thing under there was more plastic and a small memory slot???!!

Not to be outdone I turned to youtube, just like an self respecting techie would and was pleased to find some instruction there. You can find the video i used here if you are interested:

That is where is starts to get fun. Apparently you have to disassemble THE ENTIRE LAPTOP to get the hdd out. You have to pull out the battery, memory, all the screws on the bottom, the dvd drive, then flip the machine over and pull off the keyboard, unscrew and pull off the top plate and all the ribbon cables, then unscrew and remove the entire motherboard and one of the monitor mounts. The hdd is underneath the motherboard. Unreal.

Believe it or not, after all that I only had one extra screw(?) and the laptop booted up on the first try. Now came the good part. How to get my existing Linux Mint install onto the new ssd. Normally I would have just used a disk cloning program or dd to do it but the old hdd was 500Gb and this new ssd is only 240Gb. There are also some complicated tutorials on the web on how accomplish this task but let me share with you the easy way.

Do a clean install of your OS. Really. With Linux it takes 15 minutes tops. Don’t bother with any of your configs or personalization. It’s a dummy install to not only get the partitioning correct on your ssd but generate the correct /etc/fstab file (or get the new uuids and make the correct partitions bootable.

Once you are done, boot into your install media again (I used USB because it was faster) and mount your new installation AND your old hdd (I used an external usb drive case for this). I made the directories I needed by doing (as root) “mkdir -p /mnt/newdisk ; mkdir -p /mnt/olddisk” and then putting things in place with “mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/newdisk ; mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/olddisk”. I should mention here that my partitions were the default Mint layout with a big Linux partition first, then an extended partition, then swap, on both drives.

Once mounted I made a backup copy of the /etc/fstab on my olddisk (the hdd) and then I copied the /etc/fstab from the newdisk to the /etc/fstab on the olddisk. Now the fun part. Go to (cd) the /mnt/newdisk directory. MAKE SURE IT’S THE NEWDISK DIRECTORY, and “rm -rf *”. That is going to delete all the files you just installed. It’ll only take a second.

Next is the long part. I used rsync to copy all my old files over. If you aren’t a hoarder like me with six linux dvd isos in your download directory and 50Gb of music files, it’ll go a lot faster, but all the same, it’s pretty cool to watch. I did a “rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /mnt/olddisk/ /mnt/newdisk”. Make note of those /’ in there or you’ll end up having to move stuff around afterwards. In retrospect, I think you could use just rsync -av, but ymmv. What you will see is every file on your old drive being copied to the new one. Like I mentioned, this takes a few minutes, just sit back or grab a coffee. Once it’s done you are *almost* ready.

The very last thing you’ll need to fix is your grub.cfg file. These days everyone wants to use uuid to assign devices and your boot file is still looking for your old hdd. Open up a couple terminals. In one, vi /mnt/newdisk/boot/grub/grub.cfg and in the other vi /mnt/newdisk/etc/fstab. In the fstab file you will see the uuid for your new ssd drive. It’s the first uuid mentioned and mounted at /. Io You need to replace the old one in there with the new one from your fstab. It’s easier than you think in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.

One last note. You may want to increase the life of your ssd ehink in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.cat by adding a couple options to your /etc/fstab file. Those options are discard and noatime. These options deal with extra disk writes that you really don’t need on ssd. Your / line options in the fstab should look something like “ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1”.

Enjoy!

Retro Tablet?

asustf101
I was on a trip to visit my uncle recently and while there and talking shop (he’s a techie kinda fellow) he started telling me about this old tablet he had that I could have if I could get it fixed. It seems he purchased a tablet years ago, didn’t like it, then the os became corrupt and he just sort of shelved it, probably some 5 or 6 years ago and got himself an iPad instead.

He dug this thing out and it happened to be an Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101, a tablet that I actually had long ago myself. This one was dirty and no charge and badly in need of a fresh reimage of the OS but after that, it’s a perfectly functioning, practically brand new (hardly been used) TF101, now updated to the latest OTA update available for it, 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

So now I have this new old stock tablet and I have decided to get some use out of it (came from my uncle so it holds some sentimental value) and I actually kind of dig it. Of course it is no rocket ship compared to modern android devices but it does chug along and the 4.0.3 OS is still viable in the android store so some apps are still current. I can get my mail and social media and watch videos, listen to music and the like just fine (even netflix). What I like most about it right now is using it as a portable terminal (juice ssh). The included keyboard dock makes that particularly nice.

I have been wondering, though, what else I can do with such a device and am seeking opinions and experiences. I know there are several server suites available for android. I could use it hooked to an external USB drive for a file server or web server, etc.. Perhaps I could somehow shoehorn an actual Linux as a native OS on this thing. Then, there is the possibility of putting custom Android ROMs on it – I think there is one called KATKIT that people are having great success with. Never having installed a custom ROM before on android I am a little hesitant and don’t want to brick the machine. So, what do you think? What should I try first?

It’s NOT Telecommuting!


OK, so it is telecommuting – but here me out for just a second..

I have been involved in a job search as a Linux admin for a few months now and one of the barriers I keep running in to is (get this) physical location, or company location. WHY? Business owners, let me reason with you for a moment here.

Your servers are “in the cloud”:
There are a LOT of companies these days who are using cloud servers and services. Buzz words like Paas, Saas and Iaas are all the rage now, along with their providers AWS, Rackspace, Azure, Google and the like. These services that you use locally for your business are not actually located at your business. Likely, they are not even in the same time zone, and, in some cases, country. Every time one of your server administrators or users access those services and systems, they are doing so remotely, even if they are sitting at a desk next to you in your corporate headquarters.

You have “datacenters”:
For those of you who have your own datacenters for your machines, you have the same issue. Most companies have at least two such facilities for redundancy and either one or both of them are typically located away from your corporate campus. This, again, means that when you are working on them in any capacity, you are doing so remotely, or “telecommuting”, whether it be from your corporate campus, from, home or across the world.

So you see, in almost every scenario in these modern times, you are already telecommuting to use your own resources. I am here to implore you to consider expanding your employment pool by letting computer workers do their jobs remotely. Save yourself some real estate space. Use conference calls, instant messaging, emails and video chats (free) for your office communications. Dramatically lower your corporate utility bills and *paper costs*. And give someone like myself a shot. You’ll be happy you did!

Poof! It’s a Chromebook!

Neverware CloudReady ChromiumBook

Neverware CloudReady ChromiumBook

And that’s just about how hard it was…

A couple days ago as I was browsing my google+ feeds I noticed an article about Neverware’s CloudReady solution for turning aging computing resources into more useful devices. They have put together a good Chromium OS install aimed at older hardware, which for schools and businesses, can be hooked to google management services, which makes it sound pretty attractive to any IT department with a budget. As it happens, my buddy Joel must have been reading about it too, because I saw him post something about being in the middle of creating the boot media. That got me wondering, and with an old laptop to play with, I decided to do it myself.

Many years ago I got a cool new Dell Latitude D630 and I likes it so much that a few years later I picked up a used one. It’s one of my test boxes – 2.mumble ghz and 2gb ram – a perfect candidate for a chrome(ium)book test. I also have the perfect thing to compare it to – a genuine chromebook I bought last year for my wife – who I refer to as the destroyer of laptops.

Anyhow, first I downloaded the software from their site, which is free to use if for home and experimental use. The image is a zipped binary image about 5.5gb uncompressed. Big file so it’ll tale a while to get it. Be patient. There are what look to be pretty good installation instructions on the site itself for Windows and MacOS users, however I am neither so I had to improvise a bit.

On Linux, once you have the file downloaded and uncompressed (again big file and takes a few mins), you need to write it to a usb stick for installation. For explanation purposes say my usb device ended up being /dev/sdb. I used the dd utility to get the image onto the drive but because the file is so large I wanted a progress indicator for the process so I installed “pv”. Do this – trust me, you’ll want it.

The command line (as superuser) to install the binary installer image to the usb stick is “dd if=/path/to/installerimg.bin | pv | dd of=/dev/sdb bs=4M” and make sure that’s a capital M at the end for a 4 Meg blocksize. Like the download and decompression of the file, this take a LONG time, which is why you will be happy that progress indicator is in there.

In essence, that is all the hard and interesting stuff. The rest of the installation instructions are quick and simple – boot off the usb stick, log in, click on the time bar in the lower right, select install. A few minutes later (minus a couple no-brainer questions) you have, for all practical purposes, a chromebook!

I’ll be darned! I tried a ChromiumOS install several months ago on some even older hardware and wasn’t really impressed. I thought it was a bit laggy and buggy, but this time it works a treat! Multiple accounts work well. All my google settings were imported correctly. The chromebook shortcuts work. It works so well I am typing this review on it right now. I even handed it off to the destroyer of laptops and she was able to successfully install her profile and use it just like her chromebook. Outstanding Neverware, and a lot of fun too!

Although the other articles I read on this glowed and gushed about how well it worked, I have to say I was skeptical until I tried it myself, due to my previous experience. I am happy to find I was wrong. I can really see something like this being able to not only stretch that IT budget a little, but responsibly so, making good use of still functional hardware and keeping the end user experience consistent and manageable at the same time.

OpenSuse 42

??So… One of the things I did this weekend was spend a little time with OpenSuse 42, at the behest of some Suse reps I spoke with at work on Friday…:

OpenSuse 42

I do want to say that once it’s going it really does look good. However, these guys and other Linux distributions in general REALLY need to spend some quality time installing other distributions so they can see what those distros get right (during the install) and what they, themselves, do not. Some problems that I encountered were networking not set up properly to work with network manager for gnome unless you set networking up during the installation (regardless of whether or not you use it) and having some phantom broken hdd repo automatically installed which prevents all/any updates and no good information I can easily find on what repos *should* be set up for this distro by default.

“Fixing” an old laptop

Dell Inspiron 1545

Dell Inspiron 1545


A few years ago when I was in the market for a new laptop I picked up one of the then wildly popular and cheap Dell Inspiron 1545. There are gobs of these running around now and you can find them cheap if you look (click the pic for links to Amazon). I used this for for, it seems, forever. I only ever had one problem with it – a small plastic chip in one of the corners that I repaired with superglue (you would never notice). Lately, though, it has been running noticeably slow. I don’t know if it’s because it’s actually getting slower, the software is just getting fatter, my work computer is blazing fast in comparison, or a combination of any/all of those. Either way, it’s really been bugging me so much lately that I had considered just getting a new lappy. Before I did, I decided to look over the specs to see what I actually had here. Mine is a core duo 2.2Ghz with 4Gb ram and a 320gb HDD. Running Linux this thing *should* run like it was on fire. So why so freaking slow? A quick look at “top” revealed what had to be the problem. I was at almost 0% CPU and only 1.5Gb ram. It HAD to be the slow as pencil and paper hard drive writes and reads. A quick search says that somewhere in between now and the last time I came up from air at work SSD drive prices dramatically reduced, so I stopped by a bigbox store and picked up a 240Gb SSD for <$100 and screwed it in and WHAMO! It’s like I have a brand new laptop! Seriously! Not only is the difference noticeable, it’s amazing, so much so that I needed to break my blogging silence to tell you about it. If any of you have an aging laptop like me that runs but is “meh”, it’s totally worth it to spend the 15 minutes it takes to do this upgrade. It certainly just saved me $500 and I am now, once again, perfectly happy with my trusty old (but well kept) Dell Inspiron 1545.

Wire Management & Pig tails

Wall warts and power strips do not mix!

The problem is power strips can be oriented horizontally or vertically, while wall warts & power cords can be oriented horizontally, vertically or on a 45 degree angle.
There have been some attempts to fix that with rotating and pivoting outlets on the power strips.

Sunday afternoon, I came home to check my mail box for the Amazon prime delivery of pig tails.

It only took three of the fifteen to eliminate the second power strip!

This is a small step in my larger project to add a UPS & neaten up my home network wiring. More to come!

A brilliant idea for your prayer life!

Protestant Prayer Beads

Protestant Prayer Beads


I am willing to bet there are more than a few of you who, like me, have difficulty in your prayer life. My issue is my mind seems to wander a mile a minute and I will start to pray for my family and end up thinking about string theory (physics) or stuff I need to do for work the next day, or what have you. Lack of focus is a real problem.

I was wandering around the internet and ran into something very curious, It was a set of Protestant Prayer Beads, otherwise known as an Anglican Rosary, and actually if you search it out it seems almost every Protestant denomination lays some kind of claim. What it is in essence is a Rosary like set of beads, smaller and configured differently than a Catholic Rosary. It seemed to me to be the perfdect tactile tool to help people like me, who need focus, in their prayer life. I set out to research it.

Although from a Christian perspective you may be most familiar with a Catholic Rosary, prayer beads have been used in almost every religion since the dawn of time it seems. The references are endless. None the less, apparently in the 1980s someone had the brilliant idea to Protestantize a set. I know what you are thinking here, in Matthew 6:7 the Bible warns against babbling prayers in meaningless repetition. There is also the concern about idol/saint/Mary worship, subjects that distance Protestants from Catholics and their Rosaries. Well, that is the real beauty of the Protestant prayer beads. There is no definitive format.

If you do some reading you are going to find a hundred different sites in the internet with a hundred different suggestions on how to use the Protestant Prayer Beads to aid in your prayer life. Most of them suggest a repetitive prayer format, albeit different prayers. Some of them, like myself, are going to suggest something different. First is the “Invitatory” bead. I use this for sort of gearing my self up. An invocation prayer. As you can see by the illustration the rest of the beads are broken up into segments with bigger beads. Those 4 bigger beads in the circle are called “Cruciform” beads and on each one of those I pray the “Our Father”, or rather some personal incantation of that remembering that prayer is meant for worshiping and thanking God. The smaller beads in the chain are the “Weeks” and on each week bead I pray for a person or people that I have been burdened to pray for. This may sound like quite a lot, but seems to roll through pretty quickly.

The end result here is this device has helped me hold my concentration and focus during prayer. It helped me spend a definitive amount of time talking to God and I felt more fulfilled and better about that than I have in a long time so much so that I wanted to make sure I shared it with you all. I hope it helps you like it did me. A slight side note here is that these are available for purchase from various places on the net but it literally took me less than $10 and 20 minutes to make my own. This would be a fantastic and fun project for not only you to help bring you closer to God, but also for your family, friends and children. Try it and let me know what you think!

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials

CentOS System Administration Essentials


The description of this book is “Become an efficient CentOS administrator by acquiring real-world knowledge of system setup and configuration” and the author, Andrew Mallett, has put together quite a collection of information in there to help you do just that.

Probably worth mentioning here is that this book is obviously designed for someone not only familiar with Linux in general, but also comfortable eough with CentOS to dispatch with the usual obligatory chapters dealing with installation, etc.. Yes, this information is surely aimed for someone who is. or has designs for being a Systems Administrator. As it happens, I am “one of those guys” so I’ll give you my thoughts on how well he did.

One of the interesting things about Linux is there are so many ways to do things and so many areas of focus. This means that this area of information that a system Administrator should know is pretty expansive and what *I* think a System Administrator should be an expert in is not necessarily what someone else may think. Well, up to a point. There are some real basics in there as well. One of those is using vi or vim and noodling around on the command line, and this is right where Mallett heads for in the beginning of the book and rightly so.

After running through some great tips you start to dive into some deep subject matter on Grub, filesystems, processes (all really important stuff). Yum (package management) and managing users are also important standards that are covered well, and then you start diverging a bit from what I would consider “must know” information into, really, the more interesting stuff of the book. You walk through LDAP auth, Nginx web servers and puppet configuration management. While those may not be essentials for your systems, it sure is nice to at least have a basic understanding, and the information here on them can get you up and running. And then lastly we go back into the last topic, security, which is also a “must know”.

I quite liked this book, especially the portion on Nginx, which I had not played with before. It was good information, easy to read and use and the examples worked. I also noted that much unlike some other similar books I have reviewed, this book is not so voluminous as to make it impractical to read through in an afternoon or so and you can do so and come away immediately with some practical and usable information. Again, the book “CentOS System Administration Essentials” by Andrew Mallett, is available from Packt Publishing for under $25 and is well worth it for all you budding (and maybe not so budding) System Administrators out there.

Updating The 2009 LifeHacker QuadCore Hackintosh to Yosemite

Hi Folks, being house poor, I can not afford to upgrade my desktop hardware. :(

I am still rocking the 2009 GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P freshened up with a USB 3.0 card

I have a prior post on how to upgrade to Mavericks from Snow Leopard.

Do the prep work outlined here by TonyMacx86.com

I am short on some of the boot parameters to get it running & I apologize.

You definitely need:
GraphicsEnabler=Yes, PCIRootUID=1

I have added a ORICO PVU3-5O2U USB3.0 card to my computer, paid $29 at the time

Post install, I was left with no audio & no working USB 3.0 here is the fix:

  • Get the kext Utility from hackintoshosx.com
  • Delete the USB 3.0 kext you may have installed with Multibeast ( TonyMacx86.com post )
  • Install the kext from the above post, but I did it with the kext utility
  • Download & install the two audio Kexts from hackintoshosx.com and install with the kext utility

This will get your Yosemite hackintosh with a GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard running USB 3.0 & Audio

When you build a hackintosh, you do not get the Apple office suite & iMovie for free, you have to pay for them.

Next Page »