Archive for September, 2009


Restoring a PC from Windows Home Server

Everybody tells you about the importance of keeping a back up (hey, even Jesus saves!!!) , with a ton of suggestions and practices, ranging from simply using a USB drive for your most important documents and files  to using special software to more complex solutions. The thing is however, that when you own more than one PC you would prefer an easy, almost automated back up solution, right?


This is exactly what a friend thought, a friend who is crazy enough to own and operate six different boxes (without counting his two laptops), and after some internet research, he bought another machine and a copy of Windows Home Server and called me to set it up, some months ago.

Yesterday, he called me to tell me that one of his machines (a two year old Dell) crashed and he was waiting for a replacement HDD and asked me if  I could stop by to help him set it up again. Having only used Norton Ghost (with a 98% success rate mind you) I thought it would take half an hour tops, but that was not the case at all… I don’t want to tire you with boring ranting, so I will describe the procedure that worked. Note here, that the WHS manual says nothing of value (except “Follow on screen instructions” 😛 ) – read my verdict at the end of this post.

Before you read any further, I am talking about a complete restore. If you just want to bring back the porn you accidentally deleted, look elsewhere 😉

Step 1: Boot the machine you want to restore with the WHS restore cd. Microsoft claims that in 90% of home networks it will get in touch with Home Server and prompt you to start restoring your PC. What Microsoft forgot to tell us, is the fact that if your machines do not use DHCP, but have fixed IPs instead you belong to the 10%, so you’re not able to communicate with the server. Just go over to the server box and change the IP setting to DHCP. Everything else on your network will lose the server, but the machine you want to restore will find it… I did not try it my self, but someone said that he just connected the two machines with an ethernet cable. Crazy? Yes! Worked? Yes!

Step 2: You will be presented with a list of backups and after you chose which one you want to restore, the procedure will start. In my case the machine had a single HDD with a single partition, so things were rather simple. If you have a different set-up, you might want to be careful what you restore where, since all data in the destination disk will be lost.

Step 3 : I wish you don’t have to read this step, because in theory, everything worked out as supposed and you only have to press “Finish” to reboot into your newly restored machine. Before you reboot, take some time to review boot.ini. There is a button there, that will open a notepad with your OLD boot.ini. Now it is a good time to stop for a while and start thinking about the past. No, don’t laugh, I am dead serious. Think what you are trying to restore. In my case, as I said, it was a Dell box. Dell boxes, usually mean that apart from windows partition there is another, smaller and hidden partition that you use to restore your PC to factory settings. Does that ring a bell? HP does that too, Fujitsu Siemens does that too. If you are trying to restore after an HDD crash, chances are that this little partition will not  exist in your new HDD take a look at the following boot.ini :

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS=”Window XP Professional” /noexecute=optout /fastdetect

Do you see the (2)’s? It means that your old windows installation was on partition number 2, which of course no longer exists, so you cannot boot. You have to change those (2)’s into (1)’s and you will be fine. Really, this is the only thing you have to do… This little thing that Microsoft could have told us about, but did not…

There are many ways to do that. If you are lucky enough and have a newer build of WHS, you can edit it in notepad (when you press Review/Check boot.ini at the end of the restore) and save it and be done with it. If not, when you try to save, you will be informed that boot.ini is a read only file and you will have to save your changes under a different file name. So, do exactly that. You can then use something to access your disk, delete the old boot.ini and rename the file you just saved into boot.ini. What you use depends on your personal taste and resources. I only had a windows XP cd, so I booted with that, pressed R to go into recovery console and worked from there. You can also use a Linux live cd, one of those special boot disks (like Hiren’s), anything that will offer you access to your HDD.

I spent many hours trying to figure out those things I wrote above. See, when you restore and fail, the first thing that comes on your mind is the case you did something wrong, missed a step, chose the wrong option, so you try it again. That means time wasted… No matter how convenient I find the possibility to manage all your backups centrally, store files (WHS is more than a backup solution) and do all those neat little things, but for fuck’s sake, how do you expect an average user to come up with all those ideas and manage to do the simplest thing? Why on Earth don’t you provide all this info in the damn manual? You want me to propose your product to my clients? Seriously??


Parents & the internet – What? Who? What?

In my line of work, it is very common for me to have to answer all kinds of computer related questions, from what is the best lcd monitor one can buy to how can one download porn to how can one spy on his wife. I usually spit out something extremely generalized (and somewhat in-comprehensive), hoping to be left alone, not because I don’t want to share whatever knowledge I may have with others, but because I have come to realize that most people (especially colleagues) do not ask you to learn from you, they do so in hope that you will say “sure, I will fix it for you”. To this day, cases that someone really wanted to learn something from me, needed a little push so he/she could take it from there, are rare.

One question that is really often, is how can one “protect” his/her kids from the dangers of the internet. Check the following semi-real dialogue:

– My 10 year old son spends way too much time on the internet. What should I do?
– What do you mean? You’re feeling alone and want him to keep you company instead?
– Don’t be silly, I am worried that he will watch porn* (or start worshiping satan, or meet pedophiles, or buy drugs, or…)
– Well, yeah, there is the possibility.
– So? What do I do?
– Well, you could… [series of suggestions]
– What? All that? It is a LOT of work! Isn’t there a program or something for this kind of thing? A friend of mine says there is!
– There are such programs, but they require you to… [long explanation about how net-filters work]
– Crap! I thought I only had to throw it in and be done!
– Apparently, this is not the first time you thought that all you had to do is throw it in…
– What?
– Never-mind…

Apart from the obvious, the above conversation shows one other thing: Parents do not know what internet is and most importantly how can they take control of it. You could always pull the plug (just like you do with TV) but you still don’t know what goes on in that little box your kid spends so much time with. Thankfully I was browsing Geeks Are Sexy, and came across this:

Problem solved! You only have to follow the instructions in the video and you will be able to spy on your children, control their digital lives, threaten their friends and a bunch of other interesting things!

I have to apologize to all of you who thought that they would read something serious, or even a ranting and were “tricked” into watching a humorous video, but the truth is that I do not have the patience to deal with this matter more seriously than this. See, being a parent, means above all else, being responsible. Yes, internet might seem scary, unknown or simply too much work, but it is your kid we’re talking about. Invest some time…

September 2009
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Yeah, I got one o’ those…

  • Θέλω να πιστεύω ότι υπάρχει κάποιος λόγος που το Paypal δεν μου εγκρίνει την πληρωμή στο Steam με Visa debit της @Alpha_Bank. 1 year ago
  • RT @JohnPliotas: Θα γίνει πόλεμος με #Τουρκια αύριο και τα ελληνικά sites θα ανεβάζουν άρθρα "δείτε τα 20 καλύτερα tweets για την κήρυξη το… 2 years ago
  • @ZERSOFIA σωστά πρέπει το κοινό να έχει επιλογές 2 years ago
  • Εν τω μεταξύ στην ΕΤ2 δεν έχουν πάρει χαμπάρι . 2 years ago
  • @koukos Προς το παρόν OneNote γιατί ήταν εύκολο να μεταφέρω όλα μου τα notes εκεί. Θα δω όμως. 2 years ago