Having trouble installing Windows 7 from USB? Disable USB 3.0.

I had trouble installing Windows 7 from USB on an Asrock Q1900M motherboard. It was the most difficult time I’ve had in years. Creating a bootable USB stick from my Win7 DVD went flawlessly, and the Asrock booted off it just fine by hitting F11 to pull up the boot menu, but then Windows prompted me for a driver, and when I navigated to the drivers directory that Asrock provided, none of the drivers would load. The mouse didn’t work either, and the only reason the keyboard worked was because I still use PS/2 keyboards.

The solution was to go into the UEFI, dive into the USB configuration, and disable USB 3.0. After I did that, Windows could see the USB drive and other USB devices just fine. This issue is likely to get more common as time goes on.

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CD won’t rip? Try a different drive.

A few weeks ago I uncovered a stash of CDs from my college and early bachelor days that, for one reason or another, I’d never ripped to MP3 format.

When I started ripping the discs, I got one clue as to why I never ripped some of them: Some of them made the DVD drive in my Dell laptop sound like a Commodore 1541. If you ever owned a Commodore, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t ever owned a Commodore, let’s just say my drive groaned in protest very loudly, and in exchange for putting up with the noise and insanely long rip times, I received a bunch of errors and a few MP3s that played really poorly.

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Keeping your NAS off Google

I read in a couple of places the last few days about search engines picking up data stored on poorly configured consumer routers acting as a NAS. This isn’t a case of being evil; rather it’s a case of people accidentally posting stuff in public where search engines will find it. Finding difficult-to-find data is what search engines do for a living, so I don’t fault any of the search engine companies for this. Keeping your NAS off Google is probably something you want. Here’s how to do it.

The solution is to know what you’re doing when you need to access your data both at home and on the road. I apologize for the snark, but there are consumer-friendly ways to do it, like using a cloud provider.

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Upgrading an HP Mini 110 to Linux Mint 17

Over the Labor Day weekend I decided to upgrade my HP Mini 110 netbook to Linux Mint 17. The Mini 110 can handle Windows 7, but Linux Mint doesn’t cost any money and I figure a Linux box is more useful to me than yet another Windows box. There are some things I do that are easier to accomplish in Linux than in Windows. Plus, I’m curious how my two young sons will react to Linux.

Linux Mint, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Ubuntu derivative that includes a lot of consumer-friendly features, like including drivers and codecs and other common software that aren’t completely open source. It’s not a Linux distribution for the Free Software purist, but having options is one of the nice things about Linux in 2014.

Linux Mint includes a lot of useful software, so once you get it installed, you’re up and running with a useful computer with minimal effort.

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USB malware: What you need to know

Tomorrow morning on Fox 2: How this USB drive could be worse than the worst malware you’ve ever imagined!

Yes, when a security vulnerability hits TV news, it’s a big deal. It’s probably also sensationalized. And it’s not time to panic yet. Read more

How to slipstream updates into Windows 8.1

I need a Windows box, so I figured I’d experiment with Windows 8.1. I know it’s terrible, but I want to see just how much less terrible I can make it.

The first thing I wanted to do was figure out how to slipstream updates into it. I recommend slipstreaming because you get a faster performing system, you get the system up and running a lot sooner, and you save a lot of unnecessary writes to your SSD. It’s very similar to slipstreaming Windows 7, but not quite identical.

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Notes on the Compaq Presario SR2011WM

I’ve been working on a Compaq Presario SR2011WM. It’s a basic, low-end, single-core Celeron D system from 2006 or so. It can take up to 2 GB of RAM, runs Windows XP adequately, and has SATA ports, so you can put an SSD in it if you want. But don’t be fooled by the name–the Celeron in this machine is single core, and has a Prescott-era Pentium 4 core in it at that, not a low-TDP, Pentium D-style core.

In case you’re wondering, the easiest way to get it to boot from USB is to plug in a USB drive, hit ESC as the system runs POST, then select your USB drive from the menu.

Now let’s talk about options for upgrades. Read more

In defense of telework

I work from home one day a week. Most of my coworkers do as well.

So I was interested when I read about Yahoo! doing! away! with! telecommuting! (with apologies to The Register. I couldn’t resist.)
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Cleaning USB drives with Linux

A longtime reader sent me a really good question today. If I had a USB flash drive and I didn’t know where it’s been or what it’s done, how would I clean it to make it safe to use? He said using Linux was fair game, so that made the answer a lot easier.

Note that as of 2015, a knowledgeable attacker can make a USB drive that will survive this cleaning method, so I only recommend this 90% of the time, and the problem is, it’s impossible to know which 90%.

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