More about Pfsense, the alternative to the crappy consumer router

I spent some time over the weekend playing with Pfsense, and I can’t say much about it other than it does what it says. I didn’t throw a ton of hardware at it–the best motherboard I have laying around is a late P4-era Celeron board, and the best network card I could find was, believe it or not, an ancient Netgear 10/100 card with the late, lamented DEC Tulip chipset on it. Great card for its time, but, yeah, nice 100-megabit throughput, hipster.

If you actually configure your routers rather than just plugging them in, you can do this. Plug in a couple of network cards, plug in a hard drive that you don’t mind getting overwritten, download Pfsense, write the image file to a USB stick, boot off the USB stick, and follow the prompts. Then, to add wireless, plug in a well-supported card like a TP-Link and follow the howto. Read more

How to take a screen capture of a web site in Windows

I can’t imagine needing to take a screen capture of a web site terribly often, but I have had to do it a few times in the past year. I used Snagit to do it, and it didn’t always do the best job–sometimes the program would crash, or the CPU would race and I would have to resort to ctrl-alt-del to get things back to normal–and not get my screen capture.

IE Capt is a small, standalone utility to do just that. Feed it the URL you want to capture, and it uses Internet Explorer’s Trident engine to render the page and outputs it to an image file for you. If you’re comfortable with the command line, it’s a faster, easier way to get your screen capture. And it’s free, which doesn’t hurt either.

How to build bootable Debian installation USB media from Windows

How to build bootable Debian installation USB media from Windows

Debian 7.0 (Wheezy) came out this weekend, and I want to mess with it. Here’s how I wrote the installation media to a USB thumb drive for it using a Windows box. Because sometimes that’s all you have available to work with. If you prefer another Linux distribution, like Ubuntu or CentOS or Fedora, the same trick will work for them too.

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Ghost won\’t let me use my monster hard drive!

Here’s a familiar problem, I’m sure.

You need to back up your laptop, so you buy a monster (200+ GB) USB or Firewire hard drive. And then you can’t use it in Symantec/Norton Ghost, for one of two reasons:

1. You can’t format a FAT32 partition bigger than 32 gigabytes.
2. Ghost chokes when it tries to make a file larger than 4 gigabytes.These are limits of the operating system, not Ghost. But there are workarounds.

To format a FAT32 drive bigger than 32 gigs, you need a DOS boot disk. If you don’t have a Windows 95OSR2 or Windows 98 DOS boot disk handy, you might try bootdisk.com, or download the latest version of FreeDOS, which now supports FAT32.

You’ll have to use good old FDISK and FORMAT, which is clunkier than Windows XP’s computer management, but at least it’s possible.

Ghost can choke when the image file exceeds 4 gigabytes in size because FAT32 won’t let you make a file larger than that. It’s a limit of the FAT32 file system. The workaround there is to split up the image. Pass Ghost the -SPAN -SPLIT=4095 parameters when you launch it to get around that problem.

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