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.
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.
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.
So you’re downloading a large ISO image like a Linux distribution, or Windows with an integrated service pack. You get the download going, then go to work, and come home expecting to find a it waiting for you, only to find your computer went to sleep after just an hour. It makes your day, doesn’t it?
A free, portable program called Coffee–I guess it’s named that way because it keeps Windows from going to sleep–can fix that for you without you having to diddle with power settings and then having to remember to change them back.
The CISSP is a 250-question, multiple-choice test. You have six hours to complete it. It’s not like any college final I ever took, though cramming all of finals week into a six-hour session is almost a fair comparison. If you’re wondering how to pass CISSP, I can’t guarantee my method, but I’m glad to share what worked for me.
Normally, after you install any version of Windows, you have a ton of patching to do. And that patching takes as long, or longer, than the installation takes, while leaving the system vulnerable to exploits in the meantime. Slipstreaming your hotfixes into your installation media sidesteps those issues, and reduces fragmentation. 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.
Many brand-name PCs, rather than giving you a regular Windows CD, give you a restore disc, which returns the laptop to factory configuration–junkware and all.
Just about the best thing you can do to pep up a brand-name PC’s performance is to do a clean Windows install. So here’s how to download a regular Windows CD so you can do just that, when needed.
And there’s one other situation where you’ll need this. If your PC came with 32-bit Windows and you want to upgrade to 64-bit, or it came with 64-bit and you need to downgrade to 32-bit for compatibility reasons, you can download the other version. The CD key for one will work with the other.
For about a month after a new version of Windows is released, it supports just about any hardware you’re likely to throw at it. And after that, you’re on your own to find drivers for stuff.
I stumbled across Driverpacks back in March, and I’ve finally had a chance to spend some serious time working with them. What they mean is that if you’re willing to do some work, you can make a disc that will install Windows with functional drivers for virtually any computer in existence.
Spinrite 5 is an old friend. It got me out of some jams in the late ’90s, but as new versions of Windows that defaulted to NTFS came into my life, Spinrite 5 ceased being an option, since it only worked on FAT-formatted drives.
I’ve had occasion now to use Spinrite 6, its successor, which still runs under old-fashioned MS-DOS but now understands a multitude of filesystems. Other than that, it hasn’t changed much: It’s an obsessively thorough repair and maintenance tool for hard drives.
SSDs will eventually make Spinrite unnecessary, but there are still a lot more conventional hard drives being shipped each year than SSDs. Read more
Alignment helps performance, sometimes tremendously, and it also dramatically improves your SSD’s life expectancy. Newer versions of Windows automatically align their partitions, but only if you do a clean installation to an empty drive. Older versions of Windows created their partitions starting at sector 63, for tradition’s sake. Maybe moving off sector 63 made dual-booting with Windows 9x harder.
Two readers, Jim and Xrocode, suggested utilities to do the job. One costs $30 and seems fairly automatic. One is free and requires a small amount of work. Grab the freebie here. It’s a 274 MB download, so it doesn’t even take all that long.