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Articles Lifestyle Technology

Confessions Of A Compulsive Digital Hoarder

HoarderI have accumulated over 2TB of movies over the years, scattered across 3 external drives. This is not taking into consideration the 2TB drive i lost a few years back to a hard disk crash, also containing movies. As of the last count, i had barely watched a fraction of these movies.

Added to these are a few other drives containing music files (most of which i have never and probably will never listen to), softwares, thousands of digital books that i will never read,  archived emails, documents, and a dump of other digital files.

Many will consider my stash a digital heaven. Think it, chances are that i have it.

However, beneath all this, there is an underlying problem – Hoarding. Digital Hoarding to be precise. I am not the type to delete files. There is always the nagging fear that i just might need them in the future, a psychological condition not much different from those that hoard physical items.

Wikipaedia defines Compulsive Hoarding as “a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects … cause(ing) significant distress or impairment.

Yes, I am a Digital Hoarder. But before you start putting your nose in the air, chances are that you are probably neck deep in it as much as i am. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common phenomenon and in one way or the other, we are all guilty!

Searching through the digital pile is a time consuming task. Files improperly labelled, duplicate copies of files, not always sure which file is the latest version that i need … trust me, it really can be a jungle at times.

How do i get out of this nightmare?

 

Categories
Technology Tips

Easily Expand The Hard Disk Of Your Virtual Machine (VirtualBox)

If you have not heard of a Virtual Machine or VirtualBox before now, i strongly suggest you go to this link and this link too to read more about it before you proceed with this article.

One of the major problems users of Virtual Machines face is how to expand the hard disk of their machines when it gets filled up. For this write up, we will be referencing VirtualBox

Oracles 2

Please note that the hard disk must have been created dynamically.

  1. Shut down your Virtual Machine.
  2. Locate the installation folder for Virtualbox on your system, usually C:\Program Files\Oracle
  3. Hold down the SHIFT button and right-click on the Virtualbox folder, select “Open Command Window Here”
  4. Copy the following line of code into the command line window;

    VBoxManage modifyhd “Windows 7.vdi” —resize 50000

  5. replace Windows 7 with the name of your virtual Machine and 50000 with the desired size (in MB) that you want your VM size to be.
  6. The above command assumes your VM is in the following folder; C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox\. If you are like me and you store your VMs in a different location, you need to specify the exact location like so;

    VBoxManage modifyhd “C:\Users\Wale\Documents\VMs\Windows 7\Windows 7.vdi” —resize 50000

  7. You will see the following on your screen;

    0%…10%…20%…30%…40%…50%…60%…70%…80%…90%…100%

  8. The additional space is not yet visible. So far, what you have done is to add an adjoining unallocated hard disk space to your VM hard disk space. To have access to the additional hard disk space;
  9. Boot up your VM, go to your control panel – Administrative tools – Computer Management
  10. In the left pane, under Storage, click Disk Management
  11. Right Click on your drive, Select “Extend Volume”. Wait for a few seconds, then you are done.
  12. Your VM hard disk is now 50,000 MB (50GB)

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Categories
Technology Tips

Shutdown, Hibernate or Put To Sleep – Which Option Is Best For Your Laptop?

You probably may have been faced with this decision more than once; Hibernate, put to sleep or simply shutdown your PC. What option did you take? What option should you take?

Simply put, the choice is yours on the options to take. Your work schedule or purpose for use of these laptops should largely determine what option you should take.

Hibernating or putting your PC to sleep usually preserves your PC state, keeping your workfiles and applications intact for you to continue with whenever you choose to do so. Perhaps the major difference between these two options is that with Sleep, is a power-saving state that allows a computer to quickly resume full-power operation (typically within several seconds) when you want to start working again. Putting your computer into the sleep state is like pausing a DVD player—the computer immediately stops what it’s doing and is ready to start again when you want to resume working. (I quoted Microsoft there). Hibernate, on the other hand, puts your open documents and programs on your hard disk, and then turns off your computer. Of all the power-saving states in Windows, hibernation uses the least amount of power. .

Sleep is good for short periods while hibernate is advisable if your laptop will be away from a power source for a long time. Note that if you will be transporting your laptop in a backpack, hibernate is advisable because of the heat that would be generated from your laptop if put to sleep.

PC Hibernate Or PC Sleep ModePutting your computer to sleep is popular with pre-Windows 8 systems largely because of the long boot up time of the Operating Systems. Putting your PC to sleep shaves a lot of precious seconds, even minutes, off the boot up time. Things have, however, changed a bit with Windows 8 which has a fairly fast bootup time.

A class of people however prefer to leave their laptops on 24/7. While this has an advantage of giving you quick access to your PC whenever you need it, it can however be a security risk if it is left online – well, except it is being used as a server. Also, because of the heat generated by the laptop, its internal components and USB accessories also stand a risk of being fried.

Geek Recommendation

– Put your laptop to sleep only for very short periods; lunch breaks maybe.
– Hibernate for longer periods, especially if you have unfinished tasks or open windows you are working on.
– Nothing beats the good old shutting down of your laptop. Windows OS sure needs to reboot itself very often to keep it functional.

Categories
Hack Mobile

How to Secure Your USB Drive

Bitlocker2GoLosing a USB flash drive can be the stuff of nightmares if it contains sensitive or valuable information. There are many hardware and software options available for use in encrypting the contents of your flash drive and also to lock it down with a password. However, the major problem with most of these software options is that you need to have administrative access to your PC to be able to unlock these flash drives to access it.

Fortunately, Microsoft introduced an encryption system called BitLocker in its Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 Operating Systems  which will safely encrypt the data stored on your external drives and lock them down with a password. But most importantly, you need not have administrative access to your PC.

Like most encryption utilities, BitLocker protects your data by making it unreadable or inaccessible without a password or some other form of unique key. To secure the data, BitLocker uses an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm with a 128-bit key plus a data-mixing algorithmic function (known as an Elephant diffuser) for disk-related security features not offered by AES alone.

BitLocker to Go (introduced with Windows 7) enables encryption of externally attached portable drives. It uses the same encryption technology with BitLocker, but instead of protecting an OS volume, it is designed to secure data stored on a portable drive, such as a USB flash or hard-disk drive. And with Windows 8, Microsoft has updated BitLocker to Go with some new features that make it faster and easier to use than ever before.

BitLocker To Go is very straightforward to use. Simply insert the USB drive you wish to protect and locate it in the Computer folder in Windows Explorer. Next right-click the drive and select ‘Turn on BitLocker’.

BitLocker_To_Go
Enable the setting ‘Use a password to unlock the drive’, enter and then confirm your password and click Next. Ensure you use a memorable but secure password.

Windows will now prompt you to print or save a recovery key to a file. You can use this key to regain access to the USB drive if you forget your password, so be sure to keep it in a safe place away from the encrypted drive.

Using the BitLocker To Go Reader, which is automatically installed on your USB drive, you will be able to read, but not write to the contents of the encrypted drive on a PC running Windows XP or Vista. This utility will allow you copy files off the drive and on to your PC for editing.

Categories
Hosting

Multi Boot vs Virtualization

A few days ago, i decided to shelve all forms of multibooting of Operating systems on my laptop and embraced Virtualization fully.

For the sake of the noobs in the house, Multi-boot or Multi-booting is the installation of multiple operating systems on different partitions of a computer, with the ability to choose which one to boot when starting the computer.

Virtualization, on the other hand, is the hosting of multiple virtualized Operating System environments within a single OS instance.

Either of these methods is good and one is not necessarily better than the other but — as is often the case — what matters is the method that is better for your particular needs.

So, what informed my switch to Virtualization option? And even more importantly, why would anyone ever want to run multiple operating systems on a computer?

Before i delve into this, it might help if i highlight the Pros and Cons of each of these options as highlighted in the table below:

[ws_table id=”2″]

I do a lot of OS testing, sampling out the various Linux distributions being churned out almost on a daily basis. I also do a lot of work on virtualized networks, creating a network of virtual computers within my computer. So, it was really a no brainer why i had to switch to Virtualization instead of multi booting.

To do this, i had to shell out N5000 (US$30) for an additional 4GB RAM to upgrade my laptop to 8GB. That way, my guest OS would have enough resources to work with.

Categories
Articles

More Utilities To Kill For

In the recent past, I wrote about a few utilities I find indispensable on my personal computer. These included :

[EveryThing / UltraSearch]  – for speedy hard disk content search

[Turbo Type] – a highly customizable word auto-completion – as you type

[Clavier+] – an awesome keyboard remapping tool

[TheSage] – Dictionary, thesaurus. General reference -an awesome tool for people who need to communicate effectively in English.

All of these are Windows ™ programs.

I hereby draw attention to two more free Windows applications that I find noteworthy.

One is a “Wordweb”. The other is a “Figuresmith”:

1) WordWeb – this is very similar to “TheSage”

It is yet another notable tool tool for those who cherish speaking and writing impeccable “Queen’s English”

The program has a few narrowly defined function – to be a comprehensive dictionary that popups up when you click a word. It offers semantics, synonyms, etymology, similar sounding words and pronunciation of the specified word.

If you are a Blogger, Novelist, Journalist, e.t.c – you will love this application. Visit:  http://www.wordweb.info and grab what Pc-World calls ” …so much more than an exceptionally good thesaurus”

2) SpeQMath – This one of the most complete free-form ‘calculators’ I have seen. To call it a calculator is to grossly belittle its diverse capabilities. It plots graphs and handles the usual engineering tricks – with aplomb.  It simply rocks. If you are someone that need to compute ANYTHING, this is for you. Computer scientists, Engineers, Physicists, Architects, e.t.c. This is an indispensable for you!

Download from:  http://www.speqmath.com

Categories
Gadgets Lifestyle

What is a DDC Machine?

Most patriotic citizens must have registered to vote in the upcoming April 2011 general elections. Even the ones who could not or refused to do so must have observed people queueing up to perform their civic responsibility.

And they must have noticed what “DDC machines” are. The Director Data Capture Machine.

Each unit of the DDC machine was supplied at an average cost of about $1,700 (equivalent of about N255,000.00 then). There were three suppliers who, collectively, were mandated to supply a total of 132,000 units. Whether they actually supplied everything is a story for another YEAR!

As an IT professional, my intuition immediately told me the cost of the DDC machine is DEFINITELY on a very high side! Say wetin?

Now, let us start with the base equipment itself:

I would opine that, to capture the biometrics of citizens, you do not need a full-fledged laptop. We are merely capturing data, remember?  A simple netbook with a webcam would do. And you do not need “quad-core” processors in those netbooks because all they are meant to do is capture the data. No heavy-duty processing. Based on the projected numbers of people that can be registered per centre, an internal hard disk size of 512 Gigabytes would be more than adequate. You need to capture the images of their ten fingerprints and photograph. No big data guzzling here!

A netbook of about N60,000 – N75,000 would suffice for this part of the DDC equipment. That is the prevailing cost in the Nigerian market! For such volumes we are talking about, the unit cost woud probably be about N55,000.

Are we killing an ant with a sledge-hammer by procuring full laptops where simple netbooks would do the job admirably? I think so!  More so, after the current use, I can bet my last Naira notes that we shall not be using or seeing those laptops again!  You disagree? Okay , ask yourself what happenened to the  various “equipment” purchased by former Maurice Iwu of INEC!

The other parts of the ‘equipment’ are

1) a bargain-basement laminator  – $100   –   N15,000

2) the usb-camera (why not use in-built webcams instead?) – $60  = N9,000

3) fingerprint scanner  (less than $100 = N15,000) I listened to the chairman of Zinox, the only local supplier of the lot, say  on television that the amount at which they (contractors)supplied the equipment was inadequate, and gave them very thin profit margins. The thin margin may be because there was too much ‘sharing’ at the “award level” (**lips sealed**) . The Nigerian factor!

But he did not convince ME.

Besides, since many units were being supplied (Zinox was given 80,000), the overall profit is what is important, not the profit per equipment.

Collectively, we are looking at a figure (cost price) of about N120,000  (with decent profit margin of 10 %- 15% built-in)  that could have got us what we needed. Instead, we are expending twice that.

Now N135,000 multiplied by 132,000 units gives me N17,820,000,000 (over N17 billion) – thrown away. That figure would fix the Benin-Ore Road! Heck, it would provide some better funding for some Federal Universities!

Is it a wonder that our democracy is reputed to be one of the most expensive in the whole wide world?

This voter registration exercise is just another example of how the nation’s resources are frittered away continually, year-in, year-out.

Before I forget, this same government  – this one that is capturing our biometrics for the forthcoming voting exrcise – also captured our data in the botched National Identity Card Project, the census attempt of a few years back and are also doing so for the SIM registration chop-and-clean-mouth exercise!

Now, how efficient is that?  How sensible?

I earnestly pray and look forward to the day when there will be frugality as well as accountability in public expenditure.

And the biggest prayer – of course- is that corruption BE reduced  so that what we want to ‘eat’ does not make us ‘foolish’!

Categories
Articles

How Safe is your Business?

Just how safe is that business model of yours? For how long will your business be a going concern?  This question is especially pertinent in the technology world. The threat of the big names muzzling or stifling the smaller companies out of business is becoming a very clear and present danger. They seem to be involved in about every thing technology!

You already have your business on-track, running smoothly, the cash is rolling into your bank accounts.  Then out of the blues, the very foundation is bull-dozed out of your business. Some examples of this kind of situation is the decision by facebook, google and such behemoths to implement their own URL shorteners.  If  Twitter also comes out to join this gang, well, you get the picture! With this singular move, any URL shortening company, that bases its income directly or indirectly on offering URL shortening service, should be worried  and start thinking fast. A list of existing URL shorteners that may find their businesses threatened can be found here.

Yet another example is the fairly  new service by Google allowing you to send smses from your computer – for free. So, what will be the fate of web-sms services companies ?

Again, you are a manufacturer of digital cameras, Good! That is your buiness area. You have invested good money, spent time and cool cash on Research and Development. Suddenly, a phone manufacturer like Nokia decides to incorporate a class-braking camera in a Nokia N8. And you can be sure other manufacturers will follow the suit.

Nowadays, cameras, clocks, FM radios, GPSes, Altimeters, Portable television sets are now within the domain of Phone Handset manufacturers. What happens to companies who have their business models based exclusively, say, on the manufacture of just one of these items? In the era of digital convergence, we are beginning to have single devices combining numerous functions.

When we talk of storage today, hard disk manufacturers had also better re-invent their business strategies, Flash technology will eventually totally replace the conventional hard disk – as we know them today.

The list is endless. One thing that is , however, common to all is that in today’s world of rapid-fire technology innovation, it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller companies with expertise in narrow fields to stay relevant.

It is worrisome!

Categories
Gadgets

Expensive Junk

Going through my gadget junk yard over the weekend, it is amazing how much junk i have acquired over the years. The oldest is probably the Philips TurnTable and a pile of records i got from my Pop (Never been able to bring myself to encode the records to Mp3). I still have my hifi “Master Blaster” deck and speakers from my University days (those where the days…), pile of cassette tapes,CDs and DVDs,handhelds of all types, VCRs, mini HiFi, Video Editor equipment,satellite receivers, CD labellers, 3 laptops and 2 Printers, rechargeable batteries, etc. The list goes on and on. One uncanny thing they all have in common is that they were all in an irreparable state.

There is a problem here, that is, apart from my tenacity for acquiring gadgets. The problem stems from the fact that products are no longer designed to be durable. Flashy, yes, but why don’t they ever “last”? By “last”, i mean active usage for at least two years. I am not referring to the ocassional users here, but those that put their toys to full use. So how long do we expect our gadgets to last? I spoke with a laptop vendor sometime ago, he was of the opinion that laptops should not last more than two years. He was talking from experience and the statistics suits him just fine, or how does he expect to make sales when a laptop lasts forever? I couldnt help but wonder if that is the view of the manufacturers too.

The product that irked me the most was my Samsung N110 netbook, it is still working but the cheap plastic casing literally fell apart after about 6 months of use. Its successor, the 8hr battery-life wonder Asus laptop had a nasty hard disk crash just about 4 months after purchase? I’m sure a lot of people have a lot sad tales to tell about these latter day products so i decided to “google” the issue of gadgets and their expected life expectancies and my findings were quite revealing. For laptops, references were continually being made to the Dell and Apple Mac brands as being the most durable, with Macs having the ace. Of course, that is debatable but one thing most agree with is that if you buy the cheapest PC, you’ll run into lifespan issues. Cheaper models are built with cheaper materials, so if you’re looking for a computer that will last three to five years or longer, invest in a laptop with quality hardware. But is that guaranteed?

People also say that different laptop computer brands have different life expectancies. Some even say you should expect your laptop to last as long as the warranty you take on it, well, that is definitely debatable too.

The lithium-ion batteries used in most laptops have a typical lifespan of 300 to 500 charge/discharge cycles. Full discharge of your laptop’s battery should be avoided to avoid shortening the lifespan. Under proper operating conditions, lithium-ion batteries will last two to three years. Heat is attributed to being the most common cause of failure of Li-ion batteries.

Smartphones, on the other hand, have a very short consumer lifespan. The common consensus from cell phone manufacturers is, guess what? Less than two years !!! And that is if the battery does not give up on you before then. Some people find that as a phone ages, the battery will die more and more quickly; the phone must be recharged more often. This is due to the breakdown of the lithium ion battery. A battery will begin to lose the ability to charge after about 18 months of daily use.

Categories
Linux

Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meerkat”

For those that have tried out the new Ubuntu Linux 10.10 aka Maverick Meerkat released on October 10, 2010 , the first thing you would probably notice is the very pleasing appearance. There have been a very positive improvement in its appearance and functionality. Though not revolutionarily different from 10.04, i really can not help but wonder if the crew at Linux Mint can develop anything more pleasing to the eye.

Starting from the installation process, you would immediately notice the changes.The installer has, once again, been revamped and improved.

Ubuntu 10.10 maverick-meerakat

I have never made much pretences about my preference for GUI and will never use the command line interface unless when necessary, so this whole new experience was a welcome development. However, the installation process was not smooth, especially if you are installing in a multi partition environment. The option of installing to “available free space” on the hard disk was not given. You could either make a fresh install on the whole drive or you use custom partitioning, an option not advisable for everyone. I was, eventually, able to create a multi boot partition with Ubuntu 10.10, Mandriva 2010.1 and Windows Ultimate 7. You can’t get it better than that.

The new fonts is definitely an attraction to me and I honestly must confess that Windows 7 lags behind Ubuntu 10.10, even in aesthetics.

The Software Center has also undergone another revamp and is really slick, with the interface a lot more user-friendly. Adding applications via the Software Center is easy and most users will find it very easy to use. There is also a History entry in the left panel,it gives you a detailed report of the installation activities right from the time the Operating System was installed. One of the improvements in the Software Center is the ability to purchase software. Now, most of the software you get with Ubuntu is, of course, under a free or open source license. But there’s some proprietary end user software out there for sale. The first application to appear for sale in the beta is Fluendo’s DVD player application.

With an installation disc size of about 700MB, a lot of software does not come by default on the CD like you have with Mandriva. Also, a lot of multimedia codecs would have to be downloaded to play files like Mp3 and Wma files. Even important softwares like CompizConfig Settings Manager need to be downloaded.

Those willing to take Ubuntu for a spin have the opportunity to submit their requests through the Contact Form. Only 64 bits versions of Ubuntu 10.10 or Kubuntu 10.10 are available at this time. Preference is for hand delivery but those with postal addresses, though encouraged to signify their interest, will have no guarantee as regards delivery date.

Spread the word!