yon Leveron blog

John's musings on the Interknot cowpath

usb multi-iso boot

Posted by John on 5th December 2009

To use a tech-term – w00t ! [ahem] Been looking to have a multi-boot capability from a USB thumb drive for some time now.

http://www.pendrivelinux.com/boot-iso-from-usb-flash-drive/ for the basics, then

http://www.pendrivelinux.com/boot-multiple-iso-from-usb-multiboot-usb/ for multi-boot.

I have any number of utilities I might want to use (memtest, partEd, various Linux utils, etc.) as well as system install images (Windows 7 x86 or x64, Ubuntu, etc.). Let’s not forget disaster recovery (Acronis restore, Truecrypt Boot CD, etc.)

Now you really can have your cake and eat it too. I’ve tested this so far only with FAT-32 partitions; it did not want to [easily] transfer itself to an NTFS formatted 16g usb drive.


Now playing: Diamond Head – Am I Evil
via FoxyTunes

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Acronis TrueImage seems incompatible with TrueCrypt

Posted by John on 25th November 2009

Alas, this is going to be a challenging Tech week, I can tell. All I can report for now is that the current revision of Acronis Trueimage Home 2010 (version number 13.0.6053) doesn’t seem to work well with my TrueCrypt’d boot partition setup, under Windows 7 x64 [Version 6.1.7600].

Back to the drawing board – I’d really like to upgrade from DriveImage XML at some point [ahem] but at least it works!


Now playing: Eric Cartman – Come Sail Away
via FoxyTunes

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possible relatively low cost external storage

Posted by John on 23rd November 2009

My simple solution, for detachable external storage (i.e. it shouldn’t fry from the same power surge, if not cabled up in any way at the time of the electrical havoc . . .)

eSATA USB to SATA External HDD Dock for Dual 2.5 or 3.5in Hard Drive (one of the least expensive options, to reuse some of those older SATA disks lazing about your cube-farm)


This may be a little specific, but for the user who needs potentially more than one or two drives :

Digital Tower Raid enclosures


Some of these models require a port-multiplier eSata / e-sas type port, but usually include at least a software-raid sort of PciE card with the package – check to make sure, or you’ll only get one drive showing up instead of 4 or more . . .

If I were to go with the more expensive option (still relatively affordable, above – compared to a true NAS, etc.) I might consider some of the 1 terabyte or > “Green” SATA drives. This is due to me wanting to have a good backup locally (c.f. Acronis) as well as remotely (expect an article this coming week on more discoveries here). Yes, having been around the corporate world, I tend to back up like an OCD person washes hands – once you’ve been bitten, you understand the data is worth a lot more than the hardware.

Random security bit : Usb Pin Pad – for a little more security via smartcard access. Useful for both Windows 7 and TrueCrypt / PGP WDE, etc.

Now playing: The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1969)
via FoxyTunes

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Simplifying Windows installations in a non-corporate world

Posted by John on 21st September 2009

Good Saturday to all. Some of the Tech bits I’ve posted in the past involved how to deploy the Windows operating system from a corporate network, RIS, etc. Now, we aren’t going to be pushing images via PXE.

Today I’d like to focus on the lower volume users, the home / home office. You know how it is, someone wants you to help them, because “their system doesn’t seem to be working right”. Ahem :) You know the realistic course rather than trying to debug all that has plagued their system is a reinstall.

Backup the data you care about before I come over, you tell them. (this is the point that you hear “what’s a backup“, so you know you’ll need to verify that you have all of their data backed up before you “floor mat” their system; yes, someone once asked me over the phone to floor mat instead of format)

Then you contemplate manually installing everything; even the Windows install now looks like significant work.

If you do this often enough, it doesn’t have to be. Invest the time up front in a couple of things, and it will go quickly, and without your intervention :

1) Nlite or Vlite : http://www.nliteos.com/ or http://www.vlite.net/ the former for Win XP class, the latter for Vista / Windows 7.

vlite screenshot

While some of the automation side was technically possible before Nuhi and team created these, it was a lot more arcane. These two are simple and menu driven, you can add or remove major or minor components of the OS, adjust tweaks, automate user creation / login / etc., adjust default time zone settings, slipstream service packs and patches up to today’s date with, and it also boasts integrated .iso creation or burn straight to disc.

One of the nicest things that these programs can do is to integrate specific text-mode drivers for certain system components. This is a godsend under XP, if not generally as much of a factor in Windows 7. That custom motherboard you run for the “gaming machine” can now have the built-in RAID recognized during the install, without the need to try to find a USB floppy drive to install drivers from.

I just enjoy having a potentially slimmed down version of what I want to install, that had security patches up to the day I created my image. Less to download, less security risk. Security is also sometimes increased by removing some unneeded components; if you’re not going to use them, perhaps they shouldn’t be there.

Regardless, one of these two (as appropriate) is really worth checking into.

2) WPIW / Windows Post Install Wizard : http://www.wpiw.net/

wpiw logo

Very handy for reinstalling any set of programs within Windows; I’ve used this for both DVD based installs, directly from the DVD (and automatically running after Windows installs) and more commonly from a fast USB memory stick drive, after the install, by double-clicking it (the latter method to take advantage of faster read speeds / large space for a huge menu of programs for friends, family, self, etc.)

Per the WPIW site :

Windows Post-Install Wizard (WPI for short) is a hypertext application designed for giving users choice. While Windows XP offers many ways of customizing the setup process out of the box, its major drawback is the lack of being able to select which applications an end user may install. In the past, end users and administrators needed to either download the files manually, or create overly complex scripts that could only be used once. WPI allows you to create one image, which can then be custom configured, and optionally, automated, so that end users can install any applications.

WPI is a simple to use automation program for the choice and installation of multiple programs, tweaks and scripts. No longer will you need a dozen CD’s or more when doing a fresh Installation. No longer will you need multiple files when you are servicing another PC. With Windows Post-Install Wizard all that you will need is 1 or 2 CD\DVD’s to fully install your PC with all of your apps, scripts, registry files or tweaks. Instead of having to re-download those apps like adobe reader, flash or updates to programs you can have them all on one disk. With WPI you can have all of them all on one disk and then have a nice interface for selecting which apps to install and after configured properly WPI will install all of them without any needed input from you. WPI also and is commonly used added to your windows installation disks. This way you can automate the complete process of Windows and program installations.

With your typical setup of WPI you have your OS and all of the apps, tweaks and such on one disk. After windows installs, WPI kicks in and you are given a selection of everything you have configured WPI with, then you can select the ones you want or simply let the timer run out and your default apps will install.

everdawn2 theme

This can be customized with multiple default menus / layout with a little bit of experimentation, to allow you to handle your Window 7 Ultimate developer needs in 64 bit, and your less technical friends need with Windows 32 bit, and quite a different (and possibly smaller) set of programs.

While WPI does take a bit of time to configure, it is easily recouped with just a few installs. You do still have to maintain an “up to date” set of install programs, such as Firefox, Java, etc. Hint to Adobe : please release a new downloadable version of at least Acrobat Reader, and don’t force folks to go online to go from 9.1.0 (the latest available for download) to update to 9.1.3, which includes security fixes. Ahem :)

You will learn about the whole new world of silent installs / switchless, if you’ve never done this. I much prefer to configure all things for an install of the operating system, or all of the application programs on one screen, start it, and walk away. You can always work on or enjoy other things while it’s running for however long it needs to install all that you require.

Between these two things, I think you’ll find your world to be better off. Once you’ve gotten that nice new system in place, you might consider using at least Windows backup to the cloud, for one off-site copy of the original / basics. If you’re looking for more features and insurance, I can highly recommend Acronis True Image Home 2010.

Have a wonderful day folks!

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Acronis True Image Home 2010 – launch today of first backup tool compatible with Windows 7

Posted by John on 16th September 2009

Just launched today : New Acronis True Image Home 2010 is the most reliable and easy to use backup solution. Now with online backup option! Delivers powerful insurance for Windows 7 migration.

Acronis True Image Home 2010

Acronis is very confident in their new product, and I have to agree; it looks even easier to use than before, and they’ve been steadily adding features instead of Bling. It’s always a good sign when they’re willing to let you try it out for free : Acronis True Image Home 2010 Free Trial Download.

For each picture below, clicking it should show an enlarged version in a new window.

Acronis True Image Home 2010 - Online backup for Windows 7

I ran through a couple of Beta testing versions before this new launch, and Acronis looks like they made the minor changes needed. I was really glad to see the launch, as I’ve been relying on this for some time since I’m running the production Windows 7 on my (windows) machines.


Acronis says : “With Acronis True Image Home 2010, rest assured that all your important data including images, music, documents and applications are well protected and can easily be recovered in the event of any disaster. Also the newest Acronis True Image Home 2010 is the best solution for moving your system to Windows 7 and storing your backups online.”


The only portion I would add is that the online backup is optional; you can still use the conventional backup mode to practically any device (DVD, network, firewire or usb hard disk, etc.)


Since I prefer to have both a local copy (external hard disk, unplugged from electrical system when not in use) as well as an offsite backup copy (online is increasingly attractive, as long as it’s well encrypted, which True Image 2010 supports) this really fits my needs.


I’m quite happy with the dual destination backup feature as well; it’s refreshing to see this brought from their Enterprise market down to a much less expensive home / home office product.

Thanks for reading this launch information and review of Acronis True Image 2010. I hope you’ll be as satisfied as I am with the newest version of their flagship product. You can download a completely functional evaluation copy for free here, or you can order the full product for $49.99 directly from the picture link below.

Acronis True Image Home 2010

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Acronis True Image Home 2010 – Acronis Online Backup at retail soon

Posted by John on 4th September 2009

Update : gone gold, c.f. http://leveron.com/blarg/2009/09/acronis-true-image-home-2010-launch-today-of-first-backup-tool-compatible-with-windows-7/

This actually looks like a great upgrade, and I’ve successfully used this program for years after dumping a competitor.

Definitely Windows 7 compatible, as I’m running it under 64 bit RTM right now.


As well as their own online backup provisions, I also found it useful to create a max compression backup locally, and then to replicate that well-encrypted backup out to the cloud.

More generational copies are better, when it comes to disaster recovery (even at the home machine level).

From: Acronis Central <noreply@acronis.com>
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 12:07 AM
Subject: The Acronis True Image Home 2010 and Acronis Online Backup Beta program closure notification
To: John


Dear Acronis True Image Home 2010 Beta Participant,

Thank you for taking the time to be a part of the Acronis True Image Home 2010 and the Acronis Online Backup Beta program! We have used all the valuable feedback that you have given us to improve our latest product Acronis True Image Home 2010 which will launch in a few weeks.
We’re sending this email to inform you that the Acronis True Image Home and Acronis Online Backup Betas will end on Sep 7th, 2009.
You will be able to use the beta build of Acronis True Image Home till Oct 1st, 2009, but we encourage you to purchase the final release of the product to take advantage of all the new features.
After Sep 7th, 2009 your Acronis Online Backup accounts will be disabled and you will no longer be able to perform online backups. After Sep 14th, 2009 all your data will be permanently removed from our servers.
To prevent the loss of the backed up data you may need, please retrieve it from our servers before Sep 14th, 2009. We will permanently destroy the data on these servers after Sep 14th, 2009.
To ensure safety of your data, we recommend you to retrieve the data as soon as possible.
Once again, thank you for your patience and active participation in the beta program. We truly appreciate your time and your feedback is helping us make a better product for you!
Kindest regards,
Acronis Beta Testing Team
Acronis. Move. Manage. Maintain. Seamlessly.

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online backup for your computer

Posted by John on 14th August 2009

This is something I am certainly checking out.  I have terabytes on the home NAS (I know, geek) so it’s not really feasible to back up all of my data this way (quick bunny trail : high speed @ home is generally not so high speed, on the upload side; 15 mbps DSL is only that under optimal conditions; good, but not that good – beats 110 baud though!)

I’m learning there’s more out there than “tech methods” like rsync over ssh, or using 7zip to split files up to store in email, or using GPG to encrypt and chunk things over to a 25 gig free Skydrive account. http://www.gnupg.org/ etc. to encrypt files and store them off-site at https://skydrive.live.com/

I’ve been trial (15 day) testing Carbonite a bit ; c.f. http://www.tomkirkham.com/node/109 as well as beta testing Acronis True Image home 2010, which has online backup as an option within the program.  Both of these programs seem to run just fine under Windows 7, the 64 bit variety.

One comparison is out there at http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-online-backup-sites.htm for free sites.  More to come on this topic, as I think storing things on the Cloud, encrypted by you before it heads that way, is going to be the next “wave of the future”.

It sure is a good idea to have your wordpress backed up fully. http://www.databasesandlife.com/regular-automated-backup-of-wordpress-blog/ I can tell you what happens when it breaks, and isn’t backed up properly in all areas (files and DB).

P.S. Plug for 7zip. Not only is it open source, it has been both quicker than winrar in my recent use, as well as compressing significantly better.

Boring background bits, unless you’re ready to nerd on. Pics at the bottom.

My buddy Mike told me about 7zip years ago; Open source, freeware.

Here’s an efficiency test I ran on an .iso file; want to get the smallest files for storing remotely, as it doesn’t take much time to compress things with 8 cores compared to uploading over DSL to Skydrive, etc. This below is the .iso for the beta version of Acronis I’m using (Win7 64 bit compatible, and it has a 50g online backup option of it’s own).

I used the “max compression / solid” options, turned up in both Winrar and 7zip, just as high as they’d go (as if it makes a diff, when either program is done in 10 seconds or less). The results were QUITE different.

D:\>dir AcronisTI-home-2010-beta-restoreMediaW*
Directory of D:\
54,486,602 AcronisTI-home-2010-beta-restoreMediaW.7z
100,663,296 AcronisTI-home-2010-beta-restoreMediaW.iso
91,355,044 AcronisTI-home-2010-beta-restoreMediaW.rar
3 File(s)    246,504,942 bytes
Now, 7z is not quite as "geeky feature broad" as Winrar is, but there's little that I can't do with it I've found.  Just FYI, as the differences are pretty startling.  This becomes a lot more obvious in the charts, since it is chunking up my entire C: partition, and the 100 meg pre-partition from Windows 7, in preparation for a "skydrive fly-by" upload.

BTW, while it doesn’t take nearly as much memory to decompress (which is very good, since most desktops for the moment aren’t carrying 12g of ram) as the gallery pictures  below show, if 7zip says it’s gonna take a lot of memory to compress, I’d listen to it :)

Yessir, so there you go! Charts below, you’ll need to click on each picture twice to get the full sized / potentially readable version.

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