Friday, September 27, 2013

A New Life for an Old Dell Dimension Desktop

I recently acquired an old Dell Dimension 4300 desktop from the 2001 era. This old computer was running Windows XP and when it booted up, I was presented with a password protected user log in. Por fin! (Finally!) I ran to my box of computer supplies and found a disc labeled Windows XP password recovery or hacker or something. A friend had given me the disc and I'd never had occasion to use it before now.
Unfortunately, the disc failed. Ahhh...
No worries. Google is my friend and helped me discover that booting into Safe Mode will get you in with administrator privileges sufficient to modify the user accounts as needed. Nice.

I played around with the machine, but ultimately decided that short of a fresh install of Windows XP Home, to which I did not have a handy installation disc. The product key was taped to the side, but I wasn't in the mood to go through all that, especially when I had a Ubuntu 12.04 LiveCD lying around just begging to get installed somewhere.

The LiveCD disc was left to beg a little longer. I read up on the web that the minimum requirements for 12.04 were probably a bit too much for this old heap. Not to be beaten, I ran back to my box of computer supplies and pulled out an even older LiveCD I picked up years ago: Ubuntu 5.10.

I promptly installed Ubuntu 5.10 and then went to work to see if I could install OpenTTD.

This Linux n00b quickly found out that Linux is 'super easy', but only if you're recently updated. I read through numerous forum posts and toyed with the idea of what it might take but retreated to the 12.04 disc instead.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that the 12.04 installer was incapable of recognizing the hard drive. Weird. The 5.10 installer had no problem, and while running in trial mode the 12.04 environment could detect and mount the hard drive. However, as soon as the installation process was started in 12.04, the hard drive was not listed as available installation targets. (Only my USB drive was recognized.)

Back to Google.
Turns out, Ubuntu comes in several flavors. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu to name a few. I quickly settled on Lubuntu. But, again, another road block, I'm running low on blank CD's!
No problem. That's why they built tools like 'unetbootin'. You can use it to put/install/write/make? your .iso files onto a USB flash drive and then you can go to your target computer and tell it to boot from your USB device instead of the optical drive. Hurray! See this HTG post for more details.

Oh, no! This old machine doesn't have the option to boot from USB.
No worries. Turns out they built another tool, called PLoP, to solve this problem as well. See this HTG post for more details.

Success, right? Not so fast. The troubles kept coming. In fact, I almost posted this question to the askUbuntu forums while I was trying yet again to install Lubuntu 12.04 via the alternate installer, for the second or third time.

Linux n00b. I have only used Live CD's in the past for various things. These are my first install attempts.
I have a 2001 era Dell 4300, to which I successfully installed Ubuntu 5.10, as the live CD for 12.04 appeared too sluggish. (These were the two discs on hand.)
I decided that 5.10 was a bit too outdated to be able to do what I wanted (install openTTD).
Hoping to get a lighter desktop I then sought for Lubuntu 12.04. Rather than burn another CD, I used unetbootin and plop for boot from usb support.
However, the installer for Lubuntu 12.04 failed to detect my hard drive, similar to this thread. ( same results from the ubuntu 12.04 disc, too.) During a live session the hard drive is visible. Start up the installer, however, and only the USB drive is listed as available locations.

I then went and downloaded the alternate installer for Lubuntu and tried again. However, now I think I'm getting Bug#658865.   The solution listed there is to start the live session and make the file change and then launch installation. This doesn't work for me since the installer on the desktop version doesn't detect my hard drive.

If someone can illustrate how to upgrade Ubuntu 5.10 to Lubuntu 12.04 - that would be great. However, after spending all day on this, I'd also like to know how to be able to install Lubuntu 12.04.

While composing the question, I also figured out that you'll have much better luck, like I did, if you don't have a USB keyboard attached to the computer you are trying to use PLoP with to boot from USB. It just doesn't support USB peripherals at this time. Ohhh, see, it helps if you read all the instructions first.

Turns out, I was able to try installation again, this time with a ps/2 keyboard and successfully navigate through installer and things worked. So, I never posted the question I composed above. Almost though.

Oh, and Lubuntu 12.04 works great! Many new adventures in Linux are just waiting to be discovered! Well...first things first. I have to go download openTTD now.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Scan for Windows Viruses using Linux

Apparently, lots of people have this question: How can I use Linux/Ubuntu to scan for viruses on my Windows hard drive?
And yet, lots of the forums are filled with people praising Linux for its lack of viruses and the lack of the need for virus scanners. Well, that's nice and all, but it doesn't answer the question all that well.
Luckily, HTG (HowToGeek) answered the question and they did so very well.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Upgrade Your Hard Drive Without Re-Installing Windows Again

This is another tech support post where I'm just recording my notes for future reference.
A desktop computer running Windows Vista again, but this time, the desire was to just swap out the hard drive with a newer one. How do you do that if your computer originally shipped with a recovery partition and didn't ship with discs? What if you really do not want to re-install Windows again?

Luckily, there exists a simple solution. I almost took the more risky solution though. Both solutions that I considered (among several other options) involved Linux. Yeah, you're guessing it. I was reading up on the 'dd' command. Which, surprisingly, is nicknamed 'disk destroyer' because so many people get it wrong. Yeah, that's enough to pause and make you think twice.

What is the 'dd' command? It's essentially a command line tool that does what more expensive tools like TrueImage will do for you - clone your hard drive. And that's exactly what I wanted to do. I used a LiveCD for Ubuntu 12.04 and was nearly convinced I had the correct command. Instead, I went and burned a CD with CloneZilla on it and took that route instead.

If you are going to use CloneZilla, do yourself a favor and boot into BIOS first to verify which disk is which, or look at the disk physically and take note of it's serial number because CloneZilla will likely identify your disks this way. I didn't do this first and had to stop the process and start over because my two disks were very similarly named WDC (Western Digital). Getting it wrong in CloneZilla is just as bad as getting wrong with the 'dd' command in your linux terminal.

CloneZilla worked great. The new hard drive is happily in its new home and thinks it shipped straight from the factory.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Inspiron 1545 Problems Booting Windows Vista

A friend recently asked me to help fix a Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop that would no longer boot into Windows Vista. There were a few files that the friend did not want lost either. What follows are just some of the notes that I took while surfing the web that helped me in my efforts to restore this laptop to working condition. 
How to recover your Windows Installation from the recovery partition when you have no windows installation currently on your drive, or when you get the Bootmgr is missing, or you've nuked your drive using the Ubuntu LiveCD.
 I actually did use the Ubuntu LiveCD to find and recover any personal files as my first order of business. Using the LiveCD I was able to expand my fledgling Linux skills a bit more and explore the contents of the drive. I found the files and saved them off to a USB stick for later. 

I used all the drive diagnostic tools, available from BIOS to Windows repair, to check out the drive because a particular error was coming up and several Google searches were indicating that the actual hard drive might be flaking out.

Error code 1000-0142...unit 4....Drive Self Test Failed..status byte 75.Is this the indication of a bad HDD?
That means the file system is corrupt and there may be bad sectors on the hard drive.

Try this:
1. Boot the computer with the Windows disc.
2. At the "Welcome to Setup" screen > press R to start the Recovery Console.
3. When prompted type "1". (if you have a multi-boot computer, select the installation you want to repair.)
4. When prompted > enter the Administrator password. If there is no password, just press ENTER.
5. Now you should be in the recovery console.
6. Type chkdsk c: /p /r > press .
7. When the disk check is done: Type Exit > press .
8. Take the Windows disc out and reboot.

If that doesn't work the hard drive has to be replaced.
 (I think I found the above on

Ultimately, I reached the end of my time to troubleshoot and attempt fixes and just set it to restore from the factory partition. I know, lame, but that's all the time I had to devote to this issue. 


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